We are all looking to find ways of living better lives, and finding time out to nurture the soul has become more and more of a priority for those of us living in developed countries. Over the last century we have moved beyond the great myth that happiness resides in the acquisition of material possessions, or the accumulation of great wealth alone.
Now most of us understand that in order to feel wholly alive, healthy and peaceful, we must address all aspects of the ‘self’. Despite the rhetoric of banks and big business, we have moved into a new paradigm which involves reconceptualising what we value in life, and what we can do to more peacefully glide through the inevitable ups and downs that infuse our experiences in this world.
When I sit to meditate, it is in a large room in a share-house. There are generally three or four people moving through the hallway sporadically, a small dog that enjoys running laps up and down the acoustically powerful corridor, and a constant flow of inner-suburban traffic noises which add to this soundscape.
Whilst I can’t actually ‘see’ what is going on in the picture of Buddha, it is my strong belief that he was not plagued by the “tap tapping” of puppy claws on floorboards, nor the clanging of dishes three times over as each of his housemates prepares their evening meal. I think it is certainly safe to say that the conditions for ‘enlightenment’ are, in our modern world, unique and challenging.
As many of you would know, the West’s fascination with the East (define east) has continued to grow over the past century in particular. From early understandings of theosophy and different strands of Hinduism, Buddhism and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), there are now a huge variety of Eastern-based spiritual practices and healing techniques which are available to us.
It’s pretty hard to walk past any inner-suburban shopping strip without seeing at least one sign for ‘yoga’ or ‘meditation’. Whilst these practices were once seen to be a little ‘alternative’ (particularly because of their association with the ‘hippy’ movement of the 1960s and 1970s), we now seek them out as a fairly natural and normal part of our overall quest for health and wellness.
So the interesting situation we now face is finding a sense of ‘peace’ in a world which we ‘Westerners’ are looking Eastward for spiritual wisdom and inner freedom and health. There is a steady infusion of Eastern influence that has started to change our culture from the inside out, and it is in light of this that this column will regularly deal with various aspects of this transformation.
As we move towards a new paradigm of human consciousness, it is only natural that the cultural influences that have previously been isolated to certain areas of the world are becoming more and more diffuse. And as this happens, we can look forward to an ongoing evolution of the self and a great awakening of collective spiritual energy that will propel us all into a new realm of awareness.
A key part of this transformation is learning how to integrate the information we now have access to, in a way that is meaningful to us, in our lives as they already are. Many of us take time to ‘retreat’ away from the stresses and busyness of daily life, and this approach certainly has its benefits.
What is needed more however is an understanding of how we can incorporate new understandings of health and wellness – many of these hailing from the ‘East’ – in a way that enhances the lived experiences we are already having. A dialogue through which we can translate ‘ancient’ wisdom in a way that fits into the ‘modern’ lifestyles we all lead.
As we move towards 2012, we can rest comfortably in the knowledge that the ‘spiritual’ wisdom of the East is blending more and more with the material reality of the West, creating a new way of ‘being’ and bringing more and more balance into our world.