Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Out of the Box - Book of Knowledge

Out of the Box


Out of the Box was written with one goal in mind – to seek the truth. Not the truth according to someone else, not the truth according to what I have been told and taught my entire life, but to seek the truth through the acceptance of knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

Many people have found their answer, many people are still looking, and many haven’t even begun their journey. I am on a quest for knowledge. I have always had a burning desire to learn as much as I could, but those goals derived from my want of material possessions. Simply put knowledge that would benefit me and my lifestyle.

I am now searching for something greater. Something that few can explain and even fewer have the ability to explain adequately. I could spend hours talking about my faith and how it has shaped my life, but most of it is irrelevant to where I am now.

I know what I believe; I want to know what others believe. When I was teaching and a student questioned someone else’s opinion I would always ask, “How do you know if you are right if you don’t know what others believe?” I don’t think you can. If you base everything on one idea, one philosophy, one belief, and are closed-minded to a new way, how do you grow? How do you improve?

The true purpose of Out of the Box is to bring to light various teachings from a wide spectrum of religions and faith, both past and present. By examining the beliefs of the great prophets, philosophers, and sages I hope to gain better understanding, while at the same time enlightening you, the reader.

It is vital that there is no judgment of yourself, your current beliefs, or the belief of others. It is best to keep an open mind. Growing up Catholic I always assumed I was right and anyone that questioned me must be wrong. That was until I had suffered an injury playing soccer that led me to seek medical attention after months of suffering.

I went to a local chiropractor and received treatments three days a week. I did my stretches as instructed, but I still never felt like my old self. There was progress, but it wasn’t enough. I felt like there must be some other way. As someone that had just started doing yoga within the past 7 months I thought maybe I could find answers and healing there.

The concept of using a holistic approach to healing was completely out of the norm. I didn’t tend to take medication for my injuries or pains, but I also didn’t think acupuncture was the answer. I began discussing my dilemma with a few of the yoga teachers I had come to know and trust.

I knew eating healthier could help heal me, I knew the yoga poses could help, but even with those there was still something more I needed. I had been exposed to a few new concepts such as meditation, Ayurveda, and other potential approaches to self-healing.

I was recommended a book that completely changed my thinking and my life in general. For some reason it has led me on this journey to learn more. Unlike before, I’m not seeking knowledge for personal gain, but for spiritual gain. It is strange how one thing can lead to something you never expected. I didn’t realize going to yoga would go down the road I am currently on. I thought I was just going to do some stretching, improve my strength, and meet some cute girls. All of those things happened, but they pale in comparison to the door that has opened.

One evening after a vigorous yoga class I was laying in savasana, corpse pose, and had a strange feeling. I had never felt it before. It was as if I was completely relaxed to the point that I was asleep, but I wasn’t asleep. My mind was blank for the first time ever. I could feel, and I knew I was awake, but everything else was surreal. I was in this state of bliss for at least a few minutes, at least that’s what I imagine it was looking back on the experience.

When I came to and regained awareness I felt like I had to literally tell my brain to move my arm, lift my leg, and get up. It was a surreal feeling. Since that time I have felt as though something clicked in my mind. Following that dramatic experience my mind and my heart have opened up. During this time I was doing a yoga class that focused exclusively on opening certain chakra’s, or energy centers in the body.

This process further fanned the fire that was burning inside of me. I felt tension and stress being released from my body, new ideas and concepts I had never thought about before coming into existence. I was becoming a new person inside and out. I was becoming healthier, more aware, more focused.

I still wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought it may have been a side effect of my injury and I wasn’t fully recovered. There would be times where I would be in a state of euphoria for a few minutes and I just wanted to scream for joy. I couldn’t stop smiling. Then I would feel like I was hit with a ton of bricks. My energy and strength plummeted for no reason.

I wanted to constantly be in the state that made me feel positive, happy, and energetic. I began reading more books, most of which dealt with a concept completely foreign to me. The idea that we aren’t our experiences, we aren’t our body, we aren’t what we think about ourselves or others, but instead we are our soul, our inner self. The I AM.

I read three books before I really began to understand what was being presented to me. I felt like I needed to join a book club just to have someone tell me what was going on. I asked everyone I knew that was familiar with this concept what they thought of it, how it changed them, and frankly, what it meant.

All the while I was still feeling in pain and not like my former self. I needed to find a new way to heal. I found my answer through yoga. Not the stretching and poses, although that did help. But instead through the ancient practice that all yoga poses are based on, meditation. I had been doing meditation during one of the classes I attended and felt really good during the process. I was able to reach a feeling of peace, serenity, calmness.

I wanted to have that feeling all the time so I asked for more guidance. I began meditating with the assistance of an audio track that was given to me. After just a few weeks I felt great. I wasn’t 100% yet, but meditating was healing me much faster than any medicine, food, or doctor was doing. I’m convinced meditation was the answer.

During my meditations I began to have new thoughts, deeper thoughts, things I had never even contemplated before. I began to not think at all at times. My breathing became so deep that I felt like I didn’t even need to breathe. I was counting my breaths sometimes once every 30 seconds, and then once every 40 seconds. Eventually I just thought maybe I should breathe just to remind myself I’m alive, but all the while not even feeling it necessary.

This was cool. I liked what was happening. I could see the effects, I could feel the effects, I knew meditation was the answer. But it wasn't the end. All meditating did was lead me down another path - a path that I am currently on. I’m no longer seeking healing, but instead answers - answers to questions that have arisen through meditation, books, experiences, and everything in between.

None of this would have been possible without taking a chance on going to yoga and being exposed to these new ideas. A year ago if you told me the things I am learning about now I would have said you were a stupid hippie. I don’t think of myself as a hippie, but instead as an open-minded, enlightened individual seeking truth.

I recently read a quote that summed up my feelings exactly and the feeling I have when I meet others that disagree with me. I was reading one of the many books I have purchased and in it the author discussed an important figure in his life, Mother Meera, a woman worshiped as a divine mother in India, in his words. In the book she told him simply “The divine is the sea. All religions are rivers leading to the sea. Some rivers wind a great deal. Why not go directly to the sea.”

This is a concept I had believed before and actually came to realize during my enlightened phase through meditation. Sadly I didn't know how to express it so eloquently. It’s not so much how we get there, but that we get there. Some people need to chant, pray, read, perform rituals, and any number of other religious activities to tap into the divine. While others may simply just need to meditate, accept, or change their behavior. Again, it’s not so much how we get there, but that we get there that matters. We all have different needs and beliefs, and that’s fine.

I hope that the words of this book and my experiences will guide you on your own quest and answer your questions. I can’t tell you what to believe. We all have to determine that on our own. But what I can do is provide you with information that shows the similarities and in some cases differences between the major philosophies of our time and the past.

I believe it is extremely gratifying to know that even with all of our differences, we are still very similar.

Chapter 1 - Our Own Little Box

We all live in our own little word, our own little box. We like living in a box – it makes us feel safe, comfortable, and we have control. We choose the home we live in. We choose the furniture we fill it with. We decorate how we want. We organize our little box exactly how we imagine it should look. We choose our car. We choose our job. We may not like the job, but it was our choice.

We choose our friends. We choose our family. We choose our attitude. The box can be our things, but it can also be ourselves – our thoughts. We get to decide what comes in our box and what we remove from our box. We don’t like when people mess with our box, whether that is our emotions or our possessions.
We control every aspect of our box until it is perfect. It may not always be perfect, but that’s what we strive to accomplish. When we feel we have achieved what we set out to do, we add more things to our box.

The box is good. It’s safety. It’s comfort. It’s home. It can also be bad though. By controlling what comes in, we filter certain things that we think might cause us harm. This can be people, items, or even ideas. It’s natural to be uncertain about new concepts, but is that always a good thing?

We don’t live in a hole. A hole is bad. If you live in a hole you are completely shut off from the rest of the world. You have no clue what is taking place in the rest of the world. You have control over what you see and do, you have total control. You have so much control that you are isolated. Sometimes our boxes become like a hole.

We see something, we hear something, we experience something and we judge it. We say it’s good or bad. We make assumptions based on our beliefs and morals. The assumptions may be correct, but without all the facts they may be incorrect.

So, is our box the best place to be? Are we missing out on something by choosing to live with people that think, look, and act like us? Is it possible that we aren’t being exposed to differing points of view? The reason this is important is because you can’t grow as a person if you never have something to strive for or something to answer.

We need conflict, questions; a goal. It improves us emotionally, physically, and yes, even spiritually. If we have always gone to the same church, talked to the same people, and hear the same things, are we really growing? Yes, this helps strengthen our faith, but compared to what?

If we don’t know what else is out there then how can we truly know our faith is correct? Out of the Box addresses this issue. This isn’t intended to convert you to a particular philosophy, theology, or way of life. It is merely to educate. What you do with the education is up to you. It may indeed make you confirm your beliefs, it may make you question them, or it may make you completely change them.

The beauty of it all is that you will finally have all the answers and then be able to make an educated decision. The worst thing in life is making choices without all the facts, and what bigger choice in life is there than your beliefs? For many people it determines your salvation, your lifestyle, and even your friends and family. I can’t think of something more important that you would hope to get right than your faith – whether that is in God, the universe, source energy, or something else.

Throughout the pages of this book you will be exposed to teachings and beliefs that differ from your own, but you will also see teachings and beliefs you are familiar with. Some of them may be from your current belief systems, but some may come from another source. Even though we are all different, we are also all the same.

People want to know the truth. Some seek and find, others seek and never find, but some will never take the first step and seek at all. By examining various faiths and philosophies the answers should present themselves to you. You may have to dig deep within yourself to understand, but it may become apparent immediately. You may get angry, you may be filled with joy, in the end just know that you are on the right track.
We are all in this journey together and will eventually come to realize the answers to all of our questions, whether in this life or the next. Don’t lose hope and don’t lose faith.

Chapter 2 – Beginner’s Mind

During my yoga practice a few months ago I heard the teacher say that “we should have a beginner’s mind when doing a pose, to not judge our experience, or compare ourselves to others” because our bodies are all different. I didn’t really think much of it at the time. To me everything is a competition. If I see someone doing a pose better than me then I push myself to get better, even if it means potential injury or pain. I don’t recommend this approach to yoga and I’m positive nobody else does either. In fact, I’ve heard multiple times to the contrary.

I haven’t heard the term “beginner’s mind” since that time. It wasn’t something I thought about. I guess it didn’t resonate with me at the time or just wasn’t something I cared to contemplate. However, as my yoga and meditation practices have progressed I have become more aware of odd little sayings and their true meaning.

As I was reading a book about the Law of Attraction the author mentioned having a beginner’s mind. She too practices yoga. It must be a yoga concept. So it got me thinking - what is a beginner’s mind? More importantly, why have one? Beginners are usually uneducated, unskilled, or skeptical. But there is also the other side to the equation.

Being a beginner can be a good thing. It means you are unbiased, open-minded, and willing to learn. 

Why is a beginner’s mind important in regards to faith? Because for most of us that’s exactly what we have – a beginner’s mind. We are uniformed about other’s beliefs. Somehow we have determined that we are correct and they are wrong even though we don’t have a clue what they believe. If we approach each lesson with a beginner’s mind, an open mind, we may learn something new. It might be something we had never considered before. It might be something we agree with. It might even change our thoughts about ourselves and others.

Learning about the customs and beliefs of others can put a new perspective of how we view people that are different than ourselves. It opens a whole new world. Being open minded doesn’t mean we have to agree with their teachings, just accept them.

Often times people use the phrase “I respect your opinion” or “I accept your beliefs,” but do we really? If you truly accepted them you’d start believing them. Most likely that isn’t the case, and that’s fine. You don’t have to agree with everyone and that’s not the purpose of a beginner’s mind. It’s just about being open to the concepts and having a better understanding of them so that when it comes time to make a determination you have all the facts.

Another great quality of a beginner’s mind is non-judgment. You can’t change something you don’t understand. You also can’t judge something just because it’s different. Even with all of our differences – our appearance, our customs, our language, our lifestyles – we still aren’t that different from one another.  

As you read through these pages keep an open mind without judgment. Understand that something you don’t agree with isn’t necessarily wrong. It may just be wrong for you. We are all on a quest for truth sometimes we just have to take a different route to get there.

If faith means praying in silence in the solitude of your home and that makes you feel closer to that higher power, whether you refer to it as Source, God, Spirit, or some other name, than that’s ok. If it means going to a synagogue each week that’s perfectly fine too. If you think praying to Mecca multiple times a day, or praying the rosary, or following a certain way of life will bring you closer to God than that is great also.

We each get to determine what brings us joy in our lives and solace in our heart. How we get there isn’t important, it’s the fact that we arrive. Again, as you read understand that many of the concepts may be familiar to you while others may be completely new. You may even find that although said differently, worshipped differently, preached differently, in the end all faiths rely on the same basic concepts and teachings. 

I often times tell people that “to learn you must listen, to listen you must be silent.” The same is true for this book. If you are seeking truth, answers to your questions, then you must truly listen. You must be silent. Don’t judge, accept, understand. You may learn something.

There may be times while progressing on this search for truth, for knowledge, that you become uncomfortable with a particular subject. Something may contradict your beliefs. It may make you rethink something. You may have questions. Most likely all of these things will happen at some point. You can’t change it so don’t get hung up on it, frustrated, or upset. It is what it is. When you are ready to accept the truth the answers will come to you.

Rather than rush to judgment just remember the famous words of John Lennon – “There will be an answer. Let it be.” At this point you will know that your quest for truth is over. You will have inner peace and be ready and willing to share it with the world. 

Chapter 2 - Christianity
Chapter 3 - Judaism
Chapter 4 - Islam
Chapter 5 - Taoism
Chapter 6 - Buddhism
Chapter 7 - Hinduism
Chapter 8 - Shintoism
Chapter 9 - Confucism
Chapter 10 - Greek, Roman, Egyptian Mythology
Chapter 11 - Incan, Mayan, Native American Mythology

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