Victor MacGill Chaos and Complexity
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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, Myths and Legends

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The Dragon

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My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

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Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line

My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
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Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
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Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality
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Short previews
of all talks

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Other pages on my site.....

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The Dunedin Theosophical Society

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The Evolve Holistic Development Trust
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Living a Spiritual Life in a          Materialist World


I have had reason recently to reflect on how we can live a life according to our spiritual values while living in a very materialistically oriented world.

The hard part about spirituality is putting it into practice in the real world. We can read about it in books attend workshops and even meditate about life, but what counts is the choices we make. Every decision we make closes off some possibilities and opens up some new ones. By deciding to be here tonight, I can no longer be doing a multitude of other ways I might chose to spend a Sunday evening. Now that I am here, a new world of opportunities are open to me that did not exist before I came.

Our decisions are driven by our values and beliefs about the world.

As we grow and experience the world we form a set of beliefs and values about our world and our part in it. These values guide the way we live our lives. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are guided by our values. If our values are healthy, positive values, we will think and act in positive, healthy ways and that in turn will lead to positive, healthy lives. If, on the other hand our values are negative and life draining, our thoughts will be negative and life draining. Our lives will become negative and life draining and we will only be able to survive by being a drain on other people. We steal their health and vitality, we steal their spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical resources to try and make up the deficit within us.

The first step, therefore, is to look at our values. We need to ask whether the values we have chosen are actually leading us towards the life we want to live. If the life we are living is not the one we want, then looking at the values that drive our behaviour is a good place to start.

You will also notice that I talked about “the values that we live by”. I chose those words because there can be an enormous difference between the values we hold in a minds and talk about to ourselves and others and the values we actually live by. Do we actually walk our talk or do we talk in one direction and walk in another.  If there is a difference between the values we talk about and the values we actually live by, we will not live the life we want to.

There is a passage from the bible I find extremely useful in looking at values and beliefs. It is “Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all things will be added unto you.” This encourages us to choose the highest and best values in life. We are told that when we do that, all the other things we need to achieve that goal will be added to us to help us attain it.

What is your Kingdom of Heaven? What is the ultimate goal, the ultimate value that drives your life?

Reaching the Kingdom of Heaven is a bit like climbing up a mountain to reach the peak. We must be sure we are climbing the right peak. The journey to some peaks are much easier than others and some pathways up the mountain are more direct than others.

If your Kingdom of heaven; the peak that you aspire to, is positive, strong and healthy your life will be drawn to it, and those things you need to achieve that goal will tend to be drawn to you to support us on our journey.

One way of looking at the mountain, although it is a bit of an oversimplification, is to see it as four parts, one on top if the other. At the bottom of the mountain is our physical world. Here is where we meet our physical needs; warmth and shelter, food and drink, clothing, safety. We use money to provide us with our physical needs. A bit higher up the mountain we come to our emotional needs like comfort and companionship, love and caring. Further up the mountain still we find our intellectual needs of understanding and making sense of our world, communicating with others. Finally at the top of the mountain comes our spiritual needs like unconditional love, sacrifice, morals and values. If our Kingdom of Heaven is based in our spiritual realm, we can access the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of our live. If our focus is in the intellectual, we can only use the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of our being. If our focus is on the physical, we are cut off from our emotions, intellect and spirit.

We need our physical world. A place to live that is warn and safe, god clothing,  healthy food and water, and physical health, the ability to travel where we need. When we focus too much at the physical level the way we see and use our physical resources becomes distorted. Instead of finding our confidence and sense of who we are from our spirit, we seek it our physical world. Owning things becomes too important.  We measure ourselves by our money and what we can buy.

Those who climb a bit higher reach the emotional world. Their security and sense of themselves comes from their feelings. They need to feel accepted and wanted. Again this becomes distorted if there is too much focus on the emotional level. The person tries to be something that they are not in the frantic struggle to appear acceptable to others.

Next are those who climb to the intellectual level. Having a sharp intellect and strong knowledge base is a valuable asset, but it can become distorted where people use their knowledge against other people or to appear superior.

Even at the spiritual level we find distortions. People can see their particular spiritual path as the only way or as a way to feel superior to other people.

Fear often means we fail to do what we know is the right thing to do. Our desire to avoid pain is so often greater than the drive to be true and right. Often doing the right thing means doing things that other people will find difficult and painful. Our fear keeps us from climbing right to the top of the mountain and tends to make us stop where we are instead of moving higher.

We climb as far up the mountain as we have the skills, determination and ability to cope with.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of the distortions at different levels. Addictions emerge as distorted attempts to meet our needs, so we feel good in the short term, but cause harm to ourselves and others in the long run. Addictions range from alcohol, drugs and gambling, through to over eating, shopping and working long hours. If we fail to Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, we only climb part way up the mountain and general fall prey to addictions to try and make up for not having climbed high enough.

Our journey inevitably has much pain and suffering and while we do not like having to endure it, it is another of the gifts that helps us on our journey of spirit. Pain and suffering tells us that we have not reached our Kingdom of Heaven, and shows us the way to move beyond the pain and suffering we feel. It offers us the opportunity to reach higher to an even more real experience of ourselves. We will find that there is no such thing as certainty and things we thought were true and certain were only a part of the story. When we examine what we thought was true we are lead to a new more embracing truth; a new level of understanding.

As we climb ever higher on our spiritual journey will also come to realise in our life that each time we seem to reach the peak of our Kingdom of Heaven, we find it to only have been a step on the way to an even higher goal. In this way we embark on a journey that allows us to continue growing in spirit, reaching ever greater levels of wholeness and understanding of ourselves and the world of which we are a part.

What we need is a good balance of our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects. There are no simple rules to say what is the correct balance of materialism and spirituality in our lives. What is a reasonable balance will change according to where and when we are. Different people will find the balance in different places.

So what is needed is a good balanced approach where the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of ourselves are all strong and balanced. We then avoid the distortions that cause so much pain and suffering in our lives.

Balancing our physical needs is not easy or straight forward.

Travelling to Africa and Russia has made a big impression on me. We actually saw people living life in atrocious conditions that would find absolutely unacceptable for any of us living here in New Zealand. Any money they had was used to survive another day. It all made me realise how much we spend our money on things that don’t really matter. I also realised that even a small contribution from us can bring about an enormous positive change in the lives of people in third world countries. But, the answer is not for us to all give away everything we have and live at the same level as those in Russia or Africa.

A part of our responsibility in life is to play a full part in the community in which we live. The reality is that doing so requires the use of more resources than it does for people living in the third world. We need to keep up with what is happening in our world, we need houses that meet local building standards, we need transport to get around quickly, safely and efficiently, we need clothing that fits in with the people around us and technology that keeps us linked in with our community. We need homes, clothes, cars, televisions etc. People in New Zealand who do not have these cannot fully participate in their community.

Having these resources offers us many opportunities to live a full and productive life. The question is though, what level of use of resources is reasonable and at what point do we start to become unbalanced. Different people will come up with different answers to that question. And, to a degree, it is fair enough for people to make their own decision. The problem is that we do not make our decisions in a vacuum. Our decisions have implications for other people. Our use of resources is at the expense of others. The war in Iraq is about protecting cheap oil supplies and workers in third world countries live in atrocious conditions so we can buy our cheap goods. Our lifestyles affect our environment. Our planet does not have an endless supply of resources for us and our descendents. We must use our resources wisely so there is enough for everyone.

I have to say, don’t look at me as an example of how we ought to live. As much as I know about how we a re misusing our planet and its resources, I get swayed just as much by a flash new computer, a digital camera, new clothes or whatever I see being advertised

There is no easy answer as to what is the right way to live our lives, but as long as we work at being aware of ourselves and our world; as long as we care about our welfare and the welfare of others in a balanced way; so long as we have the wisdom to make good decisions and so long as we have the courage to do what we need to do, then we will be climbing our mountain and growing in spirit and becoming that which we truly are and playing our role as co-creators in the wonderful universe we have been given the opportunity to participate in.


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