Life as an Automaton vs. Presence | Touchstones of the Sacred | Touchstones of the Sacred

Archive for March 2012

Life as an Automaton vs. Presence

March 25, 2012 By: Michael Nagel Category: Conscious Relationship, Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit


  “The context of the general teachings is one of talking to a sentient being who is experiencing uninterrupted bewilderment – one thought or emotion after another like the surface of the ocean in turmoil, without any recognition of mind essence. This confusion is continuous, without almost any break, life after life.”

~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920-1995),
Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen Master,
in As It Is, Vol. II

Perhaps it was in a junior high science class that I first saw this half-minute video of ping pong balls exemplifying a nuclear fission reaction. It comes to mind today when I consider how we live mostly as automatons in reaction to the day’s sights, sounds, and events – mostly devoid of an inner life.

The ball drops into the chamber with the first thought that stirs you from a night’s sleep. Perhaps it’s a worry, or a news item on the radio which woke you, or remembering an early morning meeting for which you need to rush. With that first thought, the mind’s chaos begins, and continues throughout the day until the last thought is expended, and sleep stills the mind.

If we closely examine the mind’s activity, we find it functions mostly by stimulus-response and associative thinking. For example, I see on the TV an ad for ice cream (stimulus) which reminds me (association) that I have chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen counter. As I go to the kitchen (response), I see the day’s unopened mail (stimulus) which I shuffle through (response). I see an envelope from a bank (stimulus) which reminds me (association) that I haven’t paid an important bill which must be paid ASAP. I hurry over to the computer to make an online payment (response). Read more »

Slowing Down in a Culture Built on Speed

March 05, 2012 By: celedra Category: Aging With Grace and Glory, Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit, Poetry


I excel at multitasking; I am currently training for a half marathon; I have multiple degrees and feel great satisfaction from the sense of accomplishment. Does this sound familiar to you? I think it’s the’American’ disease. Problem is, I’m turning 65 in June and have decided to take the next thirty years to prepare for my death. So, given that multitasking seems to be in direct opposition of cultivating my meditation practice and slowing down, I am faced with a dilemma: If my value has been self-determined by the speed and efficiency of my accomplishments, what will be my value (either self-determined or determined by our society) as a 65 year old woman who opts out of the rat race? Clearly, I have some work to do on myself.

The epiphany about taking the next 30 years to prepare for my death is a great gift that I recently received from two different sources. The first was the very heart-breaking occurrence of a young and beautiful man’s death and the prayer his father posted on Facebook in a letter. It is a poem by the Buddha:

 I am of the nature to grow old.

There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill-health.

There is no way to escape having ill-health

I am of the nature to die.

There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love

are of the nature to change.

There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.

I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.

My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

The second gift came from an 81 year old wise woman who I interviewed for our Aging With Grace and Glory series. She said that when she turned 50, she made the decision to take the next 30 years to prepare for a strong mind, body and spirit during her 80′s. She succeeded! She is bright and clear and vital. Everyday she practices Qigong. She has a strong spiritual practice that has brought her to a place of peace and a deep presence of awareness. She is prepared for her death.

Today I signed up for Qigong. And so this journey begins. What are your struggles and joys on this path of consciousness? We are, after all, all in this together. Love to hear from you.


Being a Knower Rather than a Believer

March 02, 2012 By: Michael Nagel Category: Mind Body Spirit

men's hands

“Ye say, ye believe in Zarathustra? But of what account is Zarathustra! Ye are my believers: but of what account are all believers! Ye had not yet sought yourselves: then did ye find me. So do all believers; therefore all belief is of so little account. Now do I bid you lose me and find yourselves…”

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra,
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher

Currently about 300,000 persons die each day, the vast majority having built their lives on beliefs which never were personally verified. Some believed in reincarnation; others believed in life eternal in heaven or hell. Still others believed that death brings extinction. Hundreds of millions believe in the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Lao Tze, Krishna, Muhammad, Zoroaster, etc….

Most believers take to their graves beliefs which simply resulted from the accidents of their births. They took on the beliefs taught them by the families and societies into which they were born. Were you born to Hindu parents? Then most likely, you were taught to believe in Krishna. If you had left the womb in Saudi Arabia, then most likely you would have been raised a Muslim. But is an accident of birth a rationale upon which to develop an authentic life? Read more »

Touchstones of the Sacred © 2007 - 2018 All Rights Reserved  |  Web Design & Development by Jeff Brock Studio