Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Merits of Adversity


Iron Ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace
but when the blade of finest steel emerges, it knows better...
Lobsang Rampa


Phoenix Rising
If we could see our future, if we could know how things will turn out and if we could comprehend the greater and wider picture, we might move through this life very differently. Then again, we might not...

As we move through life we tend to cherish an arrogant assumption that everything we think and do is up to us and yet is this really true?

We like to believe that we are the master of our own little ship.
That we are standing at the helm, making all the decisions and that we are in control. The whole setup looks and feels so convincing. There we are on the bridge of our own self-made vessel clutching a self-made 'wheel.' All around us is the wide and open sea. We feel secure in our flimsy vessel, with a little bit of stick in our hands. Yet that sense of security is just a thought.

Despite the size and the ever shifting seasons of this vast ocean space in which we live, move and breath out the course of our days, we feel that somehow and in some way we are steering our own independent course.

Yet, is this really true?
And how can we know if it is or not?

Recently, i underwent a journey at considerable expense of time, money, energy and effort. It did not turn out the way i had been hoping for or expecting. In fact, it was altogether quite disastrous in terms of my preconceived expectations. 

It seems not to matter how long we live, how much we do or how far we travel, to some degree or other we remain glued to our belief in what we 'think' we know. Very often the results of life experiences don't seem to add up to much and certain things may take place for which we can find very little meaning at all and yet at the end of the day, do we need to? Do we need to find a meaning in everything that happens to us in our world? Would what we know or think we know really affect the outcome?

Is there anything in what appears to 'happen' to us that we can actually hold onto and claim to own as ours or mine?
Its all so very illusive isn't it? If we look back on the events that have taken place in our lives they are nothing more than memories. If we look forward to future happenings, they are simply fabrications of the mind's hopes, fears and endless expectations.

The only thing we ever really have is this very moment of 'awareness.' There really is nothing else. Each of us needs to investigate and experience this consciously for ourselves. We need to pierce the bubble of our 'known' world of perceptions and preconceptions and take a cold and hard look at what actually is.

The mind is brilliant at fabricating, interpreting and judging, but can we really trust it? I think that deep down we all know that our mind is very unreliable, that it is shape shifting and filled with contradictions. How can we find peace and happiness with such a 'master' at the helm of our little ship?

The ego can take a certain satisfaction in what it perceives as worthwhile or positive outcomes but what do we do with the stuff that we just can't make sense of? Do we simply try to cast it from our memory? Is that enough to bring us some relief from our endless mind made torment?

If we are not to become cynical about or jaded by 'life' there remains only one course open to us. But how do we get to the point where we can let go of our preconceptions and assumptions without going through a process which will ultimately and at the end of all searching and struggle leave us with no other choice. Such a process is likely to be a torrid and long drawn out affair?

As tiny children, we could look out at the world without preconceptions, but then life set in and we were loaded with so much information, imprisoned by so many surrounding thought-forms and finally so bound up by our own created mental preconceptions that now we can no longer remember the simple innocence of just 'being.'

Getting ourselves back to the simple realisation of our profound and ever present 'state' requires that we unravel all the constructs which our minds have created around the essence of who and what we really are.

Who among us will cast our mind towards the 'profound' when life is buzzing around us and all is going well? Its only when we encounter adversity that we begin to question the basis of our day to day reality.

Think of the way each grain of sand on the beach has arisen by the action of endlessly crashing waves through countless seasons. We can be likened to these grains and our life experiences to all the ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns that shape and polish and in turn reveal the true and inner beauty.

"If it were not for the stones and boulders that make up the composition of a mountain, we could not catch hold of and retain our grip on those steep and slippery slopes or continue to move onward and upward to the summit of the peak.

How many of us ever reflect deeply in the midst of happy circumstances? When things are going our way, we relax and tend to let the time fly by. We don't consider the deeper questions surrounding our lives and our existence. 

We are like children, deeply engrossed in the game of building sand castles on the beach. All the while the tide is coming in closer and closer but we don't notice it because we are so caught up in the game which we are playing.
At last the waves begin to touch our feet and the castles that we have built begin to disintegrate with each incoming surge. We suddenly look up from our game and notice that the sun is already low on the western horizon and that soon it will be dark and that night will be upon us. 

This is how we live our lives, in a state of perpetual distraction.
We don't question our assumptions about this world. In fact, we take our lives and the extra-ordinary fact our existence completely for granted.

Only when it is about to be snatched away from us or from someone to whom we are deeply attached, do we stop and give our attention to what is most important.

As babies, we could look out at the world without bias but as we proceed deeper into the maelstrom of life we loose our 'real' selves and become hopelessly entangled and confused.

In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, there is one sentence which is graphically sobering;
"Water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink." 

Afloat on the sea of life our very existence arises due to the inexhaustible spring of our awareness and yet we often feel ourselves to be alone and abandoned on a vast ocean from which it seems that we cannot quench our thirst.

Again and again, life rises up and forces us to look more closely. The filters created by our mind must be swept away, either one by one or all at once, before we can see it for what it really is. Sooner or later we must acknowledge that nothing could exist without the innate sense of knowing that we exist.  We do not even need to reach out to grasp at what is inherently already there within us.

So next time we feel ourselves to be like the helpless iron ore, aflame within the furnace of uncertain life events, we can remember the blade of finest steel. It will flash brightly in the rising sun to remind us of what has always been ours. The very fact that we know that we exist is what makes the flashing of recognition possible in the first place.

Ultimately, we have two choices; either to let go and recognise what we already are or to undergo the painful, forging process which will eventually force us to drop the multitude of misconceptions that our mind has created and which prevent us so effectively from recognising who and what we really are

The Fire-Bird of Transformation

Friday, 4 August 2017

Reaching Out to Animals, and all Sentient, Conscious Life



www.everherenow.com

How would this change our world?
If everyone understood that all beings, whether animal, insect, bird, plant or even mineral, are sentient and therefore conscious, how would this change the way we interact with them?

If we understood and began to appreciate all living beings as 'sacred' and 'intelligent,' what impact would this have on us, and all the other living forms with whom we co-exist on this planet?

The mind boggles...

www.everherenow.com

I remember as a child that one day my mother asked me to go over to the neighbours house to find out if they were at home. At that time we were living in Nelson, a small town in the north of the South Island of New Zealand.

Our neighbours were a husband and wife and their two children with whom we young ones often played of an evening. They had not long moved to Nelson and being so near by, our family had instantly warmed to these new arrivals.

I ventured over the side fence and made my way up the staircase to the front door. Their tabby cat was sitting on the doorstep imbibing the warm noon sunshine. I was already acquainted with her and so gave her a nod as i climbed past to ring the doorbell. I pushed the button a few times but there was no response from within and so, without thinking, i sat down next to the venerable puss and asked her where the family had gone. She looked up at me, made a little feline squeak and we amicably bumped heads and then sat a while in companionable silence.

After some time i slowly got up and made my way back over the fence to tell my mother that the family were, at that minute, away somewhere. When i entered the house a chorus of giggling and squeals of laughter greeted me. Evidently, my mum and sisters had been watching my encounter with the neighbours cat through the back bedroom window which directly overlooked the neighbours staircase. They had overheard our conversation.

For some reason they found it inexpressibly silly and funny that i should have been sitting there verbally interacting with a cat!
I found it equally silly and funny that they did not understand that one could.

I was sometimes reminded of that incident whenever family members would begin to recount stories and memories of our childhood days, yet, from then until now, i still do not see what they could possibly have found so strange or amusing.

All life that is sentient, is there fore conscious. 

It is incredibly important for us to take this statement seriously and give it the consideration that it deserves. Day after day we can witness around us acts of callousness and cruelty of which most people are not even aware. They are not aware because they simply do not acknowledge that other life forms are sentient and therefore feel and respond to energy, moods and pain, just as we do. This is an extremely crucial point to understand if we are ever to come into greater harmony with all other life forms with whom we share this world.

The various forms of sentient life may not speak our language but there is a place where understanding can occur naturally no matter what the outer form may be.

www.everherenow.com

Many who own so called 'pets' become conscious of this truth by necessity of close association and yet somehow they often continue to exclude other forms of life. If we can ever begin to question our assumptions and reactions towards all living beings we would quickly be forced to change many long held beliefs. If we want to allow the extra ordinary bio diversity of life on our planet to continue to, not only exist but thrive, then a shift must take place in our perception.

At the moment human beings predominantly have the supremely arrogant view that everything in nature, be it animal, plant or mineral, exists for their use and convenience alone.

How primitive and barbaric is this view?

Thankfully this is beginning to change, there is something of an awakening in the consciousness of a growing number of people. It is not yet widespread, but it is a beginning. Many of the so-called primitive societies understood and lived by the natural laws of respectful and sustainable co-existence. But in recent human history most of these intuitive qualities have been lost and forgotten.

Awareness does not discriminate between forms. It is the inherent nature of all sentient life, how ever and where ever it may appear...

What we begin to see now, even though it is in a very nascent stage, is something of a quiet opening and awakening. At this time it is just a few people who are paving the way in 'inter species communication,' but their work is sending out ripples, which in time will have a profound impact on the way we view the 'living world' around us.

However, each and every one of us can help to accelerate this process through our every day small deeds and by changing the way we think.

Then like a shift in the tide, almost imperceptibly but slowly with a gathering momentum it can begin to catch on and start challenging old and previously unquestioned 'beliefs.'

There will come a time when we will look back on current accepted norms and behaviours and be amazed that we could live in such a barbaric and unaware world such as we have been living in for so long. It would seem that the more, so-called advanced today's societies think themselves to be, the more unaware and brutal they actually are.

When ingrained beliefs begin to under-go a shift, when we begin to become aware of who and what we really are, we can not help but start to notice that this same 'being-ness' which is in us, also pervades everything else. Everything includes everything, animals, plants, insects, and the planet on which we live, move and have our being.

Inter-connected-ness is vaster and more thoroughly integrating than our mind can ever really comprehend or grasp, therefore we need to move beyond mind in order to begin to really get a sense of the underlying reality out of which all of life arises.

The implications of such a shift in awareness are truly immense.

An appreciation of the unity and sacredness of all life is integral to awakening to our own awareness.

Awakened Beings have long understood the inter-connectedness and inherent divinity in all sentient life forms. From the Buddha, to Ramana Maharshi, and countless others besides, great sages have communicated with animals in such a natural way which is completely respectful of who and what really exists. For Them this truth is a living reality, not something to be questioned or doubted, Their experience which moves from the heart in an ever fresh exuberance of being, is a timeless and constant affirmation of unity in diversity.

Those who stayed near Ramana Maharshi and who were honoured to witness His many exchanges and relationships with animals, birds, and at times also the plant life, took it all quite for-granted. The animals simply became a part of the life of the ashram. The Maharshi treated them all as His own children, showing them the same care and respect that He bestowed upon all the people who were drawn to be near Him.

A Jnani can differentiate between the different forms of life, but to Him all are inherently 'divine.'

All are sacred 'drops' from the same sacred ocean of life.

The changes which can be initiated by humans in their interaction and effect upon the different kingdoms of life, begin in our mind and thinking. When the energy of the heart is enabled to speak through the mind anything becomes possible. This is not mushy, sentimental talk, but truth based on a profound and inherent law in nature that always moves towards harmony and balance.

As in all things, we are inevitably drawn back to the one and central tenet, the inherent 'divinity' within all sentient life.

To find out who and what we really are is so vital in reclaiming our true inheritance and in recognising that all living beings have an equal claim in this same inexhaustible spring of life. However we, as human beings, hold a unique position and responsibility within the kingdoms of nature.

We have the capacity to know who and what we really are to live  and let live by this truth.

www.everherenow.com


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Negativity. We Can Dissolve it at the Core



In these days and times it can sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by negativity. There is our own negativity; that which
other people convey and also the negativity that we see going on around us in the environment.

Yet, it is said that 'all of our moods and emotions arise from the mind,' which basically means that, to find any peace and happiness in this world, it is essential to understand what the true nature of the mind really is.


To embark upon this huge undertaking however, requires a high degree of weariness with the trappings and ways of our usual habitual reactions to life and what we perceive to be happening to us and around us. Most people have not quite reached that stage in their dissatisfaction levels, as yet. To bring about the kind of focused enquiry needed for this sort of investigation, it can require nothing short of a massive crisis  to rip apart the our preconceptions.

We usually need to be shaken to the very depths of our being before we can begin to wake up and look around us and question the reality of all the things that we usually take completely for granted.

Most of the time we just grind along in our little world of preconceptions, routines and general undefined negativity and the years rush by as we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the mire.

Not all of us however, are destined for a 'crisis,' whatever the crisis may be... We may instead be fated to the much greater danger of a comfortable, predictable existence which lulls us into the belief that nothing more is possible. With such an attitude we run the risk falling into the zombie like state of sleep walking our way through life. 

Even though we all know that one day we will die, nevertheless, like one who has been hypnotised, we continue to walk along the precipice, until suddenly one day we fall off the cliff. In the split second of the resurgence of our awareness, as we are being flung into the abyss, it is all a bit too late.

We can however, keep certain things in mind, as we go about our daily routines. We need not necessarily rush off to a cave in the desert or in the mountains. A simple shift in attitude can greatly assist us in dispelling negativity while at the same time helping us to generate a far more positive mental atmosphere, which in turn, can make our living environment so much pleasanter for us and all those around us, to live in.

1. Perspective.
In the bad moments and on the bad days we can turn the mind outwards to take in a much vaster perspective. We have only to look up at the sky in order to do this. Remembering that countless worlds are circling around in the universe, we are forced to remember that we are so much more than we can ever think we are.

We may not be able to understand fully what this really means just now, but we can take it on good faith that it is true. After all, how could we actually exist in the first place? This is truly a mystery beyond anything the mind is capable of comprehending!

So turn your gaze upwards and open your heart...

2. Investigate and ask yourself, 'is this true?'
Whatever is happening in and around us is always changing. Our moods and our thoughts are constantly coming and going. Happy one moment and sad the next, how can we trust in any of these transient things. Rather it would serve us better to look into and ask ourselves, again and again, 'is this real? Is this true?' 

What seems true and real in one moment can appear to be quite the opposite in the next.

3. Remember the basic goodness of beings.
We hear about so many bad things in the news, we are constantly barraged with negative advertising and images and such brutality and violence. The media seems to have become a monster for endless negative regurgitation, and it can be such a 'downer.' Yet we have only to look around us to see how much beauty and goodness there is as well. 

In fact, if we are open to it, there are so many things in our environment that can bring us joy and they are simple and free and abundantly available. We have only to stop a moment and notice.

4. Be the witness at the centre of all happenings.
Being a witness of our lives and of our thoughts, we can create a little space between what is 'going on' and how we perceive ourselves to be. This 'space' opens up a supreme opportunity to encounter who and what we really are. As the 'witness' we can be in this world and yet not of it...

5. Give yourself moments of deep quietude. 
If we can give ourselves the gift of  'silence' in the moments when we do not engage our mind in any kind of thought activity then, in the very midst of life, we can experience a deep silence and peace which is profoundly refreshing. Even just a few moments spent in quietude can change our whole mood and perspective.

6. Put aside some time each day to do something that you find uplifting.

Some people get immense pleasure from gardening and in assisting things to grow, others delight in their particular field of work, some are transported by music, still others take enjoyment in swimming, or running or sailing...

What ever it is that lifts our mind out of the drudgery of daily routines and thought patterns and reminds us that often the greatest joys can be found in the simplest of pursuits, then, we can be blessed with a gift which is far more precious than anything that money can buy.

7. Smile at someone or extend a helping hand.

It is so easy to miss an opportunity to bring a little happiness or ease into another beings life, yet these chances can appear at any time and invariably they require little more than a slight effort. I remember one of my teachers telling me, 'if you see a beautiful flower, take note of it and offer the merit born of your delight, so that all beings may find peace and happiness.' This simple gesture can be practised in a whole multitude of situations and in an instant can transform the ordinary mind into a positive creator for good.

8. Ponder over, and remember impermanence and change.

Our world and everything in it is subject to the law of impermanence and change. This is a fact that we encounter every single day of our lives. Some how we learn to live on in spite of it and yet how much more beneficial might it be if we could remain alert to this fact with a freshness that would make every day matter and each moment count.

If none of the above tips really resonates for us then at the very least we can remember...



Which just about sums it all up!

Have a great day and put a smile on yours and someone else's face. Go on, its easier than you think...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Like the Rays of the Setting Sun



Our lives are running out like the rays of the setting sun,
Death is closing in like the lengthening shadows of evening.
Now what is left of this life will vanish as fast as the last rays of light.
There is no time to waste...

from Patrul Rinpoche's 
Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones


Recently, my nephew; the eldest son of my older sister, passed away.
No one had seen it coming. No one was prepared or forewarned.
It was shocking. He was only thirty seven years old.

If we ever need to be reminded of our mortality, the untimely passing of someone close to us and young in years is perhaps the most poignant.

It raises all manner of questions and stirs the inner flame of fear and uncertainty, even if on a deep and unrecognised level, of what is awaiting us all.

Death is such a mystery, it is such a profound 'unknown.'
To move through life as though 'death' will somehow never touch us is to float in the vast uncertainty in a tiny bubble of illusion.

Every breath that we draw is bringing us that much closer to the 'great leveller.'

Nickolas was the only other Buddhist in my family. He found enormous comfort in the teachings of the Buddha and most particularly in the teachings on compassion.

He never missed an opportunity to reach out and embrace those he loved and let them know it. His compassion had not yet matured into the 'great compassion' of the enlightened ones but he was on his way.

His mother, Jana was distraught in a manner that is unbearable to witness and in the manner of all mothers who loose a child seemingly before their time.

Naturally she wanted his funeral to be just as he would want it to be. After all this would be the last thing that she could do for him in this world. At the time of his passing, Nickolas had been living in a different town from his mother. As the body was kept for autopsy Jana made the journey there only once it was released and taken to the funeral home.

If she could have, she would have taken it to the Buddhist centre but the wishes of other family members had to be respected and so a compromise was reached. Nickolas's mother is not a Buddhist and knows very little of its ways and teachings and yet in her sincere desire and need to express her love for her eldest son she tapped into an intuitive spring in her being and let it flow.

Without knowing why she insisted that his body should be placed facing the west, even though it was against the norms of the funeral home. Yet by facing the body towards the west, in the direction of the setting sun, she was honouring a Buddhist tradition of deep and ancient origin.

Prior to releasing his body, the directors of the funeral home warned her to be prepared. They told her that her son would not appear as she was used to seeing him and that she and other family member who were with her, may find it very distressing. Jana immediately requested them to clothe him in the Buddhist robes in which he had taken his Bodhisattva vows and she explained how they should be draped.

Then, a small miracle happened. The disfigured, anguished and contorted features of the young man suddenly gave way to a peaceful and beatific countenance. The funeral home staff were confounded and deeply moved by this inexplicable and yet undeniable shift.

With all his special things around him in the small room set aside for him at the funeral home it quickly took on the atmosphere of a simple shrine. Lamps were lit and a calm and peaceful atmosphere began to saturate the place.

Why is it important for each and every one of us to acknowledge our mortality?
Precisely because our lives are running out like the rays of the setting sun...

We do not know the hour or the place and yet there in the distance, faintly echoing on the evening breezes, the owl is calling our name.
That hollow and resounding echo reminds of how fragile and
fleeting is our time upon this earth.

We must value it deeply and try to never waste a single moment in pettiness and dissipation. Our lives are a gift in which we are given the chance to recognise who and what we really are.

Many think that this is something only a very rare few are capable of perceiving but this is far from true. All of us are inextricably linked to our divine inmost nature and through the blessing of life we can begin to realise this innate inner treasure.

Each of us in our own and unique way must discover who and what we really are by what ever means which can aid us upon our way.
Right here, right now. Before there are regrets and before it is too late.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Self Inquiry; Going Back the Way We Came



The practice of Self-Inquiry or Atma Vichara as it is known in the ancient Sanskrit texts of Advaita Vedanta, stems from the time of the Rishis in India.

It was brought into the modern era principally by one of its greatest exponents; Sri Ramana Maharshi; the peerless Sage of Arunachala.


In answer to various people’s questions on Self-Inquiry, the Maharshi often would say; 'go back the way you came.' Some would take his words as being something of a brush off, but in actuality, he was giving a profound teaching and heart advice by way of these few simple words.



To go back the way we came means to turn the mind towards its 'source;' towards our true nature from which this world and everything in it has arisen. 


"I AM THAT I AM (Exodus) implies that the
proof of Existence is Existence itself."

Adapted from Ramana Mahrshi's Truth Revealed


1. What is Self Inquiry?

Self Inquiry takes the energy of the mind, which is normally dispersed and attentive mostly to external happenings and drives it back towards the source from which it arises.

We imagine that ‘mind’ is a coherent entity because we perceive it's activity as one consistent stream and yet the opposite is actually true. This can be discovered upon careful examination. Mind is neither coherent nor consistent and the thoughts which arise are fundamentally unstable and fleeting. In the ideal scheme of things 'mind' should be our 'tool,' and at our beck and call. Unfortunately however, the opposite is most often the case. This is due to the fact of our non recognition of our true nature.

It is as simple as that.

2. Why is Self Inquiry important for us?

The short answer to this is that we could not exist if it were not for the 'Self,' and by this we do not refer to the 'little self,' the personality that we think we are, but the 'greater, absolute and selfless self.'


If we had no sense of 'I am' we could not exist at all. This is a profound and key hint.

Therefore, we are pointing to something utterly fundamental. Something beyond religion, gender, race and even form, time and space.

All of us, who live and move in this world have a vested interest in understanding our ‘true nature.’ If we cannot exist apart from our ‘awareness’ then is it not crucial that we know this truth through the direct recognition of our experience of it?

There can be no question that all of us are experiencing the 'self' all of the time. However, our recognition and acknowledgement of this fact is lacking. This is the sole difference between a realised being and an ordinary one. If we believe ourselves to be separate individual entities then we become a plaything of the 'mind.' Once we recognise what exists changelessly, beyond the mind, then mind becomes our 'tool.'

Recognition of our true nature enables us to go beyond the mind altogether.
 However, we can use the mind as a springboard to bring us to the threshold of 'recognition.' This is the purpose of Self Inquiry.


3. How do we practice Self Inquiry?


Association with an authentic Guru who can point out the ‘truth’ of our inmost being can greatly assist in our recognition of it. In fact, this is a crucial factor. However, if we are not connected with a Guru at this time, Self Inquiry is the royal highway by which we may bring ourselves to the threshold of recognition. Through Atma Vichara, which requires our focused, sincere and concerted investigation we can come to understand and appreciate our true nature. 


Self Inquiry requires that we follow a process of investigation such as; ‘am I the body? Where am I in the body? Am I the mind? Where am I in the mind? What is the mind? And so on… After a while one begins to understand that we are none of these things. We need to follow this process diligently and with focus, right through until we arrive at the sense of ‘I am,’ and on until we reach the original ‘I thought.’

We can pick away at everything we know and perceive through a process of negation. We are not this, not that. By harnessing the energy of the mind and shinning it back upon itself through self investigation one is confronted with some facts which are uncomfortable for the 'little self.' If we begin to understand that 'I am not this, I am not that,' in due course we come to know that we are not who we had previously assumed ourselves to be.

At this point we are squarely confronted with the mystery of our existence.

'Who am I?' is a question that can lead us to the place where mind is no longer useful or able to function. It can lead us to the very portal of awareness which is completely beyond the mind.

Normally we think ourselves to be this, that and the other thing; somebodies father, somebodies son, or wife or child or husband. Self Inquiry blows apart our assumed perception of who and what we think we are. It places us squarely at the threshold of the vast expanse, the absolute self which is infinite, timeless and changeless.

4. What can we expect from this practice?

What do we gain from practising Self Inquiry…?

Nothing whatsoever for the ‘little self.’

There is nothing in it for ‘us.’

Self Inquiry leads inexorably to the dissolution of the mistaken notion of the ‘little self.' It unravels the 'ego.' Chipping away at it until there is nothing left.

Mind undone…

What appears in its place is the certainty, the ineffable peace and happiness which naturally arise from recognising one’s true and immortal nature.

Go back the way you came; beckons us to dive deeply into the perennial source from which we emerged.




Monday, 13 March 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 5 (How we are Affected Spiritually)


Leunig
 Does the digital revolution influence us in a spiritual sense?  It can influence us on every level powerfully but the real point here is that digital devices and all of the uses to which we put them are tools that we have created, they are the manifestations of our energy in action. As such, how they influence us is a direct reflection of how we influence them.

To unravel things a little we need to simplify them. No matter how complex a situation may appear on the surface, when we break it down we find a series of simple guiding posts. In this regard we can speak of two 'sign posts;' relative reality and absolute reality.

From the latter perspective we must remain just as we are. That is, as we really are; the changeless, ever present self from which all of  this 'display' arises.

From the relative perspective things are a little different.

There are all kinds of positive things happening, just as the opposite is also true. Spiritual webinars, on-line guidance, eBooks on all manner of spiritual and religious topics, meditation music, free courses, seminars, consultations, all manner of blogs covering very diverse topics. A vast array of information and self help tools exist for those who want to dive deeper into the world of spirit.

On-line spiritual communities are sprouting up around the globe and in these virtual environments, common interests link people together whether they are in Alaska or down town New York. Your racial background, your gender, even your language are no longer a barrier. There are now so many ways for people to connect and interact.

The potential for reach and influence is enormous but at the end of the day does any of it bring us closer to finding out who and what we really are?

The world wide web has been very aptly named, these cyber fibres envelop the globe in one pulsating, vibrant buzz. But what does all of this 'buzz' actually amount to?

With so many choices available, the need to develop discrimination is imperative. Without it we simply enter another 'reality' of our own creating and the mind can create endlessly, but to what end?

Technology may appear to bring us closer together, it may help us to become more aware of the bigger picture but does it lead us to 'truth?' Does it bring us nearer to the things that matter?

In a relative sense the potential for good or bad is very potent, but as is always the case with the 'tools' that we create in this world, our use of them determines the out come. If we take note of which characteristics are uppermost in peoples minds, and more importantly in our own minds, then we might get an idea of how our future can be shaped and moulded by these developing technologies.

If our thoughts are of one humanity and the development of a global community, of loving kindness between ourselves and all living things, including the planet on which we are living, then surely the outcome could be something quite wonderful. We are the only ones that can prevent such a spectacular global community from forming.

However most people's minds are not far seeing or harmonious, at least not 99 percent of the time, in fact the mental atmosphere of our planet has become quite toxic and this is a human creation. What is in our minds, will in due course manifest itself in the outer technologies that are becoming increasingly a part of the way we live. Ultimately how they are used will be a reflection of our inner state.

Mind is powerful and it creates. This is why simplicity and the importance of getting back to our place of balance is so crucial. The more powerful the 'tools' we create, the greater the potential for good or evil.

If our minds are peaceful and inclined towards higher goals than the mere making of money, getting of power, appearances and greed, then we could be very optimistic about the future, but from all appearances there are still many hard lessons to be learnt and these generally come by way of painful processes. At least this is what history shows us has been the case time and again.

'Turn within. Know yourself,' are phrases that many of us are very familiar with but unless the essence of this is taken into the heart and experienced directly, the power and potential inherent in their true meaning can not manifest.

'Experience' is most likely to visit those who are not dissipated, multi-tasking, imbibing, doing, engaging and generally 'busy' with their spiritual pursuits in what ever form that may be taking.

In the midst of our complex digital world, which can appear at times to be spiralling out of control, there is ever the quiet, still silence. Unaffected and unchanging. Ever present and omnipotent.

To know who and what we really are is  to know un-contrived simplicity. I remember one evening when i was sitting in a corner of my master, the previous Dilgo Khyentse's room.  Sogyal Rinpoche swept in with a number of his foreign students and at one point asked Khyentse Rinpoche, 'how it was possible to recognise our true nature, directly and un-mistakenly?'

Khyenste Rinpoche simply replied,  'you can be certain when it is unaltered.' That may not make any sense to the uninitiated, but once one has had a whiff of the 'scent' of the true 'self' that simple statement will speak volumes and open us to the recognition of what always is.

'Unaltered' refers to what is, to that which knows and exists as 'I Am.'  We become so absorbed in reading the text on a page that we seldom, if ever, notice the page, the paper on which the text is written, without that paper there would be no text, no story, nothing...

It cannot be repeated often enough, because it is so vital that we understand the ultimate purpose of our lives.  Everything that manifests in this world arises because we exist.

To know who it is that knows it exists is wisdom...

We may feel very clever and modern with all our digital technologies and yet it is stated in the Ecclesiastics (1:9) "what has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

The most vital truth of all may seem far from dazzling, yet everything; absolutely everything exists in and of that.

In the midst of the 'noise' of living 
may we all come to know who and what we really are. 
This truth alone is the ultimate problem solver 
and the one single panacea 
and it is closer to us than we can even imagine...

Leunig

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 4 (How we are Affected Psychologically)



Leunig cartoon
Michael Leunig
In previous articles we looked at how the Digital Technologies of our modern world are affecting us physically and emotionally and now we come to their psychological impact. On each level; physical, emotional and psychological the affects are pervasive
and widespread but perhaps their impact on our mind space is in most urgent need of our consideration.

Personally, I think there are few things as gratifying in all of these techno capabilities as the freedom and accessibility of information. To be able to simply click into a page, type a few words in a search engine and instantly come up with a whole list of possible answers to our question or information requirement is truly something of a wonder and it was not there just a few short decades ago.

Instant information, instant access to libraries, archives, books, knowledge of every kind, videos, you name it, it is now all accessible through the technologies that so many of us are enjoying in the privacy and comfort of our own homes.

Anything at all can be 'Googled' or typed into whatever search engine we like to use and a list of responses immediately pop up on our computer screens. The information age has well and truly dawned and in many ways it is amazing and it is incredibly useful and potentially liberating. I have certainly put these technologies to good use in recent years as have lots and lots of other people.

We have created an engrossing cyber world, with many possibilities suddenly available to all and sundry and ordinary people are finding that they are spending more and more time in front of their screens. With the increase of information available on all fronts how do we discern what is really helpful or not? Our ability to discriminate and make good and informed choices becomes crucial when there is so much information available.

Whoever it was that said 'information is power' certainly hit the nail on the head. Information is indeed power and on one level this can be incredibly liberating. But there is always a flip-side too.
So much information is so readily available to us instantaneously that we can quickly feel a bit overwhelmed. There is a sensory overload that can happen. Certainly there is a point when too much information is, well, just too much.

When the mind is always preoccupied and busy,  it can bring on a sense of disconnection and dis-orientation. Unless we monitor our time on the net more closely and work in a structured, planned way with clear objectives and time deadlines, we risk being gobbled up by the sheer mass of information and 'interesting stuff' that is freely and easily available.

There are also other issues which are beginning to emerge as people start to spend more and more time on, for instance, their smart phones. In a very short time, these devices have become not only common place, but indispensable to many, many people. We see a whole new form of addiction emerging. The addiction of needing to be constantly 'validated,' the addiction of needing to be constantly 'engaged,' constantly pre-occupied.

Have you ever noticed how many times you are reaching for your phone during the day, checking this, responding to that? The mind is almost feverishly searching out new stimulation almost all of the time and our smart phones can deliver it.

This incessant engagement can, and is, in turn leading to higher levels of anxiety. There is a compulsiveness in the way that many of us now use our smart phones. When we are separated from our devices, or if we find ourselves outside a wifi or connectivity area a whole different kind of anxiety kicks in. A separation anxiety.

It can also be noted that a new form of depression is arising from the over use of certain digital technologies which are ushering in a whole new set of obsessions along with their concurrant psychological repercussions.

There are also emerging issues arising as we try and keep up with the plethora of updates and developments and breaking news and such. We find that new skills need to be developed to help us cope with the sheer volume and input of on-line information and networking. Multi-tasking is one of these modern day 'skills.' Now we find we are learning to do two or more tasks at the same time. Might we be spreading ourselves a bit thin? How well is any of us really able to multi task?

There is also the question as to what happens if we are separated from this technology for one reason or another? There are numerous reasons as to why this could happen. Amid all this melee how do we reclaim a much needed point of balance?

There is always a fine line at the cross over of, too much. We need to become more alert so as not to be swallowed up. The beauty is, of course, that we can choose when to stop. By becoming aware of the pitfalls and knowing how and when to halt we can regain our control and balance but this requires wisdom in action and a conscious decision.

While we are creating progressively more complex systems of thought which in turn  are creating more and more complex lives we have yet to understand how to negotiate and unravel all of this complexity in a satisfactory way.

There are so many interesting things on the internet. We can easily become distracted and go off on numerous fascinating tangents and all the while our lives are slipping by. There is nothing the least bit complex about that fact. If we are to bury ourselves in this technology what is there to show for it when our mortality finally rises up to claim us?

Take, for instance, those who are into gaming and escapism, who log in to chat rooms and blog carnivals and so on and so forth. Whole days of their lives are spent engrossed in these pursuits.

I stayed a few months at a friends flat in Sydney a while ago and her brother, who was unemployed at the time, was visiting. He spent the whole day and well into the night playing games on the net. He was phenomenal, he barely moved from his seat for hours at a time. That someone should be riveted to little moving dots on a screen for such long periods and with such concentrated intent was actually quite disturbing to see.

We also have privacy and surveillance issues which can have widespread and profound effects on our psychological well being.
Although one can certainly be anonymous on the web, it is becoming more challenging to remain so.

The social media accounts that many people now use, link into so many other areas and now one can simply login using a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ account. This is something i personally find rather insidious. If i want to join a class or study some thing i may not want the whole world to know about it and yet we begin to find that some courses can only be joined via one of these services!

But of course the surveillance issue is not just confined to the internet, almost everywhere we go, almost everything we buy and increasingly almost everything we do is recorded in some way or another. The spectre of 'big brother' is very much alive and peering over both our shoulders.

So here we are, on the one hand we have all this new freedom in the form of information which is easily accessible and available 24/7, but on the other hand this very same technology is moving into our lives in ever more invasive ways. As the technologies become more sophisticated so too are the manner in which they are impacting us.

Artificial intelligence is no longer something which exists only in the realm of science fiction movies. Its out there and there are all manner of pressing and challenging ethical issues to be considered in to regards to its increasing use. Often it appears that these issues are only ever really tackled when they become problems and this brings us in a full circle.

If every spare moment of our waking day is spent with our attention pulled towards some device or other, what impact is that likely to have on our natural sense of inner peace and happiness? Is there any stability to be found in something which routinely throws us right out of our point of balance?

The most pressing need for all of us is to consider how we move forward with the new technologies. They are unlikely to go away because in so many ways they are useful to us. Yet we can be quickly consumed and we might not even be fully aware of it. There is always a fine line between using the tools that are supposed to make our lives easier and being overrun by those very same tools.

There can be no doubt that we have entered the age of useful technology but where do we draw the line between useful and invasive? When does something shift from being helpful and useful to being invasive and controlling...?

Discrimination becomes extremely important when looking at the possible effects of modern digital technologies on the way we work, live, communicate and function. We only have so much time in our day and being disciplined enough to use that time wisely is a very real issue that many of us need to look at carefully.
With all kinds of information available at the mere touch of a button, we potentially open ourselves to a world of mental engagement that leaves little or no room for 'inner space.'

The psychological impact of an information overload can lead to
widespread dissipation, fatigue and confusion. Cyber technologies begin to blur the lines between what is real and what is not.

I think Leunig's cartoon captures the spirit of the current situation rather pithily. Is it time to start asking ourselves how much is too much?  Each of us has to consider and decide this for his/her self. Thankfully we do have these choices. They require a step in consciousness and discrimination. Who among us would loose out by developing these skills of awareness and discrimination when it comes to our use of digital technologies?

The pram already has the baby in it and it is rolling down the hill. Only we can catch hold of it before it gains too much momentum. Very soon, even this may elude us.

'Anyone who isn't confused, really doesn't understand the situation...'

Time to take stock, time to become aware.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 3 (How we are Affected Emotionally)


Because the modern digital technologies that we use are potentially and in actuality so pervasive in their effects, it is easier to unravel some of the strings of implications for our, and future generations, by considering their effects upon the different levels of our being.

So far we have examined, in a very cursory way, how they affect us physically.

In terms of our emotions these effects may be more subtle, more difficult to label, but nevertheless, in their way, just as pervasive and profound. As time goes by we will be able to gauge much more accurately just how these technologies are changing our way of living for better and for worse.

In a general sense our emotional responses take us into the realm of human moods, behaviours and reactions. These can be likened to the ever shifting sands of hope and fear that push and pull us into endless cycles of fluctuation and change. How we place ourselves within the world as functioning human beings is often reflected by the way that we connect and interact with one another and the world wide web is all about 'connections' and 'inter-connected-ness.'

No one can deny that in one sense, this has bought us all much closer together. We can connect instantaneously, we can interact easily, almost effortlessly, cheaply and from just about anywhere on the planet. Never before has our Earth appeared to be such a small place. Suddenly we find ourselves inside the solar system and less intensely focused on the small family, tribal and communal groups that were always so pivotal to our sense of place and belonging within human societies of the past. These are still very much present but now put into a context and within a much bigger 'world view.'

If anything can reveal 'inter-connectedness' clearly, it would have to be the technologies and social media tools that are available today.

At the heart of this connectedness is the incessant tug of war between hope and fear.  These underlying forces drive most of our emotional interactions and are often bound to be magnified in the cyber 'realities' that we create on-line. Our emotions may be fleeting but they are nevertheless powerful and compelling. Are we not constantly driven by them in one form or another?

Think about it. Our need to belong, our need to excel, our need to be liked, our need to feel important, etcetera. Often at the very inception of an idea, before it is put into actuality it is motivated, consciously or otherwise, by some very visceral emotion. Facebook was virtually built out of one man's desire to impress a girl. We have played into this instinctive need. Facebook and other social media networks have flourished and spread around the world fuelled by our almost obsessive need to be 'connected' with one another. To make our little splash in the vast pond of existence. To reassert our existence as independent and yet interconnected beings and all of this on a much grander scale than ordinary people like you and i may ever have dreamed possible in the past.

In these times, the ubiquitous 'like' button, the instant 'tweet' and the flurry of other communication 'tools' that have become part of the very fabric of modern human communication offer us immediate gratification adding fuel to an illusive and inflated sense of importance or its opposite.

Cyber technologies and social media have enormous potential for reaching out in a way that previously was never possible, but there is also a shadow side. They give us a degree of on-line anonymity that makes it easy to enter into 'relationships' in which our normal responses and responsibilities can be evaded. What might this mean to the younger generation who are being brought up within this kind of environment?

The 'normal' responses of the past, which take place on a day to day level between people in their living and work environments are being affected the trend towards 'working at home.' New incentives are beginning to rise up in order to combat the isolation that this can cause. 'Open offices' are beginning to emerge and people are finding ways to still work and yet be with one another in a physical space.

The mercurial pace with which an online 'moods' or trends can take hold and then be forgotten, is such that it can be difficult to keep apace. Such 'trending' gives us a taste of the ephemeral nature of our emotions and along with that a sense that everything is speeding up.

Is there an emerging paradox in this trend?  While we may appear to more connected, in actuality we seem to be more disconnected than ever.  The nature of our communications is instantaneous but also in many cases very superficial and fleeting. These interactions often lack the vital exchange of energy that can take place between people within eye contact and actual physical presence. This is giving rise to a whole new 'language.' The 'signals' which, in the past, formed the basis of our interactions and our ability to interpret what others are conveying to our senses, both consciously and unconsciously can easily be misinterpreted and lead to confusion and misunderstandings which in turn can increase the sense of 'isolation' in the current media environment.

For those of us who have been around for more than a few decades, the magnitude of these changes can be somewhat daunting. We now see ourselves beginning to function in ways that we did not function in the past and the younger generations are growing up with very different expectations and agendas.

The whole basis upon which this evolution is developing is of a very non substantial kind.  Our philosophical tomes have stated over and over that our world is an 'illusion,' and with the new technologies and all that they stand for we can begin to sense very clearly how true this really is.

Digital technology has provided us with new toys and tools with which to interact with the world on a scale that heretofore has simply not been possible.

What are some of the characteristics of our reactions to these technologies in terms of how they affect us on an emotional level?

1. Compulsiveness.  We can see this manifesting as a fidgety preoccupation with almost constant distraction. Its become a common sight to see people in all sorts of environments busily multi tasking. Here in India, it is not unusual to see people on their way to where ever, on a cycle, a motor bike or in a car, text-ing or talking on a mobile phone. Have we not all seen people gathered waiting for something, or sitting at tables together, all busily engaged with something happening on their phones or computers in the very midst of the throngs of humanity.

2. Connected and yet disconnected. I recently visited friends who have a number of children. Everyone, parents included, was gathered in the living room together but the room was silent, each was busily engaged in some kind of cyber activity on their iPad, phone or pc...

3. Dissipation. The energies favour dissipation. The attention and emotional indicators experience an incessant pressure that draws one outwardly from the natural centre of silence and peace.  This then gives rise to a growing inner sense of loss and isolation.

It is a paradox that the very tools that were supposedly created to bring us nearer to one another are in fact isolating us from one another in many subtle ways. Its a little as though we are cast out to sea, surrounded by the ocean and yet all this water is incapable of quenching our thirst.

We can get sucked into a cycle with digital technologies which can lead to some very unhealthy side effects unless we become more aware and make practical and discriminating judgements and then actually implement them.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 2 (How we are Affected Physically)



What can be said about the physical impact of the digital age in which we live? Its effects are so far reaching that there are very few areas of our lives, our homes and our workplaces which are not in some way affected.

Lets start with the good stuff, and there is plenty of it depending on ones point of view.  Naturally we can't mention everything but in broad terms we see things like, instant communications, easy access to information, and inter-connected-ness on a scale that is unprecedented. Ease of online services such as banking, travel bookings, online shopping etc far exceed anything we ever had in recent history.

Computers and the digital technology that powers and automates so many of the functions which we now take quite for granted; in fact virtually the entire infrastructure of our modern world, especially in western economies, is based upon recent cyber technologies.

The potential for life changing innovations continues to emerge at a dizzying pace and is undeniable. Automated cars are already on our roads.There is currently technology in development for a car/plane as a viable mode of personal transport. This would be a computerised car cum drone. Safer, swifter and more comfortable than anything we now have to get us from A to B and all automated of course! There are many, many other positive developments due to technological breakthroughs from health and transportation to education and instant information. The list could go on and on.

The bad stuff.  Physically the lives of those who spend a lot of time on  personal computers or at gaming or who work from some form of web based technology are far more sedentary than would have ever been possible in the past. These technologies have also become part of institutional education from primary through to college and on wards giving rise to all manner of health problems and psychological issues in our up and coming generations.

While we appear to be more easily contactable more and more people are actually alone with their devices than not. Take the ever increasing instances of when family or friends are sitting together in a restaurant, or at home, ostensibly to share a meal together and yet all the while busily tapping out messages or fiddling with something on their smartphones and quite oblivious of one another.

We may be able to easily contact one another and be wired into a whole planetary network of information and instant 'news' and yet our 'personal space' is also routinely invaded 24/7 by mobile technologies along with their electromagnetic radiations.

There are surveillance issues that are genuinely worrying despite the fact that we are told that we are 'watched' for our own good.

IDs are quickly moving towards using bio data that imprints our iris configurations and encodes our finger prints. One by one countries are beginning to phase out passports in favour of online bio data.

Here in India, of all places, I had my iris encoded along with finger prints in an ID process that is currently taking place all over the country. These days in India, even a Sadhu living on the street, has an Aadhaar Card with all his bio-metric details encoded into it.

Getting my own card sorted was a surreal experience. There i was sitting in this dusty office, the paint was peeling off the walls, the fans were outdated and whirring loudly above our heads. There was book work and papers all around the walls stacked in untidy piles from door to door. The electricity went out while i was there and we had to wait until the back up generator kicked in. The fellow taking my details was making dozens of spelling mistakes and there was a constant stream of village people coming and going. It was all thoroughly incongruous and more than a little disconcerting.

What are the privacy issues at stake here? It would appear that privacy is a thing of the past and simply not possible in this new age of digitisation.

On another tack, one question I often have in mind is; what if there is a massive solar flare? Few seem to even be aware of how vulnerable our technologies are to extra planetary events which are taking place constantly and over which we have absolutely no control. These solar flares have incapacitated electrical grids in various countries during recent years and there is no reason why it won't continue to happen. We are currently in a solar minimum cycle but even so, events of cataclysmic proportions are going on continuously on our sun to say nothing of other events taking place throughout our solar system and beyond.

Once again it is not possible in a short article to give an exhaustive list of all the disadvantages but we must mention one that is yet to be fully understood and very likely will become extremely controversial in the years to come.

This is the long term effects of the low level electromagnetic radiations which are constantly bombarding not only us, but every living thing within their radius.

Can most of us go for a day without coming into contact with a mobile phone, a pc, a micro-wave or a cell phone tower...? These towers are perched on the top of buildings, in the midst of the most densely populated areas of our cities and towns. We also see the infrastructure for these towers marching up hills sides in even very remote locations, although now most of the technology is being moved to satellites orbiting the planet.

What about Wi-fi radiations that so many and by the day more and more people are bringing into their homes? We are exposed to these radiations in a different form also from household items that we barely blink at now such as hair dryers, T.Vs and even fluorescent lights.

Some would say that this kind of talk arises from paranoia but the fact is that recent research is overwhelmingly proving that
the electromagnetic radiations that are emitted from the electronic devices that we use every day, to say nothing of the cell phone towers and all the other transmitters that exist within our proximity, have long term and insidiously detrimental health effects.

The physical implications of long term exposure to electronic radiations are only just beginning to be uncovered, at least to the main stream public. Cell phone operators have long known of the dangers of their devices and their towers and they have managed to wrangle legislation with law makers that will protect them from future liability related to the use of their products. It has even been rumoured that these same companies have endeavoured to bring in a legislation that would make it compulsory to sign an agreement prior to purchasing; an agreement that would exclude them from the possibility of being dragged into a law suite at any time in the future!

All of this is a loaded bomb waiting to explode, the clock is ticking, its just a matter of time..!

The dilemma.  How do we balance our increasing dependence with the long term implications of using digital technology?  Do we even have the option of trying to do something? The physical implications are alarming and the research and resulting data that is beginning to emerge is likely to be only the tip of the ice berg.

What are the emotional, mental and spiritual implications? One can easily begin to see just how completely pervasive the effects of our digital age really are. The sooner we expand our awareness and understanding of these, the better.


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Digital Dilemmas Part 1





The Ways in which technology 
continues to improve communication

***

Those of us who have been around for more than twenty years know very well just how pervasively modern technology, particularly that of personal computing and mobile phones, gaming and electronics in general, have changed our lives. We have seen these technologies revolutionise the way we do just about everything and all of this has come about in a comparatively short amount of time.

I well remember the days when letters to my mother in New Zealand would take around two to three weeks to arrive from India and then the turn around was often the same if not longer. It would take weeks to exchange our news and by the time the letters arrived, the news was well and truly out of date.

Probably not too much has changed with postal timings except that we hardly ever send letters these days, preferring the instant messaging of email and whatsapp. I even remember the wind up telephone in my grand parents house and the 'party line' that was shared with other Motueka residents. One would pick up the mouth piece, turn the handle a few times and hear a voice saying; 'what number please?' Although mail is still very much in use other forms of communication are quickly falling into disuse and becoming the dinosaurs of recent technology.

From shopping and banking through to how we access information, how we read, how we interact, even how we work, these changes have infiltrated every level and facet of society. There are not many areas of our lives now that are not in some way touched by the innovations of the digital age.

We older folk, were well acquainted with the good old days of snail mail and land lines and my generation is by no means 'old.' We knew all about waiting in cues at the library in order to borrow a certain book. The days of newspapers and telegrams and fax machines, of trudging to the bank and standing in the line waiting for a teller to transact our business, these were all very much a part of day to day reality. Now, there are so many ways in which computers and mobiles have changed our lives in these past few short years that it would take up too much space to mention all of them.

Those of my generation and older could never have dreamt in our younger years that our lives could be changed so dramatically and in such a short time. Yet here we are, using all this stuff as though this is the way things have always been...!

My mother, who is now in her early eighties has wi-fi in her home and never goes anywhere without her mobile phone and her ipad. In recent years when i have gone to visit her i would often rise early in the morning and find her already propped up in bed, a cup of coffee on the side table, her ginger cat curled up nearby and her ipad firmly and squarely in front of her eyeballs.

A whole new 'computer language' has sprung up. Digital technology has moved into our lives and it looks set to stick around. Our greatest challenge now seems to be how keep apace with it.

On a recent trip to Australia I found it particularly frustrating to note how extensively electronic voices have taken over our everyday telephone business communications, how pervasive the electronic voice is at the end of almost all dialling tones, how difficult it is to actually just connect to another human being. With basic services being increasingly digitised the human element is being subsumed by pre-programmed electronic non beings that infer that all transactions must be standardised. Slip out from the stereotypes and you are in trouble.

Being out of society for periods of time and then returning to it again can help to underline the pace of the rapid changes that are sweeping the entire planet.

We would do well to step back occasionally and review the manner in which technology, in all of its various forms, is impacting our lives. This is vital if we want to remain at the helm of our own vessel. Its all too easy to calmly glide into the vortex of an ever more invasive technological society without actually noticing our shift. Many are scarcely aware that we are drifting towards a digital black hole which is about to consume us. Once artificial intelligence takes hold we will be dealing with a whole new ball game.

Those of us already pondering the effects, both positive and negative, of the various types of technology now being developed can at times feel like prisoners on the ramp of a sinking ship, caught between our choice of quick or delayed drowning.
Of course it need not and certainly is not all negative but we would do well to proceed into this period of digitisation with some semblance of conscious awareness.

In the up and coming four articles  we will be examining how technology affects us, what all of this can mean for us and future generations, and how it is impacting the way we live, not just physically but in far more subtle ways.  We will explore what it could bring in the future and why we should take the time to become more aware of the inner effects of the technologies that we use so unquestioningly. There is a fine line drawn between the useful 'tool' and the all consuming one.

There can be no doubt that our digital age has extraordinary and beneficial advantages but nothing in the material world comes to us without a 'price. What is the 'price' of digital technology? Can we offset the dangers by being more aware or are we all inextricably caught up in this seemingly unstoppable electronic tide?

At the end of the day we must observe that digital technology should not be labelled as either good or bad it is simply and unquestioningly a powerful tool.
How each of us responds to and makes use of this 'power' is really up to us. It places us each in a position of responsibility that we can either acknowledge or ignore, but which ever the case may be no part of our lives will remain untouched.

What are the ways in which we are all affected by these modern technologies, not just physically, emotionally and mentally but also spiritually?

(Edited, updated and re-posted from an earlier series of articles originally written 2013)