Under the influence

We are always under the influence of something, whether it’s our inner being or something else and we can tell by the way we feel.

That’s one of Abraham-Hicks’ current themes in workshops. Under the influence.

What’s moving you?

In my diet book I argued that our desire to eat is either motivated by a genuine need for food or by something else.

The something else could be a positive thing like social interaction, but often it is a negative motivation like the desire to avoid focusing on negative emotions.

When we eat to escape from negative emotions not only are we likely overeating, but we also end up prolonging and giving further momentum to those negative emotions.

If I eat to avoid feeling bad about myself and my life, I typically end up feeling unwell because of the overeating, and I give power to unpleasant thoughts about weight gain and self-control.

Why my diet worked

Every now and then I see strong parallels between my diet process and the A-H materials. I think my diet was essentially a less refined version of those teachings.

This has always excited me because it means I’ve already successfully applied the principles in one area of my life, proving to myself how easy it can be to allow positive change.

Under the influence

So Abe’s metaphor of “under the influence” strikes me as an exact parallel to my “what moves you to eat?” question.

And that means when we are not under the influence of Source or inner being, we are doing the same thing as eating to distract ourselves from negative emotion – only to perpetuate it unwittingly.

Blaming others

Let’s take a common example: blaming others for life not being how we want it to be.

When we blame others it may feel good or not so good, but it always feels engaging. We are drawn into blame in the same way that we are drawn into compulsive eating, even though such eating habits rarely feel good.

What feels good is the temporary relief from negative emotion. If I blame someone I make it sound (to myself and others) like they are the cause of my problems. I’m perfect, it’s not my fault, they just need to move. At the same time it provides a sense of hopefulness that things may change for the better.

It’s complex, way more complex than this post has time for, but the key is that we use these unpleasant stories of blame to avoid facing the negative emotion in our immediate reality.

Blame relieves us of the burden of change, making it someone else’s problem and responsibility.

But disowning our own responsibility and attendant power never feels good. Blaming others doesn’t provide true satisfaction or true change, especially when it is a chronic pattern of avoiding our own negative emotions.

Facing how we feel

When I look back at my diet and wonder how it worked, obviously I could say it was a simple matter of eating much less.

But the inner battle belied that simple equation. In the inner battle it was choosing to sit with my negative emotions and not escape into compulsive eating that won the day.

It was confronting, and it felt bad. But just as compulsive eating doesn’t truly feel “good” despite the promise of sensory pleasures, so facing my negative emotions without escape didn’t feel completely bad. There was something truthful and honest and powerful in that moment, perhaps because I knew those feelings were always there whether I distracted myself or not.

Beyond negative emotion

And finally, I think what really worked for me is that I was tuning into how I felt; it wasn’t about feeling bad but feeling whatever was there.

I think that’s what is going on in the Abraham-Hicks teachings as well. Feel what you feel and don’t run off into distractions and escapes like blaming others or reiterating negative conclusions about life.

Just be with your feeling – pleasant or unpleasant – and let go of those resistant thoughts, those influences that just kick the can down the road but don’t truly serve you.

And in that release of resistant thought you make space to hear the call of your own inner being, an influence that serves you, knows your desires, and is ready to take you there.

The merits of mysticism

temple

A tiny temple on the side of a mountain in Fuzhou. Every hill or mountain we went to seemed to have some kind of temple installed.

For a melancholic the appeal of mysticism is obvious: just a glimmer of transcendence is enough to inspire our idealist inclinations to follow what one old mystic, the Benedictine/Swami Bede Griffiths called ‘the golden string’.

For a melancholic it makes perfect sense to put ‘ultimate reality’ ahead of the mundane one, to sell everything for the sake of the pearl of great price. But from a more worldly perspective it makes no sense to be uselessly sitting quietly, seemingly inert, inactive, and unproductive.

In fact, while mysticism is a struggle in its own right, from the very beginning the path is entirely opposed to most of the things that are supposed to make ordinary life enjoyable and meaningful. The heart of mysticism is, after all, to recollect and redirect your many and varied desires for worldly things back to the one thing that supersedes the world.

We are, from a worldly perspective, supposed to spend our free time playing with our mobile phones, buying apps and viewing ads. From this point of view mysticism is worse than useless. It can’t be shared, it can’t be bought or sold, and in a strange inversion it even rebukes us silently for the time and energy we waste on truly meaningless vanities.

The paradox of mysticism is that it is useless from a worldly perspective, yet reveals in turn the vanity of the world. Despite the difficulty of the path, it reveals from an early stage that our cares and worries and preoccupations are nothing but dust and straw. Many have compared it to waking from a dream, or seeing clearly for the first time.

Its merits are hard to fathom because we are so used to judging merit by worldly standards. Even climbing a mountain and enjoying the view can be packaged as an ‘experience’, bought and sold, shared and bragged about, measured in mundane terms. What cannot be measured, assessed, described or shared is the emptiness of mysticism, its silence and humility.

As the Dao De Jing puts it (Lau translation):

When the best student hears about the way
He practises it assiduously;
When the average student hears about the way
It seems to him there one moment and gone the next;
When the worst student hears about the way
He laughs out loud.
If he did not laugh
It would be unworthy of being the way.

Hence the Chien yen has it:
The way that is bright seems dull;
The way that is forward seems to lead backward;
The way that is even seems rough.
The highest virtue is like the valley;
The sheerest whiteness seems sullied;
Ample virtue seems defective;
Vigorous virtue seems indolent;
Plain virtue seems soiled;
The great square has no corners.
The great vessel takes long to complete;
The great note is rarefied in sound;
The great image has no shape.

The way conceals itself in being nameless.
It is the way alone that excels in bestowing and in accomplishing.

What this means is that one can fulfill the ideal of human life while doing ‘nothing’ by worldly standards. It means that the endless struggle, striving, craving and distraction of human life is not the final word. To know the finality, the telos, of one’s existence is far beyond being useful, valuable, or meritorious; instead it recasts and reshapes the entire landscape of use, value, and merit. Thus a practice which the world has cast aside nonetheless stands in rebuke of worldliness and prevails.