Friday, May 9, 2008

Super Powers

Ancient Eastern philosophy considers loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity as the "immeasurable", "infinite" or "divine" virtues, as meditation upon them can allow us to experience a infinitely heavenly and blissful state of mind and heart. It is also taught these are the deepest essence within us all, as water is to a wave, fire is to a flame, and life is to a seed.

This is easy to forget, and fears arise as we tend to think of ourselves as a separate and vulnerable individual like the wave, flame, and seed. This is particularly natural for us, as we have two eyes, ears, and nostrils to separate and locate things in our world, and giving us the impression we are small and solitary figures up against a big and frightening world.

 Besides our tendency for separation, the struggle to survive has also given us a negativity bias, as those who stayed vigilant to threats were more likely to survive. This was fine in the early days of mankind out in the wild, but doesn't serve us in modern civilization. In fact, selfish  individuals, and now "corporate personhoods" have caused great inequities that allow some to enjoy great luxury while countless others languish or die from lack of basic needs.

It is time for a revolution, a climate change of the heart and minds of all persons, including corporations, to embrace virtues that are the fundamental truths that honor the dignity and value of all people, life., and our dear mother earth. We have lived far too long in fear and isolation while yearning for union with nature, our Higher Power, inner child, parent, hero, and other internal figures.

Wisdom advises us that it would not be prudent to "bliss out" and focus exclusively on the positive aspects of ourselves or the world as life is not all sunshine and roses, it has suffering as well. Therefore the "positive" principles have a counter-balance. Love, peace, joy, and beauty are balanced by hate, chaos, sorrow, and ugliness. Some spiritual paths considers these as negative aspects as illusions, void of substance, so that only love is real. Yes, everything is illusion on the ultimate level but pain and suffering are all too real on the relative level of daily life.

So we laugh and cry, are inspired and despairing, and so on. This willingness to face difficulties head on is revolutionary in modern society, as most prefer to shy away from problems and chase after comfort and convenience. Loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity are definitely virtues, and worthy disciplines to be followed. We like to call them "Super Powers" because through our Higher Power they give us the power to do amazing things.

On our own our power can appear quite small and weak, but through our Higher Power we can connect with the infinite power of the universe. As children of God, we are heirs to all the presence, wisdom, beauty, and other infinite and divine qualities. For more inspiration on this awareness and opportunity check out the Higher Power Sanity File.

As evidence of the universal power, wisdom, and value of such virtuous and Super Powers, please consider these examples of  various classical wisdom traditions. We start with the oldest of Eastern Wisdom, then Jewish Ethics, next Christian Virtues, and Islamic Ethics. Bringing things up to date is Twelve Step Super Powers, and into the future is the Jedi Teachings. Even the Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle got into the game with Ancient Greek Super Powers.

Over time these one word touch stones have expanded into a collection of short, pithy, and very wise slogans, sayings, and mantras. These also cover a variety of themes, topics, and subjects and are found in the Super Sayings and Slogans Sanity File. Our founding father likes to  take his favorites and drew them out in big, bold, colorful, and fun lettering on posters and pin them up on his studio walls for inspiration and as daily reminders. It's quite a sight we hope to add here soon.

It is very easy to collect virtues as mental concepts to poster on our walls and be admired rather than using them as touchstones for living a virtuous life, but please remember each of these is the path and the goal, and we are wise to enjoy the journey as much as the destinations. Perhaps the journey is a more appropriate perspective here, as we try to live these virtues everyday, with every step, every thought, every word, and every breath.

Another place where we can see and feel immeasurable and divine power, beauty, wisdom, and love is through music and song. The sound of music seems to directly set the heart, soul, and spirit to soar directly, as the mind takes the strength and story of song to stir and move indirectly, but just as deeply. There is most definitely a super power at work in music and songs.

For this reason, we present a list of some of our favorites in the Music and Super Songs Sanity File that help keep us sane and strong amidst the sorrows and adversity of the world. Many people will say they don't care much for classical music of symphonies, sonatas, and the like, but if you checked some of their favorite movies, you would likely such music in the background of the most moving scenes. The point is not to discount various genres, but to find what moves you best wherever it is found.

The history of music illuminates it's power, as it stretches back to ancient times through oral history, predating writing by thousands of years. This became folk music which evolved into the blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and swing music. Traditional folk (peoples) music also became gospel, country and western music that became rock and roll in the 1950's. Again, this gives us great respect for the  ability of music to touch lives everywhere, and in incredibly diverse ways.

For a good look at how this is done check out the book, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness In Everyday Life. In it world renown Zen master, spiritual leader, and peace activist (and one of our favorite authors) Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to the smelly, dirty, and ugly parts ("mud") of life into positive experience and outcomes with great wisdom and ease. 

Any of us, in fact all of us have innate potential to realize these wise, beautiful, and infinite virtues at any point in life, it's never too early, and it's never too late. Kids giving food to the homeless, selling toys to aid disaster victims, and simply giving a hug when it is needed can be an inspiration to us all.

As adults we can take this so much further as we spend our lives in the pursuit of service, kindness, and helping. Parenting is a great opportunity as well, and whether the child is ours or not. Anyone of us can tune into our Higher Power to access and gather their favorite and inspiring virtues, sayings, slogans, songs, books, and whatever else helps them access their own inner "Super Hero".

This may sound crazy, but take a moment to consider a few simple people who achieved greatness: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Cesar Chavez,  and John Lennon. These were peaceful warriors who stood up to injustice with non-violence, dignity, and yes, Super Power. Each of us could do the same, and should do the same, as we are able.

It begins with a Hero's Journey to forgive, understand, transform,and love ourselves. Many ways we might make this change are listed here and in other Sanity Files, but the Twelve Step Hero's Journey is the one that has been the most helpful for us. Here we find the hope, help, healing, and happiness together that makes all the difference.

The point here, as across all the Sanity Files is to see what resonates for you, and to find your own Super Powers. Considering the incredible, infinite, and awesome power of these simple terms we like to imagine our favorites written thousands of feet high across the horizon. This is a reminder how seemingly small words and ideas can have BIG effects on our lives. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find that this list has an ancient Greek counterpart in Aristotle's list of "Nichomacaen Ethics" (or "Virtues and Vices") which lists his view of universal ethical concepts as well as their excessive and deficient counter parts and sphere of action or feeling. You can view this list at the bottom of the Aristotle post, or by itself on the internet here

There is also a modern version of classical virtues contained in the book Character Strengths and Virtues by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson that mirrors our list of Super Powers. They attempt to counter balance the disease oriented perspective of much of modern psychology as evidenced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Disorders (DSM) with a positive viewpoint. They list six classes of core virtues and their attending character strengths. For more information, look here.

Below are the top twenty individual categories with links to posts for deeper understanding. Part two is here, part three is still in the works. Feel free to play around with these to enjoy and integrate them, and more power to you!


Enlightenment Revelation Spiritual Transcendence Epiphany – Lost Separate Alone Isolated
 
Body/Mindfulness Intimately Conscious/Aware/Present/Attentive - Asleep Ignorant Distant
 
Loving Kind Considerate Compassionate Caring - Indifferent Hateful Uncaring Unloving Mean

Gratitude Appreciation Thankfulness Blessed- Thankless Unappreciative Cursed Ungrateful
 
Surrender Yielding Give-In Fall Let-Go - Attachment Fighting Blaming Clinging Stuck
 
Acceptance Allowing Consenting Mercy Let-Be - Rejection Judgmental Denial Resistant
 
Meditative Stillness Sitting Staying Being – Rushing Running Shattered Turbulent Spinning
 
Equanimity Harmonious Balanced Centered - Chaotic Upset Troubled Frustrated Disturbed
 
Peaceful Calm Serene Tranquil Quiet - Chaos Discord Tumultuous Distress Agitation Angry
 
Beauty Radiance Loveliness Glorious Sublime Splendor - Ugly Grotesque Repulsive Gross
 
Joyful Happy Bliss Pleasure Delight Ecstasy (Smile!) - Miserable Sad Sullen Sorrow Depression
 
Honest Open Authentic Genuine Real True - Fake False Dishonest Lie Untrue Fantasy
 
Humor Irony Fun/Funny Absurdity Playful (Laugh!) - Serious Somber Sullen Depressed
 
Illusion Dream Construct Chimera Apparition Mirage - Concrete Solid Hard Factual Real
 
Wisdom Vision Understanding Discernment - Stupidity Ignorance Dumb Confused Blind
 
Insight Look/Listen-Deeply/Within Reflection Clarity - Ignorant Deaf Dumb Blind Confused
 
Oneness Unity Emmanuel Inclusive Interbeing - Insignificant Separate Alone Isolated Selfish
 
Impermanent Changeable Changing Transformation - Static Same Permanent Solid
 
Spaciousness Vastness Emptiness Limitless - Claustrophobic Suffocated Closed Limited
 
Restful Relaxed Ease Calm Stopping (Breathe) - Restless Anxious Uptight Angst Panicked
 

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