Monday, November 23, 2009

The Tree of Life

Last week a friend on Facebook had something about evolution in one of his status posts and one of his friends responded with “if we evolved from monkeys, why do we still have monkeys around today?” I’d never really thought about evolution quite that way but it is a logical question. I of course chimed in with my thoughts on it but the question has really stuck in my head. I hope to be able to give a more detailed and thoughtful response here.

Evolution is a very slow moving process. Based upon the brief life-span that humans possess, evolution is mostly imperceptible. For us to begin to see this process at work, we have to looking back into the fossil records. Our closest historic relative is Cro-Magnon man (30,000 – 17,000 years ago) and before them it was Neanderthal (roughly 600,000 – 30,000 years ago). Scientists have determined that they possessed many of the same physical characteristics as modern Homo sapiens. So technically we evolved directly from them, not apes but apes were in our more distant past. Although we went our separate way, both branches are still successfully growing today. Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal were not quite so lucky.

It helps to understand evolution if you think of our past as a tree. Let’s say that single cell organisms are the seeds that grow into the tree, the tree of life. Billions of years ago the single cell organisms began growing and created the first sprig of growth on the tree. As the tree began growing up, the main branch split into two and each branch continued to grow. Once those branches grew out a bit they split again and grew and split and grew until finally it grew into the shape of a full grown tree.

At each of those points where the branch splits into two branches, that is where the DNA mutated for whatever reason it did. Every split of the branches then becomes something slightly different than the branch it grew out of. As the tree grows taller and wider more and more splits form until there is a whole network of branches. Humans would be one of the tiny branches at the very top of the tree. Monkeys and apes would be on a branch very close to ours. Both branches sprout from our common ancestors. Some of the other branches on the tree would have grown in the direction of the flying animals, sea creatures, flora and various land animals. We all sprouted from our single cell ancestors and grew into the amazing creatures that we are today.

The important thing to remember in this is that it is our DNA that is mutating and that mutation is what causes the shift in characteristics of the creatures. The DNA mutation can be caused by any number of factors. DNA can be thought of as our blueprint. It contains all the information necessary for us to grow from the merging of a microscopic egg and a sperm into the trillion celled organisms that we call humans. Our DNA and the DNA of every living creature on the planet is constantly interacting with the environment and adjusting accordingly.

An interesting and current example of this happening is what is going on at the Space Station. Now that we have people staying up there for several months in an environment without gravity, we are able to see changes in them when they return. One of the most noticeable things that NASA is discovering is that the astronauts bone density is severely decreased. When the long-term astronauts return to our gravity based environment, they are often unable to stand because of the changes their bodies have undergone. This illustrates the amazing capacity of our bodies to adjust to a changing environment. Gradually after returning to Earth for a while their bodies readjust and their bone density returns to normal.

It’s important to note that the bodies of just those astronauts are adjusting and not every person on the planet. I say that because it illuminates the evolutionary process even more. When the environment of just a few members of our species radically changed, within months their bodies shifted and adjusted accordingly. This change is certainly not something that the astronauts consciously choose to do so it shows how the DNA responded to the environment and triggered shifts in their bodies. In theory if they stayed up there forever, we would soon see even more physical shifts in their characteristics as their DNA adapted to the new environment. They would become a new branch off of the human branch on the tree of Life.

That is how it happened on Earth billions of years ago. As creatures began moving out across the planet and into the various climates that existed, their DNA responded to the changes and their bodies slowly evolved. Since they were able to stay in those environments here on Earth they were able to grow and evolve over time until they no longer directly resembled their ancestors. This is what contributed to the amazing diversity of life on this beautiful planet…and the various branches on the Tree of Life.

I recognize that for many people evolution flies in the face of the theory of Creationism. I hope to explore that more in coming posts because I believe it actually doesn’t. As with all things it involves a willingness to explore our myths and beliefs and question our understandings…but that is a topic for another day. Until then I invite you to notice how a tree grows. Rather than fight over resources, all of the branches spread out and grow to work for the good of the tree not just for the needs of a single branch.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Limiting Definitions

So far with these blog entries I’ve been doing what I consider to be “laying the groundwork”. I’ve tried to lay out a rudimentary understanding of the basics of energy awareness and the philosophies underlying my beliefs. There may still be a thing or two here and there that I’ll need to back up and explain a bit further but for the most part I believe that we’re ready to go deeper. Given that, if you haven’t read all of the blog entries preceding this one, I’d highly recommend that you do. They will give you a context for understanding the information more fully from this point forward.

In regards to work, I define myself as an “energy worker”. Yes, I do erotic work but that’s just a surface issue, the real power from the work comes from the energy work involved beneath the eroticism. Recently I received an email via Facebook from an old high school friend. She read in my bio that I was an energy worker and shared with me how she was just learning about energy work but that she didn’t understand really what it meant. At first it had me shaking my head and thinking “where has she been?” but then I remembered that just because something seems common place in my life doesn’t mean it’s common for everyone. My life has been oriented around energy awareness, understanding and work for the past 10 years. In the same way that someone working in politics would be surrounded by others in that field and their lives would ultimately revolve around the inner workings of our political system, my life has been focused on energy and spirituality. The email was a good reality check for me and really got me to thinking about the limitations of definitions and labels.

It’s important to remember that we are physical and energetic (non-physical), human and spirit, mortal and immortal. We are “force” inhabiting “form”. It’s important to keep in mind that we are both rather than simply thinking of ourselves as only these amazing bodies that we move about in. We’re born, we eat, we grow, we play, we work, we love, we grow old and we die. It’s easy to believe that that’s all there is because it’s all that we can see happening. We get attached to the physical and assign all things non-physical to religion or spirituality. We then dismiss it from there because we’re anti-religion or we get locked into the dogmatic belief system of one particular religion. Further we limit our understanding of the bigger picture because we believe that the religious doctrine has spelled it all out for us. End of story.

It would be great if it really were that simple so that we could just pick up a book, read it and believe that all the answers are there. But they aren’t. It isn’t that simple. Life is constantly evolving, changing and growing. It is one big mystery that defies understanding because as soon as we try to define it, we limit it to that definition. Conversely, to begin to understand anything though, we start by defining it and describing it.

Imagine if you had to try and define yourself to someone who had never met you or seen you and you could only do it by written or spoken word. Think about how very complicated that would be. Sure it would be easy enough to describe your physical dimensions and characteristics. You could list your height, weight, hair and eye color, skin tone and on and on. When you finished the list of all your physical attributes however would they really define you? It might describe you but it tells nothing about you as a person. You might then try listing all of your past experiences; the books you’ve read, the places you’ve been, the things you’ve seen. These things give insight into who you are but they don’t define you fully either. You might even try describing what you believe and why. Can you imagine how challenging that would be even though it’s you that you’re describing? Each of us is unique and complicated as individuals yet we have so much in common because we’re all human.

Imagine how much more complicated the description would have to become if you were trying to explain it to someone on another planet on the other side of the galaxy. You couldn’t just say “I have blue eyes” because you’d have to define eyes, their function, structure and define blue as well. The task of self description would increase in complexity beyond the capabilities of most of us especially if we were trying to describe how our brains and bodies work. Imagine just how big the book describing you would be just based upon the information that you know, let alone all the things that you don’t know about how you function. No single piece of the information fully describes you yet each one helps to further define you in some way.

Now imagine if you were trying to describe something infinitely more complex like “Life”. Even though we are part of Life because we are living, the very act of trying to explain something which is beyond our comprehension would be so challenging that most of us would give up before too long. Now imagine trying to get that description of Life to be brief enough yet detailed enough that it could fit into a single easily consumable book. In order to do that you would need to limit your definition on so many levels to try and get it your description to fit in the book. Your definition would limit the description of Life by every word you chose to define it yet you would know that it is so much more than a series of words could ever explain. For every word you chose, there would be an infinite number of words that you didn’t chose that still define it. In the world of quantum physics, this process is known as the “collapse of the wave function”. (I recommend watching “What the bleep do we know” to get a better understanding of that function/process.)

In essence though, this is the process that underlies every one of our world religions. Each one has tried to define Life and the Creator by their own limited human descriptions. In order to help others understand the experiences of the enlightened ones, we have to use words to describe the indescribable. Yet despite the challenges presented by this task, those who founded these religions had to make an attempt at it in order to be able to pass this information along to future generations and to further define their religious belief system.

Once that task was complete, now those down the line who read the information are taught to believe that this is the one and only truth (often as “written by God”) and anyone else who tries to say otherwise is wrong. Yet look at the number of world religions and their sacred texts. Can they all really be wrong and only one of them is right? Or could it be that they are all right and each one is simply another way of attempting to explain the unexplainable through the experiences, words and metaphorical stories of other individuals?

These definitions are what lie beneath much of the major conflicts in the world. The followers of these religions believe that their sacred texts define the whole truth and are the only “right” way to see it. Each of these religions were founded based upon the experiences of a few individuals who had some sort of mystical experience that helped to shape the belief system that defines each religion. As I see it, none of them are the whole truth, yet none of them are wholly wrong either. They are all just another piece of a puzzle which lies just beyond the edge of our comprehension. If we begin to find the similarities between them despite the different methods used to describe and define the experience then we can begin to appreciate each one of them for their contribution to the puzzle. However as long as we choose to fight about the differences we are only deepening the divide which separates us.

I invite you to examine your beliefs, perhaps even try to write them down for yourself and see if you can begin to see which of them move you into greater alignment with the whole of Life and which move you into disharmony. Ask yourself which of these makes you feel better and more loving and try putting your focus there even just for the next hour. At the end of that hour notice how you feel and then ask yourself the following question: “Can I release my limited understanding of the limitless and just focus on love?” That one change can completely transform your life in an instant. Change your thoughts, change your life.

How do you limit your understanding of the Infinite by holding to a single finite definition of it?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guiding Principles - Final Part

It’s no secret that more is accomplished when we work together. If you examine your own life, you can see examples of where this is true. This is true for Nature as well and brings us to the final two lessons that Barbara Marx Hubbard sees as what we can learn from Nature. The first lesson taught us that “Quantum transformations are Nature’s tradition. The nature of Nature is to transform.” The second lesson was that “Crisis precedes transformation and problems are evolutionary drivers.” I see these first two lessons as the describing the destructive tendency of Nature and the final two as part of the constructive tendency.

As I have previously discussed, everything moves in cycles. A cycle has four basic components. There is the constructive phase where things come together. Eventually that hits a peak at the top of the cycle where a shift occurs. From there the destructive phase begins where things begin falling apart. Finally that hits a point where the system collapses at that bottom of the cycle. Each of these occur in their own time based upon the forces acting upon the system being studied. I believe that by examining what is going on around us we can see that we are in the destructive portion of the cycle and nearing the collapse point. That might sound scary but it is simply Nature at work which is neither good nor bad, it just simply is what is happening.

So once we hit the bottom of the cycle that’s where the final two lessons come in. The first of these two is “Nature creates new whole systems out of separate parts.” This is known as synergy. Synergy is what you get when you take parts that are able to function separately and they begin working together and form a whole new system which is different from and greater than the sum of the individual parts. The easiest example for us to look at is our own bodies. Way down at the microscopic level we are simply a collection of atoms. Each of these atoms can exist in nature independent of our bodies. These atoms can come together and form cells. Cells then become the building blocks for creating the fabric of reality.

Once these new systems begin forming we discover the final lesson which is that “Nature creates evolutionary jumps through greater synergy and cooperation.” Going back to our example of the cells we see where they come together and eventually form our bodies through an evolutionary process. The cells specialize and organize to become tissues, organs, blood, bones and all the pieces that harmonize to form the wondrous bodies that we inhabit. The resulting body of over 10 trillion cells is clearly an evolutionary leap from any single cell in our bodies. The end product is far superior to any single cell.

This same principle is also true for the larger systems. Imagine how complicated your life would be if you had to live completely separate from everyone else on the planet. If you had to go each day to find food and prepare it (hunt it, kill it, gather it, etc), build and maintain your own home and defend yourself from others and the elements, life would be very different. All of our time would be consumed with survival and not much else. As a species we have learned to work together and by doing so we achieve greater synergy which has allowed us to become the dominate species on the planet. We achieved this through cooperation at a level unseen by any other species.

Yet that cooperation is now coming to us at a heavy price for in our efforts to grow and expand as a species we are slowly using up our resources and now competition is beginning to replace cooperation as our means of survival. Rather than working together for good of the whole, we have separate parts (or Countries/Nations/States) working only for the good of the parts. Wars are being waged over a struggle for energy products which are used to fuel the lives that we have created through the group synergy. At our current rate it is only a matter of time before we blow each other up so that we can show everyone who is the most powerful nation. That point will certainly be the bottom of the destructive portion of the life-cycle and could become the crisis preceding our transformation.

When viewed from this perspective of examining what is going on in the larger picture within the framework of a cycle, we see that we cannot possibly continue on our present course for very much longer without dire consequences to us all. It also brings a new dimension to information I presented in the July 4th blog entitled “Cycles within cycles within cycles.” If we examine world events, one wonders in our current state of competitive consciousness how it could all end positively. We have so many countries sitting on nuclear bombs ready to be launched that with one false move we could easily bring about the end of life as we know it. This ability to destroy humanity is another one of the powers that we have formerly attributed only to our Gods.

Imagine for a moment however how differently things might go for us if we all woke up and got united behind a purpose. Imagine how much we could achieve if we searched for more ways to cooperate with each other. If each person, or cell, worked together to activate the power and synergy of the human species as one collective consciousness we could see the awakening of a force unlike anything we’ve ever seen on this planet. Imagine the evolutionary jump we could make as a species just by elevating our consciousness from competition to cooperation.

To most of us however that vision seems foreign and unattainable because we focus on our differences and in doing that we allow them to keep us locked into a sense of separation. Our sense of separation is behind all of our problems at every level. With a stronger focus on unity consciousness eventually enough of us will awaken to that concept that we will reach a tipping point and trigger an evolutionary leap for our species. Despite seeming evidence to the contrary, we are all connected. We are all sparks of the same flame and drops of the same ocean. At our core level of being we are all One. The awareness of and focus on that Oneness is the key that will open the door to our evolutionary future.

I invite you to examine your behaviors and see if you can find ways of working with others by celebrating the differences and knowing that we all can learn from each other. Any actions which divide us must cease and be replaced by loving actions which unite us at every level. As part of the whole each of us has an impact on the whole. By working to elevate our individual consciousness toward unity, we have a positive impact on our collective consciousness. I look forward to seeing our authentic power fully manifesting and reshaping our destiny.

Nature is constantly teaching us all that we need to know. The question is are we ready to listen and learn?