#MentalHealthMonth Playing With Enlightenment

Playing with Enlightenment

-Excerpt from “Life As Play!” by Mark Johnson

It is difficult to discuss enlightenment in general because enlightenment means something different to everyone and because it is paradoxical. Most people think enlightenment is a peaceful, blissful, formless realm beyond the manifest world and outside of space and time. This is only partially correct because it is a paradox.

It is paradoxical because enlightenment includes duality and is simultaneously beyond it.

A lot of people who study Eastern religions are busily quieting their minds and emotions and are waiting for “enlightening” to strike. This is what the Buddha and Shankara taught and what I meditated on for almost 20 years. I have friends who are professional meditators. They can sit without a single thought appearing in their minds for hours at a time. However, I have rocks in my backyard that can do the same thing. Is this the apex of life on this planet? The Oneness as Emptiness is only part of the story. The manifest realm is also an expression of the great Oneness. Our task now is to figure out how best to manifest that ground of being in the evolving, material world. We must merge the transcendent with the immanent.

The analogy of the Ocean with its waves is the best way I know to describe the paradox of being both at the same time. Waves provide a good analogy for people because each wave has a discernible, separate existence. Each has a unique size, direction, speed, and shape – and they make a lot of noise, just as I do! There is also no real separation between them and the totality of the Ocean.

So, imagine yourself as an average wave rolling along, minding your own business, and some guru wave tells you, “You are the entirety of the ocean, and you can experience yourself as such.” All you have to do is meditate your ass off, become a vegetarian, and take up Tai Ji, or, if you are the trusting, devotional type, you can surrender to Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah.

So now they become a seeker with a mission! A wave in search of wetness! Nothing like a little meaning in life to actually get a person to do something other than consume stuff to compensate for that endless dark pit of need in the middle of one’s chest. The fanatic edge that sometimes comes with a little meaning in one’s life can drive a seeker for several thousand lifetimes; in spite of a few setbacks such as exhaustion, depression, and the sneaky feeling you are wasting a lot of time.

Some people start wave hopping to find the wetness, and others start perfecting their own wave to get wetter than the other waves. What keeps that cycle going is the fact that every time someone gets weary, another spiritual teacher comes along with the perfect technique for experiencing wetness, and off they go again until they finally drop. And then, “POW,” a moment of unity consciousness.

If you stop striving for wetness in order to succeed in experiencing it, it will not work. You have to stop everything, which includes stopping everything. That is why not too many people actually do it. It is scary to surrender everything you think you are and allow the great Oneness to continue running the show.

Some of the best “strivers” I have ever met are the Zen folks. They tirelessly scale that “enlightenment” mountain going straight up the slopes, while most people meander around the well-worn paths, smelling the flowers and eating the strawberries at every turn.

You would expect the Buddhist religion to turn out a lot of enlightened individuals every year, wouldn’t you? I didn’t find that to be the case. So, what is wrong with this picture? The more a wave pursues its own wetness as a goal, the further away the wave gets from being its wetness.

As I mentioned before, the tendency to take up spirituality as a cure for your psychological problems is called “spiritual bypassing.” You try to bypass all your problems with the magic bullet of meditation. It sounds good and looks good and actually works to some degree, but without doing the foundational psychological work along the way, nothing much is going to change, in my opinion.

Too many people and meditation teachers in particular, honestly think every problem can be solved with meditation. If you are out of work and depressed, and your guru tells you to meditate more, it is probably time to get another teacher and to find a job.

On the other hand (there is always another “on the other hand” when dealing with paradox), I often see people busying themselves by digging into their childhood traumas in self-help workshops or with their psychiatrist or therapist. Those “archeological digs” can sometimes lead to greater insight into why we do what we do, but far too often, it is simply another expression of narcissism.

I had a client who washed her hands a hundred times a day and knew exactly why she did it, but she still could not stop. I sometimes think some folks would be a lot better off if they spent their day helping people in a homeless shelter instead of incessantly talking about their problems.

The most common expression of narcissistic behavior I see is the incessant striving for enlightenment. The deep reason you don’t make much progress even after decades of meditation and self-help workshops is that you are doing it for yourself. When people take the focus off themselves for even a short time, they find their personal problems miraculously dissolving. That’s due to their no longer giving little obsessions the energy needed to perpetuate. Try it. Don’t think about yourself for an entire day and see what happens.

Let’s say that while indulging in narcissistic pursuits, a person accidentally experiences a spiritual awakening. After all, even a blind squirrel will find an acorn occasionally. It is like a wave briefly glimpsing itself as the entirety of the Ocean. You think you have arrived! But then, the memory fades, and you are back identifying with your old familiar ego/wave again – warts and all.

What good is a spiritual awakening if the wave that experienced it is distorted after experiencing itself as the Ocean? This is often what happens. This means the person must continue to work hard on psychological evolution in order to sustain the awakening. Your personal evolution will continue smoothly if you allow it to happen naturally and don’t force anything with your obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

This means:

It is more important to be integrated and authentic at whatever stage you find yourself than to hotly pursue enlightenment with a distorted and desperate psyche.

Few Westerners have training in the multitude of Chinese disciplines that Mark Johnson has. In addition to Tai Chi instruction, Mark specializes in Qigong (which is self-healing through moving high frequency energies throughout the body.) He also taught three styles of Feng Shui (which is the study of the energies of an area) and he was also involved in writing one of the most popular versions of the E Jing (which is China’s ancient classic on how things change). He also teaches Chinese calligraphy to his students on his many trips to China. Mark has integrated these disciplines in creative ways for over fifty years. He has also founded Integral Tao Centers in Taos New Mexico, Tulsa Oklahoma, New York, and California where he now resides. 

Mark Johnson’s decades-long global spiritual journey culminated with his book, “Life As Play”

Live Compassionately, Intuitively, Spontaneously, and Miracles Will Happen!,“ an initiation into a life of Play. Mark encourages you to take the plunge into the unknown and mystery of your own life where every action becomes an effortless, appropriate response to whatever life brings you.

Life As Play” is available for purchase at Amazon. Audiobook coming soon to Audible.

You can find out about Mark Johnson by finding him on Facebook (@lifeatplaybook).

This post was shared to bring awareness to the prevalence of mental health and it’s importance to any person’s overall health. It was also shared to help end the stigma on Mental Health in collaboration with Farrow Communications @FARROWCOMMS.

#MentalHealthMonth The Problem: Stress Kills

An Excerpt From

“The JOY of LIVING: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy”

By Barry Shore the “Ambassador of Joy”

______________________________________________________________________

The Problem: STRESS…Kills!

Not directly. More like death by a thousand sighs.

It’s insidious. Invidious, invasive, and, if continuous and not stopped, will ruin Your physical, mental, and spiritual being.

Stress is a common occurrence. While You can’t remove every stressor from Your life, it’s possible to manage and reduce stress and maintain your health. This is important because chronic stress can cause mental fatigue, irritability, sleeplessness, obesity, skin ailments, heart issues, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.

Yes, that list of symptoms observed across the population tells You that You’re not alone in this battle.

But even when You know the physical and mental effects of stress, You may be unaware of the different stages of stress, known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). When You understand the different stages of stress and how the body responds in these stages, it’s easier to identify signs of chronic stress in Yourself.

I’m writing this in the year 2020. The world is beset with panic, disease, and economic and societal ruin.

Right now, the most searched word in the world after Covid (and its related causes/cures) is STRESS. It’s affecting everyone.

STRESS is an acronym that I use to describe how to deal with the effects of untoward circumstances. Essentially there are three factors that cause STRESS.

These are and have always been:

• Money

• Work

• Home

Yes, these are universal and constant. Even in the best of times.

There are however two divergent ways to deal with STRESS, both revealed in my insights.

STRESS can stand for: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Sabotage.

There is little need to go into depth regarding each of the three stressors above. It is self-evident that money issues can and do cause tremendous pressures. The same for work. And, certainly, for home/family. Often in times of recession and disaster, these factors are intertwined and exacerbate one another. They truly cause a stomach-turning reality.

STRESS can also mean: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Success.

Same exact situation/s dealt with in a different way/s. Your response to the stomach-turning reality makes all the difference. Struggling is the continual and real test of life. And it’s something we all face every single day.

How You deal with the reality of these issues determines how Your physical and mental wellbeing will be affected. Certainly, You can’t be cavalier. Yet You can utilize practices, tips, and tools to enable You to direct Your mind and guide Your body to avoid falling prey to a pity party which can lead to the use/abuse of medications, alcohol, or to other aberrant behavior.

Mind is the master. Once You grasp this fundamental fact and leverage this powerful tool, You can and will achieve success under all circumstances and vicissitudes.

How do You maintain inner strength during stressful periods?

Consider a submarine. As the ship goes down, the pressure (strength) inside needs to increase to counterbalance the pressure outside. Likewise, when we are in stressful situations, we must make sure our internal strength is adequate to offset the external forces pushing against us.

Anger also produces stress. Have You ever known people whose lives seemed to have a thin veneer of civility and calm, yet once the surface was scratched, anger bubbled up like a volcano? Stress and anger go hand-in-glove.

We also know that there are two types of stress: vertical and horizontal. The vertical is healthy because it pulls You up. Think of a flower on a stem. Without turgor pressure, the stem droops. Without the fluids pushing through the cells, the flower dies. We can grow limp as well. A useful example of the sort of pressure that pulls us up is the sense of awe or reverence of God.

Horizontal stresses pull us apart and create damage. Designing our lives to meet others’ demands and standards is horizontal. All the current talk about self-image leads to horizontal stress. I do not mean that we should have no concept of self-worth. But we want to have a clear definition of self-worth that comes from knowing we were brought into this world for a purpose. That knowledge is a settled knowledge and doesn’t change just because of what others think or say.

In our competitive society there is another prevailing stress—the fear of losing. The specter of losing by our choosing stresses us. When we make one decision, we give up other options. These are the “Y” points. Marriage and career are two of the biggest examples. One of the pitfalls of our current day is buyer’s remorse. “If I choose the left fork and it grows dull, I opt out and choose another road.” This is a mistake. The stress of always looking around for the better option steals the joy of commitment.

The true test of life is never in what happens to us.

It is always in how we choose to respond to situations.

As we’ll learn later in the 11 Strategies, the six most important words You can learn and internalize are:

Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.

Repeat this. Often. Think about it. Internalize and utilize.

Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.

Barry Shore, the Ambassador of Joy hosts

“The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy” by Barry Shore is available on Amazon and Apple Books. For more information, check out Barry’s website and follow him @barryeshore on Facebook, or Instagram.

This post was shared to bring awareness to the prevalence of mental health and it’s importance to any person’s overall health. It was also shared to help end the stigma on Mental Health in collaboration with Farrow Communications @FARROWCOMMS.

Want to support Ending the Stigma on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention? Consider purchasing an End The Stigma backpack from The Smart Cookie Philes caused-based merchandise shop Cookies For a Cause here. 100% of the proceeds go to Project Semicolon, a mental health non-profit surrounded on suicide prevention and ending the stigma on talking about one’s own struggle with mental health.

#ForImmediateRelease: Author Chelsea DeVries is set to appear at RVA BookLovers Festival 2021

One Girl Revolution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 2021

Taking Local Bookish Love to the Internet:

3rd Annual RV(irtual)A Booklovers’ Festival

Chelsea DeVries is delighted to announce they will be participating in the Author Expo at the 3rd Annual RVA Booklovers’ Festival this Saturday, May 8, 2021 from 11 am to 5 pm EST! This year’s event, RV(irtual)A Booklovers’ Festival, will be accordingly hosted online on Hopin. Register for your free ticket here!

The Festival’s Author Expo will feature books by authors of many genres from around the country, as well as indie presses and literacy organizations. The Main Stage will boast several excellent panels like Framing History through Fiction, Middle Grade Magic, and Get Lucky: Romance, featuring authors like Amanda Quick and Simon Van Booy. The Kids’ Stage will feature book readings all day long, while the Poet-tree Stage will explore some spoken word, readings, panels, and more, emceed by Virginia’s first ever…

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#PoetryMonth: I Found My Heart Will Show You the Strength and Heart of a Woman

Opening Stacie Ann Green Taylor’s collection, I found salve for my wounds, solace for my soul, and my heart felt baptized in holy water’s dew.

After reading this collection, I am encouraged, inspired, her lyrical words and heart-stopping word choice gave me a new source of power.

I am woman.
I am broken.
I once was bruised.

Yet, thanks to this collection,
my heart has arisen anew.

Enjoyed this review? If you are an author or musician, you can order one of your own for $40.

Are you a fellow reader and enjoyed this review? Consider buying me a cup of coffee.

#NationalPoetryMonth: Grow, Heal, and Thrive With The Evolution of a Girl by Lauren Bowman

The Evolution of A Girl will have you bent, broken, rooting for the flower in all of us to water one another and rise above toxic masculinity, sexual assault, and the difference between love and lust.

These poems empower you and help you see that being born a girl in a man’s world isn’t heartbreaking but a chance for you to grow, heal, and thrive.

Enjoyed this review? Book one for your own book for only $40.

#PoetryMonth: To Walk On Moonbeams by ZombearWrites is a Sweet Taste of Moonlit Poetry

ZombearWrites is a clever soul full of vibrancy and wonder but still her words pinpoint a pain only few know: the pain of a heartbreak.

To Walk on Moonbeams is a petite collection discussing the painful and powerful things that make life worth living.

Enjoyed this review? This review was done in observance of National Poetry Month and to bring awareness to rising talent within the poetry community. The Smart Cookie Philes is an American based small business. To order one for your book, do so here.

#NationalPoetryMonth: Toxicity and Resilience Following Heartbreak Result in a Sunflower With Thorns

Kleio Mousa is a beautiful sunflower with thorns.

Her poetry is simple yet elegant but her thorns will slice you wide open, sever the vein of your heart, until you find yourself and you fall in love with that person again.

Enjoy this review? Book one for your new or older book today. Only $40.

#NationalPoetryMonth: Beekeeper by Blake Auden Book Review

ever have I ever thought to compare the noisiness of love and heartbreak to a colony of bees but Auden does so effortlessly.

His poetry is raw, emotive, and timely, neither sloppy or slimy. It’s free verse instead of rhymed meter.

The Beekeeper will resonate with anyone who has felt the sting of love’s heartbreak, and the memories and processing of letting someone go long after they left.

The Smart Cookie Philes provided this review FREE of charge in honor of National Poetry Month and a low number of content creators who don’t feature poets or poetry books.

Want to book a review of your book? Only $40.