Fixed Opinions

I’ve been thinking a lot about certainty vs uncertainty. It seems most of us have fixed opinions about most things and spend a lot of time further entrenching these positions. The most glaring example of this is any kind of political discussion. The extremity of this struck me while reading a facebook thread on Bernie Sanders. There was no actual discussion happening. Each side was just trying to murder the other using information bullets. Like a game of dodgeball.

Dodgeball

I’ve observed this in myself in the imaginary dialogues I have with people. My favorite is to argue with a strict materialist atheist. I spend a lot of time thinking up ways to justify my position against them in an irrefutable manner.

This sets the stage for an Aha moment I had last night while reading an interesting book about how to shift around our mindset. The passage I was reading was a thought exercise of adopting a rotating set of belief systems. Like for a month you strictly believe in monotheism, the next month polytheism, the next month atheism. The goal being to dislodge the fixed patterns we have in our minds and to see the world in a less dualistic manner.

This is so interesting to me and shows me a glimpse into a way of thinking without fixed opinions. The mind becomes like a free-flowing river instead of a stagnant bog. But then it occurred to me that this stagnant bog serves a very specific purpose. It gives the ego something to hold onto. I think it actively encourages us to entrench ourselves into our opinions and spin our wheels in unwinnable arguments. The more we do this the more imagined stability we have for it to cling to. And it doesn’t matter which side of the argument we’re on. The ego could care less about the content of the belief, it’s all about the process of entrenchment.

bog

But imagine for a second what our lives could be like without all this. And not just our opinions about politics, but people as well. What if we didn’t have these rigid opinions about our parents? Spouse? Kids? Dog? What if we allowed these relationships to be a free-flowing experience instead? I feel much more authenticity and enjoyment in this direction.

And I’m not saying the ideal is to go to the extreme of having no fixed opinions, but at least leaning more in that direction. Which means taking a huge step out of the norm because our society is heavily structured for the opposite.

So maybe next time you’re having a political “discussion” just start asking yourself, is this bringing me happiness? How does having this fixed opinion really effect me? Is it absolutely necessary for me to have a strong opinion about this? Why?

And then just for a split second try to imagine what it would be like if you didn’t hold onto that belief so tightly.

fast-flowing-river

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Life is pain?

If life is pain, then it seems the purpose of life is to be ok with this. To accept it and embrace it. For it seems like you can only be happy to the extent that you do this.

If I’m in pain and I’m trying to run away from it, to solve it, whenever I do enter a state of happiness I cling to it, so even that is tainted with anxiety. Worry. Fear.

So you’re never able to truly be happy.

BUT! If you are in pain and you say, ok, I’m in pain, let me feel this. Let me live in this. It’s actually ok. There’s nothing to fix here. It’s perfectly ok. There is an ebb and flow to nature and right now there is pain but it won’t always be here.

As soon as you’re ok with pain, that means you can also be ok with pleasure. The next time you’re happy you can fully embrace it because you won’t be clinging to it. I’m happy now, great! I’ll ride with this as long as it’s here and then when it passes, I’ll go on to the next thing.

So it seems like the purpose of life is to embrace what your current experience is.

If you think it’s your job, you will always be working. 7:00 on a Friday night and you’ll be stressing about everything you need to do. If it’s to give to the poor, same story, you’ll never be able to relax because that is selfish. But if you’re like, when I’m working the purpose of my life is to work, when I’m with my family it’s to be 100% with my family, when I’m eating it’s to be present with my food and that experience. When I’m in pain, my back hurts and I’m angry at the work, IT’S TO BE 100% WITH THAT EXPERIENCE. Every moment becomes the purpose of life, not some grand ideal. Not a static state or only one experience. It becomes everything… Including pain but not limited to it…

I think we all try to avoid this. We find our causes, our grand ideals. Maybe it’s a connection with God. Maybe it’s the relationship you have with your spouse. Maybe it’s the relationship you have with your kids. There is no escaping the pain. You can be very very clever and think you’re beyond it, that you have a special bond with whatever that protects you. You are 100% in love with that experience and pain can never touch you! But if you get very still and really look within you’ll probably find yourself running from it.

I think I’ve finally figured out how to stop running…

buddha laughing

Happiness isn’t the lack of negative emotions

I recently bought a house that’s about 30 min. outside of the city. Yesterday I was driving to my regular yoga class and had a bit more time to think about things during the drive. All of a sudden I realized there was a tension inside of me. I had no idea where it originated, but I had this thought

“I need to get rid of this tension so I can get back to being in a peaceful state.”

But then I thought to myself, there’s probably a better way to approach feelings like this. That instead of trying to get rid of the uneasiness, I could instead use that as the raw material to create that positive state I was looking for. That a positive frame of mind isn’t won by the absence of negativity, but by being able to work with whatever feelings come up.

This seems to be so much more empowering. Previously it had all been about avoiding uncomfortable situations. That this was the way to happiness. But more and more I’m seeing now that true happiness is the confidence that whatever arises I can use it to create whatever I want.

 

I read a book all about this change in approach that I’d highly recommend. One of my favorites.

On Becoming an Alchemist: A Guide for the Modern Magician

Thought Personification

In my last post I wrote about an experience I had separating from my thoughts which allowed me to personify them. I thought distancing myself from my thoughts was going to be something I’d be able to do consistently, but in a days since that happened I’ve discovered that this is very hard to do. Like I try to imagine my thoughts outside my head, but it doesn’t really work. It’s not near as effective as what happened spontaneously during that meditation.

BUT! Something else from that post really has worked. The idea of personifying my thoughts. I thought the way this is going to work was first distancing my thoughts, then I’d be able to personify them. But actually I see the reverse happening. I first have to turn my thoughts into a person, then I’m able to work with them.

So I start by asking myself, what do my thoughts look like? Are they a jumbled up mess? A tornado? A rubber band ball? This allows me to disconnect from them a little bit and start looking at them objectively. Then I start asking:

If my thoughts were a person what would they look like?
How old are they?
What kind of emotional state are they in?

I’ve been doing this a ton the past few days and I started noticing a few patterns. This person is usually pretty young. Either a child or a teenager. And they are very pissed off and demanding, but right underneath this is fear.

Yesterday I sent an e-mail to a friend in the morning, and the rest of the day I was plagued with worry over what I had said. LITERALLY ALL FUCKING DAY LONG it was eating away at me. Over and over and over. Absolutely miserable. But then at night something clicked. I was able to see the person behind this worry. How terrified they were. How all this worry was just a way for them to try to be in control of something that is uncontrollable… which understandably leads to that feeling of panic.

And I’ve seen this pattern in the past, but being able to see it as something outside myself makes a hugeeee difference. Because it’s so much easier to extend love and compassion to this image. It’s no longer personal. I’m able to step out of that story and view it from above. With an understanding and a sense of grace that is hard to muster when you’re in the thick of it. When you ARE it.

Terminator

Something big shifted for me last night, and it’s always interesting to me to look back and see the mini shifts that have led up to this large one.

1. My friend Deborah helped me set up my home garden a couple weekends ago. This was the first time I had really gotten my hands dirty like this in a couple years. Which seems totally crazy to me, because it’s something I really enjoy. But living in an apartment, it can be difficult to find situations to really get back into the earth.

garden

I think what this signified to me was the willingness and enthusiasm in getting dirty. Everything doesn’t have to be nice and neat all the time. Self-contained in its nice little box, organized, put away. This is not how nature works.

2. I listened to an amazing TED talk about stress. The idea is that stress is only harmful to you if you believe it’s harmful. If you don’t believe this, stress can actually be immensely beneficial. It’s your body’s way of revving itself up to take on a challenge. You can use this alert energy to move forward into whatever situation you find yourself in.

How to Make Stress Your Friend

So it’s this idea that everything that’s happening within us is actually okay. It can all be used to benefit us. I very much put things into “good” and “bad” buckets, and if I deemed something as not serving me my only response was to try to get rid of it. Now I can take a step back and see the larger picture, and how these uncomfortable feelings can actually serve me.

3. I had an amazing day where I saw my value in a huge variety of situations. It started off seeing my value as a friend, then as a business partner, then on a radio show, then as a counselor, and finally as an energy healer. Each situation was totally perfect and by the end of the day I felt so complete. Self-assured. The feeling I had was like being made out of bronze. Negativity had no way of latching onto me. There weren’t any soft pockets of self-doubt that allowed it entrance. There was no sense of lack.

The image of being bronze encapsulated that, but it wasn’t totally right because it seemed too static. But it was close…

So those are some of the experiences that helped set the stage for what happened last night.

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I was meditating before bed like I always do, and I entered this weird mental state. Almost like I was sinking down into my subconscious. My thoughts were kind of drifting around thinking things that make no logical sense. In usual waking consciousness my thoughts are very orderly. But here, it’s almost like they were in a pre-conscious state so it was much rawer, primal.

And this is where I noticed something interesting happen. I could see how I like to keep things very structured in my mind. Organized. Everything has its place, and I like to keep them separate from each other. This keeps things clean and I believe this helps me think clearly.

But this structure started to collapse a little bit. The boundaries between my different thought systems started to break down and overlap. At first I had these old habits come in trying to keep everything in place, but then I was like “Why am I doing this? What’s it going to hurt if these boundaries come down?”. So I continued to observe this happening, watching everything merge together, and it’s like I was pouring all of these separate parts of myself into a big bowl and mixing it all up. There was some fear here that this was me going crazy. How would I think clearly if everything was mixed up like this? How would I access things quickly in this big mess? It’s like I thought this was going to make me stupid.

But then as it continued I realized something amazing was happening. These tools that I had kept separate meant that they were in a largely static state. They were very powerful when I first started using them, but as I continued to grow and evolve they would loose their effectiveness. So I was always on a hunt for new tools to replace them. But with everything mixed together, all of these separate tools were coming together to create something much more powerful than any tool could be by itself. They could all borrow from each other. So in a trying situation I wouldn’t reach in for a specific tool, I would let this pool form into the perfect tool for that situation. It’s a total flip. instead of trying to make a dynamic world fit a static tool, I now had a dynamic tool that could perfectly interface with any situation. It’s not about finding the right tool, it’s about creating it.

The image I got was of the metal Terminator who could change himself into any form. It wasn’t like the old Terminator who had to use static tools (guns), the newer one could create whatever tool needed. He was completely dynamic.

1295431320-Terminator2_liquid_metal

It’s so cool to me to see how the past few weeks have led up to this.

It’s a breaking down of the static, rigid structure.

It’s seeing that every experience, every emotion can enrich this pool of potential. I don’t have to evaluate something on its potential as an isolated entity. Everything I experience adds value when it can interact with everything else. So that fear, anxiety, worry…. I no longer have to push it away. I can pull it in and use it to feed that pool, I can use it to enrich who I am.

And finally it’s that image of being bronzed. Except it’s not static. It’s constantly shifting, evolving, forming itself to be whatever is needed in the current moment. Especially if that’s a lethal killing machine… I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty 😉

All aboard!

Every Tuesday evening I hold a course in miracles study group in my apartment. This past Tuesday as we were having a discussion I had a very acute awareness that I was splitting my mind. One part was present, engaged in the conversation, while the other was trying to figure out what each person was thinking. How they were feeling. Analyzing the dynamics between everyone.

After watching this for a bit I realized it was totally unnecessary, and that I had the power control whether this happened. That I could instead pull this back and be fully present with these people. This really allowed me to see everyone. Not as some mental fabrication that I constructed, but who they actually were. They really started coming to life, and I really started to enjoy myself.

Since then I’ve been constantly playing with this idea of a split. Watching myself as it happens. Seeing how it makes me feel, and then bringing it back home. When I am able to bring that split back and consolidate myself, I feel like a different person. A person I have seen flashes of over the years, but it’s never been consistent. And I realized tonight that this split represents a transition. A passing of the torch. A death and a birth.

Growing up, I built my identity based on isolation and video games. It was rigid, nervous, static, “safe”. It was like wearing a thick hoodie that I was hiding within. Trying to make sure no one could see me.

kinoninja3

I feel this identity is very much represented in that split. Whenever I see the split happening, I feel this identity in my body. How uncomfortable it is. How rigid and compulsive it’s thoughts are. How it’s trying to categorize everyone into little boxes so it can “understand” them. So it knows how to behave to evade any real interaction. So it knows how to avoid being seen.

When I pull this split back, there is a new identity taking hold. Instead of this restrictive, rigid winter jacket, it’s more like a lightweight jacket. Something both casual yet a little dressy. Easy to move in. It makes me feel confident, loose, clearheaded, calm.

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This new identity has been building its strength for a while now, and is ready to take over. It doesn’t need that old structure anymore. It’s still fighting to hold on, but we can all see that it’s over. It’s time has passed. That there is a new life waiting for me now. Joy and happiness to be had right here. Dangling at my fingertips. Things that were completely unknown to me with that old identity, but that I am now ready for. Especially now that I have this slick new jacket that I can really move around in.

It feels now like I’m saying goodbye. Not angrily, or like I’m in a huge rush. The train is slowly pulling out of the station and this old self is still running beside me, waving, trying to catch my attention. I’m smiling and waving back, knowing that the train will soon pull out of the station, pick up speed, and that I’ll never see him again.

I’m not sure where this train is headed, but that doesn’t concern me. It just feels good to be moving again, windows down, wind whipping through my hair, getting to see the countryside and interact with some new people. I’ve made some wonderful friends already, and we’ve barely just left 🙂

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