Looking inward for peace in a chaotic world

Our world is filled with turmoil. Many of us feel overwhelmed with unending wars, income inequality, degradation of our home, planet Earth, and religion’s seeming failure to speak a meaningful language and to coalesce for the Common Good. Another troubling feature of modernity is sensory overload combined with ultra-busyness. We do not seem to have time to think, to connect with our inner, true selves and with one another. When we have a free, open moment, we quickly fill it with entertainment. We are the most entertained people imaginable! What are we to do?

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Perennial Philosophy

Keith Kristich at www.closerthanbreath.com endorses the Perennial Philosophy. This school of thought originated with Aldous Huxley in 1945 and affirms the presence of the good, the true, the beautiful in all religious traditions based on the belief that all religions emanate from the same source. Connecting with or experiencing the good, the true, the beautiful is challenging in our world filled with lies, ugliness, and hatred.

Our culture trains us to live in externalities. Exploring the depths of our Being eludes us. We readily get caught up in dogma, ideology, and baseless certainties. Bede Griffith taught us, “If one starts with doctrine (secular, political, or religious), the arguments are endless — But when one comes to the level of interior experience, that is where the meeting takes place. It is in this cave of the heart that the meeting must take place. That is the challenge.”

The Examen

There are many beginning and middle points that will eventually take you to your chosen end point. Let’s explore one of those avenues.

The Examen was created by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1551) who was a mystic and a co-founder of the Jesuit religious order. He believed that this prayer practice should be the most important quarter-of-an hour of a person’s day. Let’s explore this prayer practice in view of our world today and the Perennial Philosophy.

Different spiritual writers have interpreted the five steps of the Examen in various ways. An example is “Reimagining the Ignatian Examen” by Mark Thibodeaux, S.J.

Step One is supremely important. It entails experiencing the Presence of God within. Mystics define God, or whatever term you prefer, as Ultimate Mystery or Divine Nothingness. It requires the quieting of the mind and complete relaxation of the body. This meditative practice moves us out of a Beta brain wave reality into Alpha, Theta, and Gamma brain waves containing the fullness and richness of ourselves plus the Absolute and Ultimate. This may occur wherever and whenever we choose. Some type of meditative practice is required.

Step Two is asking yourself what you feel thankful for right now. The challenging part is accepting what comes into your mind. Avoid second guessing yourself. Trust yourself. Trust what comes into your mind. Learning to trust our interior richness leads to valuing ourselves. Everything, each thing, is pure gift.

Step Three consists of reviewing your past 24 hours. What could I have done better? Any regrets? Maybe I meant to do or say more but did not. If nothing jumps out at you, rest easy. Be gentle with yourself. Practice self-compassion. Life is a journey.

Step Four is resolving and aspiring for greater wholeness, love, flexibility, or openness. To forgive yourself for any failures or misdeeds. Remember this is a daily program for increased growth, integrity, and resilience. I trust you have noticed that it is also a process of growing in self-awareness and self-responsibility. It is a proven program, having been practiced daily by thousands for almost 500 years.

Step Five is planning. It consists of reviewing or anticipating all the events in your coming day with resolve to do them as well as possible. Perhaps partnering with your Higher Power to be the best you are capable of being. Watching your self-talk. Avoiding trying. Being powerful. Committing yourself without reservation.

End the five steps with whatever practice fits just right for you. Reclaiming or revisiting the first two steps is an example of a peaceful ending.

RECAP

This article originated from being disturbed by the rampant dysfunction in our country and the world. The solutions are self-evident but there is little will. When Aldous Huxley’s book, “The Perennial Philosophy” was published in 1945, the New York Times stated, “Perhaps he has, at this time, written the most needed book in the world.” They also stated that even an agnostic or a behaviorist-materialist can read this book with joy. This time is another time of great need.

Of course, a half glass of water is both half empty and half full. There are countless initiatives that warrant a climate of optimism about the future. An encouraging example is the current six-part PBS series that showcases innovators around the world who are striving to create a healthier world. See “A Brief History of the Future,” coproduced by Ari Wallach and Kathryn Murdock, Rupert’s liberal daughter-in-law.

The Perennial Philosophy affirms that each religious tradition in its healthiest and most mature expression, is a genuine expression of, and invitation into, what is Absolute and most Ultimate, namely, God. A Buddhist monk, a Christian mystic, or a Sufi Muslim — all dive into the Ultimate Mystery and return with a similar language and experience.

“Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” The Examen is one of many avenues to reconnect with the true, the beautiful and the goodness intrinsically present within each of us.

Dr. Jim David is a retired psychotherapist in Silver Spring, MD, who adheres to positivity in all areas of life. Currently he does Personal, Spiritual and Executive Coaching. Visit his website at www.askdrdavidnow.com or email at [email protected].

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Dr. Jim David is a retired psychotherapist in Silver Spring. Currently busy with personal, spiritual and executive coaching.