Be sure that you've read Part 1 » here «.
[Note to the reader: "God" is used throughout as a signifier to point to wherever you put your worship. It could be conventional religions as I will mainly address, but you could just as easily replace it with Gaia if you "put your worship" there--if the environment is your ultimate concern. or you could replace it with polytheistic beliefs such as Hinduism. Or maybe you put your worship in the Universe, consciousness, or Community. Consider that whatever your ultimate concern is, the concepts in this article can apply to that thing as "God" for you. Doing this will allow you to get the most from this article. -Jason D McClain]
As I asked in Part 1:
"...was Jesus really born of the Virgin Mary? Was Lao Tzu really born as a 900 year-old man? Is the earth really resting on the head of a giant serpent (or the shell of a giant tortoise)? And of course, the subject of great debate most recently it seems: is the Earth really only 6,000 years old? Are these facts—with belief in them required to enter into the afterlife? Or are they gorgeous and useful poetic metaphors pointing to a greater truth in a way that people at the time could accept, pointing to Divine power?"
These metaphors are a testament to the belief in stunningly powerful, mystical, and magical forces embodied in "Spirit". Stories told to the good common folk of those eras. Metaphors they could relate to. This was useful and good—in fact, it could have been no other way at the time. However, the vast majority that count themselves among the world’s religions have lost touch with this simple wisdom: that metaphors of their spiritual traditions do indeed hold tremendous aesthetic value and inspirational mythopoetic beauty, however, they are not the Truths themselves.
Nor should they really matter when discussing spiritual merit. Would we say someone was not a good person if they acted with love, grace and charity all of their life, dedicated to the service of others, but rejected the idea of the Virgin Birth? Of course not.
Sadly, focusing on the details of the metaphoric stories as a basis for “faith” rather than the individual relationship with the Universal Truths results in losing access to Divinity and Spirit. Ending up, in turn, hopelessly (and endlessly) arguing over details of form and presentation-details of stories told long ago so that simple people could easily have access to God. These arguments aren’t just friendly disagreements or intellectual debates engaged in among scholars; they have split families and divided congregations--and sent nations to war on too many occasions for us to want to list here.
The fact that this is so, and that is springs from traditions that were and are meant to free the spirit, spread love, and acceptance, and give hope to the hopeless, is no less than tragic.
So that we can attempt to avoid the same pitfalls, let us set aside what is “true” or “false” about these mythopoetic themes and focus instead on the more personal and individual experience. This is what is relevant for our discussion that is focused on the context of personal evolution.
For that, we need to address not the truth, but the utility of our relationship to the Divine--"to" vs. "with." This “to vs with” business is not just fun with prepositions. It has a very practical impact on our internal life and emotional experience.
The manner in which we relate to anything determines its meaning and importance in our lives. Whether that thing is a significant other, a new career opportunity, a rainy day, traffic on the highway, and/or yes, even “God”. Perhaps we should even say In fact, especially God—not because that is accurate, but simply because of the impact that our personal relationship with God has on our real-life happiness.
Let’s take traffic.
We have all experienced traffic on a highway. How do you relate to it? What is your interpretation of it? Do you view it as a waste of time? A hassle? An increase in vehicular pollution? Or perhaps you see it as a welcome break and use it to unwind on your way home listening to relaxing music or an opportunity to listen to a favorite book on audio? The obvious point is that how you “hold” this experience we call “traffic” in your subjective world will give rise to a specific and tangible emotional experience around it, or what we will call an “atmosphere”.
“It is never the thing itself, but rather your relationship to it”.
Knowing that let’s take it out another level: it is not just how you relate “to” traffic that will determine your experience. While this is true, we could take one more step and realize that we are not just in traffic--if you are in your car in the middle of traffic, you are the traffic. You are at the very least a component part of it as a whole.
Think about that the next time you are cursing the traffic you are in.
You can see what we have done there, and you are likely already familiar with the importance of and the ability to “frame” your experience described in the above paragraphs. This is nothing new. Most of the wisdom traditions teach that how you interpret an event will determine your emotional experience around it—and with regular practice, you can discipline your mind to interpret your experience in a way that leads you to have the emotional experience of life that you desire. Simple. Not easy, but simple.
And yet, when we get to the context of God—we go all whacky. As if it somehow no longer applies.
Just as we examined if your relationship to traffic serves you, we will examine the same of your relationship to God.
I was with a client and we chased the source of his "issue" to a particular construction he has of God—and God and spirituality is very important to him.
Some years ago I wrote some guidelines for an intentional community and what I felt would create the best convergence of wisdom and having a responsible "immune system" for a community for safety of those participating as well as the most freedom of self-expression possible, all while trying to maintain it as Evolutionary -- with constant upward spirals, part of which would certainly include plateaus in that "constancy".
Blah blah, blah.
Anyway, one of the rules I had [and hold] is that in a community with individuals engaged in personal development, where Evolution is present, it is our duty and responsibility to update our interpretations of others.
This is not so unique, and the need is obvious: people have brief interactions with others. "Snap-shots" of that person if you will. But they are brief and contextual. And yet, people then extrapolate out and assess [or judge] this person as X. They then share this interpretation of this person with others. Perhaps out of genuine concern. Sometimes just to gossip.
And those who are careful and responsible in their sharing may even say "I only interacted whit them in XYZ situation and you may have another experience of them", blah, blah, blah.
They may even check in with the person/interact with them to see if their experience/assessment/interpretation was still valid.
And right there is where we can improve this process.
The Evolutionary would check in to see where their interpretation was *no longer* valid. Observe first where we were (or could be) wrong or out of date--looking for difference rather than for confirmation--of and about their assessment.
It is uncomfortable and against human nature's tendency to go for familiarity, confirmation bias, safety, etc. but it is more rigorous in our own evolution and more useful for true human connection and more aligned with what I consider to be Evolutionary principles.
And we will be relating more accurately with the dynamic being in front of us, rather than the stale and static caricature of them in our heads.
60 pounds and 8 inches.
That's how much weight and girth around my waist I have shed in the last 15 months. I have gone from a 42-inch waist back down to a 34" waist and I have gone from 265 lbs down to just under 205 today -- while adding a significant amount of muscle mass. And I did so with a fairly relaxed workout routine.
I had gotten fat and what was worse (for me) was that my mental edge and sharpness, as well as my motivation, were dulled and muted. All of that has changed radically in the last 14 - 16 months.
How did I do it? What was the major or primary shift? There were certain things that helped: I eliminated sugars and all grain-based carbohydrates except for the ever-famous "cheat day" once a week. That certainly helped. Ten months ago I chose to stop consuming alcohol -- choosing clarity over self-indulgence. Yes, that has assisted in the process.
But the primary component? Testosterone. Testosterone manages a lot of things: libido and aggression get all the press, but did you know it also impacts drive and motivation, cognitive edge/sharpness, and fat metabolism/retention?
And even more sadly (no pun intended) many men are being misdiagnosed with clinical depression when they really just have low testosterone levels.
Most people don't realize it, but if you have low testosterone levels you will retain fat--and it will increase your estrogen levels, which then, in turn, has you retain even more fat, which in turn lowers your testosterone even further -- it becomes a hormonal downward spiral.
And here is the kicker: a medical practitioner will often tell a man with very low testosterone that it is "normal" if it is still in the normal range. The range being between 200 and 1100.
200 might be "normal" but it is certainly not optimal.
Disclaimer: I am not a trainer, nutritionist, a medical Dr, or a practitioner of any kind of medicine nor do I hold myself out as such. I am simply a guy who has done a lot of research on my own and experimented with certain supplements and herbs and gotten my blood tested 4 times in the last year at regular intervals--and I am reporting my findings here for those who want to do their own research.
Let's discuss testosterone, free testosterone, levels, dietary adjustments, and most important of all, supplementation. Henceforth, testosterone will be simply referred to as "T" and free testosterone as "Free T".
Distinctions, Levels, and Ranges
Total T is what most people get measured with the blood tests that are out there--and if your Dr is not a specialist, this is the test they will give you unless you request both Total T and Free T to be tested.
Total T is just what it sounds like: your total levels in your blood. Free T is a test to see how much is bio-available; how much of your T is floating around available to be put to use at any given moment.
What is a "normal" range? Depends on which lab you ask, but there is some overlap. Some labs will say that a "normal" Total T level is between 200 and 1,300 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter). Others say it is between 300 and 1300. The normal range for Free T is murkier because of the different tests that different laboratories use. Here is a set of ranges from a forum I was involved in for a while:
Consequently, if your doctor tests your free testosterone, be sure you know the analytical method used. If your test results have a reference range as follows, you have probably been tested with one of the other test methods:
Read this sentence to yourself in your mind or out loud:
"My life is the sum total of my own choices; the state of my business is the sum total of my choices".
As you read that and re-read that, what is your experience? Do you feel excitement? Pride? Shame? Do you sense a burden on your shoulders? What does it weigh in your mind? Do you quickly move to insist it is not your "fault". That it was out of your control? That it was this circumstance or that circumstance? That you were "wronged"? Or "unlucky"?
Or do you experience a comforting and/or challenging level of acceptance. A "yup" with a quiet nod of your head?
One thing is for certain-your relationship to that sentence is a good indicator of your level of self-esteem, or your level of healthy egoic development in the positive sense. You see, it is not the big ego that needs defending or asserting in the world; it is the small ego. It is not the big ego that is arrogant, self-righteous, or deflects responsibility and blames others; it is the small, pre-rational, pre-conventional, vengeful, ego-centric ego.
It is a challenging re-frame for most to get their minds around. But just ask yourself this: what kind of ego could achieve a non-dual sense of reality; what kind of ego could be one with all things, moment to moment? A big, huge ego. An ego so large it can be a yes to whatever is arising moment to moment and relate to it, be a part of it. That takes an expanded sense of self. Yet that ego is also diffuse. It is large, but it is flexible. It lacks rigidity. It does not need defending or asserting; it understands its power. As a result, there is nothing to prove to anyone-not even itself.