It's January 2013. Millions of apocalyptic entries on Google said the world would end in December of 2012. It didn't happen. I never thought anything catastrophic would occur. Geological changes move at a glacial pace and the end of the Mayan calendar wasn't going to alter that fact. Changes in human consciousness though can come about more frequently. So hedging my bets, I prepared for whatever was going to happen.
I spent most of 2012 reviewing the teachings of the great enlightened souls I'd encountered over the past forty years. Looking for new insights, I re-read some of their most inspirational books. I took several months off for international travel. I went to the Middle East on a peace pilgrimage. There, amid centuries old hatreds between the three major religions on earth and the politics stifling easy discourse, an elderly Rabbi passionately assured me that peace would prevail on earth if there was peace in Jerusalem. I believed him. During a month long visit to India I was uplifted by the people and the spiritual depth of this ancient culture. Inbred into the fabric of their daily lives, it flourished in their beliefs and behavior. Yet, I was stunned at the country's gross ambivalence towards poverty, clean water, and the lack of sanitation.
After all of that it was ten days in solitude in the swamps of southeastern Georgia, that gave me the answers I was looking for. It was the most intense retreat I've ever gone to. The facilities were Spartan. Attendees pledged to a vow of silence, two vegetarian meals per day, not to kill any sentient being, not to steal, and promised not to leave the program before it was over. At 4 am every day a gong woke us for meditation. Other than the two meal breaks and an hour for meetings with the instructor, we sat in meditation twelve hours a day. Lights were turned off at 9 pm. On day four and day six I was ready to leave. But having surrendered all my electronics and the car keys upon arrival, not to mention I'd taken a vow, I determined to stick it out.
This requirement is a wise move on the part of the program. Staying is the best decision. In those ten extraordinary days I learned deep meditation techniques. I mastered the meaning of following the breath for countless hours. I grasped how talking takes one out of the inner world of contemplation. I saw how much mental and physical deprivation I could endure. I realized I could sit for hours without moving. I could even sit next to a scorpion watching dispassionately without flinching.
The most exceptional lesson I brought back from this retreat was an instinctual understanding that change is the nature of all existence. It is the constancy in our existence. It is inherent in our lives. It is in everything we do, and in every situation we encounter. Nothing is permanent in this universe. All things are coming into existence or going out of existence. Everything is birthing and dying, arising and falling, always changing. When that realization sunk in on day seven, it shattered my habitual ways of seeing the world.
Concepts of good and bad, who was right or wrong, disappeared. Thoughts, whether the casual monkey-mind thoughts or intense creative thoughts, come and go. Beliefs and perceptions lessen their grip in the awareness that all that we view as "real" is rising and falling. The transitory nature of the situations and dramas we create in our lives could be governed with the knowing that "this too shall pass." Applying that lesson to Israel, to India, to 2012 and now 2013 made all of those beliefs and experiences, understandable and easier to deal with. It also started the next leg of the journey. Now What?
It's a huge question post-2012. Many are asking the same thing. For me, after forty years of studies, seminars, and training, I ask, Now What? After trekking all over the world, Now What? After absorbing esoteric teachings from countless mystical paths, Now What? If everything is transient how do you live your life? Toss it all overboard or live with conscious purpose?
The "What" turned out to be fairly easy. It's easier to live in happiness than in sadness, and if it's all arising and falling anyway, why not choose happiness. I heard the Dalai Lama speak about kindness a few years ago. He said, "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is the temple. The philosophy is kindness and compassion." He also said it's easier to sleep with that type of inner peace. So with the Dalai Lama's words echoing I choose to live with that purpose. To be kind and loving; to live with joy; to live with purpose; to live with conscience; and to remember, this too shall pass.
And while I'm at it, continue daily meditation, do Yoga and eat more broccoli. That's Now What!
Jo Mooy - January 2013