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A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

What Purpose Inspires Life's Forward Movement?

This morning in the initial 30-minutes of silence that begins Pat’s and my morning coffee time I found myself reflecting on the past several days and realizing that nearly all of my experiences in these recent days and weeks have been quite enlivening for me. There are many enliveners I realize, but the ones that came mind this morning were the following:

1) Listening to The Stone Reader, a 26-hour Audible version of the 770-page printed copy (I have both as well as the Kindle version!) of this compilation of 133 articles from “The Stone,” a regular feature of philosophical articles that have appeared in the New York Times over the past five years. I am just two-thirds through the 26 hours, and look forward to every opportunity I have to listen – often at the gym during my regular workouts. Each article stretches me into deeper and wider philosophical dimensions including those of science, religion, philosophy, cosmology, morality, and many more. Each article is a thumbnail sketch of the latest understanding (or confessions of non-understanding) across this wide spectrum of topics. They are never presented as “conclusions” but rather as “arguments” for the listener/reader to consider. Inspiring!

2) Jacob Bronowski’s book The Ascent of Man, a book version of the 1972 BBC 13-hour video series by the same name that features Bronowski as the lecturer. One of the Stone Reader authors spoke to how the Bronowski series inspired him – both Bronowski the man as well as this BBC video series. On this recommendation I knew I had to have the book. While I’ve read only the first chapter and a half so far, I, like the Stone Reader author, am inspired by this man Bronowski as well as the content of the book that sets the context for the development of the human species on planet Earth from its beginning 12,000 years ago (he introduces the longer periods leading up to this point as well, of course). So today, in my enthusiasm, I ordered the boxed set of videos as well. Yes, inspiring!

3) In March I was drawn to two articles in the March 2016 magazine The Sun. One was an interview with Jack Miles (a man born in 1942 as was I) and the other an article by Jack Miles. The interview was titled, Embracing Ignorance – Jack Miles on His Path From Belief To Disbelief and Back. The article by Jack Miles was titled Why Religion Endures. I was drawn to this interview and article because in some ways Jack Mile’s journey has matched my own – he was a Jesuit for ten years, then an atheist, and then found his way back to religion. He wrote two books. The first is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book God: A Biography, which is a unique presentation of the God of the Hebrew Bible. The second, a sequel, is Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, which of course looks at the God of the Christians and the person Jesus Christ. I got both of these books from Audible, listened to them both in the month of March and found them inspiring and relevant to my own spiritual journey as first a solid conservative Christian, then at midlife (late 40s) a struggling Christian and now as an inspired student of Pathwork. Jack Miles is also the editor of The Norton Anthology of World Religions released in 2014. Again, because I could see how inspired I have been by Jack Miles, this morning I ordered the book version of all three of his publications. In situations like this my purchases are a way of honoring these people and their creations.

4) Of course my time with Pat in our daily extended morning coffee times as well as the many dimensions of our relating experiences dominates much of my time and is a rich time for spiritual and psychological healing and growth.

5) Yesterday I also ran into a neighborhood friend while at Panera Bread. It was purely synchronistic – the only reason we were both there is that we found our way to Panera’s when the neighborhood power was out. I always find our conversations electric and inspiring and this day was no exception, so I add my time with her to list of enliveners in my awareness this morning.

6) While at Panera’s I also spent time with Pathwork Lecture 140 Conflict of Positive Versus Negative Oriented Pleasure as the Origin of Pain. I used this lecture to sort through anxiety I was experiencing and went on to create a blog entry concerning this experience: Dancing with the Work of PathWork. Both the lecture and creating the blog were inspirational, and so make the list of enliveners.

All of these, and more, came into my consciousness as I sat in the quiet time and contemplated what so inspires and enlivens my life, making it so incredibly rich and fulfilling.

Coming out of the half-hour of silence, Pat and I, as usual, shared where we were in life at this time. Pat spoke of her work yesterday with her “young Pat” – the seven-year-old version of herself that she is working with not only with her counselor but also in preparation for our intensive with Sage and Anthony next month. I shared what was so alive in me from the above list of enliveners.

Actually, with all this enlivening, I was feeling like I was entering a new space in my life. Perhaps I was truly moving closer toward the Velveteen Rabbit experience Pat and I have discussed so often with Sage and Anthony. The space is new and seems to offer me a different experience of life.

After an hour of sharing we entered our closing time that includes a 30-minute Adyashanti guided meditation: The Naked Simplicity of Being. Though we have used this guided meditation nearly every day for nearly two years, it still speaks to me anew each morning. This morning I could tie Adya’s words in with the enlivening I was experiencing. He takes us into the space where there are no definitions, no knowledge, no masks or pretense, and nothing to hold onto or sustain us. We enter the light of freedom, “the naked simplicity of our true being,” as he puts is.

I realized that where Adya leads us is ever deepening awareness. I could see this ever deepening awareness as an ever expanding reframing of my life experiences – taking me beyond knowing into an ever fuller and more enlivened state where the experiencing of life as it is becomes ever more intense. I could imagine this intensity being similar to the consciousness that LSD, mushrooms, or other hallucinogens might take one.

As I once again reflected on my list of enliveners I could see that the way these enliveners inspire me is simply expanding my awareness, my experience of what is.

I then asked, “What is the purpose of our lives as human beings on planet earth – the purpose that inspires us onward?” Based upon all that was arising in me I could see one possibility was, “The purpose of life is to grow in consciousness!” And when we do that, we feel the life force driving us forward! It is self-perpetuating process, a “positive feedback loop” for the technically minded!

After Pat’s and my time together this morning I went to the gym. One of the Stone Reader articles I listened to was titled, Should This Be the Last Generation? by Peter Singer written in June 2010. In this article Singer challenges us to be conscious about why we have children. Do we expect them to give our lives and others’ lives joy and meaning? Do we expect them to have a good life experience themselves, and we would want that for them? And can we be sure that these goals, conscious or unconscious, are assured merely by birthing new lives into the world? He says evidence would say there are no such guarantees for positive outcomes with all the suffering in the world.

I know that some religions (Orthodox Jews, devout Catholics, and some Muslims) see having children as fulfilling a command of God – “Be fruitful and multiply.” And in these families there can easily be a dozen children. But with 7 billion people on the planet, is this still relevant?

But to me Singer offers a deeper question, “Is there a purpose to the human species at all?” Do we serve an ultimate purpose in the scheme of the Cosmos? If we take a religious view we could say, “God commands it.” But dare we ask why? Is God lacking something that people offer God? And if so, what is it we offer God that God misses without us existing?

Or if we go the atheist route we ask ourselves whether in evolution there is anything that the human species offers that justifies its survival. Of course the reductionists simply say all that the human is, no matter the amazing result, is a chance set of random mutations that survive better than the those preceding it. There is absolutely no “purpose” per se — evolution simply goes on, each step better adapted than the previous. Perhaps, but this has always been a hard page for me to accept.

My own thought is that, with or without God in the picture, for whatever reason the purpose of evolution is an inevitable and unstoppable evolution toward higher and higher levels of consciousness, higher and higher levels of awareness that enrich the experience of life itself.

And I could say that for me, what so inspires me day in and day out is coming to ever-deeper levels of awareness. It seems that nearly everything in my day that enlivens me supports this purpose of increasing awareness in my life.

This purpose of growing in consciousness leaves so much room for deeper experiences of love, truth, creativity, joy, pleasure, and the like – the divine rays manifesting into the Cosmos. Pathwork supports me in my work of inquiry and self-confrontation to see, accept, and remove obstacles to these marvelous divine rays of life experience that are always available to and through me and everyone.

I realize that my attraction to the metaphysics and processes of Pathwork is because of their support of my growth in this way. Pathwork supports my Velveteen Rabbit process of being rubbed raw, fully surrendered to the “not knowing” space, feeling fully my experiences in this space, and entering the light of freedom.  This is a result of greater awareness, and through this awareness, this “realness,”  the Velveteen Rabbit eventually becomes real! And this is our evolutionary path. I am reminded of another lecture assigned for Sage’s Divine Spiritual workshop: Pathwork Lecture 119 Movement, Consciousness, Experience: Pleasure, the Essence of Life. It is well worth spending time with!

Shared in love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht