8 August 2015: The manuscript for the book is done, copy edited and waiting only for final versions of the illustrations done by my long time friend, accomplished musician and all round good egg @Michael_Munday. It goes back to the publisher any day soon, then into design, and the hope is to see it published before end of 2015.
So now comes a selection of chunks from The Ecology of the Soul: A Manual of Peace, Power and Personal Growth for Real People in the Real World. Not everything that appears here appears in the book. There’s a lot of discursive stuff that comes upon one while one is working on the main project. But for now, let’s take some chunklets and offer them up. Each one of the seven powers – Nature, Creativity, Endurance, Love, Communication, Focus and Connection – has seven ‘meditations’ on its component parts. None of them are very long, almost all of them around 1000 words – easy to digest. The intention is to drive your consciousness deep into that particular aspect of behaviour, of understanding, of experience. Out of that come ‘Power Seeds’, the little one-liners (in some cases more) that kick off the Magic Minute of meditation, the 60-second ‘feeder’ that repeats on you during the day, pulling your mind back for a moment to the nugget of Soul Consciousness you started with.
This one is the seventh and last meditation in The Power of Nature, inspired by the need we have to personify nature – it’s cruel, it’s kind, it’s capricious, it’s destructive, it’s beautiful. Truth is, it’s none of these things. It just is. It doesn’t care either way. Can we say it’s detached or dispassionate? It is not conscious, it does not have self awareness, it’s got nothing to detach from, no feelings to be passionate about. You can call it dispassionate (as I do below) in the sense that it never had feelings and never will, and therefore remains disengaged, uncaring. It’s dispassionate in that sense. But not in our sense, which suggests we have to work to disconnect from our feelings. Same with detachment. Can you call it detached if it has never experienced attachment? Yes and no. Points to ponder, eh. That’s the idea.
Read and enjoy.
“Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth.”
” It is the higher self that becomes dispassionate or unattached as self-awakening occurs. The ego mind can remain passionate and engaged while it fulfills its life purpose or dharma. As long as the silent witness is the dominant reference for the self, and not the ego, spiritual evolution can flourish even while one remains passionate about life.”
” Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached.”
” The essence of the Way is detachment.”
A tricky one, this. Might be the biggest challenge of all 49 meditations, in fact, because it is so crucially important for a meditative, spiritual experience – but on the face of it, it looks as if we are encouraging people to disengage. The Ecology of the Soul focuses on the necessity of doing the exact opposite – compassion, engagement, commitment, responsibility, community, the search for enlightenment on behalf of all sentient beings. None of that makes any sense in the context of dispassion or detachment. Am I really asking you to disengage, not to feel, not to get involved? And aren’t they one and the same thing, anyway, dispassion and detachment?
No, they’re not, but they’re considered here as component parts of one meditation, or meditative state, because they’re inextricably intertwined. You can’t have one without the other; but there is a sequence. In the strictly meditative context, detachment from the body is the first lesson of Soul Consciousness. You leave your physical senses behind. In the ‘action in the world’ context, dispassion comes before detachment and is an essential prerequisite. But dispassion also requires more emotional subtlety to understand and practice; not that detachment doesn’t itself have layers of experience and wisdom to uncover, but its opposite – attachment – is easier to reject. (Non-attachment is something else again.)
One way of understanding them is through their opposites. Detachment vs attachment is easy enough; but if the opposite of dispassion is compassion, then we need to do some defining.
Nature is dispassionate. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t feel. For us human beings, dispassion will never be a matter of not caring or not feeling, but it is very definitely a matter of not getting involved. Which is hard enough anyway, if we see ourselves as devoted to our own enlightenment for the sake of all living beings. We need to avoid becoming so deeply involved that we start to share or trade karma with other souls. Our close friends and family, work colleagues, even enemies, are enough, thank you very much. Plenty of karmic credit and debit there. Do all you can at a subtle level for every soul, and more indeed for the ones that you come into random contact with, but don’t engage at the level of action. If you give money, for instance, it just intertwines your karma with that of the recipient. The creation of an ‘account’ of debt and credit. No way of knowing if this is a new karmic bond you’re tying, or the final payment in the closure of a karmic account. Better not go there in the first place.
It’s the emotional – actually, the non-emotional – element of dispassion that puts us off. We don’t want to not feel or not care; but here is the subtlety. Care, yes. Feel, yes. Engage as in be drawn in, dragged down, diverted from your own spiritual path, no. The Buddha’s search for enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings didn’t require him to have direct dealings with all sentient beings aforesaid; in fact, if he’d have tried he would certainly have failed, and so would his project. We can probably say that failed anyway, because demonstrably not all human beings are enlightened, never mind all the rest of the sentient universe. But we can at least agree that it got farther, to the tune of the world’s 370 million Buddhists, than it would have done if he’d started giving meditation lessons to the local grasshoppers.
So, perversely, it is actually dispassion and detachment that demonstrate your caring nature. In fact they are prerequisites for your caring nature to be expressed and acted upon. You feel compassion, but dispassionately. Got it? I said it was tricky. You separate your Self out from your feelings and emotions – you’re used to doing this by now, it’s basic meditation technique – observe them, watch them at work, and come into action where your higher, analytical, discerning intellect says it’s OK.
Which is to say, that it’s when thinking and feeling come into action in the real world that all this detachment and apparent disengagement count. You can’t be attached to your actions or their results; that will forever tie you to the physical plane at the expense of your subtle and spiritual consciousness. No more can you be attached to your body-conscious idea of yourself; train driver, call center worker, mother, father, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, tennis player, gambler, fat, thin, medium sized. All these and all the other myriad of ways in which you define yourself in the world mean nothing to the eternal truth of your Self. Equally, and this we all know to be true, attachment to your status in the world, your dignity or public position, to other people (you can love without dependence, can’t you?) and to material possessions will lead inevitably to dysfunction, disappointment and discontent.
With your intellect you are discerning, analyzing, making judgements, arriving at insights. You are using the clarity, determination, mindfulness – even compartmentalization – that we meditate on in Chapter 6: The Power of Focus. At the intellect level, dispassion is not hard to come by; you simply (simply? Ha!) have to remove or rise above emotion to be able to make clear judgements. It’s the same with both sides of this particular coin, whose understanding comes via an understanding of its obverse. Dispassion is understood through compassion, in contrast with it as an intellectual process, whereas compassion can arise from straightforward emotion but, much more powerfully, from detachment itself. Detachment is understood through the perils of attachment, dramatically illustrating Deepak Chopra’s point quoted above that you can be all these things and have all this stuff without undermining your spiritual progress – as long as you don’t make the mistake of identifying with it. Dealing with the desire for status, position, self definition and material wealth is another matter entirely.