We sometimes go through life, at full speed with our head down not really taking in what is happening around us or where we are going. Sometimes we may put the blinkers on because we really don’t want to acknowledge or see what is happening.
I often refer to life and knowledge like reading a book, we can speed through from cover to cover thinking how good or bad it was when we reach the end, but how much of the story or information we may or may not have gained have we really understood? It is one thing and a very good thing to gain knowledge and information as we go though life, but we must also gain an understanding of it too.
In spiritual terms that is why we are here “eternal progress open to every human soul” to learn and progress, but it is the understanding of the knowledge gained or lesson learned that enables the progression. It’s a little bit like correcting a naughty child, saying don’t do that or that was naughty but not explaining why. The child may see that it’s done wrong because you are correcting its mistake, but do they understand why or what they have done wrong if you haven’t explained? A lesson learned maybe, because they now know they shouldn’t do it, but is it a lesson that has been understood? Do they really know what they have done wrong?
We gain knowledge through books, school, television, the internet, friends and many other forms of media. Some of the information is useful, some of it good, some bad, some misleading, but it is the understanding of it that is important, acknowledging within ourselves, is the information right?, using our own intuition, does it feel right? then putting that knowledge into action in our own life, because this is what helps our own spiritual growth and develops our own personal philosophy on life and therefore determines the way in which we choose to live our life.
We can decide to race through from cover to cover with our heads down and race to the end, not really understanding where we are, what we are doing or where we are heading or we can take time to learn, understand the lessons, put those lessons into practice within our own life, develop as individuals, and spiritually progress.
Tarot card for this week ~ The 6 of Pentacles (6th – 12th July 2020)
Your Tarot card for this week is the 6 of Pentacles. This card is all about giving and receiving and finding balance.
The other term used in some Tarot decks is the 6 of coins. Very often pentacles/coins are seen as representing money, and while it can mean or signify money, as a reader I read the cards from a spiritual/intuitive point of view and for me the 6 of pentacles is about a flow of energy, giving and receiving and finding a balance between the two.
At first glance what you see in the card is someone giving coins to another but If you look more closely at the card you will see the outline of the continuing flow of energy between the two hands. What is given should be returned in some way to complete the exchange. This doesn’t necessarily mean if you give out money for example that you will receive money in return.
The exchange could be money out from one person = gratitude from the other and so the exchange is complete. If the card had been dealt reversed it would have meant a negative reaction one person giving = nothing in return.
Sadly in today’s world there are people who take the 6 of pentacles reversed to the extreme or ignore it’s meaning altogether. Individuals or big business whose sole aim is to take as much as they can for themselves and give little or nothing in return.
It is said that there is enough food and money in this world for everyone, that there should no need for people to starve or be homeless. We have stockpiles of food, class discrimination,”third world countries” to give just a few examples. This is the reverse effect of the 6 of pentacles. Maybe some of the leaders of this world should turn their card the right way up!
On a more positive note the 6 of pentacles (upright as drawn this week) can signify a giving and receiving of time, love, help, support, knowledge and skills. the list goes on and can be anything you can give to help or support another.
But and it’s a BIG BUT what would you expect the completion of the flow of energy to be?
Giving in itself to help or support another can be enough reward for some, the knowledge and satisfaction, the heart centred feeling that they have been able to help in someway for them is enough to complete the 8 of pentacles positive energy exchange.
We have seen some of the positive effects of the 8 of pentacles during the the current pandemic. The support for the NHS, people giving their time freely to visit people’s homes, delivering food or just clapping their hands at 8pm on a Thursday evening and in may other ways. This is the 8 of pentacles positive energy working in a positive way. People giving and enjoying the feeling it has given them and so completing the energy exchange.
The World needs more of the positive energy of the 8 of pentacles.
Your task for the week ahead…
Take time out for yourself, put life on pause for a few moments, how are you living your life? 8 of pentacles upright or in reverse?
Where in your life can you see the positive exchange of the 8 of pentacles?
Is there someone or a situation you know who lives or follows it’s path reversed?
What can you do, what can you change in your life or in yourself to create more 8 of pentacles positive energy flow?
More than a thousand years ago, the ruler Spain,Abd Er-Rahman III, wrote these words
“I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.”
Here’s a challenging question for you:
Are you happy?
Perhaps you’ve been asked this question before. The person who asked may have meant something specific: ‘are you happy in your new job?’, ‘are you happy with your new home?’, or ‘are you happy about your new car?’ You probably answered politely ‘oh, yes, I’m very happy!’ Well, there have been times when I forgot about answering politely for a moment and really thought about the question – the big question! I imagine that a kind of blank far away look came over my face as I began to ponder the many layers of ‘are you happy?’ What is happiness?
Is it the same as joy or pleasure or satisfaction or contentment?
Am I feeling it right now?
Do I have to feel happy to be happy?
Is it important to be happy?
Should happiness be the aim of my life?
And since – like Abd Er-Rahman III – I don’t feel joyful at every moment of every day, the question also sets me wondering about what I might be missing. Could I be happier? Should I be happier? How? What is keeping me from being happier?
One thing we should probably clear up at the very start is what we mean happiness. Talking with a few people, I discussed my plan to start a programme which to be called ‘happiness class.’ The reaction was not positive. Everyone liked the idea of the programme – teaching and using spiritual practice to cultivate compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, and self-acceptance – but they didn’t like the name at all. To their ears, ‘Happiness Class’ immediately made them think ‘happy clappy.’
Do you know the expression? It refers to a certain style of exuberant Christian worship that involves a lot of lively singing and clapping and a kind of theology that I will – perhaps unfairly – characterise with the simple phrase: ‘love Jesus and everything will be OK.’
The negative sense of ‘happy clappy’, I think, comes from the belief that this is a shallow and simplistic kind of religious thought. I don’t disagree. There is also the sense that happiness can be seen as a superficial thing that is put on like a garment, but that has relatively little to do with our deeper reality.
This is not what I mean by happiness – at least not the kind that is worthwhile goal.
So, if happiness is something other than the fleeting superficial feeling of pleasure we sometimes think of, what is it?
George Santayana said this: “A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.”
This is a notion of happiness that refers not to moments of pleasure but to a quality of a whole life. Happiness is that which makes life good – especially in the knowledge that life is marked not just by joy but by suffering and pain as well. This is also what Aristotle meant by happiness when he called happiness “…the whole aim and end of human existence.” Not the momentary thrill of a purchase or a sensation, but the deep sense of living a good life.
When we understand happiness in this deeper way, it begins to look more like a worthwhile goal for our lives than do the shallower more hedonistic versions. Acting to maximize the happiness of ourselves and others does not seem like a bad idea at all. Indeed, this was the core idea of the Utilitarian philosophers. As Jeremy Bentham put it, “The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.”
Of course, some would disagree with placing such an emphasis on happiness. We are certainly aware of belief systems that place a strong emphasis on self-denial and sacrifice – that suffering altruistically is truly the good life and that happiness is not a worthy goal. To be fair though, often the motivation for such behaviour is happiness anyway – albeit in a world to come. So even there, we have a recognition of the centrality of happiness to the human experience.
Now, where does happiness come from? How do we attain it?
Well, there are an awful lot of notions about this. Of course, companies are spending billions of pounds each year to convince us that happiness comes from purchasing their goods or services. And there is a strong message in our culture telling us that happiness goes hand in hand with wealth. Money, beauty, stuff, love… It’s all supposed to be a package that we should be reaching for. Does it bring happiness?
Many wise people have weighed in on the question of what causes happiness. In profound and compelling words we are offered a wide variety of advice. I find much of this advice to have the ring of truth. It’s just too bad that so much of it is contradictory!
Some words of wisdom claim that happiness is an option we can take – that we choose whether or not to be happy. At the opposite end of the spectrum, though, it is claimed that happiness is determined by our upbringing and genetics – that there is almost nothing we can do to change our happiness now.
We are told that happiness arises from doing: that it comes from satisfying work, from achievement, or fidelity to a worthy purpose. We are also told that it comes from a way of being – from wisdom, from purity of mind, or for the Buddhists, through extinguishing of craving or attachment.
We are told that happiness comes from our relations with others: from having family, from the exercise of compassion or from helping or giving happiness to others. And then we are told that happiness arises from independence.
What a muddle!
Fortunately, happiness has over the past several years become a serious subject of psychological research. We actually know quite a bit now about what actually produces happiness.
One very important finding of the scientific studies:money doesn’t make you happy! Once our basic needs are met, people with more money are no happier than people with less. The British people are three times wealthier than they were in the 1950s, but are significantly less happy now than then!
And maybe people are beginning to recognize the lack of a connection between income and satisfaction: in a recent opinion poll, people were asked whether the government’s prime objective should be the greatest happiness or the greatest wealth. An overwhelming fraction – over 80% – chose happiness over money!
What else doesn’t matter besides money? We might expect that smarter or more informed people are happier. They’re not. Education and intelligence have no correlation with happiness.
Certainly in our increasingly youth-oriented culture, the young must be happier than the old, right? Nope! Older people are actually more satisfied with their lives. Good weather? Not at all! People who live in sunnier places are no happier than those who live with rain and cold.
What does matter then?
In short, two things rise to the top of the list: People and purpose.
If you have strong ties to family and friends you are more likely to be happy. And you are more likely to be happy if you are engaged in purposeful activity – something that provides meaning to your life and that engages and interests you deeply.
What about the pessimistic notion I mentioned earlier that your level of happiness is determined by your genetics and your upbringing? If true, this would seem to make it not worth trying to be any happier. The news is mixed. There are some very good reasons to believe that genes and our childhoods do give us a certain happiness set point. For most people, joyous or sorrowful events move us away from that happiness level, but only temporarily. Eventually – even with extremely positive or negative life events – we tend to return to the set-point.
But the good news is that there is also very strong evidence that the set-point can be altered. It takes effort. There are no simple solutions. No seminar or tape or DVD or workshop is going to make a sad person into a happy one overnight. The keys are the same two factors I mentioned a moment ago: people and purpose. Becoming more engaged in meaningful activity and making and strengthening human ties do make us happier. Helping others makes us happier. Connecting with others makes us happier. And bringing meaning to life through cultivation of gratitude makes us happier.
Let’s stop here for a moment and review… We want to be happy and we know that money and things don’t help us to reach that goal. What does help us reach that goal is to find meaningful activity to engage in and people with whom to connect. Cultivating gratitude and helping others are found to be powerful ways of increasing our happiness.
Does this sound at all familiar? Purpose, commitment, compassion, community, gratitude… If religion didn’t already exist, we would have to invent it!
And this supposition is not just the wishful thinking of a dedicated and passionate minister. It is backed up by numerous studies. People who participate in a religious community are found to be happier – significantly happier – than people who don’t. And not only that, this happiness shows up in some very important ways. Religious people have lower rates of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. They even have lower blood pressure!
There is something wonderful in the understanding that is developing of the way happiness arises. In his book, Ethics for a New Millenium, HH The Dalai Lama writes:
“our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. […] not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering. […] In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves an experience of our own suffering is less intense. […] genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on.”
The very actions that we can do to make others happy make us happy as well. We attend both to our own and others’ happiness when we commit to helping, to building meaningful relationships, and when we engage in activity that is deeply meaningful.
How could such a happy situation come about? Some might call it a divine plan: a loving and purposeful God created us in such a way that our own happiness is tied to that of others. Others might see the work of evolution here – the most successful individuals were the ones who worked well with others and bonded with them and so finding satisfaction from such behaviour was advantageous. Still others could say it’s simply luck that brought us to this situation.
No matter how it came to pass, there is great hope to be found in this understanding. To find that our individual happiness is tied to the happiness of others is to see ever more clearly that we are all, as Martin Luther King put it, ‘tied in a single garment of destiny’. As a society, we seem to have forgotten this truth – a truth that can be found in various forms within nearly all religious traditions. But we can recover it and here is as good a place to start as any.
And so, I ask again ‘Are you happy?’
Robert Louis Stevenson tells us ‘There is no duty we so underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.’
Andrew Pakula is Minister to the Newington Green and Islington Unitarians, a rapidly-growing, radically-inclusive, spiritual community in north London. He directs UKspirituality.org, a not-for-profit association of quality providers of spiritual events, programmes, and workshops. With a Jewish background and influences from many other religious traditions, his is a particularly open and eclectic approach to spirituality. Andrew believes that authentic spirituality provides a way of living deeply, meaningfully, and with connection and that it offers an essential antidote to the busy, individualistic, materialistic culture in which we live. http://email@example.com 0780 9144879
How do we define wisdom? Is it being knowledgeable? Is it a way of thinking? The Oxford Dictionary describes wisdom as “experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them critically or practically” or “common sense”. In our search for wisdom, we still must ask the question, we can gain experience through life and we can acquire knowledge through learning but where do we get the power or the common sense?
For the most part, psychologists all agree that wisdom as distinct from the cognitive abilities measured by the standard IQ tests. They believe that wisdom is a trait that can be developed by experience, but can never be taught.
In more general matters, wisdom is synonymous with prudence. Some people believe that wisdom is a gift that even a child, uneducated and inexperienced may possess.
Wisdom is a virtue that is recognized by all circles whether they are religious, cultural or philosophical. Wisdom is defined as a set of principles that govern all of a person’s actions and decisions. It can pertain to a person’s perspective on life and how they deal with any number of situations.
But what is it that makes a person wise? Can wisdom be taught? Do we gain wisdom from experience or is it inherited? Can true wisdom be gained by spirituality?
As far back as the ancient Greeks wisdom was associated with virtue. Philosophers spoke about the virtue of wisdom with regards to courage and moderation. The Catholic Church says that wisdom stands with justice, fortitude and moderation as one of the four virtues. Yet some religions believe that wisdom was achieved by restoring balance. In Islam, it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad was chosen by God to represent his wisdom.
Some eastern philosophies also have their thoughts on wisdom such as Buddha who taught that a wise person has good bodily conduct, speaks well and controls their mind. It is a wise person that will do the tasks that are unpleasant but have to be done. The law of karma.
So there is much conjecture to how wisdom is acquired, yet every day we become a little wiser from the experience of just living. It is this experience that when examined, dissected and evaluated by us becomes wisdom. It is of our own choosing whether or not to use our experiences to gain wisdom. For example, you are running in a field, not watching where you are putting your feet, you trip over a log and hurt your knee. It is now up to you what you do with this experience. Do you rub your knee and forget it or do you quickly make a mental note to be more vigilant about where you put your feet?
Naturally, a wise person would do the latter. Just as a wise person would take an umbrella with them if there were heavy clouds in the sky or a jumper if there was a cold wind. So it could be said that wisdom is really a form of common sense.
Wisdom, like learned knowledge, comes at all levels from basic common sense to very deep reflective wisdom gained from reflective thought about all that has gone before us and by the analysis of our lives, our achievements and our failures and by looking at why each occurred and how it could have been better handled. How many times have you thought back over an incident and thought “if only?” If we can acknowledge these outcomes and reasons, we can learn, then apply it to what may come next.
Having the wisdom to know what to do, what to say and when to say it is all a matter of looking at the situation logically, using the experiences from our past and thinking about the possible outcomes of our next action or sentence. For some intuitive people this can be a natural process yet for others it may take a little more time and dedication.
It would appear that while wisdom cannot be learned from a text book, it can be taught. You can be taught how to become more aware of situations, thoughts, actions and deeds and the possible outcomes of these yet, only you can heed the advice being given and utilize the information in a logical manner. Wisdom comes from within, from looking at the information at hand, critically examining it and then using that information in a logical manner.
Love yourself, work on your self-esteem. Take responsibility for how you feel/think/act. Work on reducing your ego. Do not let people/situations hurt your ego, and if hurt, do not act on the thoughts when hurt. Center your mind before you act.
Love others. Boost their self-esteem. Do not intentionally hurt other people’s ego. Keep developing people skills so you will reduce the probability of even unintentionally hurting others, and increase the chance of making others feeling good about themselves and hence you.
Let us look into these in further detail:
Our ego is the single reason why we experience all the negative emotions and all the suffering. Our ego is just a thought of who we think we are in terms of what we do, what we own, and what others think of us. The entire spiritual path is about reducing our ego. As our ego’s reduces, wisdom naturally increases, and our life gets better. Loving ourselves is very Important. Self-esteem is the critical component that determines the quality of our lives. The core teaching of self-help is that we are responsible for our lives, and that no matter what happens around us, we are responsible for how we feel. The meaning that we associate to events is what creates our feelings. By consciously assigning empowering meaning to events, we can always control how we feel. Wisdom is in knowing that it is never others that hurt us, but we choosing to hurt ourselves by the thoughts we think.
The other side of the the core self-help knowledge is to love others and make them feel valued. Although it would be great to have people around with no ego, practically speaking, all people around us have egos, just like we do. Wisdom thus lies in boosting people’s self-esteem – to make them genuinely feel good and appreciated. While it’s clear that intentionally hurting other people’s ego is not a good idea, what may not be that apparent is that we unintentionally hurt people thanks to our lack of skills in dealing with people. Much of classic self-help knowledge such as ”How to win friends and influence people” and most books on “relationship skills” are about learning skills so that we become a master of dealing with people. There is a psychology for every situation, age group, sex, and profession. Our ignorance of human psychology leads us to untold pain in dealing with people. Becoming more and more skilled in dealing with people the right way so we do not violate principle #2 is a great asset. This part can take a long time to master, as life always leads to new situations/people in which we have not yet learnt the proper psychology for the situation. For example, many people struggle with marriages simply because of ignorance of psychology of the opposite sex.
Many relationship problems are a result of not following these principles
Most of the relationship problems between two people, whether at home or work, happens due to people violating either principle #1 or principle #2. The patterns of all friction between two people A and B happens in one of the following ways:
1) A violates principle #1 => B violates principle #1
A gets angry at B due to an expectation B did not meet, and his ego is hurt. B in turn is hurt by the negative energy A is sending him, and reflects back the anger in some way. He may become hurt, depressed, sad or send back anger.
2) B violates principle #2 => A violates principle #1 => B violates principle #1
B unknowingly hurts A, due to some ignorance, perhaps lack of people skills. A takes that action personally, gets hurt, and sends some negative energy towards B. B in turn retalitates with negative energy.
Solution to many relationship problems lies in simply following these principles
The solution to avoiding friction between two people happens in one of the following ways:
A follows principle #1 => B has no problem.
B follows principle #2 => A has no problem.
A violates principle #1 => B still follows principle #1 => no problem (i.e B does not retaliate)
B violates principle #2 => A still follows principle #1 => no problem (i.e A does not retaliate)
Apply these principles on yourself, not others
The interesting thing is that even as we break one of these principles, we expect our counterpart to follow them! For example, we knowingly/unknowingly hurt the other (principle #2), but yet expect our counterpart to not act out as they do when hurt (principle #1). Or, we hurt ourselves by giving disempowering meaning to events related to what the other did (principle #1), and expect the other to make it right ( principle #2) Wisdom lies in applying these principles on ourselves, and not on our counterparts. We can only control ourselves, not others. Expecting others to comply only leads to disappointment.
The reason we are creators of our life is that regardless of whether people around us are following these principles or not, if we follow them, we are able to completely direct the experience of our life. Not following these principles leads to negative, disempowered and painful situations, and following these leads to positive, empowered, and happy experiences.