It’s a game…01!

I love having these series to help me stay on track and be focused, and thirty days/posts is a good number to work with a theme.

The new theme is that happiness – all of life in fact – is a vibrational game.

What matters is the vibration you’re broadcasting – not the words you’re using, not the amount of struggle you’re enduring, not the coherence of your story, not the effort you’re making.

It’s a game!!!

Your life has a story, but that story doesn’t define you. Your story, your identity, your past experience do not define you and do not determine the vibration you are offering or the energy you are tuning in to.

That’s why it’s a game: think of it as a game and there’s no reason why you can’t right now tune into a subject, and idea, and hence a vibration that feels really really good.

If life is a story then you are ruled by continuity and narrative arcs. No one likes a story where the hero just decides one day to focus on things that feel good, and their whole life changes for the better.

But if you were that hero, wouldn’t you rather just feel good and know that everything will follow your feeling?

That’s how it’s a game.

It’s not about understanding everything, or learning everything, it’s not about pleasing people or competing with people, it’s not about being good or being great; it’s only about the vibration you broadcast, and that means you can right now focus on things that feel good and let go of anything that doesn’t.

Traditional religions teach the same lesson: grace is a gift. It breaks all the “rules” we’ve established for how life operates. Enlightenment destroys karma. The Way nourishes all beings. At the core of every teaching is a direct relationship with the divine: intrinsic, unearned, and in joyful disregard of all convention and causation.

And it promises happiness, spiritual and material support and abundance, life in all its fullness if we just believe that we have received it.

That’s what all this “vibration” stuff is about. You can tell which thoughts are closer to belief because they feel better. But you can feel better in any subject and know that you are closing the gap.

That’s why it’s a game…just find a higher vibration, any good feeling thought, and let that be your focus.

Practicing happiness 28

Contra mundum with a vengeance.

So it turns out I’m a villain.

In anime there’s the trope (presumably informed by Shinto beliefs) of a creature or spirit that becomes warped through suffering or injustice or its own negative emotion and becomes evil.

It always struck me as a little unfair, but it makes sense. Like the boar spirit at the beginning of Princess Mononoke, or any number of unhappy yokai in Natsume Yuujinchou. These spirits are often victims themselves, yet their bitterness or wrath turns them into something dangerous to others.

In the Abraham-Hicks teachings the cause of our suffering is our own resistance. When we focus on unwanted aspects of reality we experience friction or going against the flow of our own inner being, because our inner being only ever focuses on the wanted aspects of life.

Our negative emotions are our experience of this friction.

I’ve been working on letting go of resistance and feeling better. But it turns out my resistance was more extreme than I realised.

At some point in my life I got turned around. I took my negative experiences and extrapolated to life in general, the whole world, and existence itself.

I decided that life was not worth living, the world was pointless and broken, and existence was burdensome and futile.

Treating all of existence as unwanted felt pretty bad. But in a way it was a relief to reach that sweeping conclusion. It was more satisfying to turn against life than to try to find redeeming features amidst the misery.

It was also a form of vengeance against everyone and everything responsible for making life so burdensome in the first place. Like playing a game where the odds are stacked against you and the cost always outweighs the rewards, the obvious answer was to refuse to play.

Ironically that’s how I finally interpreted spiritual teachings too. Life is being crushed beneath the wheel of samsara, and it’s only refusing to buy-in that brings us true freedom.

If our thoughts and attitudes create our reality, what kind of reality does this contra mundum attitude create? Not the best.

If resisting the flow of life causes suffering and negative emotion, how about turning defiantly against the stream and saying “f*** you”?

Change of heart

My spiritual search was an attempt to find a way out or transformation of this hated reality. But the answer I have finally arrived at is that my hate is itself the problem.

If I want to feel better I have to learn to love the reality I’m in. If I love the reality I’m creating, then it will change to reflect this positive and satisfying and delightful attitude.

I can’t hate my way into a better-feeling life. No matter how justified my resentment might seem, or how comforting my scorn might feel, if I’d rather enjoy life then it’s time for them to go.

Practicing happiness 27

Your inner being is adoring where you are right now.

But how do you feel about it?

Alignment means lining up your perspective with the perspective of your inner being…who always adores where you are.

Abraham-Hicks talks about this as “the relationship between you and You”, closing the gap between yourself and your inner being.

Why close the gap? Especially when you may have lots of reasons to not like where you are.

Close the gap because your inner being is who your really are. It’s the greater part of you, and it has never lost or forgotten it’s connection with God/Source.

Your inner being is where your power is, where your desires are complete, and where your happiness flows effortlessly.

Your inner being is the expanded version of you, and if you line up with it, you will no longer be resisting your own desires.

Surrender to God’s will

In traditional terms this is all about surrender to God’s will. But the emphasis on loving and appreciating and adoring where you are makes it clearer than ever.

God’s will sounds very abstract and ethereal. And even saying that God adores where you are right now and wants you to do the same gets my hackles up.

That’s why Abraham-Hicks doesn’t use traditional terminology. Much clearer to say that your inner being adores where you are, and if you could find a way to align with it by feeling better about where you are, then you will enjoy the love and appreciation, the power and energy of your inner being in this lifetime.

Practicing happiness 26

The only thing that’s worked.

The only thing that’s worked for me is to have the intention to feel better.

It’s the only thing that has consistently improved my circumstances and helped me find alignment again and again.

Looking for answers just brings me more questions. Making an effort just wears me down, but the simple and modest intent to feel better is so consistent, to me it’s magic.

Today brought a new kind of challenge I haven’t encountered before. Or at least not in many years.

It’s so different I’ve been nonplussed, scrambling for an appropriate response.

It took me hours to realise this is just another form of contrast, and that there’s only ever one single answer:

Feel better.

There’s nothing so big or terrifying or strange that my humble intent to feel better can’t heal it.

I used to love the ideal of wisdom like a sword, the sword of truth, the sword of Manjusri, cutting through all ignorance and delusion.

But this is more like hanging clothes out to dry on a mild day, or keeping hydrated, or remembering to go outside for some fresh air.

It’s like giving up on a problem, genuinely not caring, and then the answer comes to you while you’re washing the dishes.

So keep in intending to feel better, and know that it’s enough. Sit with whatever you’ve got going on, add your intent to feel better in that moment, and feel the tiny movement of relief.

Keep doing that, keep intending that relief, that better feeling moment by moment. Big things and small things will come up and pass by. You’ll forget to feel better but that’s okay. Pick it up as soon as you remember.

Not only is this contrast going to pass, it’s going to bring great transformation and change in its wake. By this time tomorrow everything will feel subtly improved again, as another piece of resistance falls away.

Self-inflicted spiritual damage

As a teenager I found some books on mysticism, meditation, and spirituality and saw in them an answer to my problems.

But recently I’ve been reviewing them and recognising how, far from providing help, they set me further on a harmful path of emotional inhibition, withdrawal from life, and confusing alterations in consciousness.

Today I revisited a short book called Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill. Here’s an excerpt from it:

First, the subject of your meditation begins, as you surrender to its influence, to exhibit unsuspected meaning, beauty, power.  A perpetual growth of significance keeps pace with the increase of attention which you bring to bear on it; that attention which is the one agent of all your apprehensions, physical and mental alike.  It ceases to be thin and abstract.  You sink as it were into the deeps of it, rest in it, “unite” with it; and learn, in this still, intent communion, something of its depth and breadth and height, as we learn by direct intercourse to know our friends.

Moreover, as your meditation becomes deeper it will defend you from the perpetual assaults of the outer world.  You will hear the busy hum of that world as a distant exterior melody, and know yourself to be in some sort withdrawn from it.  You have set a ring of silence between you and it; and behold! within that silence you are free.  You will look at the colored scene, and it will seem to you thin and papery: only one among countless possible images of a deeper life as yet beyond your reach. 

And gradually, you will come to be aware of an entity, a You, who can thus hold at arm’s length, be aware of, look at, an idea – a universe – other than itself.  By this voluntary painful act of concentration, this first step upon the ladder which goes – as the mystics would say – from “multiplicity to unity,” you have to some extent withdrawn yourself from that union with unrealities, with notions and concepts, which has hitherto contented you; and at once all the values of existence are changed.  “The road to a Yea lies through a Nay.”  You, in this preliminary movement of recollection, are saying your first deliberate No to the claim which the world of appearance makes to total possession of your consciousness: and are thus making possible some contact between that consciousness and the World of Reality.

Now turn this new purified and universalized gaze back upon yourself.  Observe your own being in a fresh relation with things, and surrender yourself willingly to the moods of astonishment, humility, joy – perhaps of deep shame or sudden love – which invade your heart as you look. 

So doing patiently, day after day, constantly recapturing the vagrant attention, ever renewing the struggle for simplicity of sight, you will at last discover that there is something within you – something behind the fractious, conflicting life of desire – which you can recollect, gather up, make effective for new life.  You will, in fact, know your own soul for the first time, and learn that there is a sense in which this real You is distinct from, an alien within, the world in which you find yourself, as an actor has another life when he is not on the stage. 

When you do not merely believe this but know it; when you have achieved this power of withdrawing yourself, of making this first crude distinction between appearance and reality, the initial stage of the contemplative life has been won.  It is not much more of an achievement than the first proud effort in which the baby stands upright for a moment and then relapses to the more natural and convenient crawl: but it holds within it the same earnest of future development.

Reading this now makes me feel ill. But back then it promised so much. Maybe it kept me going and gave me hope, but honestly I can make little sense of it now.

On the basis of this text and others like it I threw myself into mental contortions that became ingrained over time. I developed an attitude of depreciating “appearances” and longing for the vague “something within” that would supposedly become new life.

I feel angry at the harm this text did me. In hindsight I see it’s inadequacies and faults, though I surely wasn’t it’s intended audience.

I think it’s unfair to criticise it out of its own context, nonetheless it’s clear to me that the text itself is a grandiose and poetic attempt to take contemplative mysticism out of its context and exhort people everywhere to have a go.

Maybe the things she describes work for some people, but I think they are more likely an individual approach, and as we discovered with the mindfulness fad: spiritual methods are not “one size fits all”.

Using absorption and heightened self-consciousness to search for a more “significant” reality set me up for a form of dissociation that persisted on an habitual level for years.

I’ve since found it’s far better simply to find ways of feeling better, rather than using psychological tricks to change my perception of reality.

Practicing happiness 24

“If you are disallowing happiness you are disallowing everything you believe will make you happy.” – Abraham-Hicks

Even if you know that core beliefs based on childhood experiences are the root of your problems, still it’s not a good idea to make your work about digging them all up.

Rather, if your work is just intending to feel better those core beliefs will come up when you are ready to face them, and you’ll only face those which are actual obstacles to better feeling.

As you intend feeling better you’ll probably notice it working immediately, but after some time and distractions you’ll find yourself feeling bad again, or bored, or in some situation you don’t like.

This is contrast coming up to help you let go of your resistance. All you have to do is intend to feel better in the midst of whatever you are experiencing, and trust that this approach is enough.

It probably won’t seem like enough, but that’s just resistance making you impatient or feeling like you need “more” to really change your life.

But all of that – impatience, boredom, frustration, yearning for change – will eventually be shown to originate in your deepest resistance and loss of alignment.

Alignment is satisfaction, security, and sufficiency. It won’t be immediately apparent but by accepting the intent to feel better as enough for you moment by moment, you are retraining yourself to allow satisfaction, security and sufficiency into your experience.

That’s what the quote at the beginning of this post is all about. If you aren’t happy and you’re finding fault in your experience of life, it’s all because you are disallowing happiness, possibly at a very deep level or from a very early point in your beliefs.

That doesn’t mean you need to go find those beliefs and change them. If you haven’t practiced feeling better you won’t be able to change them. You need to strengthen the attitude of feeling better and letting it be enough, and that itself will become the foundation of your new beliefs.

Practicing happiness 23

Feeling good vs feeling normal.

I want to flesh out a subtle point in the Abraham-Hicks teachings. I think it’s an implicit point and I haven’t seen it described quite this way before.

When our thoughts are aligned with our desires (and hence our inner being) we feel positive emotion.

When our thoughts contradict or resist our desires (and our inner being) we feel negative emotion.

Throughout each day we experience a range of alignment and misalignment, positive and negative emotion. Some of us spend more time in the negative and others spend more time in the positive.

The average of this range is our “point of attraction” or “set point”. But I think of this as an area rather than a point, having a range albeit a small one.

Everything in this range feels “normal” to us, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. We don’t like the negatives and we do like the positives, but they still feel normal or expected to us.

Shifting “normal”

I think the real point of the A-H teachings is to shift the range of what we consider normal, so that there is more positive and less negative.

But most of us approach these teachings with a desire to obtain things that are quite far outside our normal range. We fixate on “big” desires that we think would feel amazing if we achieved them.

But amazing is a long way from normal. “Amazing” is like saying “far away”. And if we set our attention on things that are far away we will inevitably experience distance.

This distance translates into a believability issue. It would be “amazing” to wake up tomorrow and find you’ve won the lottery. But if it feels amazing in that distant sense, you probably don’t believe it will happen.

Ironically, if it feels “amazing” that probably means you have a lot of resistance to it. If you really believed you were going to win the lottery tomorrow it wouldn’t feel amazing after all. It would feel normal to you. Positive, but in a normal way.

Thats why the A-H teachings emphasise ease and satisfaction and appreciation.

Recalibrating normalcy

It’s counter-intuitive, but if we focus on good things that feel “normal” we tune ourselves into allowing our preferences and desires. Whereas if we focus on distant things that feel “amazing” we implicitly reinforce our resistance to them.

Focusing on amazing distant things we don’t have is like saying “I’d feel better if I had that”. But if you had it, you would soon adjust to it as it became part of your new normal.

So the real question is what constitutes your “normal” set point? Is it a normal of allowing and appreciating good things? Or is it a normal of resisting and yearning for distant things?

The point of the A-H teachings is to change your normal…not by greatly changing the contents of your life right now, but by changing your own relationship to the flow of wanted and unwanted in your right now experience.

Because even in an experience with lots of resistance there is still some allowing of good things. Do you appreciate these things? Or do you deride them as insignificant?

Are you focusing on the fulfilment of your preferences or the denial of them? Because your “normal” contains both, and where you focus determines which one will grow in your future.

Am I looking at my normal experience through the lens of getting rid of unwanted things? Or through the lens of appreciating wanted things?

Appreciation doesn’t mean I have to feel ecstatic about every little thing in my life. I don’t have to feel wonderful that so many of my preferences are being met. But to at least acknowledge that they are being met is an excellent shift to make.

What do you prefer?

Do I prefer having a couch to sit on, or having nowhere to sit? Obviously I prefer having it. How does it feel to have it? Of course it feels normal. Does it feel good? Yes of course it feels good to have my preference met.

I could at this point say that it doesn’t meet all my preferences in a couch, or a couch isn’t a very significant preference, etc. But that’s just resistance.

Go back to the preference. Couch or no couch? Couch. Feels good? Yes.

Now I could also object that it doesn’t feel good enough, this good feeling isn’t really changing my life. But that’s resistance too.

Try preferencing again: good feeling about couch or no good feeling about couch? Well when you put it that way, I prefer having a good feeling about my couch.

By extension: do I prefer feeling good about all my many preferences that are being met right this minute? Or do I prefer not feeling good about them? Of course I prefer feeling good about them.

And here’s a glimpse of the whole milieu of preferences that I have allowed into my experience. It’s a snapshot of my “normal” degree of allowing vs resistance. It’s an insight into how good I’m letting my life be, objectively how many preferences I’m letting be met.

Ultimately even something as cliche as winning the lottery is just a preference. It’s not a game-changing deus ex machina that changes everything about your life. It’s not an emotional atom bomb of joy and amazement that will keep you glowing for years to come.

It’s just a preference some people have. And for many it’s a stick to beat themselves and their normal experience with….a symptom, not salvation.

In reality there are so many preferences met that I take for granted in my daily life, it’s shameful that I ignore them and wish for “more”.

I’m literally uplifted and sustained by a whole web of preferences I’m allowing on a daily basis. I go from one good thing to another, albeit taking them for granted most of the time.

As a teenager I would have been overawed at all the stuff I have now. But today I’m just expecting it to be there. I shouldn’t feel overawed anymore, that’s not the point, but if I want more of my preferences met I should take stock of where, how, and why my life is so full of things I desire, value, like, and prefer.

The hidden cost of suppressing anger

I grew up exposed to a lot of anger, resentment, and hostility of varying degrees, to the extent that I concluded the emotion of anger was inherently destructive, toxic, and undesirable.

Plenty of spiritual teachings support this view. An enlightened person is supposed to be beyond anger, and the Christian tradition is split on the question of whether anger is ever justified.

In my own circumstances expressing anger resulted in ridicule, shame, disapproval or escalation of conflict. So I learned at an early age that anger was not only unpleasant but also fruitless.

I’m in uncharted territory as I now learn that anger is in fact a normal part of our emotional landscape. Anger is an emotional defence-system. It guards against unfair treatment and protects us from abuse and injustice.

Seeing people use and express anger in dysfunctional ways, coupled with the inefficacy of my own anger, convinced me to disable, disregard, and suppress it. My solution was simply to avoid anything that might trigger anger, or require anger.

If I don’t like how I’m being treated, it’s up to me to change it, challenge it, or leave. What’s the point in adding anger to the mix? So I thought.

The hidden cost

Suppressing anger and avoiding triggers of anger comes with an enormous cost.

I had to become hyper-vigilant to possible external threats because I didn’t want to rely on my natural defences. It took a lot of mental energy to be aware of potential dangers and always prepared for them.

At the same time I was continually internally vigilant to my own actions and emotions, trying to avoid anything that might trigger anger, resentment, hostility or conflict.

The internal and external vigilance took a lot of energy, and kept me perpetually focused on negative scenarios.

But perhaps the biggest cost of disavowing anger is that I cordoned off whole sections of my own self, censoring aspects of my personality and feeling that might cause offense or conflict with others.

Borrowing an analogy from Chesterton: it’s like a playground near a cliff. If there’s a big strong fence by the cliff, the children will happily play right up to the edge. But if there’s no fence, the children won’t want to go anywhere near it.

For me anger was the cliff, and in the absence of a strong fence I’ve avoided going anywhere near it, avoiding even the possibility of conflict in my everyday life, vastly overestimating the likelihood of conflict and the risk of just being myself.

To avoid causing offense I’ve tried to be as inoffensive as possible. It’s exhausting, and impossible anyway because we can’t control who we offend or how. And it’s come at a cost to the full expression of my personality, and been an enormous drain on my inner resources.

Relearning anger

I’m becoming familiar with anger now as the other half of my complete personality.

Not that I want or need to be angry, but I do want and need the freedom that comes from making peace with anger.

I’m beginning to understand what people mean when they draw a distinction between healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger; I’m also beginning to see how my early confusion came from witnessing people redirecting their anger inappropriately as well as expressing it destructively.

It’s okay to be angry, it’s normal and healthy. But anger is neither an excuse nor a justification for how you act when angry. And in fact the better we are at expressing anger in healthy and constructive ways, the less of a big deal anger becomes.

If you’ve grown up with parents whose anger translates into violent outbursts or simmering hostility or cold resentment, the whole concept of healthy anger might seem like a contradiction in terms.

It takes time and familiarity to relearn anger and see that in its essence it is not ugly or violent or dangerous.

In its essence anger is an advocate for your rights and a champion of the good you deserve. It exists to serve your own wholeness and integrity, and it can serve you in assertive actions and words more effectively than aggressive and destructive behaviours can.

Feeling better: certainty at last

I’ve written a few posts about how my approach to dieting is similar to the Abraham-Hicks teachings, and how I can leverage that similarity to my advantage in the pursuit of happiness.

Well it all came together for me recently, and I’d like to try mapping it out here for whoever may be interested.

Confusion and uncertainty

The basic idea is that we can’t really put our best efforts into a path when we are uncertain about it.

But certainty is subjective. You might have all the necessary information at hand, but still be uncertain.

Recently I became extremely frustrated with the Abraham-Hicks teachings, specifically with my continued uncertainty about them.

This might sound bad, but it was actually a wonderful point to reach, because I no longer wanted to “try” anything. I was sick of trying in an atmosphere of doubt and confusion.

The exact same thing happened with dieting. I’d tried various approaches and it wasn’t so much that they hadn’t worked, but that I hadn’t known for sure if they were working or not.

I couldn’t commit to the necessary changes because I wasn’t sure they were necessary. It’s only by finding certainty about the relationship between food intake and weight loss, and then by finding certainty about my subjective motivations for eating, that I was able to commit to the path.

Finding certainty

I found certainty because I was tired of confusion. And because I desired certainty I eventually arrived at principles that supported me.

Recently I found certainty on the subject of feeling better too. In the context of the Abraham-Hicks material, I know that feeling better is an indicator of closer alignment with my inner being/God, and since I want alignment I should focus on things that feel better.

The certainty I found is this: if I’m not intending to feel better in any given moment, I’m wasting my time.

That language is important to me. Yes, it’s an effort to intend to feel better, and no it doesn’t mean I necessarily feel much better in any given moment. But without that intention I’m wasting my time, feeding the status quo, relinquishing my greater control.

And I’ve had more than enough of that.

What next?

There are more details of course.

My intention to feel better doesn’t mean I feel great either. Previously I made the mistake of trying to feel so good that everything would change immediately.

But that isn’t sustainable. By analogy that’s like trying to lose all the weight in one day.

Another important part is to trust that intending to feel better is enough and that spiritually/vibrationally everything is already improving every moment you intend it.

I’m also identifying the times that I lose or forget my intention, and this mindfulness is helping me refine and strengthen my practice.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share this. I’ve been wanting it for a while and now it’s here I’m very satisfied. To have certainty is so valuable, to be free of doubts allows me to give it my all. It’s such a relief to finally be certain! I hope you all find certainty in your own paths too.

Practicing happiness 20

In a transitional period at the moment. Just feeling better still works, but it’s brought me to a point of desiring greater clarity.

Reminds me of my diet. I was sick of confusion and uncertainty so I set out to find an answer.

But I wasn’t fixated on the problem – I genuinely felt tuned into the solution that time, and sure enough it bore fruit.

Right now I’m simply paying attention to my thoughts and my focus, with no intention besides gaining clarity.

I refuse to waste time on uncertain methods any longer.

I know from experience that I can do whatever I set my mind to so long as I’m sure of my path. The parameters now are simply “decide what works” and then I can stick with it.