August 27, 2008

Sorry Folks...

... but there are some things I just don't want to blog about, at least not while I'm in the middle of them. I'm going through some heavy times -- my life filled with life-and-death issues -- and I don't want to write about them in a superficial overly emotional fashion. When I was younger, I knew that writing about things when they were fresh -- sometimes even with pen in hand while they were happening -- gave things serious edginess. But now I realize that's sensation, and not an honest way to search for a deeper kind of truth. I don't want to turn what I'm going through into sensation. And at the same time, I don't want to blithely post about other things, as if everything was hunky dory. My heart wouldn't be in it.

I'll take a page out of The Third Eve's book. She recently wrote an article about something very trying, very demanding, and very emotionally overwhelming that happened to her a year ago. She didn't write about it then. She waited until it settled, and she could make sense of it; until the experience had ripened. It's more meaningful that way.

So I might wait a while to write about these things. That is, if I ever write about them.

August 20, 2008

Bringing Mysticism to the Office

The following article will appear (in Hungarian) in A Rózsakeresztes Tükör (The Rosicrucian Mirror), the offical newsletter of the Rákóczy Pronaos, a subordinate body of The Rosicrucian Order AMORC.

Have you gotten very frustrated or angry with some situation or other at work recently? Do you have a colleague who really irritates you? Perhaps someone who has decided they are your enemy, and does dishonest or unethical things to sabotage your projects or your reputation? Do you feel you are stuck in a soul-killing job with no chance of moving on to something better? Do you sometimes feel you aren't smart enough, fast enough, young enough, or skilled enough to do your job properly? Are you afraid of losing your job? Do you have troubles communicating with people at work?

Have you thought of applying mystical principles to any of these problems? No? Why not?

Rosicrucianism is a mystical philosophy, but what has always distinguished this philosophy is its emphasis on the need to apply the mystical principles it teaches to everyday life. When the Rosicrucian student looks closely at the challenges his life presents him with, he can easily discover situations that can be positively influenced by employing methods he has learned from the Teachings. He can use breathing techniques to stay calm in times he knows will be stressful. Visualization can attract objects and/or circumstances he needs for his or someone else's evolution. Meditation can bring understanding to puzzles we must always solve to progress in life.

But somehow, it seems more natural to apply these things to our personal lives, to our family relationships, to our friends, and to our home. But where we work seems to be a different matter.

But it shouldn't be.

Part of this attitude is a result of the nature of work ever since the Industrial Revolution. There was a time when one's work was something one inherited from one's family. If your father was a farmer, then you were a farmer. If your father had a trade (blacksmith, shoemaker, carpenter, etc.) then you learned that trade. And work wasn't separated from life the way it is today. Children played at the edge of the fields their parents where cultivating, and when they were old enough, they worked alongside them. The trademan's shop would be part of the family house, and the mother and children would come and go all day long.

Nowadays, we often have the attitude that a job is something we do just for money. It isn't our land we are cultivating; it isn't our goods we are producing in the shop; it's not in our name we are rendering the service. We feel detached from our work. We feel it has little to do with our "real life". We feel it is unrelated to who we really are.

Nonetheless, we spend upward from 40 hours a week at work. We spend the majority of our energy on work five days a week, and we often spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our families. And the people we spend time with at work are "real" people. They are souls; sparks from the divine fire, just like ourselves. If we pay attention to them, we will realize that every day at work presents us opportunities to serve these various people, even the ones who are hostile to us. No. Especially the ones who are hostile to us!

Regarded in the right way, we realize that wherever we work we will find challenges that offer us the opportunity to grow as spiritual beings. If we approach work this way, it no longer seems a dreary, boring, tedious place where we feel the life draining from us every hour we spend there. The workplace is transformed, as is our relationship with everyone and everything there.

Techniques for transforming our work experience

One quick way to transform work is to start the workday with an invocation. It can be a very simple invocation (or prayer, if you prefer this word). All it has to do is serve to raise your consciousness and make you aware that the time spent at work is as much a part of your mystical quest as any other part of your life. Here's an example:

Work Invocation
God of my heart:
May the still, small voice within guide my actions as I work today.
May it point out every opportunity to learn new lessons from the situations I encounter.
May it show me every chance to serve that comes my way.
May it help me to engage myself in my work with interest and enthusiasm, and may it help me guard against laxity and apathy.
May I be inspired to do my work with dignity and honor.
So mote it be!

Saying your invocation at your desk, and then spending a minute or two in meditation will make a big difference to the way you vibrate within your work environment. Even if you don't have much privacy, you can still say it to yourself silently and close your eyes for a moment afterwards.

Another technique addresses the problem of being overwhelmed by events at work and not being able to stay focused on the most important tasks. The modern workplace is full of distractions: ringing phones, e-mail alerts, colleagues popping in the door at any moment. It can be difficult to stay on track and do the things we planned. Sometimes we can come to the realization at the end of the day that we haven't done any of the things we planned. We let ourselves get distracted.

In this case, it can be useful to use a little time when we are away from work to project our energy into the future. During a few moments on the weekend, or in the evening, when you are calm and clear-minded, go into your sanctum and picture yourself at work calmly and efficiently performing the tasks you have decided are important and need to be completed. Naturally, you should be specific, and imagine yourself doing only those tasks you want to focus on. Of course it is important to inject emotion into the visualization: feel the joy of accomplishing important work. If you do this a few times before you go to work, you will find that it becomes easier to stay focused on the tasks you visualized, and that the tasks are accomplished more easily. This is an important mystical technique: preparing for stressful situations while we are still calm and clear-minded.

Although our workplaces are filled with electronic communications devices, there is still a place for old-fashioned communication: no I don't mean face-to-face communication, I mean psychic communication. There are various reasons why people in professional situations might miscommunicate. They are distracted by their personal feelings for one another. They're distracted by the pressures of the office. One or more of the people in the conversation are blinded by their feelings of superiority or inferiority. The list could go on, but suffice it to say, there are many reasons why verbal communication isn't always as effective as one would like. For this reason, it is often good to send someone a psychic message before you talk to them. Using the methods taught by our order, you can telepathically tell them the essence of the message you wish to give them days or hours before you say it to them personally (or on the phone, or by e-mail). It is likely they won't consciously recall the psychic message, but when you speak to them, the message will already seem familiar to them, and they will be more likely to understand what you wish to say. And they will be more likely to be receptive to you message, especially if you visualized them as being receptive. And repeating a message psychically after you have spoken to someone helps to make the impression of what you said go deeper.

Visualization can also help smooth out conflict in the workplace. If disharmony arises between you and another person in the workplace, it can be very useful to spend time each day visualizing love, in the form of pink light, emanating from your heart, and surrounding, nurturing and protecting that person. Naturally, it can't only be a sterile visualization: in order for it to be effective, you really have to feel love for this person. That's the challenging part of the exercise. But the results can be miraculous.

Meditation can, naturally, be used as a tool for solving problems one encounters at work. Once you have worked on a problem with your conscious objective mind as far as you can go, send the problem, in the form of a simple question, into your subconscious, and wait for your inner self to suggest the solution to you.

As suggested in the invocation, it is important to see the workplace as a school, just like the rest of life. When difficult and puzzling situations arise, it can be rewarding to ask yourself what the lesson is that can be learned from it. The workplace is especially fertile ground for this, because we are forced by circumstances to deal with things we might isolate ourselves from in home life, and among friends and acquaintances. But at work, you can't avoid them. You just have to deal with them.

Work can be very draining and tiring. Remember the exercise that comes in the very first monograph that every member is mailed? It's a technique for reviving yourself with psychic energy when you are tired. Have you ever used it at work? Why not? And that's not the only technique in the monographs for increasing one's available energy. Perhaps it would be better to use one of these techniques the next time you are tempted to grab another cup of coffee.

The same goes for techniques we learn for staying calm under stress. The techniques are there. We can only blame ourselves if we don't use them.


The workplace is an excellent opportunity to use the techniques we acquire through AMORC's teachings. Applying the teachings counteracts the feelings of helplessness the modern workplace can often impose on employees, by letting us demonstrate that we can have a positive influence on events at work. Not only can they make professional life a bit easier and more successful for us, they also make us more effective members of the teams we belong to, and a source of health and harmony to the entire community we work in.

August 13, 2008

Of Fish, Dreams and Blank Books

If you consult any number of books or websites in the hopes of learning about dreamwork, almost everyone last one of them will tell you there is one essential practice on which all dreamwork depends. If you want to engage in the art and science of dreamwork, you must keep a dream journal. If you don't keep the journal, you won't develop your dream memory. If you don't remember your dreams, there's no material to work with. Pretty obvious.

It can be a very difficult habit to cultivate. It has to be a daily thing. And you have to be consistent. Sitting down to write down your dreams (unless you actually have the time, leisure and privacy to write them down while you're still in bed in the morning) has to be one of the first things you do every morning. If you wake up to an alarm, hit the snooze button and then don't move. Stay lying exactly where you are and ask yourself what you were dreaming. Only if you are lucky do you recall an entire dream right then and there.

Dream recall is like fishing. It all starts with a nibble on the line. There's the lingering feeling of a mood from a dream. Or the faintest memory of just one image or object. Or you only remember that "I was with Stephanie", or that there was something having to do with Sacramento. Be gentle. Be skillful. If you pull too hard, the fish won't get hooked. Just stay with whatever little bit you have. Now let your attention wander from it for a second or two (kind of like letting out a little line) and then focus your mind on the object again. You might find that something else "breaks the surface" along with what you already had: the background to the vague image; what it was that Stephanie said to you; what specific part of Sacramento you saw. Let your concentration go for another second or two, and then "pull in some line", i.e. focus on the things you remember. You will likely find that something else comes along with them. If all goes well, you feel the fish bite! A whole dream sequence comes back to you in one piece. But be careful! You still haven't reeled that beauty in. Nothing worse than "the one that got away." When the next alarm goes off, don't hit snooze again. Turn the alarm off and get out of bed, whether you remember a dream or not.

There is a short window of opportunity after one wakes up -- I'd guess no more than fifteen or twenty minutes -- during which the portal to the sleeping consciousness hasn't quite shut tight, kind of like that little gap on a baby's skull that hasn't quite grown together (which is why, a friend tells me, babies can still talk with angels). One needs to cultivate the habit of not hurtling headlong into the day. Stay quiet, both physically and mentally, while making that first visit to the toilet for a pee. Don't turn on lots of bright lights. Don't turn on the radio or other loud electronic devices. Sit down in a quiet place with a notebook and pen and write down whatever it was you remembered. Don't be surprised if you now can't recall what you remembered while waiting for the second alarm. Close your eyes and ask yourself, "what did I dream last night?" Just relax and allow it to come to you. Most times something will. But there are those times that it won't. One of the emotionally challenging aspects of dreamwork is the moment when you realize that, despite all of your efforts, you are empty handed. You don't remember anything. Nada. Zero. Goose egg!

It can be discouraging. It can be very discouraging when you are just starting out in dreamwork, and only remembering one or two dreams a week, if you're lucky. But the truth is that the dreaded "dream drought" is something that even veterans have to endure. Even people who have been faithfully recording dreams for several decades, and who have stretches in which they remember several dreams a morning for three or more mornings in a row, still hit patches as dry as the Mohave desert; no dream recall for days, or even weeks.

What do you do then? Many writers on the subject suggest writing anything at all into the dream journal: what one was thinking after one woke up, or even making dreams up. The theory is that the subconscious mind responds to this signal from conscious behavior that says the conscious mind takes dreams seriously, and provides one with dreams on subsequent mornings. This has never worked for me. I've always felt too silly writing things that are not dreams into my dream journal.

Recently I've come up with a new tactic. I've designated a new little blank book to be for dreamwork exercises. Never mind that this means I am now carrying no less than four hard-back blank books in my briefcase everyday. My wife can tell you that I have a hard time passing a blank book display in a shop without buying one. I have a reserve that should last me for several years. But I digress.

I take both my journal and my new dreamwork book to the table where I write down my dreams. If, after all efforts and tricks, I can't recall any dreams, I open up my dream journal and read one of the dreams that's already in there. Then I open my dreamwork book, date it, indicate which dream I'm going to work with, and then do a little dreamwork. For an idea of what that work might entail, I recommend this very convenient collection of exercises generously published for free by Professor John Suler (warning: it's a PDF file, so the link will open Acrobat or whatever PDF reader you use).

This has a dual purpose. Firstly, I am using the first half-hour of the day to work with dreams (either recording them or doing exercises), and secondly, I'm actually designating a time in which to do dreamwork. I think one of the pitfalls of dreamwork is that we sometimes keep collecting more and more dreams, but we keep putting off working with them, because our lives are so busy. I'm guilty of this. This way, I don't get so frustrated if I don't remember any dreams on a given morning, and I automatically get a certain amount of dreamwork done every week, without having to set aside more time in my otherwise over scheduled day.

August 6, 2008

... while you're making other plans

Yup! That's when life is happening.

So there we were, on vacation with another family in an area of Hungary which is about as rural as you can get, and pretty much as far away from home as you can get. It had been a grand week away from the rat race, with a family our family dearly enjoys spending time with. A week filled with common meals, cooked together and served at a long table under a shelter with a terra cotta roof. A week of afternoon coffee in comfortable chairs under tall shade trees, reading, talking and watching the children erect huge sand castles in the oversized sand box. A week of going out after the children were in bed and lying on a bench to watch the stars (which you just can't do in Budapest).

It was Saturday night. We were partially packed, and the plan was to leave late the next morning. I'd taken Monday off, so I'd even have a day to get my head ready for the working grind that was to resume on Tuesday.

That was the plan, anyway.

Szilvi got me out of bed before midnight to inform me that she was bleeding. Very lightly, but there was some blood, nonetheless. And she'd been getting contractions that were too frequent, and too intense. The baby isn't due until the middle of September.

Thank God for mobile (cellular to you Yanks) phones! Szilvi called the doctor who has attended all the home births of all our children. She said we needed to get to a hospital so they could give Szilvi a steroid shot that ripens the fetus's lungs in case there's a premature birth.

Great! The last place I want anyone I love is in a Hungarian hospital. It's not just that they are severely underfunded and underequipped. That could be dealt with. But the truth is that Hungary's health-care system is one of the last bastions of totalitarian mentality. Please leave your civil liberties and your individuality at the door. You have just become an object. You have no input into the decisions being made regarding you, and you have no right to information beyond what they want you to know. Democracy never made it into these walls.

But, OK, we had to do it.

The ordeal at the hospital was tolerable. An ultrasound revealed a tiny tear in the placenta, but no continued bleeding. Szilvi got the steroid shot, and an anti-spasmodic shot to stop all contractions. Szilvi was placed on 24-hour observation, and was put on a drip IV against the contractions. I had to go back to the vacation house alone. I had to be there when our two-year-old son woke up.

The next day I quickly took a few bags full of supplies to Szilvi (remember I said the hospitals are underfunded?) and was informed that if by midnight (i.e. 24 hours after being checked in) there was no evidence of bleeding or contractions Szilvi might be released. But then again, she might not be. Blood tests showed she's anemic (which we knew; she's always been anemic), and that might be reason to keep her. Whatever. The doctors were being cagey.

Should we stay another night at the vacation house? Should we go ahead and go home and come back for Szilvi when she's released? I kept wandering around the house and half-heartedly packing (packing for a family of six is serious business!) and not figuring out what to do. Finally it hit me that I could take the children back to Budapest and leave them in Szentendre with their grandmother. A call to grandma (Did I say Thank God for cell phones?) confirmed that I could do that. Packing began in earnest. I made it clear to my older sons that my being without their mother made it imperative that they take responsibility and help me. To my delight, they responded; especially Alex, the older one. He really took responsibility for his youngest brother.

We left after dark, and formed a two-car caravan with the other family. I made sure my sons had the phone numbers of the parents in the other car, and vice-versa. Alex was very proud to be my copilot; handing out food and drinks, looking for road signs, fielding phone calls from the other car.

We arrived in Budapest real late. At grandma's I bedded down with my two-year old. He was confused. That morning his mother had disappeared without a trace or without an explanation. Then we left the vacation house without her, and then we went to grandma's. Poor kid's head was spinning. The next morning, he rolled over, put his hand in the hair at the back of my head (which he often does with his mother) and softly uttered the one word: "Mommy." My heart melted. This kid needed his mother.

Szilvi was released the next day, and the father of the family we vacationed with drove me down to pick her up (he has a bigger, more comfortable car).

On the way home (have I mentioned Thank God for cell phones?) I called my office and arranged to take the rest of this week off. Szilvi's doctor told her to spend a few days in bed, after which she would be severely limited in what kind of physical activity she could engage in. The usual cooking and housework were out of the question. So I'm doing the housework, and Szilvi's mother will be coming over every day once I start working again next week.

Life truly is what's happening while you're making other plans.