I am going to close this series of 101 New Pairs of Glasses with a parable, a thought and an offer to receive the compilation ebook of the series for free.
So here we go with Pair 101, and a wonderful story told by Ramana Maharshi:
Ten foolish men forded an stream.
On reaching the other shore they wanted to make sure that all of them had in fact safely crossed the stream. So one of the ten began to count, but while counting left himself out.
"I see only nine; sure enough we have lost one! Who can it be?"
"Did you count correctly?" asked another and proceeding to do the counting himself. But he too counted only nine.
One after the other, each of the ten counted only nine, missing himself.
"We are only nine," they agreed, "but who is the missing one?" Every effort they made to discover the missing one failed and so they agreed, surely he had drowned. "Whoever be he who has drowned," said the most sentimental of the foolish ones, "we have lost him." And in so saying, burst into tears.
The rest followed suit.
Seeing them weeping on the river bank, a sympathetic wayfarer inquired for the cause. They related what had happened and said that even after counting several times they could find no more than nine.
Seeing all the ten before him, the wayfarer guessed what had happened.
Devising a way to make them know for themselves what had happened he placed them in a line and said, "I shall strike each of you so that you may be sure of being included in the count and included only once, upon which you shall count sequentially 'one,' then 'two,' then 'three' and so on. The tenth missing man will then be found."
Hearing this, they rejoiced and accepted the method suggested by the wayfarer.
While the kind wayfarer gave a blow to each of the men, he then counted himself aloud. "Ten," said the last man as he got his blow in turn.
Bewildered, they looked at one another. "We ARE ten," they said with one voice and thanked the wayfarer for having removed their grief."
That is the parable. And so it is for us.
We are unhappy and we begin to look for change. We look for a better and improved self. We look for an authentic self. We look and look and look.
I can identify with this story having spent many years now looking for some version of myself I hoped would be an improvement on the old model. More successful, wealthier, happier. I saw self-development as something that went forwards, onwards and -- if I was lucky /read enough / worked hard enough -- steadily upwards. Culminating in what? A better me? An awakened me? The New Me.
There isn't a program out there to help that isn't promising some form of a new you. What I've come to see is that the only reason I'm unhappy with the current me is that I've forgotten who I am.
I'll let Ramana Maharshi close this series of 101 Pairs of Glasses. He just says it so well:
"You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of Infinite Being and then weep that you are but a finite creature...
I say know that you are really the infinite, pure Being, the Self Absolute. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. Therefore, you can never be really ignorant of the Self.
True Knowledge does not create a new Being for you; it only removes your 'ignorant ignorance.' Bliss is not added to your nature; it is merely revealed as your true and natural state."
There is no journey to knowing yourself. There is only looking in the wrong place or the right one.
My love and appreciation to all of you who have followed this series.
The series is being put into an ebook that will be available for free, very soon! If you want a copy, let me know: email@example.com
As humans we all want to be happy. The 'spiritual' journey is often that special search for happiness and wellbeing that we undertake when all the other searches have failed.
But if you are seated in the last resort spiritual life raft, what do you do if that journey is just as bumpy as all the rest?
Here you are working hard at improving yourself, doing the best you know and then... you wake up down in the dumps, you yell at your kid, one way or another the halo slips off and with it goes your equilibrium. And your faith.
A client recently sheepishly admitted to me he was going through a very dark time and was wondering how it's possible to know so much, be striving every day to put this knowledge to work, be immersed spiritual teachings and guidance, books, audios, inspirational messages and workshops and still have a bad day. Several actually. Well, OK, a couple of months.
He ended up thinking: if this spiritual stuff is all about living from a persistent and reliable state of wellbeing and contentment, how come I'm doing such a bad job of it?
Who wouldn't draw a similar conclusion? And yet what's happening when we ask 'what's wrong with me?' is not just that we are looking in the wrong place for an answer, we are looking from the wrong place.
Like my client, every one of us who is trying very hard to be better and do better, eventually find themselves in the middle of a down day.
And everything looks bad from there.
In fact it is from the middle of the poo pile that the answer is always going to be the same: get me the heck out of here. That's they only thing you could conclude from the center of your own bad feelings.
So give yourself a break.
If I'm depressed and feeling low, that is when I have the least amount of access to my way out. I am looking at my problem from inside the problem. From the middle of my poor thinking, of course it is going to look like my spiritual understanding is of no use to me. I could conclude all kinds of things about me as a person, a mother, or a friend.
However, when I am looking at any problem from the larger picture of my life, the bigger truth is that it is not that imperative that this moment be different. The moment just is. There is nothing permanent about now.
It is as if I'm measuring the each moment as I go and asking, like a kid from the backseat, "Are we THERE yet?!"
I've already set it up as a 'someday' proposition. I'm measuring my progress to destination based on whether I am problem free, always happy, never disappointed, never angry and so on.
What my client and I reflected on together is that perhaps peace of mind is not so much that we always feel peaceful (as somewhere to get to) but rather that when we are not peaceful it's actually OK. The only thing about it worth seeing really is that it's just not the best place from which to see my problem or my solution clearly.
So we thought it might be true that...
Peacefulness includes 'not peaceful'. Sometimes.
Peacefulness isn't a good measure of how far we are along our way on the journey to bliss. Peacefulness is the measure of the extent to which we understand how human functioning operates in the big picture.
How it really operates is that we all came here already knowing how to love, how to feel joy, and having an intelligence to use in life. Nothing can ever take that away. No bad moment or bad feeling, no matter how bad, can ever change that.
I personally don't feel peaceful and in my well-being in every single moment - and my single biggest spiritual learning so far is: this is fine.
We do a lot of striving in order to feel good 24/7, when in fact feeling good might just include feeling fine about not always feeling good.
It's a common thing in self-help and in therapy today to offer a variety of ways to be better - which actually boil down to not 'being' better so much as just 'doing' better. "Chose!" "Decide!" "Manifest!" "Line Up!" are all about doing better.
If you pick up a book to help you out with your desire to change, it might tell you that you 'are' a certain way. For example, maybe you'll be labeled a victim, a reactor... as opposed to a leader, an owner. You are encouraged to choose the better of the two and chose quickly. Don't 'be' this way any more!
Yet, how can you not be what you've just identified yourself as being? This behavioral change is going to take a lot of managing and you are going to need to keep a close eye on your daily picks, managing what you think and how you act, watching what you do in order to measure how you are doing.
In my time working with people, coaching people in wellbeing and peace of mind and training coaches to work with others, I've become exclusively interested in another kind of change. A change that is easy, natural, positive and sustainable -- precisely because it does not take effort to sustain.
That doesn't seem possible for some things does it? You, me, we've all had experiences of trying to change and failing. People around us have too. So I'm going to suggest that it's not that changing behaviors isn't useful; it's just the hard way.
What I've learned, especially through my work with the Three Principles, is that our behaviors follow our emotions and our emotions are the direct product of our thinking.
So whenever we are doing anything; we are only ever as good (behaviorally-speaking) the quality of our own thinking in any given moment.
In this paradigm, victim-hood is a outcome and not a personality type. It is the outcome of a decision that is based on the quality of my thinking at any given time...
For example, if you call me and I answer, "Hello?" and the first words out of your mouth are "What the hell is wrong with you! Why do you do this to me everytime?!!!"
I might react in a number of ways.
Indignant, angry, and reactive all spring to mind! After all, I'm being victimized here. I've done nothing. Except answer my phone. Right?
Well, this DID happen to me and I really learned something. I heard the words and the anger and I was surprised and curious to see that my reaction was ... connection. "Oh my," I thought, "he must be having a really bad day today."
Now, I'm no saint. I'm perfectly capable of all the reactions under the sun. Ask anyone. So why did I see this differently? Had I been practicing thinking new and better thoughts? (I hadn't, just so you know.) Was I having a particularly good day? Was I meditating at the time and deeply serene? Was I really, really, trying to behave like a better person?
None of the above. I just heard differently. I heard a human being speaking to me and it was obvious: He was in pain.
This is no behavioral change.
It is a change in behavior brought about by a new level of 'beingness' in me. At that moment.
This feeling of connection did not come from my advanced training in 'listening and reflecting back'. It did not come from my positive affirmations.
It was a simple moment when, literally without thinking, I was simply part of the dance. I was witnessing the ups and downs of all humans when we are caught up in our thinking and it was fine.
I understood we are only doing as well as we can, given the quality of our thinking in the moment. That is a place of deep, natural connection.
And I realize this is our most natural state. Not a learned one.
So all relationships improve, not when we choose to behave better, but when we focus more on our own deeper understanding of the nature of life for ourselves.
Pair #98 It's all a mystery to me. Thank goodness.
It's interesting to me that something like 80- 90% percent of people in the world have a religious affiliation. Of that number, the huge majority of people have actually remained with the faith they grew up in and that is, overwhelmingly, the faith of their parents' parents.
This says a lot about our movement from childhood to adulthood, doesn't it?
While it is probably true that many of us don't actually attend church nowadays, I do see in my work with people that when the going gets rough, and when people do look in the direction of a spiritual solution, their start point is often a return to the faith of childhood.
I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Far from. People I know who've gone back to church when becoming sick or desperate often find comfort and help. In my personal view, any interest in the spiritual nature of life, any inquiry into the nature of who we are, why we are the way we are and how we work as humans - brings us back to something that we are often missing in our modern lives.
We have an odd relationship with mystery these days. Although we are content with fantasy video games and elaborate 3D mega-productions, and we are not uncomfortable with the serendipitous, we are wildly unfamiliar with the territory of true mystery.
Yet, despite our will to scientifically know and dissect matter itself, we keep uncovering more mystery.
Black holes are a mystery.
Why some people overcome cancer and others do not is a mystery.
Where the will to live comes from is a mystery.
Although mystery is quite delicious, I sense that mystery is a bit on the out these days. And because we've collectively agreed that life can be known, that it can be broken down to the smallest element and contained, we are rarely amazed by life. We delight not in the unexplainable.
Since we are not all that friendly with the inexplicable, we are also rarely reflective in that open "I wonder..." kind of way. And that IS a shame.
Deep reflection is something almost no one I know engages in regularly. The reason, I suspect? No time. We are all too busy being busy. Even busy waiting for the vacation in order to stop and relax.
But I'm not talking about taking time out and resting up. I'm talking about reflecting on the nature of life. I'm talking about hearing the inside of us. Openess to a truly new idea, that we had just not thought of before. When we were too busy. Take all the classes on 'authenticity' that you want; you'll never be authentically you until you are reflecting on your intimate life and listening for the answers within you.
As we have grown to adulthood and left behind our childish things, we may well have left behind our churches, but we have taken up the form of spiritual practice coupled with the science of knowing, and we have let go of our love of mystery and dislike spending time in the unknown. At the same time, maybe religious forms have attempted to explain too much, replacing true mystery and direct knowing with belief. Belief demands that we chose. Mystery does not. Mystery asks that we simply be with.
Surely adulthood does not mean finding more and more answers, but rather being more comfortable with not knowing what the hell is going on.
Recently, I had a glimpse of the profound 'kindness' of our human life-support system.
You know how on a music player you have the LOOP button? After the song finishes it loops back to the beginning? And in the scientific field, you have "closed systems". We also talk about "feedback loops".
Well I spent a day with George Pransky and one of the things he talked about was how thought and feelings truly are a looped. We have only to look to our feelings to know exactly the quality of our thinking at any given moment, and we have only to have a thought in order to have the feeling that goes along with it.
So... if it's true that thought-feeling is a completely closed loop, then it can never be true that things create feelings in us but rather that it is always our own thoughts. Our thoughts are solely responsible.
That means we are living out only our thinking. We are literally, thinking our way through life. And...
that would mean that we have been beautifully constructed.
It struck as me how incredibly smart it is that we each came equipped with an amazing GPS system that would always help us if we ever get lost and forget that.
If we are always feeling the world through our considerations about it (thoughts) and that it is not because the world bumps into us that we feel bad or scared or afraid, then the world around us may have no inherent meaning at all. Period. It would be just a simple blank canvas.
Which opens up the possibility thatthe world is not just neutral but a terribly kind place to live, and that, while we are here, we've been given a built-in navigational device, a treasured gift to help us find our way.
I used to believe that how I felt was telling me that a bad thing was happening to me, but now I understand that all a bad feeling is telling me is whether the quality of my thinking is dropping or rising.
Which ultimately means that Shakespeare was right "nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Pair #95 Life is hard and then you get your a*s handed to you
Ever thought... "It's been years now, but I just can't forgive so and so." "Every time I hear his voice, I just want to slump on the floor and cry." "I can't stop thinking about how much they hurt me and it makes me so mad." "I've just been told they are not sure if it's treatable."
No one disputes that you have good reasons to feel bad when you've just been told you have a disease or that your job is gone. And I'm not saying you should feel great and wonderful on the heels of some difficult life moment. Yet I am interested in the process by which we explain our feelings about them. Because where we see the cause of our feelings has everything to do with our recovery.
Although anger, grief, self-admonition, regret and concern are 'normal responses' we are often looking to resolve these emotions in the completely the wrong place. For years I remember thinking that if my father apologized to me for a particular childhood event, then finally I could feel better, put the grievance behind me and get on with life. Because of this kind of thinking, I wallowed in my own bad feelings for years later without any resolution, understanding or forward movement. Despite therapy, counseling and body work.
I knew I was stuck in the past. I think we've all experienced this -- and the helplessness that goes with it.
It seems like all the pain is coming from outside of us. It certainly seemed that way to me!
So let's consider for a moment how it is any outside experiences get 'inside' of us.
How did my father, who lived far away, actually make me miserable over the years, with an event that was long over and done with? How is it, for example that cancer actually creates emotional disturbance? How is that someone else uses their power to create sadness in you? How does that process, that alledged transference actually work?
If you examine closely you will see that it doesn't. All of my pain was old history carried through time -- by me. The same is true of everything we feel pain about, trivial or serious.
Consider this as an example. Let's take a friend of mine who knows someone at work who is very 'negative.' My friend will tell you that this person has such bad energy they can get into his space (or anyone else's) and ruin his day.
Know anyone right now who has that power in your world?
My friend told me, "There are just some people who have bad energy, and when they are around they are going to affect you. That's just not something you can change."
I considered that for a moment. How does that work? I thought... I asked him, "Is there ever a time when that person doesn't affect you that way?"
"Well, sometimes. When I'm in a good mood after the weekend. I just go 'Whatever, dude!'"
"And are there some people who are friends with him and don't seem to think he has this 'bad energy?'"
"Well, yeah, actually. Which is strange"
"It is strange isn't it? How is that possible do you think?" I wondered with him. "If he is the cause of the 'bad vibe', you'd think he'd always be the cause? Not only for you but for everyone. Wouldn't everyone agree on who he is?
So where is the difference -- his behavior or your attitude?"
Someone I know discovered this for herself recently and described it as, "All I have to do is hear her shoes coming down the hall!"
As if the shoes created the feelings.
What we know about life, but often forget, is that no person or thing really has the power to make us feel anything at all. We are sovereign in our feelings.
What we do is look around and ATTRIBUTE our feelings.
But that doesn't give the shoes power.
Looking outside for the causes of our inside feelings is just a mis-attribution of cause.
Feelings don't arise out of nowhere. They are not 'provoked' out of us by job losses or diagnosis. They arise from the thoughts, judgements and stories we create about life around us and about what things mean.
So it is actually very true to say that things are not always what they seem - because we are not really seeing. We are only 'perceiving' via our thoughts. Like the projector shows whatever film is on. You feel what's happening in you. Not what is out there.
And that is good news on many fronts.
It means that you have the ability to have occur to you new ways of seeing things. You have the capacity that your heart may open suddenly without notice. The capacity to feel good is lying there within you and can pop to the surface anytime like a bobbing cork in the water. There is no limit and no barrier on your capacity for joy, love, and wisdom. Because you never learned those things, they just came with your human firmware installation.
And because of that, you really can relax. So whenever a good feeling comes up naturally for you, you might like to notice that.
When I began to relax and see that all my past was gone, that my feelings were coming from my own thoughts, my father and I became the great friends that I always hoped we would be.
What I've noticed is that I have a natural tendency toward upwards. Toward love. Toward reconciliation. It is beautiful that we actually tend naturally toward good feeling. We can miss that wonderful fact when we are pointing the finger away from ourselves.
I was observing the fog over the ocean the other day. In a matter of minutes the fog rolled in and the huge expanse of ocean simply blended away. Gone.
it was as if there was no more ocean. Just grey all around.
You know the saying that just because the clouds are there doesn't mean the sun has gone? We use that to try to buck ourselves up when things get hard. It's a way of saying have faith - the sun will come back. But really, why do we need faith? Faith is hard. Faith is a struggle. Faith asks me to believe what I don't believe and still be comfortable and happy.
But beyond that, why do I need to know the sun is going to come back anyway?
Reflecting on the scene in front of me I thought -- not only is the ocean not 'gone' but the ocean is unaware of my perceptions and opinions of it. It really doesn't give a monkey's if it is hidden or in plain site. Just as the sun doesn't care if the clouds roll over it. And the sky doesn't 'care' about whether it is experiencing a hurricane. It is entirely neutral.
Life is entirely neutral.
I on the other hand, am not.
Ever watched a nature program and felt 'sad' when the lion tumbles and kills the pretty gazelle?
We add all the opinions and views about what we see. The weather is a useful example of how we do this all day long. When we have casual conversations about forecasts we are not talking about the weather, but about our opinions of the weather. "It's going to rain AGAIN today," "It's going to stay nice ALL day," "It's going to be 20 degrees today!" are not facts, they are predictors of the day I'm about to have.
And I make them.
Human life is so interesting, isn't it? It's natural to have opinions about things. At the same time, there's that ocean. Just being there.
I'm certainly not experiencing the neutrality of life all day long. But I am glad to know that my own state of mind is ultimately is responsible for the quality of my life experience.
I find that infinitely more encouraging than a life being blown by about by the four winds.