What Does It Mean to Accept the Present Moment as It Is?

A quiet pond

What happens if I accept the present moment as it is?

The present moment is always a present.

It’s a gift – if we accept it.

It’s always rich if we don’t check out of it.

If we abandon it for the sake of gaining something later, we will lose the “greatest of gains.”

In the final analysis, it all boils down to relinquishing control.

When I let go of my idea of what my future should be like, I start seeing what I have in the present.

The moment I stop needing, I ALREADY have. And more will be given.

How do you accept present reality?

If I accept the present moment as my highest reward, it turns into a celebration – I will find joy in what I am doing right now.

And then, suddenly, my eyes open, and I see more things to celebrate.

A bright star hanging over my window in the silver glow of the full moon.

The great audiobook I am listening to.

An interesting project I am enjoying.

My son saying to me this morning: “Hey, Dad, haven’t seen you for ages.” 

Someone on Facebook thanking me for an answer I shared.

The parsley seeds I planted outside that sprouted!

A Harry Potter binge-watch party I am planning to have with my sons next Friday.

There’s more and more to celebrate.

Is there a feeling of abundance in my emotional reality at the moment? If so, I will see it with my physical eyes too. It will become a reality in my visible world.

Is there a feeling of lack and discontent in my emotional reality at the moment? If so, I will see it with my physical eyes too. My visible world will be defined by lack. 

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Why Does Melkor Crave the Flame Imperishable but Cannot Find It?

A blooming flower

Why does Melkor crave the Flame Imperishable?

Before aught else was made, Iluvatar sent the Secret Fire to burn at the heart of the world, and the vision of the world came alive (Ea).

The Secret Fire gave Being to the vision of the Ainur, and Iluvatar set this Being amid the Void – as light shining in the darkness.

Melkor is ever seeking after the Secret Fire (Flame Imperishable) but cannot find it because it is with Iluvatar.

But why is he seeking Light if he is so bent on perpetuating Darkness?

It is said:

He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Ilúvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness. Yet he found not the Fire, for it is with Ilúvatar.

The reason he craved the Secret Fire is that he wanted to bring into Being things of his own imagining but could not.

When you stray from the Music – the thought of Iluvatar – you cannot sub-create.

You can only mutilate what’s already been created.

Sub-creation is the province of those who are in tune with The Tune.

Melkor deems himself God and wants to create Being.

But, having become the prisoner of the “imagining of his own mind,” he cannot create – he can only distort what’s already there.

His desire to create Being burns hot in him, but all he sees around him is Void.

The emptiness of the Void makes him impatient.

Every heartless villain can feel their own emptiness. They are keenly aware that all their attempts at creating Being end up creating more emptiness.

They grow “impatient of this emptiness” – it burns them from inside – and they want to assuage it with Light.

Wherever they go, they look for the Light but cannot find it because it is with Iluvatar.

Like Ungoliant, Melkor craves and hates Light at the same time.

Thence she had crept towards the light of the Blessed Realm; for she hungered for light and hated it.

And:

The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë…

Ungolint was ever hungry for the Light but no matter how much of it she consumed she remained famished.

In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form, weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains. There she sucked up all light that she could find, and spun it forth again in dark nets of strangling gloom, until no light more could come to her abode; and she was famished.

Even after destroying the Two Trees and sucking up all their sap, she was still thirsty.

And still she thirsted, and going to the Wells of Varda she drank them dry; but Ungoliant belched forth black vapours as she drank, and swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor was afraid.

Ungoliant is an echo of Melkor’s own emptiness. It burns him, he seeks to fill it up but cannot because he is out of tune with the Music.

The more Light he consumes, the more Darkness he finds himself entangled in.

So why does Melkor crave the Flame Imperishable?

In every good story, the villain always wants to marry a beauty.

They secretly hope to get to the Flame Imperishable that way – vicariously.

They want to experience it through somebody else who is in tune with the Music.

By tuning The Music out, Melkor cannot relate to Beauty.

He is consumed by his own emptiness and hates Iluvatar for being heedless of the Void.

That’s why he wants to dim the Light wherever he sees it.

What is the Secret Fire and how do we get it?

The Secret Fire is the breath of Iluvatar that makes all things alive.

There’s only one way for us to get it – it is given as a gift by Iluvatar himself.

No one can get it through the back door.

It’s granted freely to anyone who would tune in to The Music.

Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.

After the end of days, the Children of Iluvatar will join the Ainur in creating Being.

And Iluvatar will give their utterances the secret fire, being well pleased.

When each comprehends the intent of Iluvatar in their part and fully comprehends the comprehension of each, then we will become sub-creators. Participants in the Great Music.

Whatever emptiness we had, it will dissipate.

The void place we used to roam will blossom:

Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers. Isaiah 35:1

And so it says:

The places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.

The Void will be filled to overflowing and will no longer be void.

Melkor desires to be a sub-creator, feeling his own emptiness.

But being so full of himself he remains empty.

Consumed by his own imaginings, he doesn’t hear the Music and cannot create Being.

When we are full of ourselves, we live in emptiness.

We walk alone in the void places, seeking the Flame Imperishable, but cannot find it.

To fill our inner Void, we need to learn our part in the Music and sing it along with others.

To him who learns his part and sings it along with the heavenly choirs, Iluvatar grants the greatest gift of all – the privilege to fill the Void to overflowing with the melodies that take Being in the moment of their utterance.

This is the Secret Fire of Iluvatar that burns at the heart of the Ea, and whoever wants to partake of it is invited to join the dance.

From Image to Imagination – Transcending Modern-Day Idolatry in Owen Barfield’s Fairy-Tale The Silver Trumpet

rose leaves

In his 1925 fairy-tale The Silver Trumpet, Owen Barfield expressed mythically what he would later expound philosophically in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry:

The life of the image should be none other than the life of imagination.

In other words, without imagination images are dead. Imagination is their lifeblood. Their substance. Their content.

When we look at the phenomena and confuse their appearance for what they represent, we take life out of them. The images are lost. They have been turned into idols by our refusal to see through them.

The moment I say: “The appearance of the tree equals the tree,” I am making an assumption that there’s nothing else to the tree than meets the eye. This mental concept is no more than an assumption (I don’t really know if the appearance of a tree equals a tree).

But I choose to see the tree through a non-participatory lens. In doing so, I refuse to go from an image to imagination.

I refuse to transcend the images with imagination (properly speaking, with faith as the ability to see the invisible). I refuse to go beyond the symbol to what it symbolizes. I take a sign for the thing it points to.

In The Silver Trumpet, this curious relationship between an image and imagination is captured in the relationship between Prince Courtesy and Princess Violet.

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How Do I Stop Blaming Others and Experience Real Freedom?

A blooming tree

Making somebody else responsible for how I feel is sooooooo tempting. How do I stop blaming others for what’s happening in my life?

When I make someone else responsible for my state of mind, I feel justified in feeling irritation and resentment – and reciting this constant “woe is me…” monologue in my mind.

“I am sad because they are treating me like dirt…”

“If only I had this… I would feel differently.”

“Who wouldn’t feel the way I feel given the circumstances?”

“If they really cared, they would have…”

It’s so hard not to blame. Blaming is addictive.

When I engage in this train of thought, the blaming narrative runs in my mind over and over, making me sick.

The more I blame others the more justified I feel in my victimhood.

But there’s a high psychological and physiological price we pay for choosing to marinade ourselves in blame and resentment.

Every negative thought entails a negative emotion.

Every negative emotion triggers the release of stress chemicals – adrenaline and cortisol.

The longer we choose to feel those negative emotions, the longer those stress chemicals circulate in our bloodstream causing our brains to create dense neural pathways around them.

This means that over time, our brains become hardwired to repeat the same behavior automatically – because it feels familiar.

The brain always chooses what is familiar over what is unknown.

We can’t stop blaming because we have practiced it for so long.

Our body has become our own inner pharmacy with an unlimited supply of our drug of choice.

The stress chemicals we choose to flood our body with wreak havoc on our nervous system over time.

“Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person’s physical health,” says psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada

How can you stop this vicious cycle?

Continue reading “How Do I Stop Blaming Others and Experience Real Freedom?”

Say “No” To Take Your Power Back and Find True Belonging

waterfall in the mountains

How do you find true belonging? According to Brene Brown, true belonging is the flip side of saying “No.”

What happens when we say NO?

We draw a line in the sand.

We are no longer playing “nice.”

We are no longer trying to fit in so people will accept us.

And we risk being rejected.

It’s scary.

In the age of increased polarization, a desire to belong is almost irresistible.

We all want to find true belonging.

But, according to BreneBrown, true belonging,

starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.

So, we have drawn the line. We have chosen to belong to no one.

No one except me.

We said “NO” loud and clear.

And now we are alone.

Alone in the wilderness.

Can we brave it?

Is it worth it?

Do I have what it takes to stand alone?

Continue reading “Say “No” To Take Your Power Back and Find True Belonging”

Reverse Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by Increasing “Happy” Hormones

Can you reverse post-traumatic stress disorder?

My grandfather fought in World War II. As a child, I would often ask him: “What is war like?” He never answered.

The memories were too painful. He never talked about them. He just drank.

Every memory or thought about the war brought the same emotions in him AS IF HE HAD BEEN IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

He wasn’t. There was no war around. But he still felt it as if it was his PRESENT reality.

One consequence of PTSD is that once your brain has been hardwired to expect danger, it cannot distinguish between thoughts and reality.

A thought of war feels like an actual war.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has been known for a long time – during World War I, it was called “shell shock.” But it wasn’t until the 1980s that a corresponding diagnosis was proposed.

What is the mechanism of PTSD?

John Bradshaw, the author of the bestseller Healing the Shame That Binds You, says that when a person goes through a traumatic experience, it gets imprinted in their brain within the next 72 hours unless they are able to talk it through with someone they trust.

Why?

Because trauma does not get registered in the brain when met with relentless empathy.

Trauma gets recorded in the brain and causes PTSD symptoms under one condition – the person has FELT an overwhelming emotion but never got any empathy.

In other words, when a person talks through their experience with someone they trust within the first 3 days, the brain does not create neuron pathways (electrical connections) that produce PTSD-related symptoms. 

If, however, they suppress or deny their feelings, the traumatic event eventually gets hardwired in the brain.

When trauma gets hardwired in the brain, the brain gets chemically conditioned to expect the same traumatic experience again and again (and releases the same chemicals before the event happens).

What does that mean?

Every time you experience trauma – say, verbal or physical abuse, – you feel certain emotions.

Usually fear or anger or both.

Every emotion produces chemicals in the body.

Fear and anger pump adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream – the hormones of fight-or-flight.

Love and acceptance trigger the release of oxytocin (“love hormone”), dopamine (hormone of happiness), and serotonin (hormone of satisfaction).

If your body produces stress chemicals again and again, your brain gets used to them. The stronger the emotion the more it gets hardwired in the brain.

Through repetition, these emotional states (and corresponding chemicals) cause the brain to form dense neuron connections around them (electrical networks).

In other words, the brain becomes hardwired to expect the same experience again and again.

In the case of my grandfather, any reminder of the war would bring about unbearable feelings of pain (and chemicals of stress), and he needed a drink to calm down.

How do I reverse PTSD?

Tony Robbins said:

Whatever you keep in your mind on a continual basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.

Whatever we continually focus on will sooner or later manifest in our external experience.

If I keep focusing on something negative, the content of my mind will manifest in a negative outward experience.

If I keep focusing on the positive, the content of my mind will transform my outer reality into a positive experience (and heal PTSD as a side effect).

According to Brene Brown, no negative emotion can survive three things:

  1. Naming what you feel.
  2. Sharing it with a SAFE person.
  3. Getting relentless empathy from them.

So, how do you reverse post-traumatic stress disorder?

PTSD is created in the brain through some overwhelming emotion that triggered the release of stress chemicals.

PTSD is effectively reversed when we intentionally and continually refocus our mind on positive thoughts and interactions – and keep getting those hormones of love (oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin)!  

Who is Tulkas? The “Expecto Patronum” of Tolkien’s Universe to Fight Off the “Darkness of Unlight”

A sailboat at sea

Who is Tulkas in The Silmarillion? What is the symbolism behind this myth?

C.S. Lewis once defined a good myth like this: 

The narrative is more of a net whereby we catch something else.

The story itself may be quite ordinary – a sculptor carved a lady out of a block of stone, and it became alive (Pygmalion and Galatea).

Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, and her mother Demeter prevented all plants from growing until Hades was commanded to let her go for some months out of the year.

There’s nothing extraordinary in the story itself. Yet, we feel there’s something behind it.

Elizabeth Browning put it like this:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

It’s how we choose to look at the common bushes that determines whether we see them burning.

According to G.K. Chesterton, such is the function of our imagination:

The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.

And such is the function of mythopoetry – a genre that allows us to look at ordinary things through the eyes of Faerie and discover a world of extraordinary meanings behind them.

The key to entering Faerie is inside each and every one.

In Owen Barfield’s philosophy, this change of lens happens when a person allows their state of consciousness to be shifted by a line of poetry. And then they follow the call ringing through “this verse that lifts the curse” and enters the perilous realm of Faerie.

The cosmogonic myths of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion are of the same nature – they are an invitation to enter through the door of the external story and into the invisible realm behind the story, which is the land of Meaning.

One such myth is the myth of Tulkas the Valiant.  

How did Tulkas beat Melkor?

Greatest in strength and deeds of prowess is Tulkas, who is surnamed Astaldo, the Valiant. He came last to Arda, to aid the Valar in the first battles with Melkor. He delights in wrestling and in contests of strength… he is tireless. His hair and beard are golden, and his flesh ruddy.

Who is Tulkas? Why did he come to Arda last to aid the Valar in their battles with Melkor? And most importantly, why was Melkor so afraid of him?

So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda, and there was peace for a long age.

Of all the Valar, Melkor hated Tulkas the most.

There’s a spiritual and mythical significance to this. Tulkas is hated with bitter hatred because he represents the laughter of Iluvatar in the Great Music.

Continue reading “Who is Tulkas? The “Expecto Patronum” of Tolkien’s Universe to Fight Off the “Darkness of Unlight””

How can I generate positive emotions that will make me fly?

waterfall rapids

Is it possible to generate positive emotions or do we have no control over how we feel?

Have you ever noticed what your mind is doing when you are not watching?

When I suddenly become aware of my thoughts, I am always surprised to find out that they are happening without my involvement. They are automatic. I am on autopilot.

Thoughts just pop out of the blue, and my mind catches on to them and keeps chewing on them.

One automatic thought leads to another, then another, then another until I am drawn into an incessant inner narrative that usually comes with bright pictures and images.

Before I know it, those “voices” from the past get mixed with something I heard on the news recently or some of my old fears and resentments.

This deadly mixture circles in my mind, eventually creating a dark cloud of negativity that grows ever bigger until I become aware of myself and say: “Why am I thinking all this!”

It’s so hard to stop. If you are like me, you know that negativity can be delectable. There’s a certain pleasure in savoring how you’ve been mistreated in the past or how things can go sour in the future.

But such thoughts and emotions are poisonous and will very soon generate fear, anger, resentment, and selfishness.

How do you get rid of “stinking thinking” and generate positive emotions?

“Stinking thinking” is a negative train of thought that generates selfishness, fear, resentment, and dishonesty, and eventually leads to compulsive behaviors.

So, how do you get rid of it?

The paradox is this – the more you try to stop negative thinking the more you focus on that which you want to eliminate. And what you focus on grows bigger.

Resisting certain thoughts brings on more thoughts of a similar nature. This process repeats itself indefinitely until we… switch our focus to something else.

And this first step is usually the hardest one. By the time I realize I need to switch my focus, the momentum of the negative thoughts and images in my mind is so strong that it’s almost impossible to stop.

King Solomon once said,

For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

We are what we think. Or rather, we are what we focus on. Our focus determines our life. To generate positive emotions we need to shift our focus.

However, we can’t stop negative thinking by thinking. Because the more we think about how to stop thinking the more we energize it through focus.

There’s a simple technique that allows you to switch your focus without thinking. The key is to find things, activities, or images that are EASY to focus on in the moment.

In other words, we can’t reverse the negative stream of thinking all at once, but as soon as we put our focus on just one “better-feeling” thing, activity, or image, it becomes easier.

As soon as we do this first step, the magic of Solomon’s wisdom unfolds – just like one negative thought attracts more negative thoughts so also one positive thought attracts more positive thoughts.

The first positive thought is usually the hardest one. The next one is easier, the third one is much easier, and so on.

What are some things that are EASY to focus on?

The list will be different for different people because what’s easy for me to focus on may not be easy for someone else.

Here are some things I find relatively easy to focus on:

  1. Laughing – watch a comedy.
  2. Writing – creativity pulls me out of negativity.
  3. Connecting with people – talking to friends.
  4. Walking in nature and naming things I am grateful for.
  5. Cooking.
  6. Playing with my kids.

With each laughter, each smile, each sunset, and each creative idea, the positive momentum grows stronger until cheerful thoughts start coming in easily.

Ordinary things stop being ordinary. As you walk in the park, you find yourself saying the words of Elizabeth Browning’s poem:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God.

How Owen Barfield Saved The Appearance Of Princess Violetta In The Silver Trumpet

A book with rivers flowing out of it

Once upon a time there were two little Princesses whose names were Violetta and Gambetta; and they lived in Mountainy Castle. They were twins, and they were so like each other that when Violetta came in from a walk with her feet wet, Gambetta was sometimes told to go and change her stockings…

The Silver Trumpet

So opens The Silver Trumpet, a fairy-tale written by Owen Barfield in 1925. It was his first published book and the first fantasy book ever published by the Inklings. According to the author himself, he felt that in all his books he was “saying the same thing over and over again.” But what is this “one thing” he was saying over and over again? And how did he say it in The Silver Trumpet?

The Silver Trumpet is a mythical depiction of what Owen Barfield would later unfold in his other works and, in some way, a prelude to what seems to be the overall message of the Inklings — the world is God’s music clad in matter. In Saving the Appearances, Barfield points out that we live in the world of unsaved images — images that have been taken literally and turned into idols.


The images (or appearances) we observe around us are so much “like” the things they represent that we have a hard time distinguishing between them. We take a representation for the reality behind it. For us, the image and the thing it represents look alike, almost indistinguishable — like the two little princesses, Violetta and Gambetta, who were so like each other that even the Queen had a hard time distinguishing them.

The Queen used to be so fussed and worried by the confusion that, what with one thing and another, she persuaded the King to appoint a special Lord to distinguish between them [the princesses]. And he was called the Lord High Teller of the Other from Which.

The Lord High Teller of the Other from Which was the only one who noticed the difference between the two princesses. But it was not in their appearances but in what transpired through the appearances.

Moreover, he “knew a thing or two about the magic power of names,” and so he found a way to tell the two princesses apart — by changing their names. By calling them Violet and Gamboy he brought out into the light of day what was otherwise invisible — the princesses were “as different inside as a Church and a Booking Office.”

In Barfield’s mind, the two little princesses who were almost identical in appearance represent the confusion of the modern mind about observable phenomena. We tend to equate appearances with the reality they point to. This anthroposophical dilemma Owen Barfield would later explore in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. 

Continue reading “How Owen Barfield Saved The Appearance Of Princess Violetta In The Silver Trumpet”

The Third Theme of the Music of Iluvatar – a Mighty Echo of Owen Barfield’s “Final Participation”

Sunrise over a lake

If there is one connective tissue between the fantasy imaginations of the Inklings, it is the theme of our participation in the Divine Music – the Music of Iluvatar.

The worlds of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield are born in Music and governed by Music.

In Tolkien’s legendarium, the Ainur descend into Arda, the created Realm, as individual themes of the Music of Iluvatar to behold their unique part becoming incarnate in the visible elements of air, earth, water, and other substances.

Enamored of their part in the celestial symphony, the Ainur follow this “music-made-flesh” into Arda and dwell therein because each yearns to participate in the Divine Thought.

They didn’t yet know how the Music would end – the only thing they knew was that the discord of Melkor would somehow be resolved by the coming of the Second-born to whom Iluvatar gave “strange gifts.”

The Third and final theme in the Music of Iluvatar announces the coming of Men in a soft, slow, and immeasurably sorrowful theme, from which its beauty chiefly comes.

How does Narnia start?

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia also begins in Music, the Song of Aslan, which is “the deeper magic” of his fantasy world – the magic of growing that opposes the black magic of domination.

Aslan sings his world into existence, and all the stars join him in the Song.

Owen Barfield’s The Silver Trumpet is a metaphor for the Music from the invisible realm that awakens us from the spell of unconsciousness when we hear the call. Its call is irresistible and shatters all man-made idols, or the “unsaved images,” so our transformed consciousness can commune with the Music.

Continue reading “The Third Theme of the Music of Iluvatar – a Mighty Echo of Owen Barfield’s “Final Participation””