Meditate for Relaxation or Self-Realization (Part 1)

Meditation is ancient practice that creates more peace, compassion and spiritual connection in our lives. In 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) moved from India to the United States and founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, which introduced meditation, yoga and the art of balancing one’s body, mind and soul to the West. Believing in the unity of all religions, Yogananda defined self-realization as follows: “the knowing—in body, mind, and soul—that we are one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence; that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.” From a Western perspective self-realization is the fulfillment of one’s own potential (talents and abilities), but the Eastern definition includes an incorruptible knowledge of our true self (our divinity) beyond delusions of paradox and duality. By cherishing ourselves in every circumstance and accepting our divinity, we can experience the enduring happiness related to self-realization.

Currently in the West, Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM) are the two basic ways to meditate. Focused Attention (FA) methods suggest we focus our concentration on an object or activity to change brainwave patterns to relax or experience the transcendent. Examples of focused awareness include: mantras, breath awareness and any method where our brain focuses it’s attention on an activity so we can hear the hummingbird voice associated with our heart and soul whispering within. Additional activities could include: walking meditations, imagery, yoga, Tai Chi, kirtan (singing sacred Sanskrit mantras) and/or prayer beads (Christian rosary, Hindu Japa mala or Buddhist mala beads) are a few more methods.  

 

Open Monitoring (OM) is oftentimes referred to as mindfulness meditation and invites the practitioner to create an empty mind and more equanimity. Monitoring our mental landscape and fields of awareness without judgment or emotional reactivity are the hallmarks of an OM method preferred by Buddhist or Eastern practitioners. Equanimity naturally occurs by remaining present, which entails living each moment fully with non-judgment. Open monitoring suggests we place our internal awareness on our emotions, thoughts or sensations without mental analysis. External monitoring is the concentrated effort to notice environmental sounds, smells and annoying distractions in our surroundings similarly.

Mindfulness has become a very popular word in United States and is associated with many meditation techniques and self-help tools. In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, described mindfulness as “moment to moment non-judgment awareness.” Meditation techniques have been researched extensively and in 2017 a comprehensive review was conducted. They concluded that empathy, compassion and pro-social behaviors increase. Neuroimaging studies revealed that beneficial brainwave patterns shift during meditation. Depressive rumination decrease and peace of mind flourish. Some studies suggest our ability to self-regulate and create emotional balance improve when the anterior cingulate cortex of our brain is activated. Meditation helps us shift away from the right prefrontal cortex, which reduces depression and anxiety while increasing happiness and relaxation.

Scientists like Hubert Benson in the United States studied the stress reducing benefits of meditation fifty years ago. In 1975 he wrote a famous book called The Relaxation Response and claimed anyone could say the word peanut butter over and over or count to twelve forwards and backwards silently to reduce stress. His research proved that heart rates reduced and people felt more relaxed. As time went on more and more American authors like Hubert Benson eventually examined the benefits beyond relaxation and explored the transcendent like the rich Eastern traditions. Every serious meditator at some time experienced the transcendent and part two of this article will explore soul connection and the Eastern concept of self-realization that Paramahansa Yogananda introduced to America one hundred years ago.

I have noticed that most people, when they want to learn more about meditation and mindfulness techniques, explore Buddhist methods first, which suggest open monitoring methods. Creating an empty mind and witnessing without attachment is hard to do and many people give up prematurely. What isn’t taught enough or explained thoroughly is why our monkey mind jumps around so much. Racing thoughts cause sleepless nights for most of us due to the same reason. When we quiet our mind to meditate or fall asleep, we must surrender our focus and move to an open monitoring brain.

Meditation beginners have monkey mind problems due to procrastination. When we ignore our inner child, run away from problems, forget important daily tasks, procrastinate often and/or have unexamined unconscious material buried in our psyche, reminders will rush in as soon as our dissociated mind gets quiet. Monkey mind can be a healthy attempt to remind our personality to address the necessary aspects of our life we need to resolve. Once we clear our mental decks, stop procrastinating and solve the problems these monkey mind reminders are warning us about, then the open monitoring techniques work wonderfully. The benefit of focused attention techniques is that they allow people to meditate and experience the transcendent without having to have every one of their monkey mind issues resolved. I consider the open monitoring methods a more advanced meditation technique and recommend focused attention methods for beginners.

I read Hubert Benson’s book when it came out and used his technique with mild results. Later, I dove into numerous mindfulness methods that talked about emptying my mind. I failed miserably due to my very active monkey mind and privately concluded there was something inheritably wrong with me. At some point I listened to my internal voices with heartfelt compassion. It was only then I realized my mind and soul were reminding me about my unresolved issues. I stopped procrastinating and started addressing my abandoned inner children’s needs. When I decided my monkey mind was a dear friend, I addressed each issue the best I could for the next couple months. By learned to love all of myself flaws and all, including my monkey mind and the negative aspects of myself I ran away from, then my preferred focused attention (FA) visualization technique worked. As I began to transcend my illusions meditation’s true benefits were revealed, then the open monitoring (OM) method worked and eventually soul communication occurred. Part two of this article is entitled, Meditation…from Jackhammers to Hummingbirds and will talk about how we can experience soul communication and the transcendent no matter what technique one uses

Sept2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani. He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Six Stages of Enlightenment

Hope Springs Eternal

By Eric Ehrke, LCSW, LMFT

Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man initially penned the inspiring phrase “Hope springs eternal.” Like a warm ember, hope can awaken a frozen heart on a bitter night. When we loose our bearings, optimism and virtue have always been welcome visitors. Fear can electrify our insides, while hope soothes like a calming, fresh breeze. This article will explore the importance of the virtue called hope.
Defined as moral excellence, the seven Western virtues include temperance, prudence, courage, justice, faith, hope, and love (charity). Some Eastern traditions add rectitude and benevolence into the virtue mix. Unfortunately, when we’re too busy surviving or attempting to control events around us, virtue often gets thrown out the window.
Hope is like a gentle sparrow that flicks from tree to tree. To nature lovers, this familiar, little songbird provides a pleasant normality. Since the laws of nature are equally applied, cats, birds of prey, and even some people eat sparrows. Fortunately, sparrows are quick and agile, can dodge death and still sing to their heart’s content. By not only surviving but also thriving, the sparrow’s resiliency offers hope to everyone.
Sparrows are small, not heavily armored and escape predators well. They are sweet, gentle birds and stick around throughout the coldest winters. Since their flocks have such large numbers, reproduction doesn’t seem to be a problem. Despite numerous predators and harsh winters, they seem to getting along just fine. Due to their success, for all I know sparrows could be the inspiration behind Disney’s famous Magic Kingdom song, “It’s a Small World,” that everyone can’t get out of their head.
If you’re struggling with depression and need inspiration, remember these little creatures. When you watch a group of sparrows, one of their important adaptations is how social they are. Notice how this small creature scavenges food and finds shelter in the humblest of places, while they’re singing songs and creating beauty wherever they are.

Hope is an important quality of our soul. When we feel lonely and isolated, love and heart connection are easily forgotten. Perhaps the courage it took to write the book, “The Audacity of Hope,” inspired Barrack Obama, when his hair turned grey so quickly during his presidency, to keep his hair natural rather than color it orange. Jokes aside, every human soul never forgets its divine origins. Our challenges are to remain spiritually connected and live mindfully. I consider hopefulness, mindfulness, and soulfulness sacred siblings. Hope is the salve or ointment that calms us down during challenging times. When we feel alone and nothing is working, hope is a reliable horse that gets us where we need to go during gasoline shortages.

Hope is the first step of the creative process. This virtue provides the first hint of possibility and indicates that solutions can happen. Every creative act must start from somewhere and hope ignites the engine of possibility. Like a good train engineer, hope stokes the fires and fuels a powerful locomotive called possibility. Intention is the engine that moves our creation down the tracks that and eventually manifests dreams.

Developing a good sense of timing and knowing when to share our hopes and dreams with others is an important skill to master. Dreams are important and hope is the close sibling of a dreamer. Dreams are a refined collection of focused hope. Our mind is designed to develop the actual plan to manifest hopes and dreams. This is why we need to nurture our dreams like little blades of grass when they initially break through the earth.

Individual blades of hope can create a beautiful lawn where life thrives. It’s always important to nurture and protect each blade of grass from storms and stomping feet. Crowds of people walking on young grass can kill a lawn. This is the reason many sages advise discernment when sharing hopes and dreams with the wrong people.

Discussing hopes and dreams with individuals lacking in virtue and who don’t care about you is futile. They can ridicule and crush creative impulses. They kill your dream by riding horses over your young blades of grass. Only let people who want to help your lawn grow know about your hopes and dreams. By nurturing and protecting seedlings long before strangers get to walk, stomp or ride horses over then, lawns will survive just fine.

By sharing hopes and dreams too quickly, seedlings can whither and die from lack of nurturing. Hold hopes and dreams, give them time to mature before showing them to the unwashed masses too quickly.  Some people call this concept, “holding your gold” before flashing wealth to the unworthy. Gold can be stolen and some people steal or may call your hopes and dreams “fool’s gold.” The temptation to drop gold or throw wealth away before hopes and dreams have a chance to become a beautiful garden of possibility may occur in these circumstances.

In summary, hope is like a gentle flower or a blade of grass. It needs to be nurtured just like a beloved baby. We all have hopes and dreams about babies and what they will become when they grow up. Healthy babies do best with lots of love, song, and connection just like a flock of sparrows. Hope needs recognition, because it is the first step of any project or dream.

The Fire at Notre Dame

When Emotions Become Homeless Beasts

During prehistoric times, humans needed physical strength and a cohesive community, while common sense and quick instincts enhanced survival. Paleontologists report that the majority of earliest cave drawings depicted animals and schematic scenes, but many had shamanic or spiritual themes. Living harmoniously with nature was a given for prehistoric man…there was no other way.

In a talk entitled “Grief and Praise”, Martin Prechtel shared his insights about traditional native wisdom of the four thousand year old Mayan civilization and reminded me of what modern man is missing. Born on a Pueblo Indian reservation into a multicultural family with parents of native Pueblo and Swiss descendent, Martin deeply appreciated his Native American roots. When he moved to Guatemala and married a Tzutujil woman, he subsequently trained with one of the greatest Tzutujil Mayan shamans in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Martin eventually became the shaman to thirty thousand people around Santiago Atitlan during the Guatemalan civil war and is currently a renowned author and lecturer on indigenous culture.

During his presentation (Grief and Praise, available on YouTube), Martin Prechtel compared traditional indigenous wisdom to modern society and mentioned that the native Tzutujil language used the same word for song and weep, because the Mayans considered praise and grief siblings that share the same bed. Every emotion was expressed, encouraged, and supported collectively within his new community. Mental illness and many diseases were understood organically and described poetically with phrases like rage without a home. Unexpressed sorrow was considered in his culture a homeless beast. Connection, compassion, and empathy were the staple of a healthy, Mayan community. If someone sat alongside the road screaming, pulling his hair out, swept up in grief, his clan would sit beside him and listen for as long as it took for the pain to subside. In Western society Martin observed, people would walk on by and think the man must be crazy while the indigenous people intuitively knew that emotions needed a home and a safe environment for expression. The word to be does not exist in the Tzutujil vocabulary because the people considered the world fluid in nature. His adopted Mayan community freely praised what was loved and grieved what was lost. Emotional expression was fluid like water: grief meant you loved, passion was an integral part of life, and grief praises the love that was lost. Alcohol addiction or numbing of the grief was described as someone lost in the water. Martin Prechtel described the difference between the indigenous, modern society and I suspect prehistoric man very succinctly. Life, for these people and I suspect also for prehistoric man, was about balancing reason and emotional expression into a bonded community. In hearing this account, I suspect that this society was mastering the skills of community and incorruptible empathy.

Modern society prizes the human intellect, scientific method, and relies on the Internet for information. But something precious has been lost over time, as empathy, intuition, and the role of human connection became devalued. Sovereignty for ancient man came from one’s wits, strength, and gut instincts, which was bolstered by loving tribe mates and a supportive society. Intellect without heart or a connection to the global community has led to separation, isolation, and eventually terrorism. Equanimity within our body, mind, and soul solidified by a shared incorruptible oneness within ALL of humanity—that I believe was normal to ancient man—needs to be restored in our world today.

Our reptilian and/or emotion brain anticipates trouble usually based on past experiences and the task of our higher brain is to find solutions. Illusions and delusions create shadows that reside in our mind. Our heart, the organ of love, which some people call the seat of our soul, has the power to provide the necessary objectivity to transcend illusions and delusions, which is the formula for renunciation that leads to invincibility. Passion and reason have always been at war with one another. The human mind can waffle and make any decision seem like a fifty-fifty proposition. However, our heart can access the quantum field, intuit accurate information, and tip the scale to enable us to make enlightened decisions.

I imagine that prehistoric man was like the Tzutujil and did not question his or her connection to everything—each other, the winds and tides, the earth, the movements of animals, or seasonal crop cycles. The way humans shared insights that expanded each tribe’s wisdom to one another seems to me more organic than oral. The book, Ethnologue: Languages of the World Though reports that our collective linguistic abilities have expanded into over 7,000 languages. That means 7,000 names for god. That is 7,000 names for suffering, joy, and love. That is 7,000 languages attempting to define the enigma of oneness that our prehistoric ancestors likely took for granted. 7,000 ways to describe an appropriate mind-heart-soul connection is simply a recipe for noticing remarkable similarities, but also perpetuating disparities.

Devolution and evolution are simultaneously occurring events. As humanity evolved, intellect dominated civilized society, intuition was ridiculed, and the important role of the human heart and soul diminished. People were expected to follow orders and orthodoxy from hierarchy in many paternalistic areas of the world, rather than explore oneness through diversity. The work it takes to establish equanimity between our mind-heart-soul connections within the community of ALL of divinity is arduous. While humanity expanded its intellect and ability to communicate, we minimized our ability to recognize our heart and interconnectedness. With that devolution came in a host of plotlines and polarity for the humanity drama. I encourage everyone to remember your roots, follow your heart, and create a home for diversity. Emotional expression needs warm hearts to heal humans, but also society. If not, we can get lost in the water and feelings become….homeless beasts.

Eric Ehrke is a psychotherapist at Ommani whose book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) was published in February 2019.

Eric sees patients at Ommani on Mon, Tues, & Wed.  Call 262.695.5311 to schedule.

He will be offering an all-day workshop on Friday, May 17th called Personal Guidance, Intuitive Wisdom, and Meditation 101.

On two Thursdays (May 9th and May 16th from 4:30 to 6:30PM) he will offer Meditation and Mind Body Solutions for Sensitive Teens. See the Announcement/Class Schedule section of the newsletter for more detailed descriptions of the workshops.    

The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar was a religious arm of the spiritual hierarchy of the Catholic Church from 1100 to 1300 AD during the crusades. They were the first multinational organization and quickly became exceedingly rich and powerful. The Templars created an international banking system that built over a 1,000 fortifications and even lent money to kings. Operating above each country’s laws, they only answered to the pope.

They helped create Europe’s first nation-state. According to Freddy Silva in his book, First Templar Nation, Portugal was where the Templars recreated a secret spiritual initiation ceremony that they discovered when they controlled the Temple Mount in Jerusalem around 1119AD. Powerful people traveled from around the world to experience what some thought as an aspect of the Art of the Covenant at the Rotunda of Tomar in Portugal. While the Christian hierarchy focused upon the Ten Commandments, the Templar Knights practiced the tenets within the Tables of Law.

The Tables of Law were considered a kind of Cosmic Equation, which explained the creative forces in the universe according to Freddy Silva in First Templar Nation. Considered a spiritual treasure, the Templars taught selected individuals about laws of cause and effect, which they considered the necessary mysteries to temporal power. Their alchemy principles and spiritual practices they possessed enhanced their health, power, and fighting abilities.

The Templar Knight’s Rotunda of Tomar in Portugal

 

The Templar Knights was a secret society of powerful men dedicated to temporal power, which was their fatal flaw. They understood some of the powers of meditation, prayer, and alchemical forces, which some used for personal and political gain. They would recruit the most gifted young boys and indoctrinate them into ceremonial rituals, which were based upon sound alchemical truths as to the nature of the temporal world. Rigorous physical discipline helped them develop life and fighting skills. Focused spiritual practices also opened up areas of spiritual power few had ever realized before this time. Only one in ten of the Templar Knights actually fought in battle, while the rest performed other duties.

Their name continues to this day because they preformed heroic deeds at critical points in history. They accessed amazing wealth and political power quickly at an important time in history. A powerful combination of mind, body, and spirit working with nature and pranic power was developed in these knights. This is why they quickly became the most powerful group of men of their time. The lessons learned from their demise are still important today. The hubris of believing they were chosen as favorites and blessed by God opened the door for hidden shadows in individuals and leaders to surface. These unconscious flaws created mirrors for them to explore the most important aspect of spiritual power, self-examination.

Hubris eventually blinded some of them and they engaged in acts of torture and inhumane treatment of others. They saw it as their right and privilege to do so because they thought they were special to God. Their organization eventually imploded and every knight executed due to their inflated sense of entitlement that violated core spiritual principles. Of course, not all of the knights were blinded by temporal power and many were dedicated to true spiritual principles. Unfortunately, a tipping point was reached and only a small number of honest, dedicated men remained at the time of their demise. The rush to power based on the flawed concept that they were the chosen favorites of God did them in.

At some point no matter what spiritual tradition one embraces, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror with a dedicated desire to see the truth no matter how difficult or painful the truth may be. The fires of truth will reveal every illusion of everyone on the spiritual path. The concept of being chosen and special to God will always tumble the most powerful. This is akin to a crack in the foundation of a home. If it is not attended to with total dedication, the whole house could come down. This is what happened to the Knights Templar.

They didn’t have oversight provisions and the proper dedication to self-examine their large shadow. Hubris and self-centered motivations toppled an organization that was one of the most powerful forces of their day. Success and failure will always reveal cracks in our foundation. Using spiritual wisdom for temporal power always brings everyone to his or her knees. Temporal power in just another illusion that must be overcome on earth to truly develop one’s own spiritual connection to all there is. We are all one and all the boats in humanity’s ocean need to rise to be in alignment spiritually.

The Knights Templar, unfortunately, lost the trail to love and fought for temporal power that fed love’s illusions for themselves and those they served. Let their lessons not be lost in the sands of time. The Middle East has been a mirror that many have seen what they fear the most.

“I have met the enemy and he/she is me.” At some point, everyone on the spiritual path comes to this truth. The journey to self-discovery and individual spiritual growth always requires a passage into the dark side of our soul where we become lost in the labyrinth of illusion on earth. We need find our path by finding ourselves. Knowing what is truth and what is illusion is how this is done.

When we find the truth of what we are and learn to master our habits and illusions that lead us off our path of enlightenment, we can find love, teach love, and be love with everyone we meet. Illusion is just the absence of love and temporary substances that draw us away from our true nature. They are just opportunities to find out what love really is and what it is not.

Love is the basis of all power. It is subtle, yielding and yet sturdy like the great rivers and oceans of our planet. They flow no matter what people do, say, or prefer. Love needs to be soft, gentle, and acquiescent – yet strong enough to wield swords of justice, truth, and dedication to a cause worth fighting for. The only cause worth fighting for throughout time is love and every person needs to benefit. Not just the chosen ones.

March 2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

 

The Dark Night of the Soul

Birth is a corporal journey that begins with the illusion of spiritual abandonment. Leaving home and residing in a physical body immediately creates a lasting traumatic imprint that includes separation anxiety and existential agony. The painful remnants of this primal process are directly related to what many poets and authors have called the Dark Night of the Soul.

The Dark Night of the Soul has become a very popular description of what is occurring, but it’s actually a misnomer since our soul never suffers or actually leaves oneness. Our physical being registers the event as an especially “dark night” however. Mortality severs awareness of our divine nature and creates an agonizing memory that is quite challenging to release. It’s an important milestone to master as we return to our divine nature. The Wizard of Oz is a fairy tale offering an inspired metaphor of this timeless journey.

Separation anxiety and abandonment agony create a trauma template when spiritual oneness is replaced by human awareness. A similar emotional imprint occurs when we separate from our mother at birth. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was an orphan, who dreamt about returning home to uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Separation anxiety can become the driving force behind our instinct to bond with friends, family, and lovers.

Healing occurs through the heartfelt connection and sympathetic resonance. Uniting our physical, emotional, and mental bodies and embracing our pain with supportive behavior and a loving heart helps release our abandonment imprint. Trauma heals when emotional residue is embraced with loving acceptance. Remembering that our soul is always present and never abandons is helpful.

This knowledge is necessary to navigate through the darkest illusions this world has to offer. A divine abandonment illusion occurs whenever a soul takes human form. The Dark Night of the Soul is the process where we physically heal this original existential abandonment agony within ourselves, while our soul and divinity supposedly aren’t around. Embodying love and healing our primary human abandonment illusion during endless trials like Job suffered in biblical times with heartfelt acceptance is quite a feat. Dorothy modeled this same quality throughout her ordeals in The Wizard of Oz. Accomplishing this task during what seems like endless dark nights fulfills one of the main purposes for human existence. Why would the divine create spiritual separation and make us experience it right off the bat? We come to earth to forget our origins, remember our spiritual home and come to the realization we were never abandoned. We are also here learn how to embody love and teach our heart, mind, and body the deepest truths about our true divine nature. I would describe what we are doing as playing a spiritual game of hide-and-seek.

One of the reasons the story of the Wizard of Oz endures so powerfully in our culture is due to the fact the fairy tale aptly describes our soul’s journey on earth. Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we can go home whenever we want by fighting off illusion, deciding to return home, and clicking our ruby slippers.

Most of us have a trusty toolbox of reliable habits, rituals, and solutions that are near and dear to our hearts. When trouble erupts some of our strategies are useful… and many are not. Pain is designed to strip away every habit and mental construct based on illusion.

Darkness blows up our emotional security blankets like the locusts, floods, and plagues that forced the Egyptian Pharaoh to change his mind in the Bible. Pain and suffering humble. A problem of epic proportions always narrows our attention and pries open closed minds. The desire for something new motivates us to reexamine and shed any illusion weighting us down.

When life kicks away our crutches, many collapse and believe that the divine has abandoned them. When our “monkey mind” surrenders and learns to embrace the purpose of pain, the following three suggestions are designed to get us back on track.

  • Surrender control and let go of the outcome.
  • Scour your mind for its pain-filled illusions.
  • Dedicate yourself to truth without sacred cows.
  • Accept solutions based upon your highest good.

 Maintaining a solid spiritual connection to eternal wisdom during problems of biblical proportions, accomplishes our goal of mastering illusion, communicating with our soul, and embracing divinity. It’s a grand occasion worthy of the celebration Dorothy enjoyed in the Emerald City and with her family when she accomplished the same feat by returning to Kansas. Kansas is a lot like heaven, isn’t it?

The courage necessary to fight through all the illusions that this world has to offer is prodigious. The seduction to succumb to the hatred, strife, and agony of feeling abandoned is very tempting at times. Some begin to question whether or not Kansas exists when they feel alone in the darkness. The Dark Night comes as the last form of illusion so that the sunlight of our soul can come shining through to enlighten our life and everyone around us. It’s the crowning achievement after fighting off all the darkness illusion could muster so that we could develop the love in our heart and wisdom necessary to return to our divine home just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

The Dark Night is a right of passage honored by every mystic in every tradition. It is the last hurrah or test of illusion to overcome before the dawn of our new life. Consider yourself honored if it crashes into your life like a wrecking ball. Follow the four suggestions outlined above when things are at their darkest. Resist the temptation to succumb to despair while the agony persists. Don’t forget what’s really occurring, because Kansas is just around the corner.

When storm clouds bring chaos, nothing is working and you do not know what to do, remember to love with your heart and soul like the straw man, access the wisdom within like the tin man, and face your problems with the determination of a courageous lion. When the world crashes down around you, it’s a signal to your mind to give up any illusion of control and surrender to new possibilities and unforeseen solutions, just like Dorothy discovered on her way back home again.

Rugged individualism is not on the yellow brick road to home, Dorothy needed many friends to find Kansas. Steel your will, surrender control, and run to the divine. Embrace your intuition because something important is about to happen during the Dark Night. Access your light and use your soul’s wisdom as a gyroscope for your heart to discover the truth of who you are. It’s the only way to go . . . “my pretties.” Kansas is just a click away when your body, mind, and soul are in alignment. And always remember . . . “There is no place like home.”

Feb 2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani.  He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Taj Mahal and Purpose of Spiritual Practice

Life is difficult and illusions about being small lead us astray every day. When lost in a crowd viewing the winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World, it’s easy to feel insignificant. Viewing architectural perfection while ethic division, climate change and terrorism thrive provides a paradoxical lesson about love and illusion. Since time immemorial parables, fables and myths were created to inspire humanity. Theologians, philosophers and spiritual traditions have always provided a higher purpose to human existence.

Awe-inspiring to this day, grief and love actually birthed the Taj Mahal. It’s the final resting place for Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Shah Jahan, whose Indian reign spanned thirty years from 1628-1658, built the mausoleum in mourning. Built on the banks of the Yamuna River, our guide said it was designed to look like its suspended in air as the doorway to heaven. Unfortunately, love stories don’t always have happy endings. Once the Taj Mahal was completed, Shah Jahan’s son overthrew his father and threw him in prison. The Shah viewed his final resting place from his prison cell for eight years before joining his wife. After visiting the Taj Mahal and witnessing its translucent marble reflect light, no picture can come close to capturing its beauty. About 7-8 million visitors come to see India’s crown jewel every year.

When daily routines and basic survival dominate human awareness, everyone aspires for something greater. However, embodying a higher principle while enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune is quite challenging. I can only imagine what it was like for Shah Jahan to view his Taj Mahal from a prison cell. Praying for help for impossible causes may indeed be an eternal practice. In every spiritual tradition, the divine wields awesome power. Most of us pray for help and credit our beloved deity for assistance rather than claim any creative input. Most religions and spiritual belief systems support this practice.

Consider the possibility that humanity has creative powers and mirrors of hope exist in the midst of desperation. Prayers and heartfelt intentions create energetic vortexes. People, philosophers, and theologians always assign meaning to mystical experiences. The universe is flexible so each person, no matter their orientation can realize their divine form. When people experience the transcendent, we experience divinity…our divinity.

Whenever we transcend our day-to-day existence, we feel empowered. This is how and why temples, shrines and in reality all religious practices work. Mystical occurrences stir our soul when we experience transcendence. The opportunity to remember home, taste our mystical power or touch the heart of another or be touched inspires. Herein lies the purpose of every heartfelt spiritual practice or sacred site. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Taj Mahal inspires.

The challenge of a true seeker is the realization that we are creating everything in our lives. Saints, prophets and deities provide models of hope and worthiness to remind us that anyone can overcome impossible causes. Even if we dream for something small, any unspoken dream associated with our intention can be accessed this way. Grace can happen at any time from these belief systems and the power of grace. Everyone has experienced grace in his or her lifetime. Our pure heart, loving intention and innocent heartfelt wish expressed a dream and created the outcome we desired. Herein lies the important purpose of deities, saints and in reality all sacred artifacts, temples and shrines. Spiritual practices remind us of mystery, power and the all-powerful love that we think lies beyond our grasp and yet in reality, it’s in the palm of our hand.

The divine spiritual and physical dance is seen as a marriage of masculine and feminine energy to make it more understandable to humanity. In reality, it is the same dance between our physical and spiritual nature. Deities provide mirrors, as do all religions and spiritual practices to help us see our self in the mirrors of illusion on earth and see the divine smiling to help us release our troubles, if only for a moment…and see yourself in the mirror. People want to give credit to their deity. But in reality, it is really our soul disguised as a human remembering our divine origins.

Humanity’s invisible nature seems all-powerful since it has the ability to create in the astral plane. Our body is challenged to learn how to actualize intention into action, mental discipline and the emotional integrity to realize our dreams into reality. Therefore, manifestation is seen as mysterious, powerful and must originate from a deity. Our human nature often feels fragile and inept. However, when we access our divine nature, visit sacred sites or engage in spiritual practices, people become energized, enriched and empowered beyond belief. In reality, we are creating our experience by imaging the divine visiting us. When we remember who we are by aligning our behavior, emotions, and intellect to such an extent that our soul supports our intent to our highest good. Spectacular results like the Taj Mahal are then created and serve as living vortexes of love that continue to inspire.

Jan 2019 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at Ommani. He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.

The Cows of India

Spiritual concepts, abstract thoughts and conditions of grace often seem strange to the uninitiated. The thought that every two and four-legged creature bears a soul has roots in many cultures around the world and provides the underlying rationale for many vegetarian societies and spiritual practices.  

In the Hindu tradition the cow represents the qualities of mother earth, because they provide bountiful riches such as milk, butter (ghee) and yogurt. Since wood is scarce in many areas of India and coal pollutes, cow dung is dried and sold on the roadside to heat homes. Who hasn’t felt more peaceful and nurtured after drinking some soothing milk and sitting by a warm fire?

India has created an environment where each cow is worthy of respect, honor and consideration. The symbolism of treating each human similarly is thus provided daily to everyone. Putting up with cows sitting in the middle of traffic, eating farmer’s crops and pooping everywhere are seen as necessary facts of life because they are considered divine beings like every human. By accommodating each cow then every person can expect similar considerations. Cows are a nuisance and sometimes block traffic, but they provide a daily template for tolerance and unconditional acceptance for what we cannot control.

People always provide tolerance challenges and every one of us need to find ways to accommodate annoying proclivities and obnoxious behaviors. In its treatment of cows, the Indian culture provides a wonderful example to the world of accommodation, nurturing without exploitation and spiritual acceptance without conditions.

Imagine the world developing a similar perspective for immigrants seeking sanctuary. By tolerating inconveniences merely because we have the capacity, America could demonstrate our commitment to humanity. Many countries and societies are facing a toleration crisis at this moment in history. Is intolerant behavior acceptable from our leaders? How often do we judge unfortunate souls without mercy who inconvenience us?

India has provided a living example of the qualities of acceptance, tolerance and accommodation of cows. It works because the country says yes to the spiritual concept of oneness even though it seems so impractical and without merit to the untrained eye. Every act of compassion and generosity, when expressed through the lens of materialism and capitalism without heartfelt connection to the weak and humble can be seen as foolhardy. However, if this planet is to survive and thrive in every way necessary, the sanctity and security of every species needs to be attended to with love and compassion. Then every soul will reach a place of contentment and security, which is so important to everyone’s survival.

 

Dec 2018 Eric Ehrke LCSW, LMFT is a psychotherapist at the Ommani Center. He sees clients on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Call us at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.    

Eric’s new book, The Promise of Wholeness: Cultivating Inner Peace, Mindfulness and Love in a Divided World is scheduled to be published Spring 2019 by Roman & Littlefield Publishers.