“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa
Four years ago, the rage in spiritual circles – and mainstream through Oprah, Larry King and many others – was The Secret, the ubiquitous DVD (followed by the book) that revealed hidden keys to prosperity, the secret behind the Law of Attraction, the fact that we can manifest our desires by making our wishes known to the all-giving universal intelligence of the cosmos.
The perfect message for a population that cannot get enough of what it wants.
This nation, which emblazons “In God We Trust” on its currency, looks upon material wealth as its god. Our collective attitude of the day rises and falls with the stock market. “Greed is Good,” proclaimed Gordon Gekko, the principle antagonist in the 1987 film Wall Street, and its sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. On September 20, key actors and the director of Wall Street 2 visited NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square and presided over the NASDAQ opening bell before attending the film’s New York premiere.
From 1980 to 2004, the share of total income going to the top-earning 1 percent of Americans doubled, and the trend continues. Profits for American corporations continue to rise when they move jobs out of this country, and while they employ union-less workers with fewer demands, they eliminate jobs here at home. New technology continues to eliminate even more jobs to the delight of shareholders.
Charles Munger an 86-year-old billionaire and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, offers this advice to the 44 million Americans classified as poor: “Suck it in and cope.”
It’s no wonder that poor children in this nation look at chauffeured rappers surrounded by entourages, flashing diamond earrings and golden chains, for what they want out of life. Not to mention their other role models, professional athletes. NFL players collectively earn more than $3 billion a year, or an average of $1.7 million per player.
It’s a perfect vision on television for a population that cannot get enough of what it wants. Dream big, children, the twentysomething millionaires seem to be saying. It could be you. The odds of becoming an NFL player is estimated at 9 in 10,000. Might as well buy a lottery ticket.
“Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.” – Albert Einstein
This summer I had the opportunity to meet a man who lives simply. His life’s mission is to inspire us to connect with our innate ability to creatively express the message of our soul. Louis Bourgeois, co-founder of the OASIS Center based in Stillwater, MN, is not as well known as Bernie Madoff or Trevor Cook or James Arthur Ray. Perhaps that is because he espouses the opposite of The Secret.
As he tells us in the Edge interview this month: “The secret is the opposite of what the popular mass-marketed Secret’s about, which seems to be about acquiring more. The real secret, that Eckhart (Tolle) knows and any of the masters know, is the opposite. It’s the ability to become empty.”
Most Americans speak of empty in the same breath as poverty. But in his book Spiritual Life and the Survival of Christianity: Reflections at the End of the Millennium, Louis DuprÃ© writes that “many people never experience any emptiness: they are too busy to feel much absence of any kind.” Only when they are shocked by the “painful personal experiences – the death of a loved one, the collapse of a marriage, the alienation of a child, the failure of a business” do they reassess their sense of meaning.
Bourgeois and other spiritual teachers say we must empty our lives of thoughts about acquiring more and instead focus on reconnecting with our inner Selves, creating experiences with spiritual purpose.
Leonard Jacobson, a noted author on presence, has devoted his life to helping people clear their minds of the vast amount of chaos and cultural noise that flows incessantly, from the moment we wake up each day until we shut our eyes at night. By focusing on the traffic in our minds, it is like opening a window to the sounds of the city, making it virtually impossible to listen to our inner channel that inspires the creativity Bourgeois speaks of.
“You cannot stop thoughts,” Jacobson says in a writing on Silence [at leonardjacobson.com]. “It is impossible. The very effort to stop thoughts is a reinforcement of the thinking process. All you can do is relax, notice that you are in the mind, and then bring yourself present with that which is already present. If you can see it, hear it, feel it, taste it, touch it or smell it, in this moment, then it is of the present moment.
“It is not something you are remembering or imagining with your mind. And so you can be present with it. You are not thinking it into existence. It is actually here now and so you Thoughts will stop, and you will experience a deep feeling of peace as your mind falls silent.”
It is exactly that feeling of peace in the silence, in the emptiness, that America needs now. The solution to poverty, foreclosure and our economic woes. The solution to political polarization. The solution to war. For in that emptiness, we connect with the possibilities that are invisible when we are in our crowded minds. Only when we are in that silence can we hear the message and see the way forward.