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Integral philosophy from a contemplative perspective.

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The Consolation of Philosophy

Philosophy as a Path

Hi Folks,

I was thinking about all of you and how I might reach out. I know this is a time of fear and worry for so many of us. Then I remembered that an ancient Roman named Boethius wrote a book called The Consolation of Philosophy while awaiting his execution.

Then it occurred to me that some of you might find helpful to read why philosophy helps me cope with something as serious as this virus. It has to do with the power of Wisdom to serve as a reminder — there is far more going on than I can take in through the small world of my limited understanding.

Many great spiritual philosophers from the Buddha to Plato state that our ordinary view of the world is illusory and that we live in “a cave of shadows.” This means we don’t see things as they really are. I have always found this really helpful — to remember that I do not have the whole picture. That is my starting point.

Most people don’t think of philosophy as a spiritual path, but for me it is. By path I mean it uses suffering and fear as a means of seeking wisdom. It is the path of self-knowledge in the ancient meaning of that term. This is not knowledge about myself – an accumulation of data, but experiential awareness and contact with the deeper — or True Self — of one’s own deepest sense of “presence.” Contact with this Self is often the only real relief from fear and worry that I experience.

The questioning of who I really am can lead me past all the usual “answers” until nothing remains but silent awareness, the emptiness of full presence. In this space one can “know” things that are otherwise unknowable. I can’t talk or write about these things except indirectly because they go beyond language. But that does not mean this reality is not real or experienceable.

To know that when the pain of this world is almost too much to bear, I am reminded that this world is not ever going to give me the joy and peace I am looking for anyway. In some amazing sense then suffering becomes “a dark gift” because it can force me to look within for that which cannot be found without.

 

When I am in touch with my deeper self, the fear vanishes and only love remains. My path is to trust this love.

 

This, for me, is the consolation of philosophy.

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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hello Folks,

Are you astonishing a mean world with your acts of kindness?

So what does philosophy have to say as things get even weirder? I have a brother that lives in Portland so I have been amazed and troubled by what is going on there. It helps to remember that there is more good is going on than reported in the media. For example, I watched some folks help a horse get out of a mud puddle that it was stuck in. Watching them working together to help the horse made me feel better.

I have been rewriting an essay on Ralph Waldo Emerson for my online class and came across the quote: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I think this is easy to forget as we try to cross things off our lists and move on to the next thing. If we don’t break that habit and learn to enjoy the journey, then we will miss the importance of the precious moment — the only moment we really have.

Another quote I found helpful: “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” There is so much fear in the world, but it is love that we need to pay attention to and nurture.

The great Sufi master Rumi wrote: “Love is the endless ocean of God.” Love defeats fear.


A Jewish proverb I came across says: “You are only confined by the walls you build yourself.”

It takes self-knowledge to understand these walls and maturity to take responsibility for them.

Let’s tear down the walls that keep us from living fully.

Maya Angelou wrote: “If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”


She also wrote what I could not say better myself, and that is my wish for each of you as well as myself: “My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”


Are you astonishing? Of course you are. Just let love overcome your fear, stop being normal and watch the walls fall!


To the Journey!


Apophat


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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,


How clear is your mind?


A Buddhist saying says, “The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.”


It seems like these days we need to keep a clear mind as much as possible. It is difficult to do this when we are bombarded with bad news. But letting in all of this bad news doesn’t help us. I don’t think we should ignore the news, but we have to be careful consumers. We each have to figure out what this balance means, but it requires mindfulness in paying attention to how I respond to this media import.


For me personally, I limit news to about 30 minutes a day and I spend almost no time on social media. Just these two things alone reduce a tremendous anxiety.


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” I think this is a time when we need to really stay in touch with our dreams. Then we have something positive to do with our minds. Even under these new conditions we can set aside some time each day to do something positive to make our dreams powerful. Perhaps we can read more or watch a video about how other people met their goals. We need this inspiration.


Ken Wilber wrote: “Ken Wilber, I rise to taste the dawn, and find that love alone will shine today.” We need contact with this love to thrive. The main way I know about how to do this is that I need to consciously withdraw my mind from all the negativity and find the deeper self, which is in touch with this love. It never loses this contact. Instead, we lose contact with this inner depth as we get caught up in just the surface things.


Another Buddhist teaching says, “In the end, only three things matter, how much you have loved, how gently you have lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” This is so important to keep in mind because this is where our real power lies. We cannot control much about our outer lives, but we can practice choosing love over fear. When we do this, our mind settles and becomes clear.

So, how clear is your mind? Is love shining today for you?


To Clarity!


Apophat


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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,


How will you be remembered?


Today I was thinking about forgiveness and love. Will I be remembered as someone who learned to practice letting go? Or will I be remembered as someone who became embittered by the twists and fortunes of fate?

The question here for me is to ask myself whether hate is a choice or not? It seems natural to hate those who hurt us, but is it true that we have no choice? Philosophy is a consolation because it makes us think deeply about these kinds of things. When I do so, I come to see that hate is a choice.


Hating is also a toxic idea, because it makes us victims of what other people do and say. An awakening idea is that I can choose forgiveness, I can choose to let go. I can do this even when that means ending a toxic relationship.


What is our character? Character traits are not personality traits. Rather they are aspects of are being that can be learned and practiced so that they grow strong in us. Character traits include being responsible, being honest, being fair.


Philosophy teaches us to look within, to come to know our true selves and to then be empowered to change our own lives for the better while also working toward the evolution of our country and the world.

What do you need to face? What will it do for you and those you love to face it and work with it, whatever that might be?


We can lift people up by how we speak to them and about them. Are our words toxic or empowering? Thoughts lead to words and then to actions. During this difficult time in the world we need to learn to work with our thoughts — to change our thinking — so that we can change our words and our actions. The good news is that we have the power to look within, think critically, and decide to change where we need to do so.


How will you be remembered?


To Forgiveness!


Glorian



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About Apophat

So good to have you here.

I have been studying philosophy and religion my whole adult life. Intellectually, my home is in the world of Integral Philosophy. I attended graduate school at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, earning my Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion. 

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