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The Shift of Consciousness
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The Shift of Consciousness

When you look at the moving image of the ballerina pirouetting below, you will immediately get the impression she is spinning either clockwise or anticlockwise ... one way or the other.

It will seem at first that she can only be whirling the way you see it, but is that really so?

Actually, it is quite possible for you to see her spinning in the opposite direction ... it just takes a little concentration.

spinning ballerina

Are you able to see her moving in the reverse direction to the one you first perceived? Don't worry if you can't ... it's not a test of intelligence or anything like that.

It's just that we can be so convinced that something we've known a long time -- maybe all our life so far -- is a certain way, when really it is possible to see the same thing in a completely different way.

The moment you see the ballerina pirouetting the opposite way from your first reckoning, that is a shift of consciousness.

Noticing the shift of consciousness in regard to the ballerina's motion has no real consequences ... it simply makes a point, but when we experience The Great Shift with regard to Reality Itself, the consequences are enormous,  transforming and liberating beyond ordinary imagining.

Drawing your attention to the possibility that you can experience this awesome shift, here and now, is what this site is all about.

The good news is that it doesn't require more time or a lot of efforting to become 'better' in some way or other ... it's simply a matter of turning your attention inward and noticing the spacious dimension in which all your thoughts, feelings and sensations arise.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that, so that's why it's often helpful to talk with someone who has already experience this wonderful shift of consciousness and who can show you where or how to look.

Once the shift happens (pun intended), you'll find that the seeing is freeing indeed!

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The Dance of the Divine

The pirouetting ballerina may also have something to teach us about the way two seeming opposites -- clockwise and anticlockwise motion -- can be true in one person or place at the same time.

Visually, we tend to see only one motion or the other, but aurally, in the case of two notes or melodies, both can be heard together, often to great effect, with one note or melody enhancing the other.

This phenomena is known as paradox -- literally, when two different or seemingly opposite truths are being true at the same time and in the same space.

Jesus, for instance, talked about 'dying in order to truly live' -- now there are opposites for you, yet in saying this, he was pointing to one of the most important principles of the Great Wisdom Tradition he was articulating.

On another occasion, he spoke paradoxically of 'God being in us and us being in God'. If we can think about that at all, we can only imagine it being one way or the other, but Jesus wanted us to see, that for those spiritually awake, both are true at the same time.

If you've ever noticed the upraised right hand on a Buddha statue, you'll see that the thumb and forefinger touch to form a kind of circle and the three remaining fingers stand straight up.

This beautiful symbol is deeply meaningful and encapsulates what might be called the pith of the Buddha' teaching in one simple gesture.

The empty space between the thumb and forefinger represents the unborn, undying, Spirit dimension of life, while the three remaining fingers represent the transient form-based dimension of life.

So there it is, symbolized in one hand, all the seeming opposites, nothing and everything, the formless and the forms, the one and the many, the unmanfest and the manifess, the eternal and the temporal, the indescribable and the describable, etc. etc. all in one gesture!

And the fact that these different or seemingly opposite dimensions are symbolized in the one hand is important because this enlightened being is wanting us to know that both these dimensions are equally true for all of us and consciously so for those who are spiritually awake.

The logical mind cannot grasp that both these dimensions can be exerienced and enjoyed at one and the same time. The mind insists that one or other be engaged, but not both.

The dilemma of choosing one dimension or the other is reflected in the memorable line, put into the mouth of Hamlet by Shakespeare, "To be, or not to be, that is the question:" It's like asking,'is the ballerina spinning clockwise or anticlockwise?'

Well, our moving image shows us it doesn't have to be one or the other -- both are true at the same time. Or, as Douglas Harding insightfully rephrased Shakespeare,"To be, AND not to be, that is the answer!"

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Paradigm Shift

Have you ever wondered why it is that two people can listen to the same speaker or read the same book and come up with two totally different interpretations of what they heard or read?

And, how it is that two people can read the same sacred text and yet see things so differently? Two people who both have a high regard for religion and ethics and yet see the same scripture in two different ways. Is it that one of them is stubborn or unreasonable? No, it's because each of us has within us a paradigm of what life is really all about.

The word paradigm means a model or a map. We look at life through our paradigms. Inside each of us is a map or model of what life ought to be like. Our paradigms are representations of life. We all have them, and we all have paradigms of religion and spirituality ... even if we think of ourselves as having no religion or being quite 'unspiritual.'

We all interpret life through our paradigms. We look at life and compare it to our model to decide if life is good, bad, right or wrong. We interpret life through the model that we have developed within us. Most people don't question the models that they have developed, we all assume that we have the right model.

Our paradigms are developed over a period of time and we see life through them. Our religious paradigms have been developed throughout our church life by what we have heard. The predominant religious paradigm of the church today is dualistic -- that is to say, the concept that each of us is quite separate from God ... and from each other.

There is a thing called a paradigm shift which is when you view things one way and then you shift and view them another way. For example, at one time, just about everybody held the paradigm that the earth was flat. A small number of astronomers came to think otherwise and began to publish their convictions. Then over a relatively short period of time, people had a paradigm shift and realized that the earth was in fact round.

To give another example: A man was once on a subway train in New York. Another man with three small children boarded the train. The three children were about as rowdy as kids could get, they were bothering all the other passengers in their compartment. The longer the first man sat there and watched this, the more irritated he got with the father of the children.

Finally he couldn't stand it any longer. He said to the father, "Mister, don't you think you should get a handle on your kids they're bothering everyone in this compartment." The man looked up and said, "I'm sorry, you're right, we just came from the hospital where their mother died and I don't know how to handle it and I guess they don't either. I'm sorry."

The complainant's feelings were pulled inside out because what he thought was one way, was, in fact, not that way at all. He experienced a paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts can happen anywhere at any time and they are part of your life-experience and mine.

Saul (later St Paul), had a paradigm shift on the road to Damascus. He thought that Jesus of Nazareth was a heretic and he was preaching against the only true religion. Then Saul had a profound spiritual encounter while on that road and the world as he had understood it was turned inside out. The teaching he had worked against so assiduously now became the foundation of his life. That is a paradigm shift.

I had a paradigm shift. My understanding of what Jesus referred to as 'the kingdom of God' completely changed. From my youth, I had been taught to believe in a future 'kingdom' beyond death, in heaven with God, but in light of my own direct experience and some very compelling scriptural evidence, I no longer believe that the 'kingdom,' is someplace in the future, but rather know, without any doubt, that it's right here, right now, both within and around us!

At the same time, I also came to see that when St Paul spoke of, "Christ in you," the Christ he spoke of was not a person (not Jesus), but an infinite Presence, which is in reality, no less thatn our essential Self. Of course, St Paul and many other Christ-ones referred to this unborn, undying Presence as 'Christ', but it became clear to me that other sages, in other traditions had other names for the this same noumenous, all encompassing, all sustaining Presence.

When the shift happened in my case, the sense of 'Them' (the non-believers) and 'Us' (the true-believers) dropped away or dissolved and I felt an immediate connectedness with all things -- seeing them each as unique manifestations of the formless Spirit which was Source of all ... much like the ocean is the source and substance of every wave upon it.

This sense of deep connectedness brought an upwelling of love and a fuller acceptance of my personal circumstance which I soon realized was "the peace that passes ordinary understanding" promised by the Master. For the first time, I was truly free of fear and felt unfettered on every level of my life-experience. All because of a paradigm shift.

~ Pete Sumner

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