Spiritual Suggestibility

The word “spiritual,” imbued with so much potential meaning and promise, is one of those words behind which many people hide and about which there is much confusion and obfuscation. On the social media, people readily bandy this word about. An entire industry has been created to take advantage of our “spiritual suggestibility.” And, yes, we are all suggestible–all of us.

One of the most honest ways to explore our spirituality is to explore what it means to be “fully human” in the face of the great mystery and miracle of our lives. So few people, including many of those who call themselves spiritual, seem to experience this mystery and miracle in the midst of their daily lives, to remain open to the unknown and to the uncertainty of living. Many entrench themselves instead in the protective layers of their own particular spiritual concepts and beliefs, which enable them to move through their lives without awareness of themselves as they actually are. Using these beliefs, many people try to bypass, even to deny, their own difficulties, confusion, fragmentation, disharmony, and suffering, and, in so doing, become lost in a fog of self-deception, creating myriad problems for themselves and others. Surely, true spirituality must include and embrace all levels of our humanity.

Copyright February 11, 2013-17 by Dennis Lewis

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Some Thoughts On Blaming and Responsibility

Blaming assumes that people and things and situations should be different from what they actually are. You can argue with reality all you want, but you can never win. What you can do is stop wasting your time and energy and attention imagining that things should have been different, and, instead, if that is what you truly wish, do what you can right now to make them so.

So many people whine and whimper and defend themselves and their failures, blaming them on others and the situation instead of using their so-called failures to grow in understanding and being. Such people seldom find themselves in the right place at the right time. And they never will.

The ability to respond, to adapt, intelligently and effectively to often seemingly impossible conditions and odds, is part of the power and beauty of the human brain and nervous system, part of the mystery of the human spirit. This response-ability, however, has to be exercised if it is to be a vivifying factor in our lives. And if one doesn’t exercise it in small ways as often as possible it probably won’t manifest when we really need it in more important situations.

Here’s an example of what I mean by exercising it in small ways. The next time something small goes wrong in your life, instead of allowing yourself to be seduced by the first thought that arises (it must be someone else’s fault), see that thought for what it probably is–defensiveness, laziness, and habit–and look and question more deeply. Is my judgment actually true? Perhaps if I had left home on time and hadn’t had to rush I wouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had that car back into me when I was driving by (this actually happened to me). It doesn’t mean that the person who backed into me isn’t also responsible. What it does mean is that the situation most likely wouldn’t have happened had I been taking care of my own business.

So much of what goes wrong in our lives happens because we aren’t looking and listening and sensing, we aren’t paying attention–we aren’t present. No blame here; just a simple reality for which each of us is ultimately responsible.

Copyright 2011-2017 by Dennis Lewis 

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The Arizona Desert

I never much liked the Arizona desert during my first visits as a young adult visiting my family. I liked the ocean, mountains, and redwoods of Northern California where I spent so many of my adult years, and I loved the lake and woods and corn fields where I spent my teenage years in Wisconsin.

But I’ve learned to love the desert, where it takes open, relaxed attention to notice the tiny flora and fauna hidden in huge expanses of landscape punctuated by the larger saguaros, cactuses, Palo Verde trees, and other desert life. In California I hugged trees and felt their energy directly; in Arizona I’ve learned to expand my perception–to look, listen, and sense from both close and afar.

For me, the desert, like the ocean, echoes and amplifies the big questions of life and death that arise in all of us. The profound desert stillness and silence, made especially poignant by the expansive ever-changing sky, the nearby mountains, and the intermittent sounds of wind and birdsong and dogs barking and coyotes howling in the distance, resonate with and help awaken the silent stillness that dwells deep within.

Copyright 2016-17 by Dennis Lewis

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Breathe Into Being Retreat







For a description of this weekend retreat with Dennis Lewis and Master Yu, click here.

For a retreat registration form, click here.

Once you’ve filled out the form, pay the full retreat amount by March 31st, or a 30 % deposit before that date to hold your place. Please pay through PayPal (PayPal account is listed on the registration form), and then email the form to us at hameetings@gmail.com and sundao@me.com. Be sure to send the form to both addresses.

By the way, space is limited, so register soon!

Thank you

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Stop Trying to Erase What You Don’t Like

I was in a weekend art class with Mrs Nyland, Willem Nyland’s wife, at the San Francisco Gurdjieff Foundation many years ago. As I was drawing, not very well in my estimation, she came over to me and strongly suggested that I stop erasing, or trying to erase, what I didn’t like and just move on, accepting how I manifested. A painful but great lesson in conscious living!

My wife and I were talking recently about the fact that many people say that if only they could live their lives over again, they would change this and that and so on and so forth. What an illusion! The fact is, though I might be tempted, there’s nothing that I would change (even if I could), for everything has brought me to exactly this moment with riches I never imagined! And now, moving toward the end of my life on this planet, I do indeed accept my life–all of it, including not just the great beauty and love, but also the confusion, pain, and suffering.

Copyright 2014-17 by Dennis Lewis

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“The Unstruck Sounds”: Don’t Let Yourself Become Breathless When You Speak

Many of us when we speak try to say too much too quickly. Sometimes we try to say as much as we can before we are interrupted. At other times we just get carried away in expressing our thoughts or feelings. In doing so we often find ourselves still speaking when we simply don’t have enough breath left to support our voice. When this happens we quickly find ourselves grasping (or even gasping) for air. This grasping creates tensions in our diaphragm, chest, back, belly, and so on, and not only undermines our breathing but also our communication. A voice deprived of the power of the breath does not carry the harmonic nuances and subtleties that are such an important part of the spoken word. Such a voice is no longer connected with the silence that gives words meaning and scale.

Next time you find yourself in a discussion or giving a speech, take your time as you speak. If you sense that you are about to run out of breath, simply stop what you are saying and let yourself breathe for a breath or two, paying attention to the silent pause at the end of your out-breath. Then simply continue on. These pauses are not only good for your breathing, they are also good for your soul. They give you an opportunity to see if what you are saying is worth saying and what you really wish to say.

It is important to realize that the very same same principles generally apply when you are writing articles, books, e-mail messages, discussion posts, and so on. As you think to yourself and write, you can also run out of breath and lose your connection with silence. Long concentration at your computer, typewriter, or note pad can constrict your diaphragm, cause faster breathing, and result in fast upper chest breathing and insufficient oxygen to your brain and body.

Finally, does what you say and write spring from deep within, from silence? Does it help you and others reflect on what is important? Or is it simply a mechanical expression of “like and dislike,” or of self-love or vanity? As you impartially listen to yourself speaking and writing, your words will reconnect with silence and will carry new energy and meaning. You will discover a new breadth of both discernment and openness.

This is what I have discovered in my own life. It isn’t always easy for me to listen to what I say and how I say it, but such listening brings me more and more a sense of appreciation and wonder for the “unstruck sounds”* that lie at the heart of being.

Copyright 2009-2017 by Dennis Lewis

*Rumi, Unseen Rain (Threshold Books, 1986, p. 12)

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The Words We Use

The words we use–and how we use them–have consequences, whether for better or for worse. I see and hear people (we’ve all done it, haven’t we?) begin a conversation about a particular issue with bitter or provocative words (in the name of ‘truth’) that create the turmoil and negativity that follow.

This generally happens when the speaker or writer loses sight of the larger context of the complexities and interrelationships involved in the issue, or doesn’t know how to express or evoke it, and others react to this from only a small emotional part of themselves. It is the larger context of wholeness, remembering that almost all of us wish for the manifestation of the good, of love and beauty, of fairness and justice, of intelligence, of consciousness and conscience in ourselves and others, that is most needed to carry on a creative exchange.

The study of the words we use, both spoken and written, and how we use them is a fascinating one! We can learn much about ourselves through simply listening. And the listening itself helps us awaken.

Copyright 2016 by Dennis Lewis

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Observing Our Self-Importance

img_0311“The famous Tibetan meditator Geshe Ben said that his only practice was to watch his self-importance bloat up and then crumble down again and again. Seeing how it made his mind freer and freer every time it crumbled brought meaning and pleasure to his life. In fact, it was his life’s passion.”–“Light Comes Through,” Dzigar Kongtrul

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Listening In Two Directions at Once

The effort to listen in two directions at once, inwardly and outwardly, and suddenly realizing that, in a very real sense, there is no inward and outward; there is only the vast, silent spaciousness of Presence that welcomes everything into … Continue reading

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Dennis LewisI wish you a wonderful, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving. Whether or not you celebrate this popular American holiday, you have much to be thankful for, beginning with your very existence. However difficult your life, I suggest you take a few minutes today, and every day, to actually ponder all the blessings you have been given. Put your hands on your heart, smile in thankfulness and appreciation for these blessings, and inhale through your smile into your heart. During the out-breath, radiate your thankfulness not just to the whole of yourself and to your nearest and dearest, but also to all those people worldwide known and unknown to you. Realize that it wasn’t long ago that none of us existed in our present form on this earth, and it won’t be long before all of us will be gone. In the meantime, right now, we can appreciate and give thanks for this miraculous gift of life we have been given.

Copyright 2013-2016 by Dennis Lewis

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Do You Create a Negative Atmosphere Around Yourself?

Some people create a negative atmosphere around them by frequently expressing their anger and other negative thoughts and emotions. This atmosphere, this energy field, affects them and everyone near them and, like a magnet, attracts even more negativity into their lives. Such people often have ready-made excuses for expressing themselves in this way, perhaps not realizing how toxic their negative thoughts and emotions are for all concerned.

If you are one of these people, if you find yourself constantly criticizing, complaining, and being sarcastic, the first step to real change is to become aware of this toxicity. To facilitate such awareness, it’s often a big help to experiment with not expressing your negativity to others. It’s also helpful to experiment with not expressing your negativity, including your excuses for it, to yourself. Remember, though, that resisting the expression of your negativity is simply an experiment, not a moral imperative. Try it with the next person with whom you are angry or upset. And, as you experiment, be sure to stay in touch with your breathing. This will help anchor you in the present.

Also, what’s important here is not to try to suppress your negativity or hide from it, but to fully sense and feel it, as well as its effects, at the energetic level, while resisting either outward expression or inner justification. Though experimenting in this way will not be easy, it can be very transformative, helping you to learn much about yourself.

Copyright 2016 by Dennis Lewis

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The Three-Fold Impetus of Being

Ah, nostalgia. All through history people have looked back to the good old days. I myself spent my teenage days and nights on a lake surrounded by woods and wandered freely with my dog, a boxer. I hunted, fished, swam, played ice hockey, put my tent up in the woods, and used to climb a beautiful old tree across the street from our lake house and hang out there for hours on end sometimes reading and listening to music. Computers and smart phones had no place in my life, not even in my imagination.

Life changes, though, and technological innovation has been occurring at an ever-accelerating rate since those days. The enormous IBM 360/370 computers that I used to program using punch cards have given way to tiny, powerful computers that fit in our pockets and purses and allow us to communicate worldwide through the Internet. It won’t be long before we no longer carry computers and phones outside our bodies but rather within our very flesh, including our brains. Eventually these computers will be as small as our red blood cells and transmitting over whatever kind of invisible network we have then. We will be able, perhaps, to converse with people around the world, without speaking out loud or touching virtual keys, just through our intention and attention.

It’s not a matter of whether we want that future or not. Short of a great disaster, it, or something like it, is no doubt on its way. Those who are alive then will, of course, still be faced with the sacred work of searching, accepting, and welcoming, the work of awakening to the truth of who and what we are. And a tiny aspect of truth is that our technologies are a natural extension and development of our brains. The great chess champions can no longer beat the most powerful computers at chess, and computers are becoming exponentially smarter every year. You can be sure that their integration into our lives and the affairs of the world will become even more ubiquitous and intimate.

We humans are wondrous creatures, capable of great intelligence and great ignorance. How we engage our brain power and awareness does and will depend in large part, of course, on what’s in our hearts, but it will also depend on our level of ‘being,’ a word not referenced much in today’s world. Yet how important the reality that this tiny word evokes is and will continue to be to our integrity and potential!

Karlfried Graf Durckheim wrote, “Being is the animating force in everything that lives, and it provides a three-fold impetus; every living thing seeks to live; every living thing seeks not merely to live, but to become fully and uniquely itself; and every living thing seeks to fulfill itself in transcendent totality.” The question we must ask here, though, is whether we will indeed remember the great potential of our being and do what’s necessary to create healthy conditions for its “three-fold impetus.”

Copyright 2015-16 by Dennis Lewis

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Questioning Your Starting Point

Indra's NetDepending on your original premise(s), your original assumption(s), you can make a convincing argument for almost anything. People promoting their own particular brand of psychology, politics, religion, spirituality, and so on do so all the time.

What few people do today, however, is question their starting point, which is most often just an infinitesimal point in the vast unknown multi-dimensional spectrum of Indra’s net, the incomprehensible wholeness that both embraces and reveals us.

On the surface, deep inquiry, deep questioning, is difficult work. It seems to be far easier to spin webs of suggestibility and belief and try to catch ourselves and others in them. When we begin to open our minds and hearts, however, we realize that deep inquiry and questioning are as natural and beneficial as breathing itself, which, of course, is happening right now.”

Copyright 2016 by Dennis Lewis

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I’ve done a lot of walking in my life, some conscious, some not, some with friends and loved ones, some by myself. I’ve walked in cities around the world, in forests, in mountains, in deserts, around lakes, on ocean shores, in ancient ruins, and in the many hotel rooms, apartments, and houses that I called home. And I realize now that all of this walking, and all the people I’ve walked with and met along the way, have created an intricately complex, multi-dimensional path that has brought me right here. Strangely, no matter when and where I stop on my lifelong walk I always stop now and here. Oh yes, I’ve taken buses, bicycles, boats, motorcycles, trains, planes, and automobiles, too, but I had to walk to get to them, and the walking, whether by myself or with others, has most clearly revealed my shallowest and deepest hopes and desires, as well as much of my mechanicality. What’s more, the impact on my nervous system of each step along the way has left its mark. Today, more than ever, I walk more attentively, more consciously, recognizing that each step is a step into the unknown. Though I cannot walk as far or as long today, I’m getting the feel of it now; walking is a joy and a miracle, often revealing new perspectives on myself and the world!


Copyright 2015-16 by Dennis Lewis

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Open Mind, Open Heart

Some people today put great emphasis on heart-based perception. To be sure, the heart is a powerful brain–one of three main brains, or instruments of perception (head, heart, and gut) according to G. I. Gurdjieff, as well as to modern science. But fewer and fewer people today use their head brains as an instrument of perception. They move from heartfelt beliefs and intuitions to conclusions and actions, frequently without the perspective and discernment of an open mind. It’s difficult to have a discussion with people whose minds are closed, since they almost always return to their beliefs and intuitions as the ultimate truth or, at least, as the only truth that matters. One sees this often in religion, politics, and spirituality. It is important to ask ourselves, however, if it is possible to have an open heart without an open mind. Byron Katie, a well-known spiritual teacher, doesn’t think so. She states: “Until the mind is open, the heart stays closed. The open mind is the key to the open heart.” I agree.

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