like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.”
― Albert Einstein
"Attention is energy. What you pay attention to you get more of."
-- Stephen Gaskin
I remember stumbling across a broken camera in the alley when I was about 9 years old. I took it home and immediately took it apart. I then wondered why the heck the world was upside down when I looked through the lens. Why? I then extracted the other lenses from the viewfinder, and after fooling around for a while, I figured out that if I lined two lenses up, I could make it right side up -- and bigger! I had discovered the telescope. I then plotted the movement of the brightest star, which I learned from my teacher was really a planet across the sky outside my bedroom window for a couple of weeks.
Later that same year, I discovered that a battery-powered car I'd received as a Christmas gift made static on the radio's speakers whenever its path took it close to the radio. What?
This early interest in invisible waves of energy continued. In junior high school I became a ham radio operator -- and I learned to play the guitar. Sound waves, radio waves, light waves. They all fascinated me. The idea that invisible waves operated at different frequencies, at different rates of vibration was fascinating to me.
By the time the Hippies were happening in Haight Ashbury a handful of years later, even at a distance, I was quite inclined to believe in "the vibes." I didn't find it odd at all to believe that there was a dimension of experience that involved invisible energies. Experimenting with marijuana, I accessed new realms of experience. I found that I could feel good vibes and bad vibes in situations. Other folks said they could do. You could see some dogs bark at certain people and not at others.
In the course of the next few years, with the support of a number of friends/kindred spirits (we actually formed a short-lived "commune" in the early 70's), I saw clearly that one didn't even have to do drugs to be in touch with that subtle dimension of consciousness. If I paid attention, at times "the vibes" were (and are) as perceptible as the wind on my skin. Then, I came to see that, just like in music and radio, there were certain principles at work. Some attitudes and behaviors created peace and harmony -- on every level. Others didn't.
The Perennial Philosophy traces its roots from the Neo-Platonism of the middle ages in Europe through the Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau, etc.) of 19th century America into what many have called the New Age Spirituality of our times. Its basic premise is that all the world's religions share a single, fundamental Truth, a Truth directly perceived through the "mystical" experience of its founders and subsequent prophets, seers, sages and saints.
I think a whole lot of us who came of age in the psychedelic 60's and 70's tapped into that experience -- with or without drugs. Put simply, that experience involved the deep recognition that we are, each of us, inseparable parts of an Essential Oneness. We are not only "all in this together", we are all this -- together. Literally.
So, this being the case, its not surprising that each of the world's major religions place a fundamental importance on kindness, love, and compassion. Jesus, for one, claimed it all boils down to loving God (the All) and loving one another. Buddha said that the only eternal law is that hate doesn't cease by hatred, it only ceases through love. The other major religions seem to agree. They all go on to propose some form of the Golden Rule and lay out pretty similar ethical frameworks for our behavior: don't kill, don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, etc.
It only makes sense, right? That part of us which experiences ourselves as individuated focal points of awareness, separate from the other beings "out there," should make the effort to be kind and caring. After all, at the deepest level you and I are the One Being, totally interconnected, the warp and weft of the same tapestry.
E = mc2Albert Einstein, a man who never lost a childlike sense of wonder as he danced along the edge of science and mystery came up with his famous equation, E=mc² in 1905. With this he theorized that matter and energy are not fundamentally separate. This was mind blowing. (Unfortunately, it also directly led scientists to create more powerful ways of blowing things up as well.)
Energy can be focused. Did you ever focus sunlight through a lens?
Energy radiates. Throw a rock in a still pond and watch the ripples expand outward.
Energy resonates. Sing a G note into a guitar and listen to it sing back. The "screech"
of amplified feedback operates on that principle, too.
E = mc² = Attention
Although science is still grappling with how to define consciousness, the hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin, among others, pointed out that awareness is also part of that mind blowing equation. Attention = Energy x Light² = Matter. That being so, where and how we focus our attention becomes profoundly important. We energize what we focus on. What we pay attention to matters.
A quality of awareness that is truly attentive, kind, and caring has a tangible effect not only on our own experience -- it radiates. Love matters. It touches others. The opposite is true, too. Our grasping greed, fear and enmity, and obliviousness to realm where we are all connected touches others.
Going further, the Spiritual Energy of Love not only palpably touches ourselves and others, it also resonates deeply with something deep within and beyond us, a field of energy that seems limitless, infinitely expansive. (God? Allah? The Tao? Shunyata? You name it. A rose by any other name...) As we grow in our ability to "vibrate at that frequency," it has a profound impact on our life and the lives of those around us--and even beyond that. If you're paying attention at all, you can see that play out directly.
The impediments to being kind are, of course, many, varied and deep in our conditioning. Staying in the moment, opening the Heart and clearing the Mind isn't easy. It is an exacting discipline. It takes commitment and effort. It takes patience. It's something I have to work at every day.
First published January 2014. Revised.