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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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 😉

Where’s your head at?

I usually spend around 20 hours a day in my apartment. I work from home, and sleep here, so that makes up 17 right there.

I started noticing that it felt like I was drowning in my thoughts. I had these negative loops start, and I would just keep building them, and building them, and building them, because there really wasn’t anything to break me out of that rut. Every once in a while I would peak above the waves and get a breath of fresh air, but then plunge right back beneath the surface.

But then last week I was out of town the whole week on business. I’ve noticed the past couple times I’ve been out of town that all these thoughts immediately dissipate. I get incredibly clearheaded. I can actually breathe freely again. But then when I get back into my apartment, slowly but surely I build them back up and am back to where I was before.

Except this time it was different. When I got back I started noticing these thoughts when they were forming, before they got to the point where I was drowning in them. And it wasn’t the kind of thing where I was trying to force myself not to think these thoughts, I just shined some light on them. I asked myself “Where are these thoughts originating from? What is my motivation right now? My purpose? Does this make me feel good?”.

And just asking those questions naturally brought me out of the loops. I could clearly and effortlessly see how destructive they were. How badly I felt when I was in them.

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Chapter 9, section 7 “The Two Evaluations”, paragraph 6:

“You cannot evaluate an insane belief system from within it. It’s range precludes this. You can only go beyond it, look back from a point where sanity exists and see the contrast. With the grandeur of God in you, you have chosen to be little and to lament your littleness. Within the system that dictated this choice the lament is inevitable. Your littleness is taken for granted there and you do not ask, “who granted it?” The question is meaningless within the ego’s system, because it would open the whole thought system to question..”

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The course is always so timely… this is something I’ve been working on all week, and then I read the above passage this morning and it was just perfect. This is exactly what happened. I would get caught in these patterns and try to figure them out from within them, which would only pull me further beneath the surface. It’s like asking the ego “Hey, what’s going on here? Can you explain this to me”. Of course it’s not going to give you a straight answer, because it was the one who designed the trap. It’s like a prisoner asking a guard “Hey, it’s awful uncomfortable in here, would you mind letting me out?”

But as soon as I got a little distance, I can look back and clearly see how insane it all is. I’ve been home for a week and I’m still totally clearheaded. This is a major accomplishment.

I also love the idea of contrast. I’ve been making a list of the patterns I found myself starting, and what its opposite would be. And then just feeling into which one of these I prefer. Not making a judgement or anything. Just making a choice. Here’s some of the stuff I came up with.

Am I motivated by lack or wholeness?
Am I trying to protect what I have or express who I am?
Am I trying to get things or share things?
Am I desperate or content?
Lonely or secure in the divine?
Fast or slow?
In a panic or calm?
Resentful or grateful?
Doubtful or assured?
Trying to solve a problem which can’t be solved or seeing that there aren’t any problems?
Needing everything to adhere to my plans or releasing it to the divine?

Just establishing this range is so helpful to see how destructive and uncomfortable these patterns are. The more contrast there is, the easier it is to see what truly feeds you. And the easier it is to make a conscious decision.

I guess I’m not in control after all…

I feel like I constantly come from this place of desperation. Like I have to have certain things happen or I get frustrated, depressed, angry…

A couple weeks ago I had one of these ideas really built up, a lot of energy invested in a certain thing happening… And then it didn’t. But it was weird. It didn’t affect me like it usually does. I went for a walk afterwards and noticed that for the first time I felt like I had some weight. Some substance. Like I could actually feel my body.

And from that foundation, I no longer felt like anything really had to happen. There was a calm contentment. There were still things that I definitely wanted to happen, but this newfound groundedness wasn’t dependent on it. It was more like I just wanted to enjoy these things. Express myself through them.

I also noticed there was a feeling of expansiveness that coincided with this weight. Like I was coming through my body and then expanding outwards into my environment. I could feel the objects of the room that I was in. I had a feeling that I was occupying space in this environment. Before I had lived in a complete vacuum. Unaware of my body or what was around me.

This also fits right in with what I’ve been reading in the course.

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Chapter 8, section VII. The Body As a Means of Communication, paragraph 12:

“Learning must lead beyond the body to the reestablishment of the power of the mind in it. This can be accomplished only if the mind extends to other minds, and does not arrest itself and it’s extension. This arrest is the cause of all illness, because only extension is the minds function.”

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It’s a routine of mine to check out The Cosmic Path’s free weekly astrology forecast. It’s usually totally relevant for what I’m going through. And this week was no exception, as it was all about expansion.

Here’s a little snippet:

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“While others are struggling with challenging circumstances, you’re in major expansion mode. This may be because you have so much experience with the challenging circumstances scenario, but whatever it is, your work right now is to remain centered and neutral in your considerably empowered self, and allow your world to continue to deliver its miracles to you. “

http://www.thecosmicpath.com/category/wh-capricorn

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When I read this I was like “Hell yes! How spot on!” But didn’t put too much thought into it after that.

Then tonight while on a walk I realized something very interesting. This shift that has happened the past couple weeks, I very much felt like this was a result of all of the work I’ve been doing. Like I am getting better at releasing the ego, I’m reading the right books, have the right friends. I was priding myself on how good I’m getting at releasing control and letting the Holy Spirit take over!

But then I realized “well…. that astrology forecast said the exact same thing. So is this expansive state really just a result of the stars aligning in my favor? Is it not really me doing this after all?”.

The ego can use anything to build itself an identity to preserve its existence. Even releasing the ego to the Holy Spirit. I had built up an identity that I was “good” at doing this. It’s like I was releasing control with one hand but clinching even tighter with the other. Realizing this astrology stuff had a role in the expansiveness I’ve experienced had the effect of suddenly releasing both hands. It felt like I was floating. Still very grounded, but totally unclouded. Seeing clearly.

I see now that it’s silly to think that doing A leads to B. I have such a small picture of what’s actually going on. To think that what I’m experiencing is influenced by the stars…. Even as ambitious as the ego is, the thought of trying to control the stars is a bit beyond it 🙂

So you think I’m an asshole? Yeah… you’re probably right…

So good…

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Chapter 8, section V. The Undivided Will of the Sonship, paragraph 5:

“Whenever fear intrudes anywhere along the road to peace, it is because the ego has attempted to join the journey with us and cannot do so. Sensing defeat and angered by it, the ego regards itself as rejected and becomes retaliative. You are invulnerable to its retaliation because I am with you. On this journey you have chosen me as your companion instead of the ego. Do not attempt to hold onto both, or you will try to go in different directions and will lose the way.”

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Wow… That’s pretty ruthless. To basically say you have to abandon the ego. This brings up all sorts of unpleasant feelings. The ego usually masquerades as a helpless child, so initially it makes you seem like an unholy asshole for abandoning it. For even thinking of abandoning it. What kind of heartless creature would leave behind a child? One who needed its help? Who was desperately reaching out, crying, beaten, tormented by life? Could you possibly live with yourself if you turned your back on this?

This is obviously a trap, but it’s a damn good one. I think in a lot of ways this is a good illustration that to follow a lot of this course stuff, you could legitimately be called an asshole when being judged by the normal standards of society.

And I think the trick is that you have to be okay with this. To be okay with living outside what most people consider to be decent. To not conform to what is “right”. To be an outsider in this insane society.

And the greatest ally in maintaining this position is the Holy Spirit, and the perspective it brings into this. Like I quoted above, this is a journey to peace, to truth. You can’t bring illusion with you, it must be abandoned. But these things have no real substance. You aren’t actually abandoning anything. It’s just an illusion. The guilt that comes with this is just a trick to get you to turn around. It’s perfectly okay to feel happy as a result of this abandonment, as bizarre as this might sound when viewed through the lens of what society normally thinks…

I’ll quote one more passage which is from paragraph 6. It’s hard to describe how badass reading this makes me feel (which I’ve done probably 20 times now).

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“Never accord the ego the power to interfere with the journey. It has none, because the journey is the way to what is true. Leave all illusions behind, and reach beyond all attempts of the ego to hold you back. I go before you because I am beyond the ego. Reach, therefore, for my hand because you want to transcend the ego. My strength will never be wanting, and if you choose to share it you will do so. I give it willingly and gladly, because I need you as much as you need me.”

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Awwwwwwwwwww yeahhhhhhhhhhhh, I love that!

Split mind and “minor” miracles

This is a perfect example of how unique and valuable the course is. I originally read this a month ago, and did get quite a lot out of it, but I reread this passage in a study group this morning and had a completely different understanding. That’s why you can never really be done reading this book. After only a month this little idea has changed so much. And this book is like 1,000 pages long…

The course often talks about a split mind. On one side we have the ego, and on the other side we have our spirit. This naturally produces a lot of friction, as these two sides seem to be in direct opposition to each other.

This is a fundamental concept that is talked about in pretty much every spiritual system, and it seems like everyone has a different solution. Some say to eradicate the ego, that ego death is the ultimate goal. Some say you have to retrain the ego. Force it to produce different, loving thoughts. Others say this split is irreconcilable. That it has to be accepted for what it is and lived with.

I’ve tried all of these, but ultimately they did very little to help. They actually probably did more damage than anything else. I realize now that self attack is never a solution, which was my approach to the ego for some time.

The course lays out why trying to resolve this split on your own is a lost cause.

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Chapter 4, section 1 “Right Teaching and Right Learning”, paragraph 2:
“Nothing can reach spirit from the ego, and nothing can reach the ego from spirit. Spirit can neither strengthen the ego nor reduce the conflict within it. Your self and God’s Self are in opposition. They are fundamentally irreconcilable, because spirit cannot perceive in the ego cannot know. They are therefore not in communication and can never be in communication”

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These two minds live in completely different worlds. There is no frame of reference for either one. You can’t teach the ego anything.

The course poses a different solution.

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“If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God.”

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Hmmm, that’s a new one. I don’t fight the ego, I don’t try to change it, I let the divine take care of that. Another burden dropped. And this is actually something I’ve been witnessing within myself for years. Where I will start having a very ego-based thought loop start, then all of a sudden I get this completely different thought dropped in that breaks that loop and brings me out of it. It’s like a friend is reminding me “hey, you don’t have to do this, let me lift you up out of here before you get sunk in too deeply”.

Sometimes I go right back into the loop, but most of the time I smile seeing how silly it was. I’d always kind of thought this was dumb luck, or just a random coincidence. But now I see this was the divine reaching down and helping me out. This intervention has happened to me a couple times today, and afterwards there has been immense gratitude and appreciation that wells up within me. It’s such a validation that the divine is connected to me, helping me out in my day to day existence. On the surface it might not appear to be some huge miracle where I am walking on water, or emerging from an accident unscathed, but to me these gentle reminders are just as special.

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“And gratitude to God becomes the way in which He is remembered, for love cannot be far behind a grateful heart and a thankful mind.”

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This is so cool to me. For the course to explain something that is already happening. So I can consciously direct it. Put more energy towards it and see the results.

It feels like so many solutions that other spiritual systems propose are creating something out of nothing. It’s like you’re almost going against your nature. Fighting upstream. Trying to force these changes. I’d much rather just tap into something that’s already happening. Especially something that allows me to relax. Drop burdens and responsibilities instead of adding more. The more I can offload onto the divine the better… I’m tired of fighting upstream…

I’m kind of an asshole…

Chapter 5, section 5 “The Ego’s Use of Guilt”, paragraph 2, sentence 3:

“What is truly blessed is incapable of giving rise to guilt, and must give rise to joy. This makes it invulnerable to the ego because its peace is unassailable.”

I really liked the idea of a peace that is unassailable. Wouldn’t that be nice? Not to have to worry about being attacked all the time? I’ve written about this earlier in regards to schizophrenia, where I have this feeling that someone can annihilate me. Attack me at the deepest level.

So this kind of set the stage for the following:

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“If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God.”

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Oh man…. I had never looked at it this way before. As an attack. But I think it’s totally appropriate.

In high school I was on the golf team, and there was a ladder system to where every week you would challenge the person above you to work your way up the ladder. One week during a challenge I was in charge of the scorecard, and towards the end of the round I erased one of my earlier scores and dropped it down by a stroke. The dude caught me and called me out, but I ended up winning anyway so it kind of got dropped.

But this is something that has left a deep wound in me. Whenever my thoughts drift to golf, they undoubtedly hit on this incident and I ruthlessly tear myself up for it. I’m trying to separate myself from that action. That I am not that person. I am something better apart from them. That I will punish myself harsher than anyone else ever would, so that I might be acceptable in their eyes. It’s like “You don’t have to punish me! I’ve already taken care of that 100 times over! You can approve of me now, right?…… Right?”

This all set the stage for the following, which really hit me:

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“The guiltless mind cannot suffer. Being sane, the mind heals the body because it has been healed. The sane mind cannot conceive of illness because it cannot conceive of attacking anyone or anything.”

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So……. this is huge for me. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for 5 years now. Every day. It’s totally changed my life. In many ways for the good, but I’m so fucking tired of it. I feel I’ve learned the lessons and am ready to move on. To not have to constantly deal with this.

And in reading these passages, I realize that I have had a very victim mentality with this. It’s like I was at the whim of my body. Unable to control this pain. It was doing it to me. Poor me, right? BUT… I think what was actually happening here is I’m attacking myself. And wow, that is not fun to think about. To go from being this innocent victim worthy of sympathy, to being the kind of person who is so viciously attacking himself that it manifests physically and persists for 5 years…. That’s quite a shift. But I think it’s the absolute truth. It’s like I force myself down into this little ball, and whenever I reached out trying to express myself, I would ruthlessly attack myself until I shrunk back and hid again.

While getting a massage a few months ago I had this image of my inner child trapped in my right forearm (which is the main source of my chronic pain). He had built himself a fort out of Legos and completely walled himself off inside it. He wanted nothing to do with me because all I ever did was attack him. This little innocent kid, and I would just ruthlessly assault him. Now that I think about it it’s like “Well no shit, of course all this is going to lead to illness, emotionally, mentally, physically…” But my ego likes to cleverly disguise this so it can be the “good guy” somehow.

So that’s pretty fucking depressing right? Admitting that I’ve been enthusiastically beating up a little kid all these years? But what often happens with the course, is that it shows you both how twisted you can be and then the moment after it liberates you from it. So right after I had all those dark thoughts I realized “Well… what am I really attacking here?” And the answer is nothing. I’m wrapped up in this ego illusion, and whenever that is the case nothing I do is real. So I’ve been attacking myself for years, but there’s nothing to really atone for. I can drop it in an instant because none of it was real. The ego doesn’t like that because it wants to perpetuate the cycle because it feeds on it, but I think it’s entirely possible to see this for what it is and let it all go.

And I feel much more in charge when I realize that my illness is a result of my own doings. It means I have the power to release it. I’m not a victim here.

I’m seeing a pattern that goes something like this.

Step 1: Admit I’m an asshole who does some pretty twisted stuff.

Step 2: See that I’m not really an asshole, that I’m really free and have done no wrong.

I think a lot of people would rather skip step 1 and just emerge in this space of being innocent and holy, but I don’t think this really works. Or at least it doesn’t for me…