Saturday, November 17, 2012

Defining 'Religious Freedom' for Thanksgiving

In August, U.S. Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said "I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked. One is Dec. 7, that's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that's the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."

What Mike Kelly was referring to was the day that The Affordable Care Act, 'Obamacare' kicked in numerous provisions supporting women's health. On this day, women were entitled to free annual well-woman visits, free screening for gestational diabetes, free screening for HPV, free counseling and screening for sexually transmitted diseases, free counseling and screening for HIV, free contraceptives and counseling, free breastfeeding support and counseling, and free counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence.

How is all this benefit for women's health on par with 9/11 and Peal Harbor? Mike Kelly feels it is because of the contraceptive clause.

I am a liberal, and in my world, freedoms have to do with the right to do what you want, up until the point that it interferes with the rights of another. As a metaphor, I can listen to whatever crazy, dissonant, loud music I wish in my home and car, but need to turn it down if the neighbors can hear it.

Religious freedom, in my view, is that anyone in this country can worship any way they like,  or choose not to worship at all, up until the point that it interferes with the personal freedom of another. 

To people like Mike Kelly, religious freedom means that he is opposed to anyone having the right to practice their religion in any way that doesn't fit his own religious beliefs. He is a Christian who does not believe in contraception, and he therefore feels that all others in the country need to believe the way he does, and that to allow people the freedom to have options in the area of contraception is a violation of his religious freedom.

Mike Kelly is not in a minority in this country. There are numerous people who are convinced that religious freedom means that other people need to follow the same religious guidelines in which they believe: As a metaphor, people in other houses should not be allowed to listen to music they don't like, even if those neighbors keep the music quiet enough that they will never hear it.

The 'religious right' is not a religious movement, and I do not criticize individuals who are Christian. The religious right is a political movement, and, essentially, a political party. It is not concerned with salvation or enlightenment or feeding the poor or healing the sick or any of those Christian virtues. It is concerned with controlling money and influence, and is using religion to subjugate the vulnerable and turn their genuine religious beliefs into political momentum. How else can one explain the fact that the religious right political movement is in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus on almost every level? Denying help to the poor, denying medical care to the sick, passing judgement on others, and so on and so on.  I don't mean any of what I am saying to be condemning of Christianity as a whole. There are many wonderful people who have found true enlightenment through Christ, and have walked their own path, not forcing it upon those around them. But, within that same movement, are individuals who are motivated by power and profit. It is these people to whom I direct my criticism.

The religious right in this country feel that they have a lock on the truth, and that the government should stay out of their lives - except to enforce that people practice religion the same way they do. They promote the contradiction of small government that does not interfere with personal liberties, except that they want to be sure people can get arrested for getting abortions, or even using contraception (All this while a number of white men in this movement feel a need to redefine rape, and to give rights to rapists to visit the children that are the results of their violent acts...); that opposing views to theirs not be taught in schools; to deny basic Civil Rights for gay people or other people who are 'different'; that people who look 'non-Christian' be scrutinized as suspicious terrorists; that there be restrictions on where Mosques can be built as not to offend 'Ground Zero' and on and on and on.

The First Amendment to the Constitution reads, in part: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The states of Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Maryland and South Carolina have enacted bans to atheists holding public office... probably in order to preserve religious freedom.

But why not. This type of thinking goes back to the very genesis of our country:

The Puritans came to this country for the purpose of religious freedom. Having been persecuted for not practicing the official religions of their native countries, they came to American to have the right to practice their religion in the way they chose.

When the Puritans arrived, they found Native American people who lived here, who did not believe in Christ. They dubbed them heathens. In 1637, 700 Pequot men, women and children were massacred as they celebrated their green corn dance ceremony, because it was believed they embodied the devil, since they were not Christians.  In honor of this, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared a "day of Thanksgiving." A very different scene from the myth of the three day feast of peace we learned about in school.

The 'Puritans' then went on to murder a number of innocent people for witchcraft, and created a cultured that embraced slavery, the continuing slaughter of Native people, and the subjugation of not only non-Christians, but of other Christian groups who had subtle differences from their own dogma.

This is the kind of thinking that still remains strong in our country. Though the principles of freedom are the talking points of the religious right, they have not ventured far from their Puritanical roots, and still feel that religious freedom is the act of condemning those who do not believe as they do.

I guess there is some, basic part of human nature that makes us believe we are right and others are wrong, and that makes us believe that it is worth using violence to try to prove that our opinions are correct. All of human history seems to be the story of groups of people dominating each other and exterminating those who believe differently. The fact that people are denied rights because of their religious beliefs rather than actually being exterminated in America is, I guess, improvement. 

Ultimately, I believe, this basic phrase in The Constitution points to a higher level of evolution than we have yet reached.

As a public school teacher, over the last 20 years, my voice has become more restricted. I used to teach, with the blessing of the school district, a vast multi-cultural history of The United States and the world. The age of high-stakes testing and the standards that have followed, which, essentially, force us to teach to the test (all a result of No Child Left Behind) has silenced my voice. The Social Studies I taught were restricted to the history of white America, which would appear on the test. More and more frequent observations from the school district ensured that I was following the standards assigned.

Now, in Texas and California, the text books are being rewritten, to reflect an even more idealized and watered down version of the white man's illusion of American history. This is being exposed in a new film called 'The Revisionaries.' I have provided a trailer below.

As the religious right consolidate power, they are working on rewriting history, as they did with the first Thanksgiving. They are further eliminating religious freedom, as I see it, and practicing religious freedom as they see it through a systematic denial of opposing views.

Religious freedom is this country has become a battle for the control of people's thoughts and ideas. Those of us who embrace diversity and celebrate differences are being pitted against a well-oiled machine that is attempting to make us into a theocracy, despite the words of The Constitution.

Religion in this country is no longer a contest for the hearts of believers, but is a multi-billion dollar industry that profits from people coming to the churches. Some churches have become machines for political propaganda, while they are tax free, costing us somewhere in the neighborhood of $71 billion in lost revenue. Much of religion has become a business. This melding of money and belief leads to a tremendous potential for manipulation, as people promise, in exchange for an investment, the redemption of one's soul, or eternal life.

So, the dilemma, once again, becomes where to draw the line. It is certainly within one's religious freedom to join a politically motivated, for-profit church, if that is what gives that person satisfaction. If we call for monitoring of the churches' political activities, are we infringing on their freedoms?

Respect for truth, and respect of one another is not something that can ever be defined or legislated, and, if it is, then, by nature, it is denying religious freedom to someone.

As I wrestle with this idea of religious freedom, I can't come up with an idea for a solution. There will always be religious groups that are parasitic and prey on those who are struggling. And there are always going to be those who are true in their conviction, and practice religion for righteous reasons. It is against the principles of freedom I have established for myself to tell others how they should believe, or stand in the way of the free practice of one's beliefs, until the point that it interferes with another's rights.

As a metaphor, I can listen to my own music so long as it doesn't bother my neighbors, but as a musician, I also sell my music to people and perform for those who will listen. I am an independent musician, and don't work too hard to convince people to listen to me who seem uninterested.  My music is an art. It is a reflection of who I am. It energizes me, it gives me an expression for my inner ideals. In many ways, when I play music, I am communing with God, or The Great Spirit, or the Universe, or whatever that thing is that is greater than I am.

As a metaphor, there is a world of music that is for profit. There are people who take anxious young artists, and mold them into their view of someone who can reap a profit for their company. They record these musicians and push their music out into the world through a variety of media - background for movies and TV, radio, advertising. Many of these musicians are used up and spat out by a cold industry. Some, like George Clinton, aren't even allowed to play the songs they wrote, because they have been prostituted to such an extreme by record executives and lawyers who are motivated only by greed. Many of these artists feel downtrodden. We hear every year around hundreds who have given into drug and alcohol abuse to try to replace the spirit that has been taken by the profiteers. These profiteers play their music even when the neighbors ask them to turn it down. Sort of like when the FBI blasted loud music into the compound of the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas as a form of torture to try to force them out.

Ultimately, I guess it comes down to greed and the desire to have control over the weak.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Little Ride on the Ron Paul Express

I studied philosophy in college, but I have often tended to investigate it more deeply by immersing myself in ideas rather than studying them from the outside. In that vein, this is the story of my little ride on the Ron Paul express during the spring of 2008.

The first inklings came when some guys at my yoga studio whispered to me in the locker room that I needed to support Ron Paul. "For the banks," they said, in hushed tones. "He's the only one who understands what is going on." I looked him up that night.

In the summer of 2007, I decided to treat myself to a little gift. I subscribed to satellite TV. On the first day of my summer vacation, the technician hooked me up. "You get all the premium channels free for three months, too!" He told me.

And suddenly, my life was filled with the wonders of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and The John Adam mini series, and a myriad of movies, old and new, that I had heard about, but never seen.

Among the shows that came into my life was Penn & Teller's "Bullsh*t." The first episode I watched was an expose about Walmart. They paraded across my screen a line-up of people who talked about how Walmart had given them jobs when they couldn't find work, and how they were able to better provide for their children because they could buy things cheaper. A city counsel woman talked about how Walmart had revived the bad section of her town.

I was in a state of cognitive dissonance. After all, I had been an active boycotter of Walmart. I initially protested the building of a Walmart in beautiful mountain valley in our small town. After that, I had heard all sorts of stories about how they only hired part-time employees to avoid paying for benefits, and how they had locked people in the store until they finished their duties, not paying them overtime, and about how they were being sued for racist practices.

Had I been duped by the liberal media?

Penn & Teller are Libertarians and Atheists. I found a number of articles and youtube talks they did about their belief in individual rights, and their rejection of the supernatural. They were extremely logical in their approach, and seemed to have an easy consistency in their belief system.

All I knew about Libertarians at that time was that they seemed to like the legalization of marijuana, and they didn't like paying taxes.

I watched Penn & Teller pretty religiously, and started to be swayed by their ideas. I was really excited about how they seemed to ascribe to ideas from both the left wing and the right. They were anti-death penalty, anti-the-Boy-Scouts-discriminating-against-gays, the verdict was out on climate change. They sure didn't like anything new-age, which they called sewage, and rhymed with sewage.

I had long since mourned the division between left and right in this country and, even though I had been a Progressive Democrat since the womb, was excited about this new way of thinking.

My next stop was the bookstore, where I picked up Ron Paul's "Revolution." There was a lot there I agreed with: I supported his anti-war stance, liked his idea that we needed to take care of our problems at home first, and look abroad later. When he challenged me to look at my life and see if it really changed when there was a Democrat or Republican in office, I had to agree that my life had stayed pretty much the same... I knew other people whose lives had been affected by Bush administration policies, but mine was not one of them... and, in true Libertarian form, I was beginning to see that it was about me and not other people anyway.

I had studied The Constitution and The Framers, and liked the reverence paid to them by The Libertarian movement. I had never been a Constitutional literalist, but why not try it on for size? I wasn't quite sure how we would pay for roads and what-not without paying taxes, but certainly knew that I never saw somewhere between a quarter and a third of my salary. And what about states rights? As a school employee, I agreed that more local control over schools had seemed to work better than the increasing number of mandates for education coming down from the Federal Government through No Child Left Behind - and why would this not be true in other areas as well? And what about that Federal Reserve? No one knew what was going on with it anyway...and didn't it make sense that our currency be backed up by something of real value, like gold?

And so I bought my ticket, and stepped aboard the Ron Paul Libertarian Express.

The next step was to start to find like-minded people, and it didn't take long for them to start to show up in my life. I started talking to these Ron Paul enthusiasts and better understood their world.

One of them thrust a CD at me. "Listen to this! This tells the real story of The Federal Reserve, and why we can't trust it!"

I listened to the CD, where the speaker wove a lovely yarn of the leaders of Wall Street, in heavy disguise, taking the train to Jeckyll Island. They did not, apart from their secret handshakes and subtle winks, acknowledge each other, until they arrived at their destination, where they secretly reconfigured the American economy, with all sorts of Masonic overtones, putting the fate of the free world in the hands of a secret Federal Reserve Bank that operated independent of the government. It was an intriguing conspiracy theory only loosely based in fact that was the very, crumbling, foundation of the Libertarian movement. (More about this can be found in this article.)

For the sake of storytelling, I am going to condense numerous conversations that took place over several months into a single, paraphrased conversation:

"Taxes are illegal," one of my new friends told me. "The Constitution is specific, that the government does not have the power to collect taxes."

"Doesn't Article I give Congress the power to collect taxes?" I responded (Article I; Section 8; Clause I; The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;) I had prided myself on spending most of my fourth grade year memorizing The Constitution. 

"No, no, no..." my friend replied. "That's one of those liberal myths. It is clear that there is no taxation..."

"What about the Sixteenth Amendment? That gives explicit power to the government to collect income tax."

"That's the thing. We don't believe in Amendments, just the body of the original Constitution... The Amendments aren't legal."

"I thought you guys loved the Tenth Amendment... power to the states."

"Yeah, that's a good one... and so is the Second Amendment... and also the first... but what about The Fourteenth Amendment? Did you know that that Amendment allows children who are born in The United States to foreign parents to be American Citizens? That's why illegals come here to have their babies! That's why we need to get rid of The Fourteenth Amendment!"

"That was so that children of slaves could get citizenship... and what about the Equal Protections Clause? Isn't that important?"

"The what clause...oh, never mind..."

As time went on, I began to learn that 'states rights' was really a dog whistle for getting rid of the Civil Rights Act and Voters Rights Act. The Ron Paul people were opposed to The Civil Right Act in the fact that it created an 'imposition' on private businesses by forcing them to equally serve people of different races and religions. 

"If I want to start a business and not serve Mexicans, let's say, how is it the business of the government to force me to serve them?"

As a staunch Civil Right Activist, since the age of two or three, my Ron Paul enthusiasm was quickly unravelling. 

I had lived in the Communist Soviet Union, and saw very quickly there how something that sounded very good when Karl Marx wrote about it was a disaster once ideologue people got ahold of it, and I was seeing the same thing in The Libertarian movement. 

The final straw for me was the obsession that people seemed to have with Ayn Rand. Ron Paul's son is named after Ayn Rand.

In Atlas Shrugged, the book that most of these folks seemed most obsessed with, Ayn Rand creates a utopian world in which laissez-faire capitalism is king. In this world, every person is out for themselves. Those who end up on top are there because they are the tough ones who deserve what they get. Those who end up on the bottom are weak, and Rand refers to them "savages" (or, in interviews as 'vermin' or worse.) 

Ayn Rand, in her real life, became enamored with a serial killer who she praised for being entirely consistent in his philosophy. She saw him as strong, and representative of The Superman (taken from Nietzsche) in our society - someone we should all strive to emulate!

The Libertarians took this philosophy, as they did with all philosophies, out of context and to an extreme, and used it to justify a life of selfish focus, where people should not care for others, and where people who could not make it on their own, and depended upon the government for anything were weak, dependent, and should be cut off. (despite the fact that some of these same people had medicare and collected social security... as did Ayn Rand, under an assumed name.)

And so I pulled the brake on the Ron Paul express, and jumped back on the Progressive Democratic train in time to enjoy the slugfest between upstart Senator Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Over the next several months, The Libertarian Movement had a strange fusion with fundamentalist Christianity and became The Tea Party. They became known for their often eccentric costumes and patently misspelled, racist and inaccurate  protest signs.

The Tea Party was built on a multitude of conspiracy theories, from the Jeckyll Island story, to the birther movement, to the many who called Obama a Socialist and a Communist, but who, when asked what Socialism or Communism meant were typically unable to define these words.

In 2010, a  number of Tea Party favorites were swept into Congress, into governorships and into state legislatures running on the idea that the deficit was our number one enemy, and on job creation. Once in power, these individuals routinely blocked all legislation that had to do with job creation, and instead introduced the largest number of pieces of anti-abortion legislation to be seen since Rowe v. Wade. They engaged in an embarrassing attempt to close down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood and succeeded in lowering the nation's credit rating through a stand-off over raising the debt ceiling and the creation of a looming fiscal cliff that could result in further limiting our current economic recovery.

In 2012, there was a rejection of The Tea Party in local and national elections, and mainstream Republicans were left astonished by the defeats that seemed to come mainly from a right-wing media bubble they had created that was based, in large part, on these conspiracy theories.

During my brief interlude with the pre-Tea Party enthusiasts, I witnessed their magical thinking, which was based on a lack of actual information; which was based on stories they, themselves, had created to try to explain away the problems they perceived. The obsession with selfish interests came to a head during the 'let him die' moment in the GOP debates.

The racial undertones of the movement became apparent early, and, over the next four years, seemed to come to a head, as The Tea Party took radical stands on immigration. The signs seen at Tea Party Rallies often were racially derogatory, and following Obama's election, a barrage of racist tweets went out through the blog world (An interesting and disturbing study about the racist tweets.)

I am not surprised by the direction this movement took. My experience with The Libertarians was that these were people who felt alienated by the government. They fell into a category of people who were victimized by their own mediocracy: They were white, lower middle-class, uneducated people who fell above the poverty line, so did not qualify for any help, but felt pinched by the cost of living. They were often people who struggled to stay employed, and saw people who were different from them having some more economic success. They were people who saw the world changing, but not championing them, after they had been raised in a world where white people had been the traditional success stories. They were people who wanted to go back to a non-existent simpler time. In order to justify their rage, they created stories and conspiracies about how The Federal Reserve and illegal tax systems and immigrants had destroyed the ideal world that had been created by The Constitution. They loved The Constitution and The Framers, yet had no real understanding of The Constitution (probably limited by their lack of education) except what other had told them about it. The stories they had about The Framers and early America were similarly twisted to support their views.

I believe The Tea Party movement was all put into perspective by the comments of self-proclaimed Tea Party sweetheart Michele Bachmann, who stood up in front of the CPAC conference and stated "If our forefathers thought taxation without representation was bad, then what would they think of representation WITH taxation?" Clearly she, and the others in this movement, misunderstood the significance of when the tea was thrown into Boston Harbor because the colonists had no say in the tax structure that was being imposed upon them by a King and a Parliament an ocean away. "Don't Tread on Me" was the saying then, as colonists requested a say in what they paid, rather than having to foot the bill for wars being raged by their mother country that did not directly benefit them, symbolized by a snake that would bite when stepped upon. After the Revolution, we got what we wanted, and control our own fate. These symbols are now being used by a group of people who misunderstand this history, and seem to believe that our country was founded on the principle of paying no taxes.

I believe, however, that recent history has given us a valuable lesson: The GOP became consumed with these Tea Party practices of the ends justifying the means, and revising history to justify your own predicament and tactics. We have listened, endlessly, to Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck concoct twisted yarns of revisionism to explain how Obama is trying to end America as we know it. We listened to right-wing pundits who revised the math through the elections season's polling to prove that Romney would win the election in a landslide. And now we see the retractions, the embarrassment and the finger-pointing as they recoil in horror that these new and convenient ways of thinking, provided by The Libertarian movement, failed them almost completely.

While the staunchest among the conspiracy theorists shout that the solution is to have more conspiracy theories and be more conservative and more racist and more government gridlock, it seems like a lot of people are looking for a way to get out of the bubble and move back toward reality. We will see what direction it goes.

Furthermore, most of these Libertarians, or Tea Partiers have learned to use the government as a scapegoat. They do not realize that in our form of democracy, the government is anything we make it out to be, as evidenced by this week's election when clear messages were given about the role of women and minorities, marriage equality and the legalization of drugs. A good article about how Americans have been taught to hate their government.

In the meantime, it would appear that Ron Paul's Revolution, that led to the rise of The Tea Party and the collapse of the GOP was nothing more than a vastly expensive experiment in magical thinking that ended in utter failure. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dona Nobis Pacem - Meditation as a Path to World Peace

"If every eight year old was taught meditationwe will eliminate violence from the world within one generation" - Dalai Lama

The above quote caught my attention earlier this year. It is an astonishing assertion - that we could end violence on the planet in a single generation merely by engaging in inward reflection.

It has been an extremely violent year. We have seen continuing war across the world. In Denver, where I live, the past few months have given us one of the most devastating mass shootings in history, the gunman a youth in his early twenties; and the past few weeks we have had to deal with the horrifying abduction and murder of a young girl by, it appears, a 17 year-old boy.

Could these tragedies have been averted by training in inward reflection? 

I work in a school for emotionally disturbed young people. I have always been struck by the fact that the de-facto response of these students to most situations that cause any stress is to suggest a violent solution, if not to act out in a violent manner. It seems as though very little is below the level of people deserving to be injured or killed for causing any sort of inconvenience. Certainly, these students are on the extreme end of the bell curve in their responses, but I see this out in the public at large - as people, frequently, show road rage, cuss at each other, extend their middle fingers, or otherwise seem to wish harm upon others for often very simple and innocent oversights or mistakes of which all of us are guilty.

It sort of seems, sometimes, that many Americans live their lives moving from one little temper-tantrum to the next.

Certainly, if we struggle so much, and become enraged about small conflicts, then the large conflicts create out-of-control situations.

The idea of meditation is a simple one. It is non-religious, although people can make it religious if they want... in fact, people can make it almost anything they want. It is simply a process of turning away from the stresses of the external world, and connecting with the balance that in natural in an inner world.

Most people I know seem extremely focused on the external world. They are caught up in their belongings, their jobs, their schedules and their routines. People are frightened by emotion, and when faced with more intense emotions, look more to the external world for guidance.

The inner world is an important place, and it is important to be in touch with it.

Research has proven that inward reflection and meditation result in reducing stress, increasing happiness, better cognition, the ability to have better control over one's emotions, and so on and so on.

In a school I read about, they had the students engage in 20 minutes of meditation in the morning, and their test scores increased dramatically. 

I have also read about other schools where this has been tried, but where parents objected because they felt that meditation was related to Eastern religion. In fact, meditation has been a vital part of Christianity and Judasim, although it is most often referred to as prayer or contemplation. The contemplatives in the Christian church or Kabbalist traditions are every bit as advanced in their meditation techniques as Eastern meditators. Meditation can be adapted to any belief system, and is also just as effective as a non-religious practice, as one can merely get in touch with their inner thoughts and emotions.

A lot of people have told me they can't meditate because they don't have time. A reality is that meditation actually will cause people to become more relaxed and efficient, and will create more time for people. As an old saying goes, "Everyone should meditate for a half-hour a day - unless you are busy. Then you should meditate for an hour a day!" I have found in my life that during the times I let meditation go, I feel that life is busier, and I feel more exhausted. I also engage, during these times, in more escapist activities, such as television watching.

As far as the difference between escapism and meditation, I think Eckhart Tolle does a nice job of describing different levels of consciousness: There is the state of everyday consciousness, with which we are all familiar. Then there is the state of 'super consciousness' which is the state of meditation. He describes escapist activities, such as TV and video games, as be 'sub-consciousness' (meaning below the level of everyday consciousness - not the subconscious mind) which is where we sink into a state in which we have turned our minds off and are easily subjected to the will of others - or of the television. This can result in fatigue, and interfere with peoples' abilities to make good decisions.

Meditation is not escapism, even though it is a retreat from everyday consciousness.  During or after meditation, I have often found that I suddenly have more creative solutions, and more energy to apply these solutions to everyday world problems that had been plaguing me before. Escapism results in temporarily forgetting problems, but then they return, without ideas for solutions.

So, how does this all relate to peace?

I am a firm believer that external peace will only come from internal peace. As that Dalai Lama implied, if all of our children were schooled in the methods of meditation, and became masters of inner peace, our problems would be resolved simply and without violence. 

I have a hard time picturing people who meditate flipping off people who cut them off in traffic or yelling at a waitress because their glass is dirty. And it seems that it takes working at this level to affect real peace on a larger scale.

I think another offshoot of meditation is that it realigns our values with internal needs rather than external wants. It is easy to argue that war has become profitable in our world, as thus people are willing to easily wage war upon others because people make large amounts of money. Likewise, people steal and kill for material possessions on a smaller scale. 

Meditation takes away some of the emphasis on material goods, and places more value on inner virtues. If people see that respecting each other is more important than profit, the world would change immediately.

So, how does one start to meditate?

There are all sorts of meditation tools out there. Here is an example of a simple, guided meditation available free on youtube. And there are thousands of them!

There are thousands of books, CDs, meditation programs, classes and so forth to help people meditate, and probably most of them will work. There does not have to be a great investment of money or time (meditate for 30 minutes instead of watching one show.)

Rumi said "What nine months does for the embryo, Forty early mornings will do for your growing awareness." Meaning that 40 days of meditation (he preferred the early morning, as does Wayne Dyer...) can alter a person's consciousness. (There is a great winter program based on this, 'The Winter Feast for the Soul' )

The last thing I would like to address here is how collective focus can alter the world:

As Mimi has thousands of us blogging about peace, when many people focus on one thing, there are real, measurable changes that occur. Dr. Dean Radin has done research for many years about collective focus. In his research, he has random number generators all over the world. They just run constantly, generating random numbers. There is a predictable randomness to this most of the time. However, when large numbers of people focus upon one thing, such as 9/11, during the O.J. Simpson trial, during Hurrican Katrina, etc... The number generators suddenly start becoming less random for a period of time. I can assume that the recent Hurricane Sandy event will affect these number generators.

So, if thousands of people start focusing inward every day, and focusing on inner peace, I can imagine this could have a profound influence upon our planet.

I have recently recorded a guided meditation that I am offering as a free download. It is a little more advanced meditation, but anyone can try it. It takes one through a cleansing of the chakras (a kriya) and then raises one's energy through the chakras (a kundalini.) The background tones are singing bowls, didgeridoos and vocal overtones, which have been shown to vibrate the chakras and create healing. It is based on a combination of Yogic and Shamanic meditation traditions and techniques.

Here is the link. Please feel free to enjoy it and share it, and I would certainly appreciate any feedback. This is really sort of a rough draft, and I would like to polish it and have it available in a more professional form, eventually.

Axis Mundi Kriya Guided Meditation