Soundtrack: Eric B. & Rakim – “Paid In Full”
In the Semitic languages (Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, etc.) the root words from which other words are formed don’t have vowels. There is a particular root word S-L-M (Shin Lamedh Mem) that is the basis of some of the most popular words in the Semitic languages. The word translates to mean “whole, safe, and intact”. Derived from this are meanings of “to be secure, at peace, pacified, submitted”. Some of the words that come from this root are salaam, Islam, shalom, Jerusalem, Solomon, and Muslim.
When I was 15 years old I joined the religion of Islam. Like most people I was told that the word Islam means “submission to the will of God.” Later on when my spiritual preference shifted from religious Islam to the Five Percenters (Nation of Gods and Earths) I was given an alternative way of looking at the word. It took a whole lot longer than it should have for me to finally learn what the word Islam actually means, from its root, in the language that it comes from. When I learned what the root word means it shifted things for me. I’m still experiencing that shift even as I type these words.
The vast majority of people are not their “whole” selves. We live fragmented lives, only allowing ourselves to experience or appreciate parts of who we are. Other parts of self we either ignore, seek to “conquer”, or demonize. Some of us don’t like our ego. Some of us don’t like our flesh. Some of us don’t like our sexuality. Most of us don’t know that we are actually the whole Universe. We limit ourselves by our denial. When you experience your WHOLE self then you realize that you are HOLY. When you separate from parts of yourself then you become the opposite of holy.
Speaking of Islam…In the Lessons that are revered and studied by members of the Nation of Islam and the Nation of Gods and Earths, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad recorded his answer to two particular questions in this way:
Q: To make devil, what must you do first?
A: To make devil, one must begin grafting from the original.
Q: What is devil?
A: A grafted man which is made weak and wicked. Or, any grafted, live germ from the original is devil.
There is so much meaning contained in these few words. I have to keep coming back to this “you are the Universe” thing. The Universe began as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense, dot of stuff. After its initial appearance, it apparently inflated (the “Big Bang”), expanded and cooled, going from very, very small and very, very hot, to the size and temperature of our current universe. It continues to expand and cool to this day and we are inside of it: incredible creatures living on a unique planet, circling a beautiful star clustered together with several hundred billion other stars in a galaxy soaring through the cosmos, all of which is inside of an expanding universe that began as an infinitesimal singularity which appeared out of nowhere. This huge place that we live in is still really the same as that Black dot that existed in the very beginning before the Big Bang. We’re all inside of the dot. Our real body is the dot. We are One with everything else inside the dot, which is everything. There is no real separation between you and the star that is 93 million miles away. The multitude of things that we see all around us every day is a beautiful illusion. There is only one Thing, the Universe.
When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad used the word “grafting”, he meant it in the sense of “separating”. At another point in the Lessons he explains this. It is beyond the scope of this writing to explain why he used the word “grafting” to describe this process. The relevant point here is that Elijah is stating that the root of becoming less than “God” or “Holy” is separating from “the original”. The ultimate “original” is the beginning of all things, the oneness of the Universe. Buying into the illusion of separation is what starts one down the path of being made weak and wicked.
Mystics from many different religious backgrounds describe a similar phenomenon that they aim for in their meditation. One of my favorite philosophers, John Hick, describes his mystical experience in this way:
“I have once, but so far only once, experienced what was to me a startling breakthrough into a new form or level of consciousness. I was in that second stage … and when eventually I opened my eyes the world was quite different in two ways. Whereas normally I am here, and the environment is there, separate from me, there was now no such distinction; and more importantly, the total universe of which I was part was friendly, benign, good, so that there could not possibly be anything to fear or worry about. It was a state of profound delight in being. This only lasted a short time, probably not more than two minutes.”
Christian Gnostics, Sufi Muslims, Jewish kabbalists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. etc. all describe fleeting moments during meditation in which they experienced the Oneness of everything. They rose above the illusion of separation, and they were forever changed. We aren’t required to spend years in meditation and seclusion in order to accept the reality of Oneness. It’s a scientific fact that we can benefit from accepting as truth. However, there is also benefit in accepting the whole person that we see in the mirror.
We are blessed to have these wonderful human bodies with which to experience our universal self. Our five senses and our sixth sense are the perfect means with which to take in the beauty of life. Most of us do ourselves a great disservice by not fully using these senses and the sensuality that they allow us to feel. We literally don’t take the time to smell the roses. We don’t take the time to fully taste our food. We drive past the sunrise and the sunset and the trees and the mountains and the ocean as if they aren’t spectacularly amazing to behold. We avoid touching one another as if human touch isn’t the most wonderful feeling imaginable. And we’re not sensitive enough to be able to feel the things that we can’t see with our eyes but are definitely there waiting for us to acknowledge them. We don’t breathe fully. We don’t take the time to appreciate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that we can’t go more than two minutes without if we want to stay in this physical existence. And we don’t know that our thinking, personality, and life experience can be drastically altered by just changing the way we breathe.
We go through this metamorphosis when we get to be double digits in age that causes our bodies to change and our thoughts to focus on brand new topics. When we really get into the swing of puberty we are walking balls of horniness. Any little thing can set us off and have our minds completely focused on sex. We discover how good it feels to be sexually stimulated and we want to experience that feeling all of the time. Then at some point, for most of us, someone convinces us that it is “wrong” for us to feel this way, even though we didn’t choose to have those feelings. We didn’t voluntarily turn on the switch that starts puberty. But we are told that we have to find a way to put a dam on this tidal wave of sexual energy that has flooded our being. I am suggesting that pleasure and sexual excitement are the natural state of the human being. We experience this heightened sexual awareness partly because of the surge of testosterone or estrogen that our body starts to produce. When we convince ourselves to stop having all of these sexual feelings and thoughts, the hormones don’t go away. They’re still there; we just learn how to ignore them. Those feelings should never go away as long as we have these hormones in production. We have to actually traumatize ourselves on an energetic level in order to stop this force of nature. And that trauma negatively impacts us in ways that most of us never comprehend. We limit our creativity. We make ourselves susceptible to diseases and cancer of the reproductive system. We fracture our relationships with our lovers, friends, and family. Religion teaches us that sex is evil, but it is actually the denial of our sexual energy that restricts us from experiencing the Holy.
It would benefit us to remove the separation. What are some practical things that we can do about this?
1) Get back to Nature. The English language has a problem in that it gives the impression that Nature is one thing and human beings are another. The truth is that we are a part of Nature and Nature is a part of us. It is important for us to actually feel the world around us. Most of us never actually feel the sun on our skin, besides are face and hands. The sun is the source of all life in our solar system and we have a very distant relationship with it. We need to bathe in the sun’s rays with our entire nude body every day, just like taking a shower.
We need to reconnect with the Earth by walking on her every day without the hindrance of shoes. Your feet should touch grass and dirt every day. The Earth is the source of our life, the Sun is our fuel. We need them.
We need to become reacquainted with where food comes from. The vast majority of people in today’s world have no idea how their dinner got from where it originally came from, to their dinner plate. Most people have never seen a seed and actually put it into the ground. We don’t know what food is.
And hug a tree. Touch a tree. Do something to show appreciation for the fact that the oxygen we breathe comes from plants. We can’t live without them. It is the height of stupidity to chop down forests and jungles to make paper and furniture. Having a table is of no use if you can’t breathe.
2) Get back to human beings. We don’t touch each other enough. We have these silly cultural norms about “personal space” and we think that other people are bad so we have to protect ourselves by not allowing people to touch us without passing an initiation process first. From lowering blood pressure and heart rate to increasing immune function and relieving pain, getting touched or doing some touching makes you healthier – not to mention happier and less anxious.
Anyone who’s ever gotten a massage knows that it helps you unwind. And that relaxed state allows your body to regroup and recharge leading to a more robust immune system. Cortisol, the stress hormone, suppresses the immune response. Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune system. The act of hugging someone floods our bodies with oxytocin, a “bonding hormone” that makes people feel secure and trusting toward each other, lowering cortisol levels. Even a hug from someone who is just a casual acquaintance has a tremendous impact on your body. We should be hugging someone at least ten times a day.
Holding hands with someone (anyone) has been proven to reduce activity in the parts of the brain that govern stress and anxiety. It is much easier to stay calm when holding someone’s hand.
And making love, total body skin-to-skin stroking, plus orgasm, floods us with oxytocin and endorphins that do wondrous things for our emotional well-being. Regular sex can even prevent us from getting sick as often. People who had sex once or twice a week had 30 percent more infection-fighting immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva than those who didn’t do the deed as often, according to a study done at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. And solo sex counts too. At least one study links masturbation with lower risk of depression. Even cuddling up with a pet can improve immune function and ease pain.
3) Get back to Self. We all have different things about ourselves that we don’t like. We negatively judge ourselves for not living up to the standard that someone else gave us. We should stop that. Many of us don’t realize what it is about ourselves that we don’t like because we’re too busy in the daily rat-race to ever get silent enough to hear what we tell ourselves about ourselves. It is totally appropriate to strive for excellence and be trying to better yourself every day. But that quest is misguided if it doesn’t first start with loving who you are. There is a big difference between looking yourself in the mirror and saying “I am absolutely in love with myself and I want the best for myself because I deserve it” or “I don’t feel good enough and I would love myself if I was able to change A, B, and C”. It is difficult to speak about this topic in a general way because we all have very unique issues. One thing that we can all benefit from though is realizing that you are unique for a good reason. There is only supposed to be one person on earth who is just like you. So you don’t need to change to be more like someone else. Being the best possible version of you is the best gift you could give to yourself and to the rest of the world.
Being your whole, holy self is the goal of life.