Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Count to Ten

"Choose not to be harmed, and you won't be harmed.
Don't feel harmed, and you haven't been." - Marcus Aurelius

There is immediacy to our feelings that push us to action. We feel in response to circumstances, to what people do to us, and we act out on those feelings, complaining, lashing out, losing control. In the present it feels real, acute, and permanent.

Emotional maturity is the realization that our feelings are not permanent, and more importantly, that in a short time will transform themselves. Anger will be pacified, anxiety turned to tranquility, sadness to joy.

Emotional patience is the purposeful decision not to act on how we feel right now, but to wait for the situation to improve or our thoughts to consolidate around a solution. Either our feelings will pass and the need to respond will pass along with them, or time will bring forward new information, promoting constructive responses.

We can practice letting go by letting go. Each time we think of something but don't say it we are strengthening our self-control in regard to releasing our emotional energy. There are numerous small opportunities throughout the day to practice this, and occasionally we face big challenges that we can test our progress on.

Don't hold our feelings inside and forget about them, but consciously deal with our problems ourselves, internally, to understand and accept them before we share them with others, if we find sharing them is still necessary. Think about how we share them, and whom with.

Otherwise, count to ten.

"It's so easy to blow up your problems
It's so easy to play up your breakdown" - The Cars

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Search Continues

My mind, self, or ego, whatever you desire to call that overriding sense of ME, constantly seeks to fit my experience of life and interpretation of events into a copacetic, self-contained box. When something doesn't easily fit, the consequence is cognitive dissonance. Contradiction leads to anxiety, anger, and if left to linger, depression.

What we perceive as unfair or impossible, or my favorite, not how it's supposed to be, are the ingredients for mental disorder.

A secret to life, and one some people will reject out of hand for various reasons, is that peace of mind is an effect of accepting reality, our experience, as it is. Everything from stubbing your toe to getting into an auto accident to getting dumped or losing a child. Once you accept it, you can move on, and though that is easier said than done, it's evident in those people who cannot accept and cannot move on; their experience of life, their perspective, their whole being, becomes absorbed in what they deem intolerable.

One of the cornerstones of Eastern philosophy, and the Western philosophy of Stoicism, is accepting life as it is and adapting to it: living with it. Marcus Aurelius emphasized duty and doing what one must given the circumstances of life. Slaves must serve their masters. Emperors must serve their citizens. Marcus Aurelius championed this idea of service, selflessness, and it echoes perfectly the ancient Taoists and Buddhists who believed that only by giving up the socialized perception of self could someone be free to be at peace with existence.

The above is, after 15 years of searching for spiritual truth, the only truth I have found. We can struggle with what is happening around us, or we can get with it. In the end the truth is that we are struggling or getting with ourselves. It is how we see and perceive reality that frees or cages us, and makes the mind the ultimate trap as we project outward and falsely believe the projection is someone else. There is no objective truth, no right way the world should be, no perfect balance or ideal. If life is intolerable, we are what we cannot tolerate.

That brings me to meditation. For 15 years I've searched and for 12 of those years I have sat searching. I'm thirty-years-old at the time of this writing and I've realized that meditation as most people know it is absolute bullshit. In fact, the whole act of searching for spiritual truths, or disciplining one's spiritual self, and especially finding enlightenment, is bullshit. You either accept, or deny, that what is happening is the way reality is and should be.

That is not, of course, all there is to what I believe. I can add such sayings as "everything is natural including our desire to change," and invoke the philosophy of Lila. In the case of naturalness, it is in our being to act when we are in discomfort. No sane animal would, in hunger, accept the situation and starve to death. And if one realizes that the self must inherently include one's environment that sustains the body and the individuals in the society one belongs to that sustain the mind, then to act for someone in need or to preserve one's environment is also a perfectly sane and a natural thing to do.

In the concept of Lila I find my logic for acting out of acceptance. The basic idea is that we are manifestations of either a God or a Cosmos, and in either case we are One with that creative force and all of our actions are Its creative outflow, while at the same time we are unaware that we are anything but separate from the world we perceive with our senses. The act of self-discovery then becomes the slow or sudden realization that we are It. Our conscious experience is the same process as the eroding mountains and the exploding stars and the evolution of life and the culturalization of social species. It's an impressive worldview because of its complexity and seemingly paradoxical nature, but I have found much peace in its profound folds.

After all, if I am God playing Justin, then the first and most obvious outcome is that when I wake from my dream or play, I wake unharmed. My physical body can be destroyed and my mind can be disturbed, but the soul that stands behind those outer layers stands outside of time.

The second takeaway, if life is a dream, then why not make it the most brilliant dream? When I wake up, I'm going to go "Whoa." It is this urge to explore my own existence that has pushed me outside my former boundaries. I could never have escaped the anxiety-ridden reality I lived in for half of my life if I had not touched this way of seeing the world.

All of the "bullshit:" the thousands of hours I have sat in meditation, the texts I have read, the talks I have watched, the people I have spoken with about the deep mysteries of life, it's all very, very important practice, and it is absolutely necessary if you don't know the way forward. We are creatures of habit. We run with emotions, and run on them. We react to life. The very act of searching trains us to act, rather than to react; to be aware of ourselves so that we know what we are doing and why. That is why we are searching in the first place. We intuit that something is wrong and that there is a better way.

Go far enough and we find that we are merely manifestations of culture. At first we are the manifestation of the culture we were born to, varying only to the degree that our personalities and individual life experiences deviate from the norm. After we go along a spiritual path we become manifestations of our first culture as well as the cultural beliefs and practices we have picked up along the way from far off places.

We cannot escape this. It is inescapable. Accept it. You are not you. You belong to the world.

I exist, but I won't exist forever. Nor am I a separate entity, isolated from you and from nature, but am the very web of reality that I find myself trapped in. So why should I keep searching if I have these beautiful, perfect answers? Isn't my journey complete, now? Well, yes, but no. I have gone to the limits of what is spiritually visible to me, and the only thing to do now is to bring it back home. I need to be me, while I still have life to be.

Fifteen years of searching and I can finally do the one thing I needed to do to be whole. Love myself.

Accepting me is the first and last step of everything.