The company we keep

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Yesterday I noticed that a reader from Norway has visited this site. The same person &/or others from Norway have visited before. I’ve known various Norwegians over the years, but am unaware of any friends now living in Norway –

Welcome stranger. Say hello if you care to.

To date, the countries from which readers have visited here are:

Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, UK, and US.

One sometime-reader was living in Edinburgh but has now moved to Portland, so I don’t know if there are (any other) UK readers currently or not. I certainly know/have known plenty of Brits from the various semi-autonomous realms – Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Northern Ireland (Ulster), and England.

On another note, many of my ancestors happen to have lived in Britain, Ireland, and the Western Isles (the Hebrides, etc.), as should be clear from many of the historical saints whose bios & feast days of just one month I noted in earlier posts. Of the total number of around a thousand historical canonized Christian saints in my ancestral family tree, I’d guess that roughly at least half are from the British Isles (especially if you include Ireland), although I’ve never bothered to separate and add them up in terms of regions-of-origin-&/or-settlement. The other half are from virtually all other corners of Europe (including some from Norway, by the way), and a few from beyond Europe.

In fact, of the 10 European countries listed above from which readers have visited this blog – Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, and UK – at least 8 were the homelands of various saintly Christian ancestors of mine (I’m not certain about Belarus and Bulgaria). But other family Christian saintly ancestors were associated with many other European countries as well, including: Armenia (is that in Europe or Asia?), Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine. I think that just about covers it. I may be overlooking a few additional countries just now, as I’m doing this from memory.

Then there are my Jewish ancestors from Europe, Judea, Babylonia, and other places. And my Daoist ancestors from China who settled in Zoroastrian Persia. Some of these various “non-Christian” ancestors are regarded as saints (or equivalents) in their own cultural/religious traditions, as were some of my early European “pre-Christian” (ie “Pagan”) ancestors. And then I also have Native American/Indian ancestors, near and distant, on both my mother’s and my father’s sides. Some of these are also regarded as holy men and women in their respective Native cultures, and some as far back as the early 1600s down to recent times were Christian Indians, others a mixture of traditional Native holy-ways and Christian elements. (And in my scholarly assessment, I would have to say that all of Christianity is a mixture of various indigenous and/or other earlier or later pre-Christian &/or “non-Christian” elements. And after all Jesus himself was Jewish, as were all of his apostles, his mother and father, and all the Gospel evangelists, and other New Testament authors as far as anyone knows.)

My paternal grandfather used to tell how where he grew up there were signs at most businesses, public facilities (libraries, restrooms, parks, drinking fountains, etc), and churches, stating “No Indians allowed.” Sometimes, he told us, he was “allowed”, other times he wasn’t. He was less than “half Indian” and therefore “more white” than Native American, but of course racism knows no reason and has never been good at math. And the whole idea of blood quanta is rather discomforting. It can be wonderful when employed in terms of cherishing and asserting one’s ethnic/ cultural/religious self-identity, human rights, and family heritage, of course; but so often it is employed, as we all know too well, to falsely justify and (re-)enforce hatred, inequality, oppression, and (other forms of) violence and inhumanity against fellow humans — our brothers and sisters, all. Terrible.

I’m proud to be a Métis – “mixed-blood” mutt or mongrel – with regard to my family ancestry and heritage! Proud of each and every known (& unknown?) “strand” in my own “braided stream” of ancestral bloodlines & cultural roots/routes, but I’m not particularistic about any! And of course I abhor the violence and limitations found in the history of (virtually?) all ancestral heritage. Especially the limitations and violence bequeathed to us, sadly, by the world’s varied religious heritage. I certainly have some religious ancestors who were peace loving, some who were indeed celebrated as peace-makers, including many of the canonized saints, as well as some of the non-canonized holy persons in my tree, such as some of my Quaker and Indian ancestors, and even also some of the sainted and not-quite-so-saintly earlier British royals, etc. But then I also have some notorious murderers and plenty of horrid war-mongers among the most “devoutly religious” forebears in the same crazy wide-spreading ancient family tree, so it’s a very mixed historical & biological inheritance!!!

But all of this is in the widest context of one underlying truth: That, obviously, we’re all related! “The whole world is my family,” say the hymns of the Rig Veda, humanity’s oldest surviving literary historical & scriptural record. “I am one with the radiant universe. All beings are my own Self. I find my Self in each and every being, and I find all beings within my Self.”

So, welcome, readers from all parts of the planet. I’m always interested to learn more about those who visit this blog site, and more of the how and why of their visits. You are invited to comment on what you find here, share links to your own sites, etc.)

On another note: I wanted to say something about the company one keeps. There is nothing we can do about who our ancestors are – for good or ill. That just is what it is, naturally. But we have a large deciding agency when it comes to who we associate with socially.

For most of us, there is such a very limited number of persons among whom we spend the majority of our hours. Those persons among whom we spend our daily life – at home, at work, at school, at church or temple or club (if any), through social media friending and other online surfing, those persons “with” whom we spend time through our reading, TV & movie viewing, news service following, etc.

In the past few years I’ve seen a few variants on a statement that reads something like this: “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This thought is sometimes attributed, accurately or not, I don’t know, to someone said to be a “motivational speaker.” I am among those who do not fully endorse this view of life. But the quotation, I feel, does contain a partial, if distorted, truth.

The various ancient living spiritual traditions in which I have practiced and studied all strongly recommend that one spend as much time as practically possible among the most spiritually-mature and uplifting persons one can find. The company of the holy, the company of the wise, the company of those who live goodness, truth and selfless bliss, who spontaneously radiate life-supporting, life-enhancing values and naturally manifest behavior patterns of universal compassion. It only makes sense. If you really want to enjoy life, and to grow as fully, as smoothly, quickly, and deeply as possible, these are the people you want to be around as much as possible!

Liberation, realization, actualization is a result of the true Self, your original, ego-transcending, universal higher Self, revealing and unfolding Itself to your smaller, individualized ego-self – that’s why, of course, enlightenment is known as Self-liberation, Self-realization, Self-actualization, Self-knowledge, etc. in the highest, fullest sense of these terms. Naturally.

The underlying, innermost Reality, the ultimate Reality, is already within you and surrounding you, evenly permeating everything, everyone, everywhere; it’s a matter of inwardly waking up to recognize It and enjoy It effortlessly at all times within you and without you. And living, sharing, and enhancing that experience for the sake of everyone, all beings, everywhere.
The reality is that the individual ultimately is universal. And each person must awaken to this within his or her own self. No one can do it for you, no one can give it to you.

But the situational, social-environmental (pre-)conditions most conducive to this Self-awakening are most strongly, readily, naturally, and nourishingly found in the company of the enlightened, the living saints, the holy (whole) people, the wise and loving people. This, in part, is because while enlightenment is not directly contagious, and cannot simply be gifted to another, there is nevertheless something almost magical, almost semi-contagious, about the ways any one person’s own Self-actualization can and sometimes does have a crucial transformative effect upon others. It can sometimes provide the otherwise missing element to complete the necessary pre-conditions required for some other persons to wake up within themselves and become enlightened.

The more time one spends in the company of the awakened, the harder it is to remain inwardly asleep, lost in the limitations of the dream-state conventionally known as ordinary consciousness.

And when and where enlightened persons are not easily to be found, then the next best company is found among fellow seekers, fellow sincere searchers for the wholeness of life. This next best company, of course, is generally far less effective, far less reliably consistent, in directly aiding one to awaken, but it is nonetheless still often a vast improvement on spending all of one’s time simply hanging out with those whose entire life, in spiritual terms, amounts to little more than “fooling around,” at best, or “causing trouble” / falling into trouble, at worst. For most people, the vast majority of their friends and colleagues and often even their most advanced acquaintances fall somewhere between staggering from one cause-and/or-effect of trouble to another, and simply shambling along in life, fooling around day in and day out – in spiritual terms, if not perhaps quite so much and so often in terms of conventional success (&/or failure) in career and family and personal contentment and material/social “achievement.”

It is one thing to hang out with inwardly asleep or dreaming individuals if one is doing so primarily in order to help awaken them, or at least to sometimes gently guide them away from coming to grief in the worst pending disasters likely to frequently befall those who sleepwalk through this precious life. It’s another thing to be so oblivious &/or indifferent to the limiting effects of ordinary company-keeping that one simply never seeks out opportunities to spend time with, and learn from, those who are decidedly more advanced spiritually than oneself.

Spending time with those who are decidedly better adjusted (inwardly) to life on our tiny shared planet home in which there is so much unnecessary suffering, spending time with those whose mere existence is itself helpful and uplifting to all other beings, is to be truly blessed. It’s the best company one can have in life. It’s society and community worth seeking and keeping, discovering and cultivating.

Each of us has our own path to follow. And once our progress along our own most natural, effortlessly enriching path of consistent inner unfoldment is fairly stabilized, we will naturally wish to spend a certain amount of time among those whom we are most able to help and uplift. But until the final goal of fully stabilized Self-actualization in this life is reached, it is best to spend as much time as possible among the enlightened, or at least as much time as is relatively comfortably easy to arrange. Perhaps even as much as is possible through applying great dedicated effort and perseverance. It’s worth it. And as I’ve said, in the mean time, one can at least spend some time regularly fraternizing with fellow sincere seekers. They may be groping along as much as oneself to wake up from the often bad dream that is ordinary unenlightened daily life, but at least they are aware of the need and the desire to do so. They have a higher goal in their sights and are consciously striving to move toward that goal; they aren’t just sleepwalking through their days and nights.

Short of spending time around actual realized saints, one may still benefit greatly at times from keeping company among those who are at least palpably sattvic (pure-hearted, broad-minded, balanced, evolutionary, positive, kindly, compassionate, helpful, serene, peace-loving, wholesome, progressive, life-supporting and live-enhancing in their habits and lifestyle).

But even finding these good fellow-travelers and spending interpersonal quality time around them may take some doing.

You simply can’t hang out at bars for any consistent, appreciable amount of time, whether you are drinking or not, and expect to find in life what you really need in order to nurture your deeper happiness and higher personal growth. Or spend most of your time around people whose principal idea and practice for seeking improvement in their life is to sit around smoking dope or zooming on shrooms, etc. And you can’t just keep working at jobs that contribute directly to the death or degradation of others (such as businesses that profit from alcohol, tobacco, or war or enslavement or economic exploitation or lowering of others’ mental and emotional well-being, or addiction to hollow materialistic objects-and-status, etc, etc), and expect to enjoy a quality of life that is really worth living. Or expect to start or continue to grow significantly toward stable full unfoldment of your own natural organic innate higher states of consciousness (greater bliss, comprehensive creative intelligence, holistic health, inner fulfillment, etc) if you are just going along with the mostly-less-than-fully-humane lifestyle of the herd, or of the financial, social elite! 

Remaining immersed in degrading, mindless movie viewing, TV programing, violent depictions / displays (including violent and health-damaging “sports” events such as football, boxing, cage-fighting, ice-hockey brawling, etc), or actual combat, etc., caught up in less-than-fully-respectful humane sexual encounters and less-than- compassionate selfless love-relationships, — certainly none of this is likely to contribute much to maximum upliftment and deep inner awakening into higher, more refined, humane, holistic, compassionate, aesthetically harmonious, life-enhancing qualities of heart and mind. This is worth reflecting upon…

On the other hand, it is my humble experience — through long-term close observation of dozens and dozens of persons, including some of my own meditation students, and not-quite-so-close observation of hundreds and hundreds of others, — that when one starts practicing a natural, holistic, highly effective and effortless method of daily inner growth such as Transcendental Meditation, one’s lifestyle, tastes, and personal daily living habits and patterns start changing for the better, usually right away. And gradually these continue to change more and more toward what is personally most life-supporting and life-enhancing, and toward what is therefore also, relatedly, better and better and eventually best for the community and the environment as well. But, sometimes, bad habit patterns do linger and require a little application of one’s naturally increasing creative intelligence and right-mindedness to consciously realize and decide that some of these lingering negative patterns need to be deliberately changed in order to to help facilitate daily increased enjoyment, helpfulness, holistic growth, fulfillment, community evolution, etc.

Somewhere on the internet, I found the following passage:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

“This is a quote made by a motivational speaker and self help guru. To be honest, I don’t fully agree with this statement because it negates the fact we have our own consciousness as well. The quote will be more accurate if we revise it to: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, including yourself”. 

“Regardless, I believe the key underlying intent of the quote is who you spend time with influences the person you eventually become. Who you are with can elevate you as much as it can bring you down.” (end of passage)

On another site, I found the following passage, which incorporates much of the same pop-psychological self-help outlook (with spiritual implications) and ties it to romantic/sexual/ friendship aspects of social life:

” ‘We are a combination of the people we spend the most time with. Choose them well. Choose the ones who bring out the most love, the most compassion, the most growth, who see all parts of you as beautiful, who help you to love yourself and be your best, who have the courage to challenge you and the strength to catch you when you fall. Choose those who are there when things are hard, not just when they are easy. Those who embrace vulnerability instead of destroying it. Pick those who are willing and want to take the time to really see you and understand you, even when it would be more convenient not to. Those who love you for YOU, not for what you do or what you have, what you wear or how you add to their own image of themselves. Just you. The you they have taken the time to truly know. Prioritize those who meet life head on as unafraid of tears and difficulty as they are of happiness and ease. Life is too short to waste time with anything less.’ Taking my own advice. And so happy for it.”  (end of passage)

Well, there is much value in all these statements. Sometimes such talk certainly can sound self-centered, self-serving, and less-than-dedicated to the equal respect and upliftment of all persons. But your ability to help others is certainly in direct proportion to the degree that you are yourself at least beginning to free yourself from living immersed in the same limitations as those you should wish to help. If you are ( still ? ! ) getting drunk, or stoned, or remaining in a semi-intoxicated, sleepwalkng toxic-lifestyle blur from day to day, typically fried to a crisp or into a half-nap-on-your feet from mindless work and play, instead of deliberately waking up more each day from within the depths of your pure, boundless bliss-consciousness, your true innermost Self-nature, then you are missing the whole point of life. The purpose of life is the expansion of happiness. Healthy happiness, consciously evolutionary happiness. And the sharing of this with others. Helping others open to this experience of the wholeness of life and grow in this endless unity.

Attainment of the naturally unfolded, directly experienced, most enjoyable enlightened quality of living is certainly not just reducible to the company you keep. But who you spend most of your time in close company with day after day at work, at school, at play, at church (or club, or bar, or whatever), and at home, can certainly be a very influential factor in the presence or absence of your best and fullest growth toward what is best about life.

If you are constantly surrounded by folks who don’t even know about, much less aspire to actualizing and sharing the underlying, all-permeating wholeness and unity of all life, who have no particular passionate interest in helping all other beings through inwardly unfolding and transforming their own personal full human potential into available, functional optimal humane value for the sake of themselves, their loved ones, and our entire family of living beings, then you are likely being needlessly dragged down to a notable extent. Free yourself. Seek loftier companionship. Read more insightful, inspiring writers who understand and live the humane values they write about. Watch more uplifting movies and TV (is there such a thing? – Yes, but it’s mostly both rare and obscure). Find some better people to acquaint yourself with, to befriend and hope to be befriended by.

It doesn’t mean you (necessarily) have to cut off your existing friends or family (although, sometimes, at least for a while, maybe or definitely, this can be true, heaven forfend!). But it may mean deeply honestly critically assessing just how much negative influence your immersion in their company may be re-enforcing negativity in your life – And how much or little you may be using up your time attempting to help or enable them when you might be better off spending at least some of your precious time and emotional/psychological/social investment further/more deeply cultivating your own well-being for the sake of both your own joy and growth and that of those in your life and all other persons.

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