Path to Nowhere

I was recently listening to some high-level spiritual folks. A common theme I noticed was their non-mastery. Every one of them was still trying, still working at it, never quite there — better than before, but practicing everyday. Kinda like a spirituality treadmill I suppose. And it’s kinda like eating — you get hungry everyday and eat a new meal everyday, oftentimes several meals per day.

Are you trying to get somewhere by eating everyday? No, you’re just on a food treadmill, consuming but going no place in particular. Similarly, when pursuing spirituality, there’s no perfected state we’re trying to reach, we’re simply engaging in it for daily sustenance and enjoyment. If all these high-level spiritual folks haven’t gotten there, then there’s no there to get to.

Is it good for us, does it make us feel strong, allowing us to proceed through the world without undue hinderance? Then that’s the spirituality we should be consuming as part of a complete breakfast. It’s not a doorway into pure bliss. Do you feel better when you “eat right”? Yes, and you’ll feel better when you incorporate spirituality into your daily life.

Will life pretty much proceed as it always has? Yep, but there will be more pep in your step. Those high-level spiritual folks still lead everyday lives. The difference is in their outlook. They lack a fear of life, trusting it instead — consequently they engage with the world wholeheartedly, attempting to love everything around them.

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Jujitsu of the Mind

Jujitsu is a means of countering and controlling one’s opponent. The opponent in this case is the unruliness of the mind.

For instance, how can you counter and control a scary thought? The first step is distance management — try not to engage the thought, don’t grab, just ignore its presence. If it’s too persistent and closes the distance, use a counter belief. For these beliefs, go big or go home, make them powerful to dominate the opponent from the start.

Example of an unruly thought: I just heard a loud noise in the house, some intruder must be here to murder me.

Example counter thought: I believe in the benevolence of life, and the power that sustains my existence put me here to experience joy and fulfillment — I completely trust this power to continue carrying me for as long as I choose. Showing fear is an act of rudeness on my part, it’s a form of distrust — I apologize and admit my mistake. Dearest Host, thank you for this wonderful party, I’m happy for the invitation and the opportunity to experience this mortal form.

Fear comes from a pessimistic certainty. “The world is dangerous and I know it!” This is a toxic belief that allows an unruly mind to obtain and maintain a dominant position, administering choke holds galore. Admit this mistake every time you make it, then muster up some appreciation for the fact that life has thanklessly upheld its end of the bargain despite your baseless timidity and repeated disrespect. Life isn’t out to get you, if it was you’d be “d”, “e”, “a”, “d” right now and there’s not a damn thing you could do about it.

Example of an unruly thought: This person is annoying me, I’m getting very mad right now.

Example counter thought: I’m upset and projecting my agitation onto an innocent person. My bad attitude is manifesting and I must change it, it’s not fair to imagine the person in-front of me is the source when it’s really my own mood causing the problem. Besides, what am I saving my patience for, it gains no value when stored, it’s available only now, and only grows when given. Dearest person before me, forgive my immaturity, my anger is a direct reflection of my lack of practice in taming my mind — I’ll try harder.

Anger comes from a certainty that you’re in the right and the other person is an idiot hell-bent on ruining your life. If you have an angry attitude, everything you see will be distorted by that viewpoint. You have to strive to interpret life in a cheerful and friendly way. When you’re angry, it’s your fault — admit your mistake and move on.

In jujitsu of the mind, we regularly practice our craft through the art of meditation. In meditation, we sit quietly and observe the mind. When thoughts come in, instead of grabbing we let them pass unmolested. Through this repetition we get used to ignoring thoughts. When disruptive thoughts enter we can now practice distance management and refrain from entanglements. Meditation also develops a mindfulness that allows us to quickly identify these unruly thoughts.

Should a thought become too obtrusive, we readily recognize this condition and engage. During engagement we apply belief after belief until the unruly thought is subdued. Just as jujitsu has a catalog of moves and techniques, we must maintain a catalog of beliefs that provide a sense of comfort. In those times when our defenses fail and we’re overcome by unruly thoughts, it typically means our belief system is lacking, we need something stronger, a set of beliefs so positive and reassuring that we could face the devil himself and not flinch.

We find these powerful beliefs by looking around, researching, and testing what works for us. We don’t get better by doing nothing, obviously. We get better through exploration and practice. We have to constantly apply this jujitsu in our everyday life, a routine that gets easier and more automatic over time.

Spirituality To-Do, Item 7

Putting the Bhagavad Gita into practice.

I mustn’t cling to thoughts passing through my mind (and if I do, just let go).

This is meditation. Thoughts come, sometimes persistently, but I don’t grab them, holding them tight in my mind — no, they’re free to go as quick as they came. But when I do grasp one, stare at its contents, analyze its meaning, I let go when I realize what I’m focused on. No big deal.

I practice not grasping thoughts, it’s a challenge but I’ve gotten better over time. I practice because I’ve noticed how thoughts affect my mood, and I don’t enjoy bad moods. When I hold unpleasant thoughts in my mind, I feel bad. All types of thoughts constantly enter, and without practice I had no choice but to allow them all in — but by practicing, I’m able to set boundaries, only welcoming in the thoughts I prefer. My moods have improved.

I simply sit comfortably, eyes closed, breathing through my nose, in, out. But as I exhale, I wordlessly say “Om” in my mind. When I notice I’m no longer mentally saying it, I just go back to saying it. By this method I train myself not to grab thoughts. In a sense, I’m ignoring all thoughts as they enter my mind, and this practice allows me to ignore thoughts in my everyday life, thoughts that would otherwise disturb me.

That’s the mechanical side to meditation — but there’s something beyond the mechanical. Oftentimes while meditating I stop saying “Om” in my mind, but it’s different, I’m drifting, it’s as if I take a break from my body for a bit. I sense tranquility and my perspective widens. I feel a greater connection to something beyond myself. These sensations tend to last for a little after I return from my twelve to twenty minute trip.

Therefore, so that I feel better, so that I’m able to take a break from myself, so that I can live life as it comes – experiencing the spectacle before me, I mustn’t cling to thoughts passing through my mind (and if I do, just let go).

More Practice

Putting the Bhagavad Gita into practice.

There is a benevolent force underlying the entirety, creating this earthly garden we play within. Everything experienced is essentially this eternal essence divided into parts, with people performing roles and traveling paths based on their characteristics.

It’s foolish to be afraid of yourself, to hate yourself, to deny yourself what you need — so be kind, patient, and giving to all — you are all, and all are you. There is no need for frustration or worry because every outcome is a condition you ultimately created.

Survival is not an actual thing we do here. Our character has always been sustained, carried through life by this benevolent force. There is nothing that this essence hasn’t done for us. And within this world, there’s nothing inherently good or bad, it’s simply a creator playing amongst his parts.

But this world is so convincing that even the essence within can be fooled into believing that the senses perceive a non-fictional physical self-sustaining survival-based reality. Thus each character must practice to perceive this essence residing within all, seeing the undivided within the divided.

From this broadened perspective we are no longer desperate or anxious, no longer struggling amidst a stressful environment. The pressure’s off, we can relax and have fun and enjoy the show. We can then be kind and gentle towards other players, helping each other along the way.

To facilitate this, we must discipline our mind. We must practice not holding onto thoughts that enter into our mind, this is meditation. We must also prune polluted ideas that keep us bound within a limited perspective. And we must interpret sensory data through a broader perspective, one that includes an underlying unity formed by a benevolent creator (of whom we are part).

Then, being characters in this world, we must harmonize with who we are, playing our part on the stage before us. Although imperfectly, we simply do as our nature compels, no longer afraid to be who we are. And by this performance, we align with the world and its creator. This is how we come to know tranquility.

In Practice

The Charioteer says: those that see all things as me, are near to me. Seeing everyone as me, they are without hate or selfishness, they are kind and patient. Seeing me in every result, they are satisfied with any outcome. Seeing me in every circumstance, they are not influenced by anger or anxiety. Seeing me as the sustainer of life, they abandon the belief of self-determination. Seeing only me, they are without dualities — there is no good or bad, there is only me.

It all begins with recognition and appreciation of the eternal and all-pervading essence. We must practice to perceive this essence within all, the undivided within the divided. We must reach to see beyond the limited input of the senses, broadening our perspective to include the underlying unity.

Beyond that we must develop discipline. We must respect wisdom and wholesomeness while restraining lusts and violent outbursts. We must speak kindly and gently, with sincerity, and incorporate the ways of this eternal essence into our words. We must practice silencing thoughts, cultivating mental tranquility, and pruning polluted ideas.

From this foundation we can display our devotion by harmonizing with who we are, doing what we must do based on our innate characteristics. We injure ourself by denying action befitting our character. Although we are full of flaws and perform imperfectly, our dedication aligns us with the essence underlying all.

This is how we come to know tranquility.

Wind and Waves

Believing that I’m a single perspective of an infinite being means that arguing has become pointless — I’m really only bickering with myself — what’s the point. Now when argumentative opponents present themselves in my head, I don’t engage. It’s nonsense that I don’t need. I’ve stopped wrestling with paper tigers of my own design.

Minds don’t need to be changed, people are just players in a grand narrative. But it’s dreamlike in that my mind will see what it wants, forming patterns to fit my interpretation. If I want a fight, I’ll find it. If I foretell a bad-day, I’ll have it. If I truly seek the calm seas then my mind must be stilled first.