Meta-beliefs: is the game of life worth playing?

I’ve spent a lot of time using the Abraham-Hicks teachings to feel better, largely by changing my thoughts.

But much of this work has taken place in the domain of everyday living, or on subjects like money, relationships, health and so on.

If life were a game, these thoughts and subjects would be the contents of the game – all the stuff the players play with.

Yet despite my progress in feeling better about the contents of the game, it turns out I have some strong thoughts or beliefs about the game itself.

At a relatively early age I doubted that the game was worth playing at all. I started to think it was a pointless, meaningless game, where none of the rewards were worth the effort required to attain them.

Nonetheless I felt I had no real choice but to play. Sometimes I was coerced or conscripted into playing, sometimes the pressures of the game forced my hand.

Once you start playing a game, you can’t help but feel invested to some degree, even if your overall attitude to the game is negative.

But it’s impossible to love playing the game while hating the game. It’s impossible to feel truly excited about winning while also thinking that winning is pointless and not worth the effort.

In Abraham-Hicks terms, this is some major vibrational discord.

Changing your meta-beliefs

A lot of the Abraham-Hicks methods are for people who struggle with a subject like money, and it helps them to recognise their conflicting thoughts: I’d love more money vs money doesn’t grow on trees, for example.

If you only have good-feeling thoughts about money you won’t resist or sabotage opportunities. Money will become an easy subject for you.

I haven’t found as much teaching on the meta-subject of life itself or existence itself. I think I’m slightly unusual in having embraced existential pessimism early in life, and ended up living in the shadow of those negative thoughts.

But all the same principles apply! Thinking that life is meaningless, pointless, and not worth the effort, is just another set of thoughts on a subject that can be soothed, softened and shifted gradually.

Life could be worse. This is not the most absurd and painful of all possible worlds. Parts of it are not as bad, some parts are better than others.

And what if “meaning” is not the only thing that gives life value and makes it enjoyable? What if there is more to life than meaning and purpose? What if enjoyment were the point of life?

If my thoughts create my reality, then haven’t I very likely experienced a whole lot of confirmation bias that life is not worth the struggle? Would I like to revisit this old belief just in case my youthful assessment was not as accurate as I thought at the time?

Reconsidering the game

Whether this game of life seems worth playing or not depends on what I think about it. How I feel about life is, in A-H terms, guidance as to the alignment or misalignment of my thoughts about life. Thinking the game is not worth playing feels bad because my inner being does not share that view.

When I know what I don’t want, I implicitly know what I do want. What I don’t want is for life to be a meaningless, pointless game where the rewards aren’t worth the struggle. Therefore what I do want is the opposite of that: I want life to be a meaningful and pointed game where the rewards are more than worth the struggle.

I asked for this many times over, yet instead of staying tuned into that desire I kept turning my attention back to the bleak unwanted perspective that inspired it.

I can change my reality if I change my thoughts, and focus now on what I have desired. I want this game of life to be fun, meaningful, pointed, rewarding, easy and enjoyable.

Your interpersonal self

When you grow up feeling dominated by the expectations and pressures of others it is easy to lose yourself in that interpersonal space.

In the interpersonal space they use a different currency. Things you don’t really care about become important, and you feel a pressure to be somebody in the eyes of others. Or at least not be nobody.

But when it comes to your real self, interpersonal currency is not legal tender. Your real self doesn’t give a fuck about all the things you’ve been striving for and struggling to maintain in that interpersonal space. Your real self doesn’t care about who you hope to become, or how your dreams will change everything for you.

Polarised extremes

If you experience this massive contrast between your interpersonal self with its plans and striving and motivation, and your real self whose down-time consists of wanting to block everything out and just avoid difficulties, then it can seem impossible to reconcile the two.

You’ve carried on such a convincing public performance, you’ve fooled even yourself into thinking these goals of yours will bring you happiness. How can you possibly stop right now and let people see that you simply don’t give a crap? That your number one motivation in life is to avoid trouble as much as possible. That the things that seem to excite and please others barely move you.

I don’t know the answer yet. But I think this sense of polar opposites, night and day, is exacerbated by the division. Your real self is extra disagreeable and uninspired because it’s been so alienated and suppressed.

Your real self has no apparent interests or purpose because it’s been drowned out by interpersonal ones for so long.

So it may seem like too big a change to suddenly give your real self more air time, to bring your dour self with you into your life. But even though it feels poorer in all the values and virtues you’ve tried to bring to please others, it has something your interpersonal self will never have: alignment, authenticity, acceptance, and therefore the seeds of genuine love and joy. Not the joy you thought you’d feel when you were finally good enough in the eyes of others. Not the love you thought you’d find when you met the standards you learned from those around you.

You’ve been playing with shiny, glittering fake currency. Your actual wealth doesn’t look like that, but it’s real. Real enough to let you give up at last on chasing approval and validation out there.

Pleasing others, denying ourselves

This Abraham-Hicks excerpt explains how we end up feeling bad while trying to please others:

“Because the source within you adores you so much! There is nothing that is more disabling than focusing in ways that disagree with the way the source within you feels. You didn’t make that up…there were other people outside the vortex that trained you how to think about yourself. When there’s somebody outside the vortex they feel awful, and when they look at you, they feel awful. And then you say, oh something must be wrong with me because they’re lookin’ at me and they feel awful…I wish that I could behave in a way that when they look at me they would feel wonderful…and you tried…you gave that everything you had…but you just couldn’t behave in enough ways to make them feel wonderful could you, and so then your assumption was something must be wrong with me…which is the biggest flawed premise in the whole universe! And the source within you never agreed with that.”

I think this is where things go wrong for many of us, typically as children. We feel there is something wrong with us and we have to change so that others can feel better.

This idea that we are responsible for how others feel is like a noxious weed. It can take years to recognise that denying our own alignment for the sake of pleasing others is a flawed strategy that leaves us utterly depleted.

Some of us build our whole persona around the premise of pleasing others – or at least trying not to displease them. Life feels inauthentic and empty, because, as Abraham-Hicks puts it in another context:

“people have trained each other, people have trained you, they’ve said to you if you behave in this way i will love you and so you just knocked yourself out being lovable, you knocked yourself out being lovable, but you weren’t knocking yourself out being in alignment. so you never felt the love that you thought you were eliciting from others, that’s why it’s so confusing, you see.”

The love and happiness we sought can only come from alignment, and that’s as true for others as it is for us.

Facing tough contrast

Keep reminding yourself that contrast means good things are coming. That’s the best way to handle it. Don’t bother trying to fix it or analyse it when you’re already feeling not at your best. Just keep remembering that contrast means something good is coming. That should bring a little bit of relief, and remind you to look forward and to trust and allow good things to come to you, allowing yourself to feel better – even if the path is not immediately clear.

Close the gap…but not too much

There is always going to be a gap between your vibration and that of your inner being. When the gap is wide we feel bad. So in order to feel better we must close the gap.

That’s why we find better-feeling thoughts. Each better-feeling thought is vibrationally closer to the joy and love and appreciation our inner being (God) already enjoys.

But the gap is not a bad thing. The gap – and the contrast it brings – is why we are here. It’s only because of the gap that we can form new preferences and desires and allow expansion.

Sometimes we try too hard to close the gap or we think there shouldn’t be a gap, shouldn’t be any contrast in life. These efforts to eliminate the gap do not bring happiness, nor can they succeed.

The gap is important and necessary, it only feels bad because we are looking at it the wrong way. From God’s perspective this gap is of tremendous value. And if we can learn to appreciate it as well then it can become a source of eagerness and joy rather than fear and incompleteness.

Learning to love contrast because contrast is the foretaste of new expansion; learning to appreciate the gap because the gap is what this life is all about; this is the way to true happiness, happiness in the path and the journey, not happiness conditional on outcomes and circumstances.

Writing your life: handling contrast

I’m learning to handle contrast (unwanted experience) better, and it reminds me of my writing experiences.

In the past I didn’t handle contrast very well. I was like a writer who recoils at his own clumsy self-expression and gives up on it immediately.

I’m becoming more like an experienced writer who knows that not every idea will work, and who doesn’t expect a first draft to be perfect. A writer who doesn’t give up just because the words don’t yet flow effortlessly into their final form.

But where I’m heading is the kind of mature writer who knows that it is never going to be “complete”, because the very act of writing expands my skill, heightens my expectations and refines my judgement.

Isn’t that why early drafts look bad? By the time we’ve finished the draft we are a better writer than before, and we see more room for improvement. Our ideas are more developed and nuanced, so we find better ways to phrase it. And sometimes we’re just done with a story or idea and we want something fresh and new.

Why is there contrast?

This applies to contrast in our lives too. Contrast will always be part of life because we will never stop expanding and growing.

But it’s up to us whether we think of contrast as a catastrophe, a reflection of our failings and a reason to give up like the writer who excoriates himself for a dissatisfying first attempt.

Or if we instead start to view contrast as part of the process, and even a sign of growth, expansion and development.

Contrast is inevitable because we are always moving forward, always deepening our expectations and refining our preferences.

Must contrast be painful?

It’s our thoughts about contrast that make contrast painful. If you think unwanted feelings and experiences mean you’ve failed, you’ve f***ed up, you took a wrong turn, you don’t deserve better, you’re a bad person, then of course you will feel terrible when contrast comes.

If you are afraid of contrast, afraid of the unwanted in life, then your experience is going to be uncomfortable, like a would-be writer who doesn’t ever want to reread or edit his own work.

This all-or-nothing attitude makes contrast painful. It is itself a form of contrast, reflected in the rigidity and fear and anxiety that governs your world.

And yet it is liberating to know that contrast is not even bad. Unwanted experiences are not truly unwanted, they are part of the dynamic, how the whole of reality works.

Because you could not form new preferences without releasing old ones. You could not refine your desires without your unrefined desire being discarded. You could not expand without your prior existence seeming too small.

But that doesn’t mean you have to hate and bemoan where you are/were. Instead appreciate how it has fed and informed your expansion. And see if you can at least not freak out when contrast happens again!

Feeling good is enlightenment

I used to think enlightenment was something magical, mysterious, and transformative. Something conferred or earned through practice or through the wisdom of sudden realisation.

But I’m finally accepting that enlightenment is just deliberately feeling good, feeling better for the sake of feeling better.

What I missed

It’s not that I misunderstood per se, but I too quickly seized on enlightenment as the solution to my problems, something that would fulfil what I lacked.

So my understanding of enlightenment was an extrapolation from my focus on “lack”. It was like a vague and mysterious shadow, a promise of relief from, freedom from unwanted conditions.

But that meant my idea of enlightenment was just another action pathway: “I’ll feel better if I get this”.

Actual enlightenment

Actual enlightenment is just recognising that we can deliberately focus and feel better, and our circumstances follow from this focus, not the other way around.

There’s no transformation to undergo. Enlightenment and delusion exist on a continuum, just like joy and sorrow.

Some people say that once enlightened you can never be deluded again, and I don’t know for sure what they mean. It’s not as though we would want to be deluded again, so perhaps what they mean is that once you are practiced enough at deliberately feeling good, you won’t suddenly forget and begin unconsciously feeling terrible.

For where I’m at, it’s enough – more than enough – to see that I was chasing the promise of fulfilment while reinforcing a sense of lack. That’s why feeling better was hitherto still not enough for me, and why I sabotaged my own happiness for the sake of something “more”.

Life is meant to be fun

My wife told me last night that winning a Nobel Prize extends your lifespan. Assuming the researchers did their homework, that means fame and adulation for one’s life’s work actually helps you live longer.

Good feelings are good. Life is not meant to be grim and miserable, it is meant to be fun and enjoyable. All it takes to let it be fun and enjoyable is to stop focusing on thoughts that feel bad and start focusing on thoughts that feel good.

Gradual improvements

If you persist with this practice, your feelings will gradually change and so will your circumstances. When we focus on thoughts that feel bad, we are drawn to more thoughts and circumstances that match. We unwittingly refuse, resist, and sabotage the good things in life because we’re not willing or practiced at going along with them.

When you focus on thoughts that feel good, thoughts of fun and enjoyment and appreciation, you allow those feelings to gain momentum in your life and open yourself to receive circumstances and conditions that match these good feelings.

Making fun of life

If you can find a feeling of fun in yourself, then you can expect fun to fill your life as well. It just depends on how consistently you can enjoy a feeling of fun without getting thrown off by negative thoughts.

The more frequently you enjoy good feelings, the better your life will feel. You’ll start to see that people who once looked like “victims” of their reality are steadfastly focused on bad-feeling thoughts and circumstances; and the baddest-feeling thought of all is that “I have no control over my circumstances”.

Focusing on fun feelings today is helping me appreciate that I have great potential in this. There’s a lot of fun available to me, and I’m inspired to see how this fun feeling will unfold in my experience, what signs and manifestations will turn up in response to my new point of focus.

The Matrix 20 years later: a personal reflection

I rewatched The Matrix this past weekend, and it brought back a lot of memories and old perspectives on life.

My wife and I were both surprised at how many lines of dialogue I knew by heart. I must have watched it a lot back then. My brother reminded me: there wasn’t much else around, right? And yeah that’s true.

But for me The Matrix came along just as I was getting intently into my spiritual search. I’d read de Mello’s Awareness and was primed for anything that spoke of a deeper meaning to life, promising enlightenment and realisation.

I’d even started learning kung fu around that time, again looking for anything that promised mystery or just more to life.

Searching for freedom

When I saw The Matrix I thought “these people get it!” I was so excited and took it as evidence that I was on the right track – that there was a track.

But it also matched my bleak experience of “ordinary” life. I felt trapped, uninspired, and already weary of the reality I found myself in.

Enlightenment promised a way out. I took Neo’s death and rebirth experience at the climax of the film as a spiritual allegory. He transcended the Matrix, saw through the illusion, pierced the veil of Maya, and was liberated.

I wanted whatever it was that the sages, mystics, and saints spoke of in such glowing terms as surpassing anything reality had to offer.

But in my search I took as foundational my awareness of insufficiency, of lack. I took as my starting point the very words “there’s something wrong with this reality” and tried repeatedly to piece together the answer to that problem.

Reality isn’t broken

I depreciated reality on the understanding that it wasn’t real, and with faith that I could find the truth and the freedom truth would bring.

I took for granted that I was a soul mired in illusion, and I clung to that sense of frustration and imprisonment, inner tension battling against a world of empty appearances that somehow held sway in me.

I kept struggling to overcome, to see through the superficial and find the treasure within. I really believed that all my problems would be solved. I was taking the direct path, looking for the ultimate answers in life.

Projecting inadequacy

But the whole time my desire for greater meaning and purpose and enlightenment was clouded by my sense of personal inadequacy.

I felt like a loser, I couldn’t point to any outstanding qualities in myself, and I also felt alienated from friends and family and broader society.

Being different and having no words or concepts to explain how and why, I thought I could just leave the world behind and find my place in whatever final truth enlightenment would reveal.

The answer to my inadequacies was that reality itself was at fault. My lack of good qualities didn’t matter because life was an illusion anyway. The only quality that mattered was spiritual, and I could excel at that because everyone else was neglecting it, or so it seemed.

You create your reality

But now I’m approaching a different view of life and reality. I’m learning that I create my reality, and my thoughts or beliefs determine how much of my desired reality I allow.

In that context, feeling inadequate already, I interpreted spiritual teachings in a way that shifted the inadequacy onto reality itself. And yet I was unable to shift any further. Reality remained inadequate and over time my hopefulness dimmed and my own inadequacy returned.

I felt like I was on an important and meaningful path…yet had nothing to show for it.

In Abraham-Hicks terms I was treating enlightenment as an action pathway, a course of action I hoped would make me feel better. That’s not how it works. For twenty years it hasn’t worked. I’ve just been kicking the can down the road.

What do you want?

But my spiritual search wasn’t totally uninspired. I was genuinely drawn to a deeper understanding of life, reality, meaning and happiness.

But even though I immersed myself in spiritual teachings I was still caught in the same false premise as everyone else: give me what I want, and then I’ll be happy.

I wanted purpose, meaning, a secure identity, freedom, belonging, and clarity. I thought chasing enlightenment would give me all these and more. But the A-H prescription is simpler: find the feeling place of these desires, and you’re already there. No more action, no more resistance, no more kicking the can down the road, blaming yourself and then others and then reality and then yourself again.

Just find the feeling place. Align yourself with those feelings and enjoy what follows.

Pushing against boredom

Our old habit is to push against things we don’t like. But pushing against something just increases our resistance, and since we are already creating our reality, increased resistance means more of what we don’t like.

Last night I went to bed feeling irritable, angry and in physical pain, struggling to work out why and find relief.

It wasn’t until this morning that I felt good enough to see the bigger picture.

After dinner I’d been feeling bored, and my wife wanted to use my computer to watch a movie.

I was already feeling bored, and in addition I felt like I wasn’t free to use the computer myself. So now I felt bored and powerless.

I looked for something else to do, but couldn’t find anything. I started to feel annoyed at myself for not having more interesting options.

An old physical pain started to return, and I decided to go for a run. But between the pain and the cold outside I felt too dismal to continue.

Coming back home I was angry and frustrated, irritated and powerless. To make matters worse, I believed I shouldn’t feel this way, and it was up to me to overcome or solve these bad feelings.

But by now I was pushing so hard against all these unwanted things, and these old patterns of thought had a lot of momentum. Boredom, frustration, powerlessness and anger, going right back to childhood.

Go to sleep

Sleep was the best way to get some relief. But this unwanted experience was also valuable contrast. It showed me very clearly a residual pocket of resistance, and in the light of day I can see how it started and how it got worse and worse by pushing against the unwanted.

Pushing against things doesn’t work. I tried to push against boredom, focusing on how unwanted it felt, and soon every aspect of my experience felt unwanted and infuriating.

Boredom is very close to contentment. If I could relax and look for things to feel good about, the boredom would dissipate in my ease and relief.

That’s how we create our reality after all. I thought I was bored because there was nothing to do, but it’s the other way around: I couldn’t find anything to do because I was already feeling bored. And I was already feeling bored because I’d looked to my circumstances to entertain me and make me feel good.

The lesson is clear: if I feel bored I find everything boring. If I feel satisfied I discover satisfying things. If I feel excited I will find exciting things. And if I feel inspired I will draw inspiration into my experience.

The only variable is momentum – if I’ve spent a lot of time in negative emotions then it will take longer for positive ones to bear fruit. If you’re really good at feeling bored, inspiration will take a bit longer to learn.