As Above, So Below.
A woman keeps taking back her abusive spouse, despite friends’ pleas to move on.
A man is having a hard time staying employed because of his alcohol habits—but it’s always the company, or the co-workers, or the culture that’s at fault.
A country descends into war at the slightest provocation.
These are tragic examples of what happens when we identify too strongly with a certain mindset—one that may have once held merit, but no longer serves us.
We’ve all seen it—and if we’re thoughtful, we’ve seen it in ourselves.
Old mindsets, if held too tightly or for too long, are seeds of karmic disappointment. When we act upon them, we end up getting less in return compared to the energy we initially invested. For instance, where it once made sense to forgive her spouse, at some point the act of forgiveness may become more psychologically meaningful to her than her physical safety. She’s “the long-suffering spouse,” after all.
Or consider the man with the drinking problem who once took comfort in a glass of wine at the end of the day. This small luxury was so effective for small challenges that it has now become an indispensable ingredient for facing all challenges.
And a country has a huge military for one reason: to use it. They have one because they once protected their borders against a real enemy, or used it to earn freedom from an oppressor—both worthy goals for a military, and important “wins” for the republic. But an idle military is a liability, and the provocation necessary to use it diminishes with each passing year.
What’s the cause of the diminishing value of our “tried and true” tools? Hint: it’s not the tools; it’s our perception that’s the issue. In order for us to understand this, we have to begin to accept a simple idea—one we’ve been hearing more of for about a century-and-a-half now with the rise of the self-help industry, but one with ties to shamanistic teachings that are tens of thousands of years old.
The idea is this: there are no idle thoughts.
Consider the axiom, “as above, so below.” This enigmatic term references the idea that that which we manifest in ordinary reality is first created in the ethereal. Put another way, all we see was created in thought, first. This implies that we have great power to construct our reality. We can perform this act of creating from within our current realities, certainly, but to do so is often to create without the benefit of perspective.
We end up using old answers for new challenges. The saying, “to the man with a hammer, every problem is a nail,” comes to mind.
Old thoughts bring predictable results as certain as a train bound to travel a particular set of rails.
To find new tracks or evolved tools—to create from outside the paradigm—it’s incumbent upon us to cease identifying with the paradigm. So, what does it mean to identify with the paradigm? It means to take it seriously, to see it as “reality.” When we choose to see the paradigm as the Rule, the Law, the Way Things Have to Be, we are choosing to take it seriously.
We need to stop this.
“Well,” we might ask, “is there not a reality, and shouldn’t we take it seriously?”
Yes, here in the present there is a reality (kind of…turns out it’s pretty malleable and depends a lot on perception), but this is so only here in the present. In this one tiny moment, within one brief instant, is the apex of all we experience found. This is all that can be loosely termed “real.”
It is to be accepted, even treasured.
It’s also to be released.
It’s this “releasing” that we Western humans struggle with the most. We’re a graspy, clingy culture, protecting and defending what’s “ours” at any cost, with only a cursory acknowledgment of the seen and unseen assistance we’ve had in attaining our precious “stuff”—or accomplishments, titles, and honors. The idea that any of these are of lasting value in and of themselves, we all know is laughable—in our quiet or serious moments, anyway. At a funeral. In personal crisis. While experiencing a loved one’s passing.
Instead, consider a meditation practice. Isn’t “letting go” one of the defining characteristics of this ancient form? A thought arises, we see it, and let it go—this is the practice.
What we realize over time is that we have a habitual pronoun problem: we realize that the “I,” the “see-er” (or, if you like, the Seer) is not the same as the thought, opinion, or belief in our minds. Yet we’ve often acted as if these are one and the same. In a meditative state, the “one who sees” observes the thought as separate from the idea itself.
We can see that we’ve been acting in many instances like a three-year-old who identifies his stuffed lion with his very being. Take away the toy and he goes ballistic, right? Can you blame him? He believes his soul is being removed! Is this any different than the way we unconsciously act toward one another? Someone feels threatened, and it’s war—sometimes literally.
Where we once were unable to see the forest for the trees, a perspective begins to awaken—a perspective that takes us outside the individual trees of the forest so we can view the topography from above. Individual trees make up a forest, but from within it, it just looks like a bunch of trees—some more interesting than others. Only with perspective does the vast nature of the forest come into view.
The trees in this example are our thoughts. When unconscious, we go from thought to thought to thought, from desire to desire to desire, and we act on them, never gaining perspective and feeling increasingly hollow. Moving in this manner within a dark forest without knowing the lay of the land is our lot—until we train our wandering minds to lift above these things and see the greater picture.
This ability to “get above” is what we’re after; only then can we see a deeper and overarching “reality.” And, once seen, we are then able to begin to train ourselves to comprehend what it is that wants to be created, what kind of world it is that the universe would have us bring into being.
We become co-creators on a soulful level, with our colorful individual talents as our palette and our lives as the canvas.
Creating in this manner, we bring more honor to the canvas because we honor life itself. We’re asking what wants to come forth through us without necessarily holding on to old forms. Inspiration occurs, coming simultaneously from outside and inside our divine selves, and what is born, is born of comprehension and insight. It doesn’t come from the small “you;” it comes from the Seer, which is connected to “All that Is,” or “God.”
Our identification with “reality” also applies to our individual egos. “I am this,” we say. “I am that.” It’s all so serious, so unwavering. We’ve identified with some labels and made them into something inexorable and enduring. (The masterful book, Steppenwolf addresses this subject at length, and I highly recommend it to explorers of consciousness—especially middle-aged men.)
But where in these enduring labels is growth? Where is humility? Where in these are the flexibility and creativity needed in these times, where base violence rules our collective experience? Flexibility and creativity are limited for us if we’ve already “determined” what we are or the way things have to be.
Sure, we can still create, but our creation all has a familiar flavor. It’s bland. We’ve eaten the same meal a million times before.
Returning to our three examples from the beginning, the abused spouse may sense a pattern around her penchant to forgive a person who obviously is incapable of valuing her for who she is. She may see that she’s been hiding behind a worthy trait—the ability to forgive—to create an egoic brand for herself that’s been comfortable to identify within the face of so much pain. But this comfort is nothing to die for, and her Seer-self knows she deserves better.
Seeing this alone may give her the strength to leave.
The man with the drinking problem may see that his glass of wine isn’t the boon it once was and seek treatment. But more importantly, he may ask himself what it is about his current life situation that makes him want to hide in a glass.
And the nation at war—if the leadership and citizenry were introspective—might see that war is no more an answer than a childish schoolyard brawl. With bombs.
The answers to our personal and collective trials are not found inside our beliefs or long-held, “sacred cow” opinions. If we’re maturing emotionally, those are often passé and stale. They may have held merit at one time for us, but this “grasping,” this constipated retaining of “sacred” concepts makes a bloodbath of individual lives and the world in general.
Releasing our grip on these concepts allows perspective to have a chance to take hold within ourselves and our society.
This releasing can be scary. “Who am I if I am not this or that?” The answer is we were never wholly “this” or “that.” We were always greater. As Kierkegaard said, “If you name me, you negate me.”
Are we ready to accept this truth and move forward to meet our souls and create from there, or are we going to continue to attempt to use the same tired tools and toys to meet new challenges?
As I stated before, I am convinced there are no idle thoughts, and the way to change them is to change our perspective. I know of no other way. It turns out there are many ways to do this—with meditation as the basis for them all.
With a consistent practice, we learn to identify ourselves more with the Seer than the thoughts we see. We then get to look at that particular identification, and the work continues. But it’s the work of evolution, of consistent change, and, if we are inspired, of conscious growth.
Along with meditation, other ways to “get your shift together” might include a regular sweat lodge, Vipassana, fasting, or a “vision quest” in any number of ancient, well-established, and authentic disciplines. After all, this identification with “reality” is not a new human issue—it’s just that we’re at a critical point in our evolution where the margin for misstep has shrunk, alarmingly.
No matter your modality, the time has come to change our thoughts—our creative vanguard. It’s time to step out of the forms of being that no longer serve us individually or culturally.
May we experience the power of our own beautiful dreams by dis-identifying with that which squelches them. May we continue the painful, beautiful process of getting on the same page with one another, of gaining perspective and compassionately changing our thoughts.
And may we become able Seers, so that what we create with our thoughts is worthy of our souls.
Author: Eric Marley
Image: M Yashna/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May