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Posts Tagged ‘A Course In Miracles’

Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins.”

“To understand everything is to forgive everything”
~ Buddha
“It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.”
~ Saint Francis of Assisi, peace prayer
“To err is human; to forgive, Divine.”
~ Alexander Pope
“Forgiveness is the demonstration that you are the light of the world. Through your forgiveness does the truth about your Self return to your memory. Therefore, in your forgiveness lies your salvation.”
~ A Course in Miracles

If you are harboring the slightest bitterness toward anyone, or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, you must get rid of them quickly. They are not hurting anyone but you. It isn’t enough just to do right things and say right things – you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.”
~ “Peace Pilgrim – Her Life and Work in Her Own Words” Pg. 16




Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins.”

Most religions teach the importance of forgiving or atoning for transgressions committed by or against us – our “sins”. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism teach forgiveness.

Forgiveness in Christianity.

Forgiveness is especially emphasized in Christianity. Thus, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly taught forgiveness. Eg.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
~ Luke 6:37

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”
~ Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27

And even while in excruciating pain as he was dying on a cross, Jesus beseeched God’s forgiveness of those who crucified him:

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”
~ Luke 23: 34


In emphasizing “they know not what they do” Jesus invoked Divine forgiveness in response to apparent unwitting (rather than malevolent) sins of the Roman soldiers who crucified him.

What are Sins?


“Sins” are often considered acts or omissions violating moral or ethical codes, with emphasis on what is wrong. But the original meaning of “sin” in Greek is to miss the mark – like an archer missing the target.

“According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of “original sin.” Sin is a word that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted. Literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering. Again, the term, stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations, points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth


When sins are appropriately considered ‘missing the mark’ from ignorance rather than malevolence, expiation requires that we focus on what is right, and on how to get back ‘on target’, rather than on what was wrong with mistaken acts or omissions.

Recognition and transcendence of “sins”.

Thus to transcend the negative, we realize the positive.

“There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth


“Jesus’ teaching to “Forgive your enemies” is essentially about the undoing of one of the main egoic structures in the human mind. The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. And what is a grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth


“It requires honesty to see whether you still harbor grievances, whether there is someone in your life you have not completely forgiven, an “enemy.” If you do, become aware of the grievance both on the level of thought as well as emotion, that is to say, be aware of the thoughts that keep it alive, and feel the emotion that is the body’s response to those thoughts. Don’t try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go, to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place. The seeing is freeing.”
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

Jewish Day of Atonement for “Sins”.

In the Jewish tradition, the highest of High Holy Days is Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement and forgiveness. While fasting on that day, observant Jews communally confess their wrongs and ask Divine forgiveness, humbly acknowledging that there are none amongst them so righteous that they have not sinned.

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,” [ Ecclesiastes 7:20 ]


Recognizing the inevitability of ‘sin”, the Torah enjoins Jews to return to a righteous path with a process of societal repentance and reparation called teshuvah. “Teshuvah means returning to God and godliness.”; and returning to God is the essence of Judaism. ~ Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro,“Open Secrets”, pp.12-13

The process of returning to “godliness” which is the essence of Judaism is also central to all other major theistic religions.

Eastern religions emphasize “freedom” as an ultimate spiritual Reality and goal beyond thought or ego – beyond human comprehension, imagination, description or belief – which can only be known experientially, not rationally or mentally. (See https://sillysutras.com/what-is-freedom-question-and-quotes/)

All enduring religious and spiritual wisdom traditions recognize need for human transcendence of ego’s optical illusion of our imagined separation from each other and Nature; of our returning psychologically to a state of “At-one-ment” and self-identity with Universal Awareness – which is our ultimate Essence, and our ultimate destiny.

And so may it be!


Ron’s Commentary on Forgiving and Atoning for “Sins”:

Introduction.

Dear Friends and Fellow ‘Sinners’,

We are all here to evolve human consciousness by gradually realizing and actualizing – beyond our perceived separation from each other – our common Oneness with all Life. Yet, despite our common spiritual essence, each of us is unique, with unique propensities, abilities and fallibilities, which provide unique evolutionary opportunities and challenges. So ‘clearing our karma’ involves mindful identification, observation and purification of our unique mental tendencies and obscurations which impede realization of Oneness.

The foregoing essay and quotes about Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins” address a spiritually important subject for all of us. For most of my adult life, forgiveness been a great challenge. So I don’t claim to be an accomplished “expert” on this subject, but now share with you as one who has long reflected on judgmentally perceived moral failings of other fallible humans.

Whether or not we are spiritual ‘seekers’, we are all spiritual ‘sinners’ who inevitably ‘miss the mark’ and make mistakes. Otherwise we wouldn’t be exploring and learning in ‘space/time soul suits’ on the ‘Earth branch of the great Cosmic university’. Except for rare Avatars, Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, all humans are fallible; even Pontiffs and Prelates aren’t infallible.

I will hereafter discuss the spiritual importance of nonjudgmental forgiveness of ‘sins’.

But first to help you understand, and perhaps appreciate, my perspectives on non-judgmental forgiveness, I will summarize my long history of judging others.

Ron’s history of judging others.

After a midlife awakening, I began identifying my particular spiritual evolutionary challenges and opportunities. And gradually I realized that – as a litigation lawyer and long-time ardent social justice advocate – I had long established tendencies of often being outspokenly and acerbically judgmental, and of sometimes being unforgiving and angry about perceived injustices. Also I realized that these habits were not helpful to others or me; that they were impediments to my spiritual evolution, and inconsistent with mystical realizations of Oneness with all Life, beyond our perceived separation from one another.

However, since first identifying these unhelpful habits decades ago, it hasn’t been easy to transcend them. Thus, on retiring from legal practice in 1992, by deactivating my law license it was easy for me to stop lawyering. But it was hard to stop gratuitously judging or blaming others – especially if they seemed to act immorally, hypocritically or harmfully.

Only gradually have I discerned significant – but often subtle – distinctions between being unduly judgmental and unforgiving of others, and my life-long ardent and conscientious advocacy for social justice. This often has required difficult discernments and decisions about conscientious truth telling and nonviolently resisting those who unjustly harm others, without vindictively, condemning, blaming and judging them.

The most challenging behaviors for me have been instances of apparently harmful betrayal of public or private trust. Apart from numerous flagrant betrayals of public trust by politicians and corporations which I have resisted, there have been a few unforgettable and psychologically traumatic events which I personally experienced as betrayals, but now see with forgiveness as disguised blessings which furthered my spiritual evolution.

Slowly my pain and suffering from harboring anger or bitterness, has helped awaken me to the futility and harm of blame. I have realized that blame, rancor or vengeance do not change others, and are always incompatible with a loving peaceful mind. But that love and forgiveness, do not preclude – and often require – conscientious advocacy for social justice, and nonviolent resistance to harmfully immoral acts.

As inspiringly demonstrated by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., love and forgiveness, are integral to such nonviolent resistance. He explained that:


“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” . . . “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” . . .”The time is always right to do what is right.”. . . “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


Ultimately I have realized how hating hurts the hater; that all unforgiving behavior is ego trying to preserve its falsely imagined separate identity. Thus, that human unconsciousness and ignorance of our true self-identity is the root cause of all perceived evil, and that any bitterness we harbor against perceived “others” separates us from our divine Oneness with everyone and everything everywhere, and beyond.

As I have slowly understood that human unconsciousness and ignorance of our true identity is the root cause of all perceived evil, I have learned to forgive it, and thereby to live an ever happier life. And thus, I have concluded that our purpose on Earth is not to judge, condemn or criticize apparent evil but to transcend it with LOVE.

Thereby, and only after many years of unsuccessfully addressing my negative judgmental tendencies, I may have now transcended them, by realizing that they arose from ego trying to preserve its falsely imagined separate identity. So I’ve finally granted my irrevocable general power of attorney to The Lone Arranger to judge all “sinners” – even Donald Trump, for whom I now feel sorry, as countless humans worldwide conscientiously and nonviolently resist his administration’s patently insane ecologically suicidal behaviors which threaten to catastrophically destroy all human life on Earth as we have known it.

And while so deferring to the unerring law of cause and effect, with absolute faith in the divine, I have enjoyed unprecedented peace of mind.

Discussion.

We are here to learn and to demonstrate divine LOVE. But if we behave fearfully or selfishly instead of lovingly and compassionately, we inevitably ‘miss the divine target mark’, and thereby ‘sin’. And if we miss our mark and ‘sin’, we’ll probably suffer karmically from the law of causality. So how do we avoid ‘sinning’ and atone for past ‘sins’?

First, we must become aware of how ‘sins’ happen.

On investigating, we learn that human “sins” and sufferings are karmically inevitable and unavoidable while we unknowingly perceive “through a glass darkly” with conditioned ego-minds. We realize that all our perceptions are illusory projections of past conceptions, which obscure our experience of the timeless NOW. Thus, we learn that our space/time causality reality is like a persistent illusion – a mental mirage; and we discover that

“space and time are not conditions in which we live, [but] modes in which we think.”, that “the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”, and that “our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.” [Albert Einstein]


Such new-found awareness can reveal simple solutions to previously persistent behavioral problems, from levels of consciousness beyond those which unknowingly caused our mistaken ‘sins’. For example, the Buddha taught that:

“to understand everything is to forgive everything”.

So we may discover that a significant solution to our ‘sinning’ problems is to forgive NOW (in the precious present), all unknowing mental mistakes made by ourselves and others. That

“to err is human; to forgive, Divine.”


Then, with ‘amazing grace’ we can finally see that our non-judgmental forgiveness of mental mistakes is Divine, since ‘sins’ of the conditioned ego-mind have arisen from ignorance, not malevolence – from belief, not awareness; from fear, not LOVE.

As a rare exemplar of Divine LOVE, Jesus Christ has inspired millions with his words and deeds of non-judgmental and merciful forgiveness, of even enemies and persecutors, for their spiritually ignorant behaviors. So even while suffering excruciating pain on a crucifixion cross He beseeched:


“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


Yet, without judging ignorant beings but criticizing their disharmonious behaviors, Jesus was a passionate social reformer and redeemer who frequently decried hypocritical conduct and ethics by people who did not ‘walk their talk’ but practiced the very behaviors they decried – like those whose piety was on their tongue but not in their heart; those who claimed to love God but hated others. [John 4:20; Matthew 15:7-9] And without judging the beings but their behaviors he cast out those changing money and conducting commerce in the sacred temple courtyard, thereby demonstrating that we cannot serve both God and greed. [Matthew 6:24 and 21:12]

Perhaps, from Jesus’s supremely divine perspective, ‘mortal sin’ can be seen (with insight, not eyesight) as ignorantly believing oneself a “mortal”, rather than immortal; and, “original sin” can be seen as ego’s mistaken belief of itself as separate from ONE Eternal Spirit or Universal Awareness.

During a long lifetime of often morally judging those who betray or hurt others, I finally learned that it is infinitely easier to forgive and atone for, our ‘sins’, by mindfully recognizing how they egotistically happen, than to exist Christ-like or Buddha-like as divine LOVE. And that on becoming mindfully aware of our unwitting sins we inevitably spur our spiritual evolution process.

Conclusion.

May these teachings on “Forgiveness And Atonement Of “Sins” help all of us to forgive and transcend ’sins’ with love. But with quiet minds and open hearts may we continue to non-judgmentally, nonviolently, and conscientiously resist social injustice, while honoring the spiritual essence and universal equality of everyone everywhere.

And may this posting thereby help spur our spiritual evolution process, so that we may all open our hearts to forgive and give up what we mistakenly think we are –
and BE, eternally, what we truly are:

The unseen Source of the world we see – ONE spirit eternally encompassing all life as LOVE!

And so shall it be!

Ron Rattner

“Miracles”

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly,
our whole life would change.”
~ Buddha
“The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air,
but simply walking on this earth.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love.
The real miracle is the love that inspires them.
In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.”
~ A Course in Miracles
“All is a miracle.
The stupendous order of nature,
the revolution of a hundred millions of worlds around a million of stars,
the activity of light,
the life of all animals,
all are grand and perpetual miracles.”
~ Francois Voltaire
“And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles.”
~ Walt Whitman
“When we do the best that we can,
we never know what miracle is wrought in our life,
or in the life of another.”
~ Helen Keller




“Miracles” ~ By Walt Whitman – “Leaves of Grass

Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,

Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,

Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;

These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?



Ron’s Reflections on “Miracles”

Dear Friends,

Miracles are phenomena which can’t be explained scientifically or through common wisdom. Depending on each person’s unique experience of “reality”, different people consider different phenomena to be ‘miracles’.

But, throughout history, spiritually evolved beings – like those quoted above – have humbly recognized and accepted that all earth life is an eternal miracle attributable to Divine Power.

Recognition that all Life is a Divine miracle, can elicit deep feelings of happiness, gratitude, awe, faith, and acceptance of whatever happens in our lives.

So Einstein wisely endorsed living

“as though everything is is a miracle.”

After many years of living more and more “as though everything is is a miracle”, I have experienced ever expanding contentment and happiness with unspeakable gratitude for every moment of life, accepting whatever happens as a Divine play of consciousness.

I now often perceive this entire space/time Universe – like a movie – as a miraculous matrix projection onto a ’screen of consciousness’, with ever impermanent forms and phenomena appearing from and disappearing into an eternally mysterious Source.

Though THAT miraculous Source is ultimately unnameable, I often call it LOVE.

Thus, for me:

“Everything comes from divine LOVE;
and everything that comes from LOVE is a miracle”.


So Divine LOVE is the ultimate miracle.

Accordingly, with immense gratitude I find harmonic resonance with Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s experiential observations that God’s love is an ever present immense gift and grace:

“Every breath we draw is a gift of [God’s] love,

for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

~ Thomas Merton

Knowingly or unknowingly we are all graced and gifted with Divine LOVE as the eternal Source of constant miracles which bless our lives.

So – like Thomas Merton – may we experience that “every moment of existence is a grace”.

And let us:

Remember with gratitude,

Life is beatitude –

Even its sorrows and pain;

For we’re all in God’s Grace,

Every time, every place, and

Forever (S)HE will reign!

~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings – “Remember”


And so may it be!

Ron Rattner

Vision and Perception: Quotations and Sutra Sayings

“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~William Blake
“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.”
~ Jonathan Swift
“True vision is insight, not eyesight.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“ Seeing the Invisible is Knowing the impossible.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Behold: Reality’s Essence is Divine Luminescence.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings



“Let the waters settle, 
you will see stars and moon

mirrored in your Being.”
~ Rumi

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception
resembles more than anything else
that celestial source from which we all are come.”
~ Michelangelo

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint Exupery

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
~ Carl Jung

“The question is not what you look at,
but what you see.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

“The eyes of the soul of the multitudes
are unable to endure the vision of the Divine.”
~ Plato

“People only see what they are prepared to see.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People think that they see, but they don’t.”
~ Henry Moore

“Everyone takes the limits of his own vision
for the limits of the world.”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

“As a man is, so he sees.
As the eye is formed, such are its powers.”
~ William Blake

“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight,
but has no vision.”
~ Helen Keller

“As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind,
so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.”
~ Helen Keller

”When the sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire
somewhat like a guinea?
O no, no, I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
~ William Blake

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain,
but the view is always the same.”
~ Chinese Proverb

“Where there is no vision, people perish.”
~ Proverbs 29:18

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
~ Michelangelo

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
~ Antoine De Saint-Exupery

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it creative observation. Creative viewing.”
~ William S. Burroughs

“The soul never thinks without a mental picture.”
~ Aristotle

“For light I go directly to the Source of light, not to any of the reflections.”
~ Peace Pilgrim

“Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision
to recognize it as such.”
~ Henry Miller

“Because our entire universe is made up of consciousness,
we never really experience the universe directly;
we just experience our consciousness of the universe,
our perception of it – so … our only universe is perception.”
~ Alan Moore

“Perception is a mirror not a fact. And what I look on is my state of mind, reflected outward.”
~ A Course In Miracles

“Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious:
i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception.”
~H. P. Blavatsky

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
~ Edgar Allan Poe

“In the ultimate stillness
Light penetrates the whole realm;
In the still illumination,
There pervades pure emptiness.
When I look back on the
Phenomenal world,
Everything is just
Like a dream.”
~ Han-shan Te-Ch’ing



A “Holy Encounter” – Synchronicity Story

In this world of relativity, we are all relatives.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“We are born and reborn countless number of times, and it is possible that each being has been our parent at one time or another.  Therefore, it is likely that all beings in this universe have familial connections.”
~ H. H. Dalai Lama, from ‘The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom”.
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself. As you think of him, you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose sight of yourself.”
~ A Course in Miracles (ACIM)
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
~ Fred Rogers
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven
is my brother and sister and mother.”
~ Matthew 12:50
Ask and it shall be given; Seek and ye shall find.
~ Matthew 7:7




A “Holy Encounter” – Synchronicity Story

Have you ever met a stranger who seemed familiar, or with whom you felt an effortless instant rapport?     If so, did you wonder why?

Buddhists might explain such meetings as reencounters with people we’ve known in other lifetimes. They say that our mind-stream incarnates so many times that we may have familial connections with all other beings.

In all events, however we may explain such encounters, we can view them as synchronistic evolutionary opportunities. A Course in Miracles (ACIM) teaches that every encounter can be a “Holy Encounter”, enabling us find “salvation” by transcending our illusionary self identification with seeming separation and by discovering our true wholeness and Holiness – our true self identity with Universal Spirit.

In recent years I have had many synchronistic meetings with strangers which have become “holy encounters”. One such meeting happened on a late September afternoon.

While walking by the Bay, I stopped and sat at a picnic table in a beautiful Fort Mason nature place. Soon a stranger named Nick appeared, and we engaged in an extraordinary and extended dialogue about perennial spiritual questions, the kinds of questions that motivated me to launch Silly.Sutras.com. While we talked, Nick’s energy seemed familiar, even though we’d never before met.

The next day Nick sent me an email asking to be added to the SillySutras circulation list. Also, he expressed appreciation for our meeting (in which he had asked many questions), and he asked one more question, which he said he’d forgotten to previously ask, viz:

“Throughout the days, there is a witness who watches all the events of my life; whether in calmness or through the most frantic events he remains unperturbed. Who is this observer?”


I replied to Nick, an observant Christian, as follows:

“The answer to your question is – like the Kingdom of Heaven – within.  Seeking it you shall find it.

Do you equate your word “witness” with “awareness” or “consciousness”?  If so, here is an apt quotation from Ramana Maharshi, a renowned mystic master from the past century:

‘Consciousness is always Self-Consciousness. If you are conscious of anything, you are essentially conscious of yourself.’
~ Ramana Maharshi”


More than six months after our synchronistic encounter and exchange of messages, I was surprised by an email from Nick, telling about his experience when we met.

In reply, I asked Nick’s permission to share his letter on-line. He agreed, and explained:

“I wrote because I felt the need to express my gratitude, to you, of course, but above all to our celestial Father, for this blessing.”


Here is Nick’s letter:

Hi Ron,

My name is Nick; I don’t know if you remember me. We met last fall. I had just lost my beloved mother. I was walking along the shore in dazed despair. At one point, near the Municipal Pier, I thought: “If there were just one person, one soul in this whole city that I could talk to!”

I think it an odd paradox that it’s precisely death, the ultimate “limiting factor”, that should, perhaps more than any event, bring humans face-to-face with the Infinite.  It was precisely this quandary, more than immediate injury and loss, that pained and perplexed me that day.

When I got to the top of Fort Mason, at Black Point, I walked toward the picnic tables. There, at the spot where my mother and I used to gaze out upon the Bay, I saw a small figure, sitting silently at a table; it reminded me of a heron or some other seabird I had spied, in stillness on the shore.

At that point, I felt I had “arrived” and had the urge to speak. But, at a loss on how to engage the conversation, I remember instead awkwardly staring out at the water. You broke the ice with these words:

“It’s good to be here!”

A little startled, I asked whether this was intended as a geographical or metaphysical statement. Your answer, I believe, was that it could be understood as either (I rather agreed with the first; less with the second interpretation; though, of course, the two seem difficult to separate).

I don’t remember too many of the particulars of the wide-ranging conversation that followed across the picnic table (St. Francis, Buddha, the Kaddish, suicide, the apocalypse..) . What I do recall is that it precisely addressed all the points that caused me such perplexity that day, and that in its course my wounds seemed to get bandaged up, my pains assuaged.

Most vividly, I remember you asking me whether I knew the meaning of the term “synchronicity”, which, in answer to my avowed ignorance, you proceeded to define. In truth, I required few explanations: a while earlier, down by the Maritime Museum, when I’d exclaimed “God, if there were just someone in the world to talk to!”, this hadn’t been a prayer in any formal sense, not even a request with any expectation of fulfillment, but a simple cri du coeur.* [*cry from the heart; heartfelt appeal]

Now I understood what synchronicity meant.

I’m afraid I detained you longer than reasonable, as twilight settled over the trees.

You gave me your card, I checked out your website and signed up for your episodic postings.

Whether freezing my ass off in my mother’s drafty old farmhouse in Burgundy in the dead of last winter, hiking some warm canyon in the Southwest, or just sitting in my room here in San Francisco, scratching my head and wondering what’s next,  these have proved a reliable source of comfort and elevation.  Most often, as I read them, I can’t help but repeat “Yes, yes, yes!” ; sometimes I disagree, or don’t understand. They’ve made a difference for the better in my life, and I eagerly look forward to them.  All and all, they have the effect of a gentle voice enjoining me to wake up from an overlong nightmare. Which brings to mind [this verse from Pedro Calderon De La Barca’s play La vida es sueño – Life is a Dream ]:

¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño;
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.*

I’m still confused ; still sorely miss my mother, angel of beauty; but I’m very grateful to have made your acquaintance. And when I take a walk at Fort Mason, I always hope I’ll find you sitting at the table. No luck, so far. I reckon you just can’t force synchronicity…

Cheers,

Nick
*
[ English translation:

What is life? A frenzy.
What is life? An illusion,
A shadow, a fiction,
And the greatest profit is small;
For all of life is a dream,
And dreams, are nothing but dreams.]


Moral of this story:

Heartfelt calls to the Divine will  be answered and rewarded.

Every encounter with others; especially each synchronistic encounter, can be a “Holy Encounter”.

“Choice” Quotations


“We must believe in free will,
we have no choice.”
~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
“There is no such thing as chance;
and what seems to us merest accident
springs from the deepest source of destiny.”
~ Friedrich Schiller
“Since we cannot change reality,
let us change the eyes which see reality.”
~ Nikos Kazantzakis




“Choice” Quotations

“Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust –
we all dance to a mysterious tune,
intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
~ Albert Einstein

“What really interests me is whether God had any Choice in the creation of the world.”
~ Albert Einstein

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief”
~ Buddha

“Life is the sum of all your choices.”
~ Albert Camus

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it,
that is in itself a choice.”
~ William James

“God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.
Take which you please – you can never have both.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.”
~ Leo Buscaglia

“I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.”
~ A Course In Miracles

“Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedom — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
~ Viktor Frankl

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.
Therefore choose life.”
~ Deuteronomy 30:19

“Everyone should carefully observe which way his heart draws him, and then choose that way with all his strength. ”
~ Hasidic Saying


Vision Quest: From Eyesight to Insight ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~ William Blake
“True vision is insight, not eyesight.
‘[N]ow we see through a glass darkly’,
but with ever expanding human consciousness and ever deepening insight,
we can and shall ‘see’ more and more –
we can and shall see what we couldn’t see before.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint Exupery
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
~ Carl Jung
“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight,
but has no vision.”
~ Helen Keller
“As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind,
so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.”
~ Helen Keller
“Perception is a mirror not a fact.
And what I look on is my state of mind, reflected outward.”
~ A Course In Miracles
“Time, space and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen.
In the Absolute there is neither time, space nor causation.”
~ Swami Vivekananda

Vision Quest

Introduction.

This is the story of how I learned from inner and outer experiences that true vision comes from imagination and insight beyond mere eyesight; that even people with no eyesight, like Helen Keller, can be visionaries.

Ron’s Vision Quest.

Since childhood I needed corrective lenses for normal eyesight. At about age three my parents brought me to an ophthalmologist for a misaligned eye. I was diagnosed with astigmatism and far-sightedness and prescribed thick eyeglasses – which I always needed, but never liked. Gradually, I needed ever stronger prescriptions.

I became so dependent on eyeglasses that I would grope for them upon awakening every morning, and wore them constantly. Once when I was a pre-teen at a YMCA summer camp, one of my cabin mates, with a distorted sense of humor, hid my glasses for several days. I still remember how lost and miserable I felt without them.

When I was eighteen years old and a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a college friend, Sorrel Rosin – who later became a prominent Chicago optometrist, told me about corneal contact lenses, which were then newly developed. And he recommended a Chicago expert who could usually fit them comfortably. Excitedly, I became an early corneal contact lens user. I continued wearing hard contact lenses for about twenty five years, even though they sometimes irritated my eyes. But eventually I became presbyopic, needed reading glasses and couldn’t get bifocal contact lenses. So, reluctantly I resumed using eyeglasses.

Until my midlife spiritual awakening, I had self-identified only with my physical body and believed my defective vision was due to an incurably misshaped cornea, and to unavoidable physical degeneration associated with aging. Never did I consider defective eyesight to be improvable or curable. Nor did I believe vision to be a brain function, or as possibly arising from consciousness beyond the brain. But those beliefs changed after extraordinary inner and outer mid-life experiences.

 

Ron - age 3 1/2

Ron – age 3 1/2

 

At a 1974-5 San Francisco New Year’s Eve party, I had an unprecedented and unforgettable out of body experience (OOB). While lying face down on a bed in a small dark room, “I” floated out of my body and up to the ceiling. And from the ceiling, with my glasses on a bedside table, I beheld my body lying face down on the pillow. For the first time in my life I had 20/20 vision without eyeglasses, and without even using my eyes – or maybe my brain.

The New Year’s OOB experience soon led to a pivotal rebirth experience at age forty three, which, opened an emotional/intuitive flood-gate closed since childhood – unleashing for the first time in my adult life numerous synchronistic inner and outer experiences which gradually but radically changed my beliefs about “reality”.

After the rebirth experience I had other OOB experiences with apparent out of body vision, as well as innumerable inner visions and insights. Ultimately, I associated inner visions with a mysterious “third eye” associated with the pineal gland – providing apparent perception beyond ordinary eyesight. For example, I took shaktipat initiation from my Hindu master Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas only after perceiving his extraordinary silver aura and seeing him in inner visions, one of which was as clear as a color TV picture. And I learned from Guruji that auric perceptions and inner visions were associated with the kundalini purification process.

Shortly before meeting Guruji I attended a San Francisco ‘new age’ exposition where various ‘green’ products were being displayed and sold. One of the vendors was selling pin-hole glasses and a book she had written about natural vision improvement, as originally taught in the early 20th century by unconventional opthamologist William H. Bates, MD. Synchronistically she told me that possibly I might improve and perhaps even cure my defective eyesight with natural vision improvement techniques; that pin-hole glasses did not improve vision but afforded an opportunity break the ‘addiction’ to glasses via obligatory squint focus through its small apertures. Intrigued, I bought the book and the pin-hole glasses and assiduously began learning and experimenting with natural vision relaxation techniques, such as blinking, sunning, swaying, acupressure massage and palming. Experientially, I became persuaded that just as the so-called “placebo effect” could promote healing of physical ailments through optimistic attitude, that a relaxed and positive psychological attitude could also help improve eyesight.

I was encouraged in this belief by reading many eye improvement books, including “The Art of Seeing” by famed author Aldous Huxley, gratefully attesting to his improved his vision via Bates techniques. For several years I received vision improvement lessons from Anna Kaye, a former Polish attorney who had emigrated to the United States after World War II unable to see a door, and had been diagnosed as suffering from atrophy of the optic nerve. Four ophthalmologists recommended she learn Braille. But, unable to accept near blindness, she studied natural vision improvement with a Bates protegee in New York City and regained 20/30 vision in both eyes. Also, I later met and was inspired by Meir Schneider PhD, a San Francisco healer from Israel who improved from legal blindness and Braille to near normal sight with the Bates Method, supplemented by his own intense regimen of self-massage and movement.

Despite years of effort, I never succeeded in normalizing my vision with Bates relaxation techniques. Apparently, relaxation could not normalize a misshapen cornea and resulting astigmatism. But I am convinced that relaxation and other Bates methods improved and stabilized my vision, deterred cataract formation, and taught me much about my body’s energy system; that thereby they have contributed to good health. At age eighty one, I still get a binocular 20/20 correction with progressive bifocal glasses which are not as strong as glasses prescribed for me over twenty years ago, which I keep as souvenirs.

From Eyesight to Insight.

On meeting Guruji, I was amazed not only by his miraculous spiritual powers but also by his extraordinary physical prowess at age one hundred, including his ability to see normally without glasses. Initially, I surmised that Guruji’s miraculous physical condition had resulted from his enlightened state of mind, and his mastery of yogic meditation, mantra, movement, and breathing techniques. So naively I began believing that “enlightenment” required not only a mind free from ego defilements, but also a healthy physical body with normal eyesight. And this belief motivated me more than ever to attempt normalizing my eyesight via Bates relaxation techniques.

But, gradually Guruji became physically exhausted and debilitated from his tireless schedule of selflessly helping others in the US. Yet he retained his enlightened state of mind. And soon I learned of other spiritual masters and saints with unhealthy bodies and/or impaired eyesight. So, I learned it was possible to be spiritually elevated, notwithstanding visual and other physical impairments.

For example, I noted that HH The Dalai Lama of Tibet, needed eyeglasses for near-sightedness. And after Guruji returned to India, I met and took kriya empowerments from Paramahamsa Hariharananda Giri, an Indian meditation master who also needed eyeglasses. Also I learned that beloved Saint Francis of Assisi was almost blind at the time of his death, legendarily because he “cried his eyes out” but actually because of chronic trachoma apparently contracted in Africa during the Crusades.

Thus, though ultimately I accepted my inability to normalize eyesight without glasses, I have never lost faith in our evolutionary potential of ever elevating inner vision through mindful identification and diligent purification of mental defilements.

Conclusion.

In the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:11-12), Paul observes that “now we see through a glass darkly”, 
but that some day we shall fully know, as we are fully Known now by the Divine.  
Now, we view our “reality” through the ‘mirror of the mind’, which imperfectly refracts and reflects the unseen light of Eternal Awareness onto the screen of our human consciousness.  

But, with meditation and other mind-stilling methods, we can evolve and transform our mind mirror from opacity to translucency to transparency.  And thereby, with ever expanding 
human consciousness and ever deepening insight, we can and shall ‘see’ more and more –
we can and shall see what we couldn’t see before.

And so it shall be!

Synchronicity Story: A Spiritual Experience on Bernal Heights

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
~ Fred Rogers
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself. As you think of him, you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose sight of yourself.”
~ A Course in Miracles (ACIM)

Bernal Heights view


Lately, I have been blessed with ever more magical moments and with ever increasing gratitude for this precious and lucky life. Usually these magical moments have happened synchronistically and unexpectedly. And often they’ve involved spiritual experiences with people, creatures or Nature, which I call “holy encounters”.

Just before the recent solstice holidays, I was blessed with a magical visit to a beautiful San Francisco view place which I had never before seen. And there I met a lovely man, Daniel Raskin, who shared with me a haunting story (which follows) of his unforgettable spiritual experience in a remote Utah desert canyon.

Here’s what happened, and the story Daniel told me:

I moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, attracted by San Francisco’s climate, physical beauty and ambiance. Within its boundaries are more than fifty hills, several islands, and significant stretches of Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

So, while living in San Francisco I have visited and enjoyed almost all of its best known view places. But until recently I never had known about or seen the spectacular view from atop Bernal Heights a hilly neighborhood above San Francisco’s outer Mission and Bay View districts.

Then, just before Christmas, I was invited to attend a beautiful holiday dinner party hosted by Shelley Cook, a very talented and intuitive massage therapist who has been skillfully helping heal and realign my body since it suffered a painful lower back yoga injury.

At the party there were many lovely artistic people, all much younger than me. One of the other guests, Audrey Daniel, a professional photographer/videographer, told me she had lived for many years in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights district, which she regarded as San Francisco’s most charming and typical neighborhood – like a village within the city. Whereupon, realizing that I had never yet visited Bernal Heights during my 50+ years as a San Franciscan, I became curious about seeing what Audrey was describing.

My curiosity was soon satisfied synchronistically by The Lone Arranger, my ‘appointments secretary’.

A few days after the party, at Shelley’s request, I unexpectedly rescheduled my regular afternoon appointment with her to morning, so she could accommodate some people from Santa Cruz who’d just been injured in an auto accident.

Upon finishing our morning massage therapy session, Shelley had extra time before her afternoon appointments. Generously, she offered to show me a nearby Vedanta healing center and shrine which she had long been urging me to visit. So we went to the shrine.

There, as I gazed at an image of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa – a nineteenth century Hindu saint with whom I have long felt special affinity – I experienced a deep Divine mood, and cried copious tears of devotion.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa


Thereafter, when Shelley and I left the shrine, it was lunch time. And instead of returning home to eat, I unexpectedly went with Shelley to a restaurant which she recommended. At first she suggested a nearby Asian restaurant, but then she suddenly intuited that we would probably more enjoy going to a place on Bernal Heights.

So, four days after hearing from Audrey Daniel about the Bernal Heights district, I visited that area for the first time in my life, and there enjoyed a delicious Mexican lunch with Shelley. After we ate and before returning to her studio, Shelley urged me to hike atop Bernal hill to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of San Francisco, instead of taking my usual daily walk by the Bay.

So, still in spiritual mood from my experience at the Ramakrishna Vedanta shrine, I walked up steep streets to the base of Bernal hill. There I approached the first person I encountered, seeking directions to the hilltop trail.

But instead of a quick encounter about directions, we had an extended dialogue. It was Daniel Raskin, with whom I enjoyed a long spiritual chat and experienced a ‘holy encounter’, before we parted and I beheld the spectacular panoramic view from atop Bernal Hill.

Synchronistically, Daniel identified himself as a photographer living in the Bernal Heights vicinity, like Audrey the photographer responsible for my curiosity about that neighborhood. And when I mentioned Audrey, Daniel said he had participated and appeared in her documentary film The Owls of Bernal Hill.

As we chatted, I told Daniel of my interest in mysterious spiritual synchronicities. Whereupon, he shared with me a wonderful story of an unforgettable spiritual experience. Here is Daniel’s story as he wrote it for a diary in 1998, just after it happened:

A Spiritual Experience
By Daniel Raskin *

July 15, 1998, Cottonwood Point, Arizona
Sierra Club Trip: Locating Petroglyphs

Utah Box Canyon


Today we visited the end of a box canyon where there were complex and intriguing ancient petroglyphs and small ruins. After breakfast we drove a short way to our trailhead and hiked a few miles along a sandy path. The plants were mostly a bluish
aromatic sage; also juniper, cacti, local grasses and, here and there, a late blooming flower. The sky was perfectly clear, deep blue, and the sun fierce. Most of the hike was in full sun; the temperature in the nineties by ten or eleven.

The end of the canyon was a spectacular place, a high semi-circular vertical cliff. It was concave and beautifully banded, brown, light brown, reddish brown and yellow. A broad waterless wash wove through the flat valley floor. There, in the
shade of the canyon, oaks and plants with red berries grew.

As soon as I got into the shade of the canyon walls, I began to breathe rapidly. I did not feel I had over-exerted myself, and did not understand why I was breathless. I began to feel slightly nauseous, faint and dizzy. I also felt very moved by the beauty surrounding me. I began to feel very emotional. My heartbeat was rapid and my breath uncontrollably fast and deep. I began to feel like I had taken LSD.

I sat down. My condition intensified. I began to cry, copious tears. I was simultaneously relieved, frightened and confused. My thoughts and feelings wandered freely. As I continued to cry, I felt over-joyed to be alive. I felt blessed to enjoy the relative security of my middle class existence. I thought about my partner Ann. I thought about her ovarian cancer. It almost killed her, but now she is healthy again and stronger in new ways. I thought about Jesse, my twenty-one year old, and how he is now thriving after a difficult adolescence. I thought about Sam, my sixteen year old. He has survived a risky and chaotic early adolescence, and is stronger and more mature. I felt my love, my powerful love for my family. All this time I was crying and breathing deeply.

I thought about the miracle of being alive, of experiencing existence in the midst of infinite eternity. What explains my chance to experience life? Who or what, ultimately, gave me and all of us this miraculous gift?

As I thought and cried, I slowly began to calm down. My breath slowed. After a while I felt stable enough to get up. I took photographs of the canyon and the beautiful oaks and wild currents growing there. Then I joined the group. They had
dispersed about the headwall to view the great array of petroglyphs. There were animals, human figures, designs and scenes pecked into the rock. The most impressive was a figure of a one-legged person. People with deformities were sometimes holy people in Native American cultures.



After looking at the rock art I investigated the remains of a kiva. A coyote had made a lair in its recesses. I found a small rodent’s jaw. I climbed down to the canyon floor. Datura, a hallucinogenic plant was growing there. I wondered: “am I in a sacred place?” After a while we left the canyon, had lunch, visited more rock art sites and returned to camp. I felt light-headed for several hours.

What happened to me? Did I become delirious from the heat? Was I freaked out by the rigors of this trip, lonely for my family? Maybe. But why did this happen today, rather than on another hot, hard working day?
And, why did this happen in a place with a petroglyph of a one-legged person, a kiva and hallucinogenic plants growing?
I’d like to say I had a vision, if saying that didn’t feel arrogant and presumptuous. Who knows? Fortunately, life is full of mysteries.

After returning home: I shared my experience with Ann. She said that I had had a spiritual experience about the gift of life and the power of love, as she had had when she was sick with cancer.

* Daniel Raskin is a retired San Francisco preschool teacher and photographer.


******

Do you agree (as I do) with Daniel’s partner Ann that he “had a spiritual experience about the gift of life and the power of love”?

And didn’t Daniel’s spontaneously copious tears express more eloquently than any words the heartfelt depths of his joy and gratitude for this blessed life?

Ron’s moral of the story:

Daniel’s deep spiritual experience, shows us that we don’t need religious rituals, beliefs or dogma to experience Divinity; that, beyond religion, our grateful communion with Nature can be an equally powerful spiritual path.