When my grandfather came to Canada from the Ukraine in the 1920’s he had no money and no where to stay so he slept in the cemetery at 4th and Broad in Regina. He had been raised an orthodox Christian but with some sort of old-country superstitions (think like Romania). After sleeping several nights in the graveyard and not having been attacked by ghosts or whatever, he decided to jettison the whole religion and became an agnostic.
He raised my father as a good agnostic and my father in turn raised me the same way. For me, this was a boon. I had an unencumbered carte blanche to research the meaning of life. I was raised to think for myself and investigate all and any religion thoroughly to find out what I really believed or not …. or as my father reference … ‘just believed what someone told me I better believe or else.’
I remember going to church once when I was a teenager. I use to walk by the Carmichael United Church on my way to Balfour Tech. I wanted to know what they did in a Church so I begged my mother (who was an agnostic as well for other reasons) to take me. She did so rather reluctantly. It was okay, but I only liked the part of the service when you closed your eyes and bowed your head and prayed. I thought there should have been more of that. I only went once. Years later when I took up meditation I instinctively knew that I had spent other lifetimes either as a monk or nun or a yogi praying and meditating.
The Buddhists and Hindus take reincarnation as a given, as the obvious answer to all the disparity among people in the world. The Upanishads state that according to the doctrine of karma and rebirth the future of the embodied soul is determined by its present action and knowledge and that one can take on any body in the relative universe, from that of a god to that of a plant. Obviously there is a certain implication of eternity here.
Sharing From a Shopkeeper: Midlife & Beyond
Someone recently asked me if I could order any crystals that I don’t carry in the store. What he wanted was a gem called Nummit. Since I had never heard of this crystal nor seen it, I looked it up in a gemstone resource guide to find out what it was.
This crystal is a beautiful opaque black and offers many healing properties for physical and psychological levels including “healing implanted thought forms originating in other worlds” but what I found even more interesting was that my crystal encyclopedia says Nummit is the oldest mineral on this planet at three billion years. (Holy mackerel THREE BILLION!!!) That sort of put things into perspective. Not really about crystals, but about my life and the universe.
I am due to celebrate my 50th birthday. For most of the last twelve months I haven’t been 49. I’ve been “almost 50.” I think I’ve been referring to my age as almost 50 because I have been a little freaked out about it. It is that sort of thing when you are in shock you keep repeating something, almost fifty, almost fifty, almost fifty…
Astrologically at 40 we talk about the “mid-life crisis” because the planet Uranus – planet of sudden shocks, changes, upheavals and awakenings – opposes itself or takes a look at itself head on. What usually happens in people around the age of 40 is that they become cruelly aware that half of their life is over and they better start doing what they came here to do if they haven’t already started to do so. Turning 40 makes people want big meaningful changes. Well, I did make a lot of changes in my life at 40 (like moving to Regina and buying Aware House Books) but I would not say I had a crisis.
Fifty, this year, feels like a crisis. Nothing is really happening. I think that is the crisis. I feel like I am doing absolutely nothing except turning grey, wrinkly, and pudgy. I can’t get out of bed in the morning. I spend more time watching yoga videos than doing any postures. My running shoes are now old lady “walkers.” No one has even mistakenly flirted with me for years. So from one perspective I think I am definitely “over the hill” and on the way down.
The Eternal Now
It is a good thing I believe in the eternal nature of the soul otherwise it could be really depressing getting old. I have had some experiences in my meditations that, for me, are proof of some of my past lives. There are lots of books out today that recount many people’s stories of past lives, life between life, etc. Other, new lives are available.
I was recently reading something interesting about the concept of time. A day is a lifetime for a mosquito. A hundred years is a lifetime for a man. And Eternity is the lifetime of Brahman. (Or God, or all pervasive consciousness or The Self) When you live in God’s universe you live in the eternal NOW.
My dad is an agnostic and therefore he has a certain fear of death. So, he is one of those people who is always looking for ways to live longer, not that there is anything wrong with that but I keep trying, with no luck, to at least get him to realize he is spirit not flesh and so is already going to “live” a lot longer than he thinks. (forever!!)
I share this belief to try and prepare him for the one certainty we all have – leaving our body. (Anyway, he will find out for himself sooner or later.) One of the things he is really good at is growing a garden. This is partially due to experience and partially due to his composting program. He is the original recycler. Pretty much anything can be put into the ground for recycling from leaves, kitchen peelings, egg shells to old shoes. (seriously)
He is a rather eccentric but an interesting fellow. He even likes to eat what he grows as he pulls it out of the garden so he gets the “enzymes.” I respect him for this but to prod him into greater ideas I told him that if he is only a body then he is sort of nothing but recycled banana peels. He couldn’t accept that for some reason, but I still haven’t been able to get him to read “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.” However, this is a must read for anyone who is planning or not planning to die.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Written by a Tibetan lama and Harvard graduate, Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is truly one of the most excellent books of all time. It describes all the planes of reality (bardos) that a soul passes through after leaving the body along with information that helps the soul with a good death and good next life.
The book also contains much information that by understanding how to die well and to accept death itself, life takes on a new meaning and a new joy. There are wonderful stories in it, meditation instructions, etc. It was number one on the non-fiction bestseller list in America. It may become a new classic.
The Universe is a Vast Place
A few years ago I had the good fortune to attend a lecture in Vancouver by the Dalai Lama. At the end of his talk he took questions and answers.
One person said that in view of the fact there are now about 6 billion people on the planet and in the past there were perhaps only a few million that the numbers don’t match up. This lead him to have a lot of trouble reconciling the concepts of reincarnation into his belief system and Buddhist philosophy as a whole.
The Dalai Lama laughed and said from a Buddhist point of view this comparison was meaningless because, “The universe is a vast place.” Which inferred that we go to other realms, planets, galaxies, and come from them as well. I found this to be incredibly exciting.
Scientists have discovered that the universe is so big that if there were even one solar system with one planet like ours in every galaxy that all 6 billion of us could have 9 planets like ours all to ourselves. If 3 billion year old Nummit crystals blow my mind, what about their relationship in terms of space.
My own philosophy teaches we are not our bodies, nor our mind but “The Self,” an ageless, formless, blissful consciousness. So to an eternal being like myself frolicking in the universe, those 3 billion year old Nummit crystals aren’t actually even old! The “I,” as this particular person, aging, dying, and being recycled is a small matter. There are other adventures … who knows how and where … in the vast ocean of space and timelessness.