Lexicon of Spiritual Abilities version 1.

I woke up this morning remembering a sleeping thought that it would be useful to write something down. So I’m listening to that thought.

I’m aware that Tibetan Buddhist sutras talk about supra-natural skills which are attained after certain levels of practice. I’m also aware that Buddha spoke about attaining supra-natural abilities. But beyond this, I don’t know how much what I have experienced connects with what already exists in some sutras or other writings, and I don’t know how much of it is written about even within my own tradition.

But that’s very Soto Zen. In Soto Zen we always come back to sitting. Just sitting. Everything else is secondary. Practice comes first. Study of sutras… well you can if you want.

So I write this down fully aware that it’s probably inadequate, probably repeats things available in other texts, and is probably also a little misguided in the sense that I am new to all this and so perhaps have misunderstood what it is that I have experienced; or not understood enough.

The main thing I want to hold onto, as well, is that none of these abilities can be owned or shaped by the ego mind. They are simply facts of reality which become a part of lived experience. And they aren’t really separate abilities either. They are all part of one ability, and that one ability is simply the very first thing we all discover when we wake up; that the life energy animating us is the same ground of all Being which animates all beings and which is the origin of all manifested reality.

1. Sharing Energy
Since I no longer pray with words about anything, or pray for others, this is what I have replaced praying for others with. It is simply coming into the peak experience, into Oneness with the ground source of Being, and then letting that energy release itself out to the person I am thinking of.

The first thing that happens, which is remarkable, is that even more energy comes back to me than I have sent out. This is remarkable to the illuded mind; how can I gain more than I have freely given! But it is not remarkable to One mind, to the Source. Indeed, it seems to be the way that the Universe is hard wired. There are lots of scriptures about freely giving so that you may receive, and this universal hard wiring is what they are on about. To gain more energy for yourself, you have to give away all of what you have! It’s wonderful!

2. Sharing Energy Transpersonally
This is the transpersonal moment when there is only one shared ‘I’ between you and the Other you are with and the ‘I’ that ‘IS’. You do not so much see yourself as them looking back at you as sense your own life energy flowing into them, and theirs into you, and ‘sense’ them as you and you as them. Hard to describe with words.

3. Sharing One Mind
This is when your energy goes out to the Other, who can be any distance from you (but not that I’m aware of any time from you), and when the return flow of energy comes back from them to you it carries with it information about something they are thinking at that precise moment in time. We like to think of this as ‘telepathy’, which we interpret classically as being able to read the mind of the Other. But Sharing One Mind does not work that way. One Mind does not mean to know every thought as a running narrative of what the Other is thinking. There is simply a brief Return Flow of information between you, and this information provides you with compassion for them because at that moment your mind and their mind are one.

Wanting to be telepathic comes from the ego mind. It is the part of our mind which allows for such thoughts as wanting to map out the thoughts of the Other’s mind. It may not have the intention of control, but controlling the Other is what it can lead to. ‘Sharing One Mind’ can never work this way, and can never be owned. Perhaps this is why telepathy constantly illudes us; always feeling like it is possible and yet never being possible. Because it isn’t possible the way we want it to be. It is only possible the way of Sharing One Mind.

4 Able to Understand what Other Beings with no Perceived Language are Telling You
St Francis, it is said, conversed with the birds.  As a Being at One with all beings, the only thing standing in the way of being able to understand what it is that other beings are talking about, is the expectation that it is not possible to understand what it is that they are talking about.

Without this expectation it is sometimes possible to eavesdrop on the conversation of the birds, on the wisdom of rocks, the message of the community of Trees, and so on. But if someone out there can switch this on and off like a tap I’d be glad to know how! Some of these ‘abilities’ come and go as they will. My Zen nun tells me that they cannot be owned like a computer can be owned or like the ability to run a mile can be owned.

5 Astral Projection
This isn’t really astral projection. Or rather, I don’t know what those who teach about ‘astral projection’ really teach about because I have never been on their courses. I can only share what I have sensed myself, and it’s really another version of the other abilities above. In the spiritual sense there is no time and space. The One is outside of space and time. So it makes sense that sharing an ‘I’ with the ‘One’ is also an experience which is outside of space and time. It is only when that experience meshes with the manifested reality of you in this body in this space in this time that space and time have become involved.

By this token there is nothing separating your ‘I’ from the ‘I’ of another being on another planet billions or trillions of light years (time) away. It is really only Sharing One Mind but instead the person in question is not down the street, they are some way down the cosmos.

I don’t know what this is useful for, but again it is possible to Share Energy (1), and compassion (3), which is nice.

There’s probably a lot more….

I’d like to close with repeating something I said at the beginning. These are not really separate abilities. They are all aspects of one thing; awakening or awareness of the self being One with All That Is. Within this higher state of consciousness, within this enlightenment, are all sorts of feelings and experiences that are beyond words – literally beyond form. So to start to write them down, categorise them and so on, you already start to split something out from what IS and create a dualism, then another dualism and so on. Until you have everything neatly categorised but nothing is what you intended to write when you started out.

Except that we live in the manifest world. We live as individual selves, and we have brains which like to categorise, name, and know. So maybe the categorising of spiritual abilities might be useful in future? Like polishing so many diamonds….


Peace, Beloved Community, Elders, and Digital Economic Nationalism

I’m on a snowboarding holiday in Austria with my partner, and a dear friend who I work with at a charity which works for peace (The Fellowship of Reconciliation).

We’ve been discussing what we have learnt about the nature of peace – what makes for it, how it emerges, how it is so much more than demilitarisation and has to do with the nature of the human spirit, and so on.


For me, which I’m sure I’ve blogged about before, the words of Thich Nhat Hanh ring in my mind like a meditation bell: if we put all the weapons and all the bombs on the moon, we would still make more weapons and bombs. So peace has to be about some other kind of transformation; not necessarily disarmament – at least not first (by which I mean, armament is an effect, not a cause).


On the other hand, for those who have discovered spiritual enlightenment according to their given or favoured tradition, inner peace becomes a reality of daily life. Om mane pemme hum. Discovering this for yourself, it is tempting to think that if all of humanity could make this discovery, the shift in culture, in society, in art, would be beyond measure. But the Way cannot be owned and cannot be forced to emerge in others. It goes where it goes.


Conflict of any kind is clearly a disease of the human mind; borne of our adversarial ego position, with which we are born. We are acculturated to allow the ego too much room in our minds. It possesses us, and the vital prerogative to keep alive – to persist – to thrive – for which the ego evolved to protect – becomes all consuming.


Hence conflict in the world, in communities, and the need for inner transformation in order for world peace to be attained.

But knowing inner peace for one’s self does not promulgate greater world peace on its own. The inner transformation has to also become outwardly transformative, and this is the point currently being made by evolutionary enlightenment thinkers.

In Zen Buddhism, a bodhisattva vows that ‘how ever innumerable are all beings, I vow to save them all’. This does not translate as ‘save’ in the same sense as a born again Christian might be instructed or commissioned to “save” others from an after life of hell. It simply means something like, ‘I have a duty of compassion and respect to all other living beings, and realizing one mind between us, I vow to save them from my own pain and suffering’.

If I can take my own illusion, anger, and greed out of the equation through death of the ego, then the world is more peaceful. Transformations occur simply because I am walking in the Way rather than pushing myself against the forces of the cosmos. Rather like a carpenter working with the grain of the wood. And such transformations in relationships, in work, in others around me, become immeasurable, tangible, unexpected, and beyond my own control. They are simply realized without effort.


Sure. If we all attained this, there would be little to no conflict. We would deal with our conflicts more intelligently and compassionately when they arose. We would look upon the waging of war as the infantile, egotistical, stupid, and futile illusion that it is. An illusion because it can never be a path to happiness, or a path to success, or a path to peace. It never has been and never will be.

Perhaps there will be a tipping point. Enough of humanity will awaken, and enough people will awaken out of such illusion and suffering, that even those for whom awakening has not yet occurred, the illusion of ‘final solutions’ will fall by the wayside and into human history much like cannibalism has already done. And this is what the 2012 brigade are hoping for; galactic alignment will simply occur, causing a new great transformation in human history.


But there may be ways for peace to emerge which don’t rely on such a faith in galactic alignment (which, for some, is hocus pocus), or a belief in the power of the individual aligned with Spirit. Inner transformation work, when combined with a beloved community, can create communities of peace. And many peace NGO’s (including FoR), Christian emerging churches, Buddhist sanghas like Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village, and others, are exploring and making this a reality in the world. In turn, these peace communities have a greater force of good karma than an individual standing alone. And they don’t have to be reatreatant in nature.


What my colleague and I were specifically grappling with in our discussion was the demise of imperial nationalism, and the emergence within living memory of capitalist nationalism; all nations still defend their own interests, but this is along economic and not imperial or religious lines. And because this form of nationalism is economic in nature, it is much more fluid than previous forms of nationalism – almost to the point where ‘nationalism’ is nolonger the right word, unless you think of it in terms of ‘imagined communities‘ rather than in terms of geopolitical areas. Moreover, transactions are made across the globe digitally, and allegiances often cross national and cultural borders. The project of the European Union is essentially a post-imperial form of digital economic nationalism. The EU is a monetary bloc, a cooperative where the merging of culture and humanist ideals succeeds, and does not precede, economic collaboration – at least at the level of governance between member nations.


In this context, ‘defense’ and ‘governance’ are closely tied to the economic prosperity of the privileged. This is not so much a military/industrial complex, as was witnessed in Hitler’s Third Reich (which heavily drew on the imperialism of the Christianised Holy Roman Empire – ordained by God to conquer), as a military/economic complex. This is important because economic growth now grows out from a centre of power much more organically than forced empire building. Sure, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait not so long ago, and this was the older form of empire building. But the nations who became concerned about this were not sort of jealous that they didn’t think of this first; nobody toppled him off that throne in order to take it for themselves in a 19th century fashion. An independent Kuwait was much more important a prize for the economic stability or availability of the oil resource, and reasserting such stability in that area required cooperative thinking between economic centres rather than competitive thinking; there was more to gain financially that way through trade.


Despite this level of cooperation in the interests of good trading, the possibility of colonial/ imperial/ military-industrial forms of evil reasserting themselves, or if not that then the fear of an as-yet-unseen “evil”, is enough to cause nations to build and maintain a defense system much in the way that it is sensible to have anti-virus software installed on your computer before being able to safely surf the Internet. The “war on terror” can be read in this context as a purge of a system bug – the bug being an organised group of dispersed, trained individuals acting like worms, trojans and phishers, and democracy in this context can be read as the global digital economic system working within ‘normal system parameters’.

THE MILITARY ECONOMIC COMPLEX PROTECTS GLOBAL SYSTEM NORMAL, RATHER THAN IDEAS OF A PERFECT SOCIETY (ideologies are dead – including left/right forms of politics as demonstrated by China’s capitalist-communism, or Blair’s free trade socialism), OR TRIBES (ideas of racial or creedal boundaries are all but gone in much of the world).


Global system normal sounds quite good. With economic stability comes other forms of stability – fewer abuses of power, fewer breeches of human rights and so on. But the problem is, and many people are talking about this, that organising human behaviour around purely economic grounds is beyond lame. Economics has no care for the real value of world resources, for sustainability, or even for its own perpetuation. Within this global system normal, the operating system itself is fatally flawed. It is only a matter of time, if left to its own devices, before the system will break itself down because we live on a planet with finite resources. Cynically speaking, the end of apartheid, of homophobia, of sexism, of ageism (which we are starting to see if not seeing) could all be attributed to global system normal rather than to brilliant advancement in human behaviour. These old distinctions simply don’t matter in the way they once did; all human units are potential consumers. It’s tempting to look at positive social changes from the 20th century and think that this means the democracy experienced in late capitalism is a good system of governance. But it isn’t. Not only is it fundamentally flawed, but it is also not the right way to look at it. We aren’t choosing democracy. Democracy is choosing us because we now organise ourselves within a global total digital economic system which requires certain ‘software’ to operate. This sucks.


Some peacemakers seem to prefer Anarchy. Especially the protester types who often forget that active nonviolence means not being violent. And we came back to the theme of beloved community.

My colleague’s question is – how do you have accountability, how do you fill the power void, in any community? To leave it empty would be anarchy, to fill it totally would be totalitarianism, so what else is there other than where we are now? The Quakers, for whom peacemaking has been a major theme throughout their history as a faith group, favour total democracy; all voices are heard and given equal balance. The trouble is that even this form of super democracy does not have within it the force to undo a fundamentally flawed global system normal.


There may be another option, and it’s an option which is already being experimented with by the Sanghas, churches, and groups mentioned above. It’s already prevalent in our religious heritages. It’s a system of eldership, and some of the oldest human civilisations thrived using this system.

What do we do with our elderly? We hide them away in shame. For some reason, our elderly stopped being our elders at some point. Perhaps this was because of the industrial revolution, and the disconnection this caused between human society and living natural systems. The very moment that rural communities were depopulated and urban centres grew, drew us away from these roots.

Or perhaps it is because of two world wars. Our elderly are not our elders quite simply because they fought in wars, whether they wanted to or not. Or if we are talking about our baby boomer parents as our elderly (which they have become), then it might be possible to talk of in terms of the self-centred hedonism which stereotypes a baby boomer. Rebelling against their parents whose worldview became darkened by wars, baby boomer culture was bright, colourful, indulgent, and insatiable. The world was not enough, and they can’t get no satisfaction.

I haven’t fathomed out what sort of system would be preferable for determining what makes an elder, but we all have built within us the capacity to know spiritual wisdom when we hear it, and there are many existing good examples of communities with elders where the elders themselves are accountable too.

I recently saw an advertisement calling for the Grandmothers of the world to unite as a voice for peace and wisdom, to admonish their sons about how they express their anger and fear in the world, to give their grandsons an aspirational sense of awe, and to remind their daughters and grand daughters the important gifts which women can give the world. This is a call to eldership.

I don’t expect to figure out a path to world peace after one year of working for a peace charity, one year of exposure to the peace movement, or two years of sitting in the Soto Zen tradition (even with Bodhisattva ordination). But this is a statement of where I’m up to on chewing that fat, as it were.

Inner peace has to be an essential component of sustainable peace in the world, but it is not the only component, and the dharma is nothing without the marketplace. The marketplace has to be community – the place where inner wisdom passes into fully manifested and realized action in the world. And communities require an organisational structure. In Soto Zen we are taught that our peers are more important than our blood ties, because one day a peer might be our Master. And our Masters, monks and nuns, are our Elders whom we go to when we seek wisdom.

All well and good for making world peace a reality within that closed community system; but what about peace and justice for all? And in that sense, I guess that communities which are outward-facing (in the same way that the Network of Engaged Buddhists Sangha is) are more likely to align with the nature of the peace which passes all understanding. That source of peace which has a life all of its own, which moves and flows not knowing boundaries of race, creed, colour, wealth, sexuality, gender, religion, type of being, or system of governance.

Peace is not mine to take. Compassion is ours to share from the heart of our own beloved community.