Friday, June 23, 2017

Chasing the Phantom

We all have a phantom that we’re chasing. This phantom could be anything from health, wealth, freedom, romantic love, lasting peace, or even the highest levels of spiritual enlightenment. Any ideal state of being or life situation that we wish we could permanently abide in is the phantom we chase. But we can never seem to really find it. We may have glimpses, brief tastes of our most sought for desire, but it never stays. We are teased to the point of torment. But let me tell you this; the only thing worse than never getting what you want, is actually getting it.

Let me explain why. Before you got what you desired, you at least had hope. But as soon as you get it and you realize that it doesn’t really make you happy, your hope is taken from you. There is nothing left to chase, no idealistic goal to move towards, no tantalizing fantasy of the grass being greener on the other side of life. This is the point at which you have two choices; to either kill yourself, or to kill your idea of self.

The ego self has a great many mechanisms to maintain its own survival. Most of these are deeply habituated and have their roots in the subconscious. But the most powerful of all its survival mechanisms is the idea that things would be better if. If only this were the case, or that were the case, I could be happy. This is an inherent denial of the now, as wanting something else, by default, means that you do not want or accept what is. The problem with this is that all you ever have is what is at this moment. So you create a dynamic of continuous suffering. Yet the ego itself loves this, because it cannot survive without suffering. Resistance is the structural tension which holds the ego in place. Without it, the ego collapses in on itself. Without any suffering, the ego ceases to exist. Because without suffering, there is only complete love and acceptance of what is.

The Buddha said that there are two base causes of suffering. Attachment and desire. Without desire and without attachment, there is no suffering, and one’s true nature is fully realized. So what does it mean to have no attachment and no desire? It means that you do not cling to the fleeting forms and experiences that come and go in this temporal existence, and you also do not desire for things to be a certain way, for them to be other than the way that they are right now. This state of being is the essence of self-realization or enlightenment, as the true self, your true nature, is beyond all that comes and goes. It is untouched by passing sensations and experiences, and it is the only constant in an ever-changing reality.

The reason why we chase our phantom is because we believe on some level that the phantom is us. We believe that the only way to be our true selves is to achieve this certain state or circumstance and that only then can we be free from suffering. But the truth is that we first free ourselves from suffering by realizing that no state of being or circumstance could ever bring us lasting happiness or bring us closer to who we really are, and then our life circumstances fall into place effortlessly. At this point, we know that nothing that comes and goes can bring us happiness, so we don’t really care if things fall into place. There is no desire. And even if we do get what we want, we don’t care if it leaves us. There is no attachment. Therefore, we have found lasting freedom, we have achieved the ultimate liberation, and we have come to find that the destination had been exactly where we were standing all along.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Spiritual Impotency- Heeding the Call to Action

Over many years of investigating different spiritual beliefs, techniques and practices, I have come to find that the modern spiritual movement and its practices tend to be overly yin. Approaches devised for manifesting, healing and transforming one’s life involve quite a bit of passivity and very little overt action taking. Instead of being active players in the world, we instead sit back, relax, and wait for things to change. It is my belief that the time for meditating in a cave is over. Taking massive, intelligent and powerful action is the only real solution to creating world change and a society that we all actually want to live in.

A good example of spiritual impotency and passivity would be the most popular approaches toward utilizing the “Law of Attraction”. Many teachers say that all you have to do is visualize what you want and feel as if it is already a reality or you, and then it will just come to you effortlessly. They under-emphasize the value of hard work and dismiss the importance of hard and fast action taking. Then people become frustrated with the results they are getting and throw the baby out with the bath water. They start to believe that they don’t actually create their own reality. But wait a second. They forgot the other half of the equation. The inward psychology is only the foundation while the subsequent action you take is the structure that emerges forth into the world. Without it, there is really no point in having a foundation in the first place.

Then take a look at popular methods for dealing with intense emotions. Just sit with the feeling, go deeply into it, feel it fully. Observe it fully without any resistance and in doing so it will dissipate and transform. For me, this has been some of the biggest bullshit that I have ever come across. Focusing more on the feeling or the emotional pain would often times just drag me deeper into it. It wasn’t until I claimed my power and even got a little angry that I began to shift out of these depressive states via movement and taking action towards my goals and desires. I’m not saying that there is no place for being with yourself, the Universe is a blend of yin and yang energies and both are absolutely necessary for the functioning of the whole, we have just placed too much emphasis on yin practices and neglected the yang.

If your energy is naturally quite yin, this is not as much of a problem. But for men and women with potent masculine energy and drives, this can be incredibly destructive. Their approach to life becomes overly passive and they wonder why they feel depressed. This has been me for most of my adult life. I would sit around passively trying to change my life by going inward, feeling my feelings fully, and imagining a more ideal life. This was a decent starting place and had it’s use, but when the time came to move, to take action, to even get a little fired up and feel a sense of urgency to make a positive change in myself and the world at large, I just kept practicing the same impotent, yin techniques for life improvement and spiritual growth. And my life became a living hell.

This impotent approach to life creates men and women (especially men) who are, for lack of a better word, wussies. They don’t really stand for anything, they don’t hold strong to core values and beliefs, and they don’t take radical action on a daily basis to create the type of reality and world that they truly desire. Instead, they listen to society, institutions and the media, they work jobs to support a dysfunctional and ego-based economic structure, and they wait around hoping someone in the government or politics will change things for the better. And it never happens.

“If you don’t have something that you are willing to die for, then you aren’t really living at all”

In this world, you have to take action if you want to get anything done. While aligned action is by far the most effective and having a positive focus and emotional awareness is certainly of tremendous value, nothing ever happens until something moves. That’s the bottom line. If you feel stuck in your spiritual progress and in achieving your goals, try implementing some more yang practices into your day to day life. Take action, do something that scares you, practice cathartic release exercises, speak out and express yourself, vocalize your authentic truth and do not give a single fuck about what anyone thinks. Then watch things change.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Death and the Value of Life

“I do not believe that people seek the meaning of life so much as they seek the experience of being fully alive.” - Joseph Campbell

I witnessed someone die today. The irony is that not five minutes before this experience I was questioning whether or not I even wanted to continue with my own human existence. Whether or not I wanted to continue with a life that often times feels burdensome and void of real purpose and meaning. Not that I felt acutely suicidal, but merely in a state in which I felt the pointlessness of my mundane existence, knowing deep down that I could be living more fully, more vibrantly and purposefully.

I think that often times we walk through life oblivious to the fact that someday, we will die. We don’t like to reflect on this deeply sobering truth, because it threatens our personal ego, the person who we think we are. So we hide death, we lock old people away in nursing homes, we put dead bodies in caskets and fill them with fluids to preserve the body and then cover their face with makeup to make death more pleasant to look at. But why? Why is death so bad? It is a natural and normal part of life which should be celebrated the way that birth is. Because, as far as we’ve seen in all of human history, no one gets out of here alive.

So there, in the street by a corner store, a man lay dying. The people around him appeared to be in a state of simultaneous confusion and despair. A state which I imagine a lot of people experience when confronted with death. But there is a profound beauty in death. Without death, we could never really appreciate the magic and wonder of this all too impermanent existence. Our mortality is a burning fire, pushing us to be our best selves now, to taste the fullness that life has to offer, and to leave the most inspiring and impactful legacy that we can.

Awareness of death gives us a powerful context for life. We need not despair nor preoccupy ourselves with imaginary “problems, for as some wise sage once said, “this too shall pass.” None of us will be around too much longer. So the next time you see people; friends, family, strangers, bring into your awareness that these people, all of them, will one day die. It could be tomorrow. It could be 100 years from now. But either way, it will happen. And it is inescapable.

So I ask you, with this awareness of your own death, what are you doing with your life? If today were your last day, would you be content with the way in which you had lived it? What would you have done differently? And how can you live tomorrow differently so that you would be pleased if it did end up being your final day upon this Earth?

We have all heard the saying “Live everyday as if it were your last.” But how many of us actually do this? How many of us live every precious moment of our lives to the absolute fullest, to the best of our capacity in that very moment? Very few. Most of us live with blinders. We remain in monotonous, mundane routines that drain us of life, hoping that one day we will reach a place where we are free to live the life of our dreams. But that “one day” never comes. So the only choice is carpe diem. To seize the moment, to milk it for all it’s worth, and to arrive at death with a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts, knowing that we did everything we possibly could with this most precious of divine gifts: our human life.