Waking up happy

I’d heard it could be done.

This morning I woke up, and my first thoughts were good ones!

Not even trying or reaching for anything, just the momentum of day after day’s focus on feeling better, suddenly paying off.

Seamlessly picking up where I left off.

And I noticed it. I appreciated it. And then I lost it as I got up to light the oven, have a shower, bake some bread, get the coffee ready.

Still, it was there! I’m so enthralled by the ease of it. I can’t even remember what the specific thoughts were, but in that dreamy state of wakening I was, without trying, thinking thoughts that felt good, and that makes me happy.

Tibetan dreaming

I don’t remember all of it, but before I woke feeling so good I dreamed my wife and I had become Tibetan Buddhists.

It was her idea (of course) and I was okay with it. Then it occurred to me that the spiritual practices we had been doing were Tibetan inspired anyway, so it all lined up.

My feeling was “well if we have to pick one, it makes sense to choose this”. I guess being spiritually eclectic I’d be happiest with a path that respects religious diversity.

I don’t think the dream is actually about Tibetan Buddhism, moreso about accepting that I truly am on a path, that what I’ve been doing these past two years is a path.

Stream-enterer

I love noticing omens in life, and dreams like this are big ones.

Together the dream and waking up happy remind me of the Buddhist teaching of Sotāpanna or “one who enters the stream”.

Wiki defines it as:

a person who has seen the Dharma and consequently, has dropped the first three fetters (saŋyojana) that bind a being to rebirth, namely self-view (sakkāya-ditthi), clinging to rites and rituals (sīlabbata-parāmāsa), and skeptical indecision (Vicikitsa).

I’ve been writing about learning to trust and let go and allow, and I’ve mentioned the Abraham-Hicks metaphor of letting oneself be carried downstream to all happiness and fulfilment of desires.

Well it’s not Buddhist teaching, but it’s a teaching (Dharma) I’ve embraced. And along the way I’ve definitely released my skeptic indecision, clinging to rites and rituals (of my own), and my old self-view.

I’m trusting in this stream that carries me. Each day I’m feeling good in new ways. My happiness is gently evolving, deepening, and giving rise to a new world of experience like I always dreamed I would find.

Breaking all the rules

What do the rules mean to you?

To me the rules always seemed bland, boring and miserable.

Whatever success or happiness I enjoyed always seemed to be an exception to the rules.

So I came to expect that my happiness in life had to be “different” and “exceptional” by other people’s standards.

There are no such rules

But what I thought were “the rules” were never any such thing. They were merely the preferences and opinions of the people around me.

Those people were creating their own reality, just as I create mine. Yet by giving priority to those who had “been around longer” I ended up treating my own preferences and perspective as unusual.

I couldn’t get them to validate my perspective, so I viewed it as anomalous myself.

That’s a recipe for frustration because everything I want became, by definition, exceptional, and I grew averse to anything “ordinary” or “normal”.

Yet saying “this is what I want” and in the next breath “but I know it’s unusual, exceptional, and not the norm” means I’ve created a sense of conflict and implausibility to the things I desire.

Imagine someone who tells you their dream is to be an astronaut or a famous actor or a concert pianist, and hurriedly goes on to explain how unlikely that is!

What is normal for me?

I would probably feel a whole lot better if I stopped using other people’s lives as the measure of mine.

Better yet, if I stop using my impression of other people’s perceptions and experiences as the standard.

Why not let my own preferences and desires become normal for me? Why not use my own feelings as the guide, rather than my fear of others’ misunderstanding of me?

I found great strength in the realisation that no one else will live my life for me. Why not take the next logical step of endorsing my own life, opinions, preferences and perspectives as the norm for me?

Happiness Day 27

Being specific in your desires.

I’ve wanted my life to change but I’ve had only a very general idea of what that might look like.

General is good.

When you’re feeling bad you don’t want to get into specifics. Go from bad feeling specifics to bad feeling generalities. From there it’s easier to feel better and slowly get to the point of feeling good generally.

But I’ve been gradually more aware that my lack of specifics on certain subjects is indicative of where I’m at.

According to the Abraham-Hicks teachings we don’t need to get specific to get what we want. God knows all our desires and needs.

But as we get closer to being a match to those desires we will naturally find ourselves contemplating the specifics.

What are your dreams?

I spent a lot of time crushing my own dreams, in the mistaken belief that dreams are a cause of suffering because life never lives up to them.

I thought I was doing the right thing, but I actually dampened down my own inspiration and enthusiasm for life.

And naturally I was not as happy as I wanted to be.

My wife would often ask me what I like, and I’d shrug because I had spent years earnestly trying to be devoid of preferences as a way of becoming immune to suffering (didn’t work!).

Rediscovering the details

There’s a kind of rehabilitation to it, the work of rediscovering the details of your dreams and desires and rescuing them from “what does it matter?” and other cynical thoughts.

What makes this process exciting is the knowledge that these details already exist for you, and that rediscovering them is really about tuning into that aspect of yourself and your reality.

You can’t get it wrong. There’s no danger of making mistakes and choosing the wrong thing, because your preferences are already there.

For me this is especially pointed when I think about a new house, because to my mind there are so many varying styles and details of architecture and location that I appreciate, I feel like I could find the good in anything.

But finding good in anything is not the same as knowing what you most want. In fact it’s not even close!

The more I think, the less I feel

How can I communicate this without thinking it too much?

Well here we go:

Extroverted Thinking and introverted Feeling are….different.

Te is objective, rational, sharp, efficient, logical, systematic, direct, cold.

Fi is subjective, mercurial, powerful, intoxicating, pervasive, singular, awesome.

I was going to say “polar opposites” but that’s too reasonable. Their difference is more like: listening to music is different from following a set of instructions.

Building a wall out of bricks is different from stoking a fire.

Smiling happily is different from explaining something.

Background and explanation

Swimming lessons: the instructor throws a bunch of weighted toys into the pool and the kids all dive to pick them up.

That’s how Te feels – holding my breath while squinting hard at the blurry objects on the floor, straining to grab them before I rush back up for air.

And I got damn good at it. Diving for treasures, I can hold my breath for a long, long time.

But Native Te-users would look askance: what’s the rush? You seem…stressed. Why so…”all or nothing”?

It’s like a poet working as a technical writer because poetry won’t pay the bills. Hold your breath, get in, get out. Just get the job done.

Your opinions are worthless

I studied philosophy, history, politics, ethics, theology, and did I mention philosophy?

Philosophy is epistemology, moral philosophy, cognitive science, philosophy of science, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, …..

****, try again:

How do you know what you know? What does ‘know’ even mean? What does ‘mean’ mean? What?

You’re just a material composite of chemical reactions or physical interactions, or biological processes, or a figment of Descartes’ imagination.

How does your mind understand the words you just read? Can anyone understand anything? Let’s look at a thousand cases of very localised brain-damage to understand how the undamaged brain works.

There are no moral phenomena, only moral interpretation of phenomena…but that depends on how you define “moral”.

Look, let’s just agree that philosophy is the process of testing the logic and internal coherence of all the sh!t people say. Put your brain through a sieve, and you’ll know at least that your brain is 100% sievable.

Why would you want to sieve your brain? Because maybe all you have is a sieve…and a brain…and a whole lot of time on your hands.

(And you love the idea of being intellectually superior to others and the university used to be an awesome place to live and work).

All that matters is reasons. Reasons. No thought, claim or idea is off limits, so long as its supported. Nothing is unacceptable bar the insupportable.

Support = reasons….reasons other people can follow. 

Reasons other people can follow = Te

That’s not perfect, it’ll never be perfect, because philosophy is just a game for intellectuals who enjoy arguing for their competing imperfect attempts to square the circle.

Philosophy doesn’t take into account fundamental differences in temperament because that would totally **** with the game.

What if you prefer theory A over theory B, not because A is more logical or well-supported than B, but because it suits your temperament better?

As William James put it:

“The history of philosophy is, to a great extent, that of a certain clash of human temperaments…Of whatever temperament a philosopher is, he tries, when philosophizing, to sink the fact of his temperament…

Yet his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises…He trusts his temperament. Wanting a universe that suits it, he believes in any representation of the universe that suits it…

Yet in the forum he can make no claim, on bare ground of his temperament, to superior discernment or authority. There arises thus a certain insincerity in our philosophic discussions; the potentest of all our premises is never mentioned.”

Object to it if you like, but philosophers don’t really agree on anything anyway.

Arriving at consensus is not the most important thing in philosophy. The most important thing in philosophy – as with any hobby – is having the time and resources to pursue it.

Subjective feeling is the ultimate insupportable claim

This education in philosophy compounded upbringing and added the academic standard of “unsupported truth-claims are worse than useless” to the privately ingrained ethos “your feelings don’t matter”.

Fi doesn’t follow Te rules. They are as if mutually exclusive domains, hence the weird analogies I’ve used.

And I’ve spent the best part of twenty years excluding Fi as much as possible from my decision-making, imagining, and disposition.

I’ve bricked up this living, dynamic, changeable, flowing object and tried to contain it in a cold, hard, unchanging environment.

Water, treasure, and dreams of spiders

I had an iconic dream many years ago in which I was diving for treasure (gold coins) in a shallow pool.

But I dug too deep and out of the depths arose a menacing black spider.

That spider has been a recurring theme in dreams ever since.

But I finally understand it: the search for treasure beneath the water (unconscious) is the lure of Te, my inferior function, and the promise of its mysterious wisdom and knowledge (the treasure).

The spider is the awful feeling that comes with suppressing or disrupting Fi, my dominant function.

The resolution doesn’t come with escaping the spider, killing it, or making it go away. The resolution comes with embracing Fi, the contemptible “baseless opinion” or “insupportable feeling”. It comes with giving up the illusory treasure beneath the water, the false promise of objective reasoning that proved pointless and wearying and endlessly bleak.

For an INFP, Fi is freedom. We aren’t meant to be rational analysts, dispassionate observers or efficient, responsible organisers.

We’re meant to be wanderers, poets, hippies, shamans, all the disgustingly unconstrained and freely-feeling tropes I’ve recoiled from in scorn because they have no power or standing in a Te world.

But that’s the whole point: this isn’t a Te world. This is my world, and it’s a world of Feeling.

Te belongs, but it belongs at the bottom, at the end, an afterthought a finishing touch, an ability but not an obligation. A capacity, but only a small one.

I quit holding my breath, I’m through.

Self-will gets in the Way

“People often say, “We have goodwill.” Theirs is not God’s will, though; they want to have their own way and dictate to God to do so and so. That is not goodwill. We must find out from God what his will is. Broadly speaking, what God wills is that we should give up willing…

There is no making of a proper man without surrender of the will. In fact, unless we give up our will without reserve, we cannot work with God at all. But suppose it came about that we did give up our own will altogether and had the heart to rid ourselves of every single thing inside and out for God, then we would have accomplished everything, and not before.  Of such people few are to be found. Knowingly or unknowingly they want something definite, some experience of higher things. They are set on this condition or that boon. It is nothing whatever but self-will. Abandon to God altogether your self and all things without any qualms as to what he will do with his own…

There is no true and perfect will until, entering wholly into God’s will, a man has no will of his own.”

Meister Eckhart

It’s been a long time since I read any of Eckhart, but I opened him today to this section and it reminded me immediately of my recent reading of Wang Bi’s commentary on the Daodejing or Laozi:

An attitude [corresponding to] the capacity of the hollow is the only means to follow the Way.
Hollow means empty. Only having taken being empty as [one’s] capacity will one then be able to act in accordance with the Way.

That’s just one line, but if I quote more of it I’ll never get to bed tonight.  The Way is “empty” yet it guides and nourishes things according to their nature. For humans to return to the Way, we should likewise empty ourselves and be without contrived action; then we will act in accordance with our nature.

The difficulty of this is hard to overstate, but is most evident when, as Eckhart notes, we set ourselves on particular conditions, paying lip-service to the Way or the divine Will, whilst clinging nonetheless to our own will.

There needs to be an element of trust that in abandoning self-will and the outcomes or ideals we covet, we are in fact abandoning obstacles to the fulfillment of our nature.  Sometimes the goals we have in mind are simply wrong for us – they will not bring the satisfaction they seem to promise. But even when the goals are good, noble, and true, we still miss out on the higher goal of surrender.

I suspect this might be the meaning of “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Likewise “the man of highest virtue never acts, yet nothing is left undone.”

But that can mean embracing the reality of circumstances that seem to deny your deepest hopes and dreams; worse – it means dragging your deepest hopes and dreams into the light of a faith that will feel too cold and too harsh for the delicate fantasies of your self-will.

There are undoubtedly consolations to be had after the fact, but this is beside the point; the point is that no matter how good and alluring our dreams and desires may be, if we cannot abandon them for the sake of the divine will, the Way, then we are merely clinging to burdens of our own creation.