Monday, September 1, 2014

One of the most helpful books I have ever read is “Zen In The Art Of Archery” by Eugen Herrigel. The last time I read it I attempted to apply something the author wrote about archery to my golf game. He wrote about how the archery master warned his students never to respond to the outcome of their shot, whether it hit the bullseye or missed the target altogether. He emphasized that they should be neither happy nor disappointed about the outcome. Herrigel even made it sound as though students, at first, had to force themselves to some degree not to respond. As I read (and reread) the book, I realized this was nearly the only instruction the students ever received other than technical advice on how to hold and release the bow.

As I have played golf in the past six months, I have attempted to play without being concerned about the outcome. My main thought as I get to the course is to pay attention to breathing and not to respond to the outcome of my shots. I will say that I have never enjoyed golf more. There have been times when I have become elated that I made a shot, and times when I have been disappointed when I have not. But, for the most part, I have been able to make my shots and move on…physically and mentally.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I decided to generalize this “letting go” to other areas of my life. I have learned, through Buddhism and A Course In Miracles, the importance of non-attachment, or forgiveness. Both disciplines emphasize the importance of love or compassion, but they also emphasize letting go. There have been times in the past when I have attempted to focus on compassion, but then have found it easy to feel stepped-on when others are not compassionate as well. On the other hand, during times when I am focused on non-attachment, I have found myself forgetting the importance of being loving. At this point I believe that compassion and non-attachment are complementary and both necessary for spiritual health. In fact I am beginning to think you cannot have one without the other.

I have experimented with non-attachment successfully in a couple of different ways. I actually believe they have helped me more than anything else I have ever tried as far as living in “the world” goes. The first way, and this I have tried more recently, is the way that Herrigel wrote about in his book. I attempt to start (the day, work shift, fixing the car, playing golf) with the mindset that I will not respond to whatever happens. I will simply observe what happens and go on. The second way, which I have tinkered with a little longer, is starting off with the intention that personal peace is the most important thing there is and doing everything possible to maintain it.

In my experience the outcome is nearly the same. I’ll run through what generally happens. First, because I have a focus, either maintaining peace or not responding to what happens, it is far easier to pay attention to thoughts and things that occur around me. Even if I get a little blindsided by someone or something (really my own mind), I am much quicker to recognize it and let it go. The key is knowing that I have to let it go. I have to be a little hard on myself sometimes and even talk myself through it. Now that’s mindfulness at work.

I have to add something else at this point: I have discovered that if the feeling has already taken hold and turned peace into anger and ruminating, it is important not to try to make it go away. At first I pretended that I was not angry or that I was wrong to be angry or I attempted to do things to make the anger go away. I found the best thing to do is to acknowledge the anger completely. And…try not to punch anyone in the process. The feeling goes away much quicker this way and sometimes I even realize that the emotion I’m experiencing is really not me.

After practicing this a while you get an evenness that is not (as) easily shaken. I still get angry much more often than I’d like, but this is helping. More than that, and this is the really beautiful thing, the clarity and evenness of that peace/lack of attachment, gives way to…you guessed it: love. Because you haven’t judged a situation or a person, you have the freedom to respond appropriately. This loving response is our true self or God flowing through us. This is where joy lies. This is salvation and enlightenment.

Over eons, my mind has created myriad defenses and responses to situations that I’m uncomfortable with. Most of them include anger and attack. Having the commitment to peace and non-attachment at the front of my mind is like a sentry guarding a fortress. And when the ego attacks, and it always attacks, I have a little more time and a little clearer mindset as to how I will respond.

Hopefully I’ll be able to continue to grow and, over time, be able to respond more and more with forgiveness and love.

 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I have been trying to wrap my head around this one for a while: all suffering is illusion. I was reintroduced to this concept as I was reading Lesson 284 in ACIM.

Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream.

I know that we are spirit. I also know that the body is an illusion. I get it that love is the only reality. Well, I understand these conceptually. I am far from understanding them in the sense that I don’t even perceive the body, or that I only feel love, or that I am now above suffering.

One thing I have learned, though, is that the world we live in is truly meaningless. Everything related to this world is a pursuit of the ego. There is absolutely nothing here of any value. I have believed – known – this for a long time. I guess that’s a step in the right direction. But I have to admit I’m a long way from being beyond suffering. Sometimes I don’t really perceive myself as a body, but that goes away as soon as I bite my lip while I’m eating. I’ve noticed it’s also difficult to believe that pain and suffering are illusion while I’m at work and my feet are hurting and I can only think about being off.

I have to believe that, because our reality is experienced through a body, there is no way to completely go beyond suffering. I have to say that I experience far less suffering than I used to. Physical pain does not bother me the same way it did years before. But it still bothers me. Not because of age or anything, but because I can still feel it.

At this point I’m pretty sure that the suffering I perceive goes hand in hand with the degree I still believe this world to be real. Even though I realize it is meaningless, it is still a reality for me because I have to eat and go to work and keep things tidy round the house (sorry, felt a bit British there). That’s why I’m saying I don’t think it’s practical to expect pain and suffering to vanish completely, because, while we are experiencing this world, meaningless as it may be, we will always be tied to the body we’re experiencing it through. The same lesson mentioned earlier also offers a bit of advice:

suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth.

I’m not sure what to infer from this exactly. Does this mean that when I accept it as truth the suffering will be gone? Or will I simply cease to attach with those things that appear to be pain and suffering? Either way, I will continue to remind myself that this world and it’s suffering are illusory, looking forward to that final acceptance.

I can say that I experience far less suffering than before, when I thought this world had something to offer. It seems that my old system is being slowly dismantled. Old ineffective beliefs and ways of doing things are falling by the wayside. There is far less suffering than there used to be but, for now, I still have to eat when I’m hungry. And I’d still rather stay home than go to work. And I’m about to eat breakfast and I really hope I don’t bite my lip.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I was surprised when the main focus of A Course In Miracles was forgiveness. I guess I had something in mind that awakening was supposed to be and forgiveness wasn’t really it. Now I’m surprised how complete forgiveness is as far as bringing us into unity with our True Self.

I understand now that we are all one and that we only seem to be separate. Because of that, if I decide to be upset with another for any reason, I actually receive that feeling. My being upset with another is the cause as well as the effect of my decision. This is the law of cause and effect. It is also the complete understanding of karma (which is simply another name for that law). The action is also the consequence.

With that in mind I now understand the importance of forgiveness. In the Christian scriptures Jesus explained that the unwillingness to forgive actually imprisons us. As I have experimented with forgiveness, I have found that saying that it imprisons is not quite enough. I would go as far as to say that unforgiveness is the root of nearly every bit of suffering we experience. It is the cause of unhappiness. Unforgiveness is the reason we feel that we are separate from each other and the Creator.

When I initially read about the importance of forgiveness in ACIM, I was able to forgive and experience a lightness and joy I had not felt in years. That was nearly two years ago. But my ego wouldn’t let go of me that easily. It quickly redirected my attention to groups of people I felt superior to, individuals who have wronged me in the past, etc. I have struggled since that time to come to terms with the reality that forgiveness is what I need and trying to let go of everything I held against others. I used to think of myself as a pretty forgiving person. I was surprised to discover how wrong I was. I found things to hold against people I didn’t even know simply because of deep-seated prejudices I didn’t realize I had.

Things seem to be coming around, at long last, and I realize how my attack thoughts toward others immediately come back to me. It is extremely helpful to understand several things that I didn’t realize before. One is the reality that we are all one, with each other and with God. Another is that whenever I am upset with another, I am really upset with myself and when I attack another, it comes right back to me. It’s only when I really began to understand the former (thanks Ken Wilber) that the latter made sense. That explains why forgiveness is so important. Love your neighbor as your self. I get it now…my neighbor is my self.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No Boundary” by Ken Wilber took everything I have studied about spirituality and made it understandable. As I read the first part of the book I could eventually see where it was leading, which was to reveal that there is no separation at all, anywhere. The only separation I ever perceived is separation that I made. Seeing that was an enlightenment, of sorts.

Lately (the last few years) A Course In Miracles has been helpful to me, along with some teachings from Buddhism. I had been getting to the point where I could put it all together when Wilber’s book suddenly appeared. This was the (a) final piece of the (a) puzzle. All of a sudden I could understand the teachings of the Buddha, Jesus, Hinduism, Taoism and nearly every other discipline. I could also see how they had been ripped out of their contexts, dogmatized and turned into “religion”.

I have studied Buddhism nearly as long as the teachings of Jesus. I never really saw them as two different disciplines as much as I didn’t understand how they complemented each other. Jesus seemed to focus on love and serving where Buddhism focused on mindfulness and being in the present. No Boundary helped me understand that that the only thing that exists is the “original self” whose reality is love and that there is only the present moment and that being in the present fully is eternal life. Nothing else exists except for illusions that an apparently separated humanity has made up. It has helped me see Christian scriptures, which I refused to look at for a time, in a whole new light. It has helped me understand that Buddhism is as much about compassion as mindfulness.

More than anything I have discovered that all of the renowned “mystic” teachers throughout history have understood that everything is love and that only the present exists. They understood that there really are no boundaries. They have also attempted to convey to us, in their unique ways, that we do not have to be bound by fear and suffering; that these are phenomena that we have made up and mistakenly bought into because we believed we are separate from “God” or “love” or our “original self”.

Now the challenge is to return to this reality. We have spend eons inventing, teaching and reinforcing boundaries and separation. We are experts at it. It is really ironic that we have become experts at something that is really nothing more than illusion. Returning to what is real and true is not easy. I can talk about it (with my words that are nothing more than symbols of separation), but assimilating it is the (goal-less) goal. I can call my blog “life awakened” and I can know that complete awakening is possible in each present moment. However, it will take time to fully understand and integrate the reality that the boundaries really do not exist.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I keep getting sidetracked. I get to the point where I realize that the ultimate state is love, and being loving toward others, and I get sucked into the mindfulness trap again. Instead of believing that being one with love is the ultimate, I start to look to other avenues to attain happiness. I usually start looking to teachings that are about being mindful and living in the present. I get sidetracked because when I look at those, I try to use those to attain something I already have. The ego is very clever that way.

The one thing ego does not want is for me to return to love…and stay there! This pattern is a regular cycle for me, but the ego is extremely smart and I always outsmart myself, attempting to find something I already have.

Our original self is love. Some say “God is love”. Either way, our true self, without the tainting of the ego, is unity with God; completely loving. Next, to “be love” is to be completely in the present. Everything that helps you to pay attention to, and live in the present eventually gets you to a point where you become loving and compassionate. The reverse is true, as well. The more you become one with the present, the more compassionate you become. One way to become mindful of the present is to commit to being a loving person. Being love and being in the present are the same. Our original self is eternity, and it is love. These aren’t two different things, they are one in the same. Become love and you will live only in the present. Live only in the present and you will become love.

I have found that the one thing the ego wants to do to me, above anything else, is keep me from being loving. In reality, only love exists. But the ego is an illusion that attempts to convince me that it is real and that love is just one small aspect of life. It has built a false-universe based on fear and loss and pain and craving and getting and having that is not real. In other words, I have made this world in my mind. My true reality is unity with my real self, which is love. Anything other than love has been added by me, or rather, by the ego.

It’s funny, every time I come to this realization I write something about it and make a reminder to myself to read it often. Yet, I always get sidetracked into believing that something else is as or more important than love, and I start the cycle over again.

In the last couple of weeks I have had a change in my job that has helped me prove to myself that what is most important in that situation is serving others, acting with sincere love for them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the people I work for or the customers who need assistance. When I can focus on doing this at work and home, without becoming cynical, I am success. I have also found that I am living in the present moment, sort of scanning for where I can be of benefit, but also aware of thoughts that try to undermine my peace. When I cave to the ego and start looking for something else, I sabotage the good that is already taking place.

I am writing this as a reminder for myself. I just hope I come across it again in a few weeks.

I am everything

There are no boundaries

There is only now

 

Letting Go

The one word I can think of that describes how to live is “evenness”. I guess it’s probably the same as equanimity in Buddhism. In this state, nothing is better than anything else; nothing is preferred over anything else. You get to a point where you experience things, but you don’t really react one way or another. Things simply come and go and you observe them as they do. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like you’re watching a football game where you don’t care about either of the teams, you’re just watching the game. When things happen, whether they are perceived to be good or bad, you don’t really respond because you are not invested in the outcome. In that way, you simply enjoy the game, regardless of who wins or loses.

This evenness is the same, except your attitude toward everything is the same as your attitude toward watching a football game where you don’t really care about the outcome. You get to the point where you realize that outcomes are not really as important as you once believed them to be. There is peace now because the outcomes don’t matter. I have to point out, though, that personal effort is still quite important. When I first began to see that outcomes didn’t matter, I thought that effort didn’t matter either. I could not have been more wrong. You give everything to whatever it is you’re doing and, at the same time, let go of the result. It’s exactly what Eugen Herrigel wrote about in “Zen In The Art Of Archery”. The archery master expected his students to give their very best effort, but he also expected them not to be happy or dejected by the result.

The idea of “forgiveness” in A Course In Miracles in foundational in that it is basically teaching you to forgive EVERYTHING. Not only other people, but people, situations, yourself, everything. You eventually get to a point where you realize this world and what happens in it is basically neutral. By letting go of the importance and our deeply ingrained habit of calling things good or bad, we can experience the evenness and more or less observe what is happening around us while also being involved in it.

The letting go is the most important thing. We must let go if we are to experience life beyond the pain and suffering. Coming to an understanding of what this means is the most difficult thing. The practice of letting go is not so difficult when you realize its importance and have some experience doing it.

Letting go leads to the evenness that allows us to experience joy. It leads to the place where we are no longer on the roller coaster of happiness and sadness, emotional states that seem so real, yet really give us nothing at all.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Each day is perfect. We have to admit that we do not understand what each day is for. When we surrender to that admission, we can plunge into the day with awareness and without judgment.

Each day is perfect because each day is neutral. Every event that takes place does so without the need to label it good or bad. This is where our freedom lies. We certainly have the choice to approve or condemn, but choosing to do so is the source of our pain. When we simply allow, without judgment, we experience each moment without any pain or suffering.

As soon as we judge “good!” or “evil!” we set the stage for the ego. Ego wants to point fingers and categorize and put things on different levels. Ego wants to use the past to perceive the present. Ego wants to use the past along with the present to predict the future. For ego the past was good or bad. So it makes the present good or bad. For the ego the future will be good or bad. This brings hope. This brings fear. Hope and fear take us right out of the present moment into a realm that does not exist. True vision is now. It is not something we must wait for. It is not decided by what happened before.

To live this moment without thought of past or present is heaven. To experience this moment is the only reality there is.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

As I was going through A Course In Miracles text a few days ago, I found something that seemed revolutionary. Well, it is revolutionary if you’re mired in the world of the ego. The idea is that we experience whatever we project or extend. If we are projecting ideas of the ego: attack, guilt, etc, we will feel and experience that. On the other hand, if we extend love to our brother, that becomes our experience. In this way, we have total control over our experience of the world. We may not control the script, but we control the feeling or experience.

In this way, we are the savior. We do not have to look for someone else to save us. We are responsible to save ourselves. We do not need to be concerned about saving others. By saving ourselves, we bring salvation to the world.

Friday, April 25, 2014

 

I haven’t written much in the past couple of months because I have been experimenting a little. In February I was trying to simply pay attention to things that were happening in life and let go of outcomes. Letting Go seemed to be the “theme” of February. In March it started shifting to simply being loving, no matter what the situation brought.

Both of these seemed to get me “off track” as far as the daily lessons of A Course In Miracles, but doing these felt right at the time. I feel like they helped me get where I am presently, which is a place where I’m experiencing the “happy dream” more than ever.

The biggest issue I have dealt with over the past few years has been forgiveness. Oddly, though, it has been about forgiving those who are exactly where I used to be not too long ago. My biggest challenge has been to overlook things related to organized religion. It is alarming how prevalent organized religion is where I live. I have felt like the ex-smoker who is judgmental of everyone who still smokes.

The past couple of months has helped me to a breakthrough. It is far easier to see all people as brothers and sisters, no matter their background. I guess a lot of it has to do with the present. The thought of “organized religion” brings time into the picture and with that, judgment. The present knows no such phenomenon. In the present, there is only love and a call for love. I cannot battle organized religion. All I can do is let it go. If I choose to use my idea of organized religion as a set of criteria in order to judge another, then I have allowed the ego to attack, once again.

Instead, each encounter is an opportunity to extend love. I don’t need to know the person’s history or political leanings. That is just the ego in its attempt to divide and separate. Instead, I can extend without question, and continue in the happy dream.

I don’t always make the right choice. Variables enter in. I get caught off-guard. But I realize now that it really is possible to leave the nightmare. The happy dream is indeed possible. And it’s pretty cool.

 

 

 

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