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.

Accept where you are

Sometimes the very thoughts that inspire us also lead us to frustration when we cling to them with an all-or-nothing attitude.

Learn from your life’s patterns

Two great obsessions of my adult life have been mastering the martial art I practice and finding spiritual enlightenment. These two subjects have unfolded concurrently, with remarkably similar patterns.

I recognised it sooner in my martial art: 20 or so years of striving made harder by my determination, and my belief that mastery was always within reach yet forever elusive.

If I had found a way to relax and enjoy it, accept where I was, and just let the practice evolve, then I think the same journey would have been a pleasant one instead of an increasingly unhappy struggle.

Still, something shifted recently and I was able to stop approaching it with so much intensity and demand. I’ve found the progress I longed for, but only after I stopped needing it. I understand so much more now, but only after I stopped insisting that this understanding would change everything for me.

Accepting where I am

Spiritually, I have had the same all-or-nothing attitude. Life is nothing, enlightenment is everything; I just need to somehow get there from here. But how?

That attitude has inspired me at times and definitely kept me motivated, but it’s also blinded me and kept my journey volatile and unstable.

It doesn’t really make sense to say that life is nothing and enlightenment is everything, because life is clearly varied and slow and gradual and nuanced.

Wanting enlightenment to transform me is like wanting my practice to immediately give me mastery; but if that was how it worked, why did every master who’s ever lived spend their lifetime training?

What I’ve done is use the ideal of enlightenment to motivate, inspire, goad and cajole myself for years. But the premise was wrong. There is no “enlightenment” that will manifest like magic and transform my reality in a moment. That would be a repudiation of what reality already is, in the same way that mastering kung fu quickly and easily would deny the circumstances that made me desire it in the first place.

Accepting where I am means recognising that I’m not on the verge of “getting it”. But I am always on the verge of feeling better (or worse) than present.

If I had accepted that every training session improved me a little, that would have been enough. Instead I beat myself up thinking that every session was a chance to find “the answer”…and I hadn’t found it.

Methodological modesty

In fact it’s not possible to take what Abraham-Hicks people call a “quantum leap” from terrible circumstances or feelings to amazing ones. That’s not how life works.

To “need” a quantum leap implies desperation. And desperation cannot produce satisfying results. In fact no amount of effort can produce results because you can’t be anywhere other than where you are right now, and from where you are only two things are possible: Feeling better or feeling worse.

If I break it down, the real drivers of my experience are contrast and desire. Both arise naturally, but it’s up to me how I welcome them. Fixating on enlightenment is not a separate ingredient or game-changer. It’s gotta be either contrast or desire and my feelings about it will tell me which it is.

My problem has been taking the inspiration I feel about enlightenment and trying to make that my benchmark for life, when in reality it is a desire. With my desire so clear, I could welcome contrast for what it is: a sign of expansion and good things coming. Instead I treated contrast as a sign that I had failed to achieve enlightenment.

I don’t control desire and I don’t control contrast. Yet every moment of my existence I’m focused on one or the other, and I can focus negatively on how remote my desires seem and how unwanted contrast is, or I can focus positively on how good desires are and how contrast means more good things are coming.

Like kung fu, in the end there are no quantum leaps or sudden transformations. But if you practice you improve, and if you accept that and even welcome it, the journey can be satisfying and progress assured.

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”.

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.

Do others need to change?

I’ve been so convinced of my need for spiritual transformation, yet early on I believed we all have this need.

Some spiritual teachings are elitist. They look down on the “great unwashed”, the masses of people who live their lives mired in delusion and governed by sin and passion.

I tried not to think I was special but I struggled to reconcile my strong desire for spiritual change with the disinterest of those around me.

Does everyone need to change? Am I special for realising it? Or are we called to different things in life?

As I grew older I began to see myself as especially needful of spiritual change, as if I was worse off than everyone else and hence more desperate to fix myself.

Judge not lest ye be judged

Anxious to not offend, I concluded that others could live without the spiritual change I needed. But for those closest to me, my expectations remained high.

I’m beginning to see that the inverse of “judge not” is also true: in judging myself as needful of change, I believed others – those closest to me and most receptive – needed to change too.

I’ve ended up seeing some people in my life as works in progress, and wishing they would try harder to improve themselves, just as I am doing.

I’ve taken for granted that they need to heed the same call, listen to the same teachings, commit to the same processes.

But I’ve been wrong about me, so I’m wrong about them too. If I’m perfect as I am then they’re perfect as they are. If I’m in my element (and just need to remember) then they are in their element too.

If all I need is my own love and acceptance then that is all they require to be perfect in my eyes.

And just like that, reality changes. I am able now to see something beautiful that was always there. I am able to appreciate the perfection I was already living in.

To appreciate the people closest to you, you must appreciate yourself first. Stop judging yourself and you can stop judging others too.

Letting go 09: when spiritual struggle is an obstacle

My fascination with solving problems and searching for deep and meaningful answers has been the central theme of my life for more than twenty years.

This is my personal form of assertion: an attempt to take control of my life after concluding that life itself could not be trusted to bring me happiness.

I embraced this struggle via forms of mysticism that encouraged my negative view of life. With a deeply melancholic perspective I believed there was nothing worth striving for, nothing worth attaining, nothing that could bring lasting happiness in this lifetime.

Except to transcend it all; to find a state of being the mystics spoke of, where reality was transformed as the individual became united with the ultimate reality, the ground of all being.

Spiritual cynicism

You know the Socratic injunction that “wisest is he who knows his wisdom is worth nothing”? That’s supposed to be an insight earned through experience, not something to memorise and move on. It’s not wise to be a kid who parrots nuggets of philosophical wisdom.

But that was me. I took onboard a slew of sayings and aphorisms. I read the books they came from. I immersed myself in spiritual texts and tried to see the world through the eyes of these enlightened teachers, saints, and sages.

But this whole effort was an epic work of assertion. I was no different from a kid who thinks he can be president or a kid who wants to be a billionaire.

The only difference is that I thought spiritual enlightenment was going to be more powerful, more desirable, and more enduring than those “worldly” aims.

My struggle resembled a strange, entirely introspective version of the kind of person who chases after “get rich quick” schemes. Get enlightened quick, I guess.

But I never found myself willing to practice or pick a pathway or a discipline. I just wanted to work it all out myself using all the available resources.

And I’m not entirely wrong

And yeah, I’m not entirely wrong. I’ve seen in other areas of life like Kung Fu a similar struggle to master or attain an answer to my questions.

The answer eventually came. I just made it more of a struggle than it needed to be. A lot more.

Desperation doesn’t yield results. If we want answers we have to be in the right mode to receive them.

My spiritual quest is therefore two things. It’s an actual path of learning, experience, and progress; and it’s a massive assertion of control as well. It’s my attempt to force reality to comply with my wishes. It’s a hammer I use to feel like I’m shaping my life the way I want it to be.

That second part just doesn’t work at all.

And it arises out of fear. It’s an action-pathway I took to assuage feelings of misalignment, hopelessness and powerlessness. It’s something I crafted to give me a sense of being more than the dismal world I saw around me, to be more than the disappointing self I seemed to be.

Reconciliation

I can give up the spiritual struggle, and profound thoughts and wisdom will probably still appeal to me.

I’ll probably still be someone who cares about meaning and purpose and existence.

What I want to stop doing is using my spiritual search as the answer to negative feelings of fear and insecurity. Because it isn’t an answer, just a course of action, an assertion of control that hinges on an outcome.

Those negative feelings need to be acknowledged and faced on their own terms, not silenced and avoided with vague promises of enlightenment and transformation.

Owning up to feelings of envy and jealousy, inferiority and shame, insecurity and fear can be really tough. But letting them fester in the background doesn’t nullify them either.

And with the Abraham-Hicks teachings I’ve learned that these feelings aren’t bad: they’re guidance showing me that my thoughts, my vibration, is out of alignment with God/inner being.

That’s actually a good thing. Our negative feelings mean we’re looking at things in the wrong way.

In the past two and a half years I’ve practiced many tools for changing how I feel. I didn’t have these tools when I was younger. It makes sense that I would seize on the ideal of enlightenment to try to overcome those bad feelings.

But now I have the strength and the skills to face them directly and soothe them. I can accomplish real vibrational change instead of looking for escape.

Letting go 03: problem-minded

Manifestations cannot make us feel bad, only thoughts can. So what thoughts am I thinking that make me feel bad occasionally?

I asked for clarity and the answer I received is that my whole outlook is problem-minded. I look at life as a problem I have to solve, and everything hinges on how well I solve it.

That’s a really familiar theme for me: many important subjects have had this exact same feel of “gotta keep working on it!”

And with this in mind I remember when it began. As a teenager I was simultaneously depressed and looking for something that would give me meaning, happiness, and belonging. My friends and peers all seemed to be enjoying life in ways that didn’t appeal to me.

Then one day I found a mysterious book that claimed “enjoying life” was a distraction and folly; that real meaning and happiness and fulfilment lay in spiritual awakening, and the sooner we set out on that path the better.

Finding spiritual truth, enlightenment, and closeness to God became my private obsession, but I approached it as a problem to be solved, the problem to be solved if life is to have any value or meaning whatsoever.

Life became synonymous with this struggle.

But the only reason you want that…

As with any other desire, I can now agree that the only reason I wanted to solve the problem of life was that I thought I would feel better in solving it.

And as the Abraham-Hicks teachings have shown me, I can feel that good already. Because even “solving the problem of life” is a manifestation, and it’s not manifestations that make us feel good, it’s our thoughts.

In setting up life as a problem to solve, I made “uphill struggle” part of my core experience. I gave momentum to the thought that life has a hidden truth that must be discovered and only the diligent and unrelenting will find it.

I told myself I was virtuous for ignoring and devaluing material possessions and worldly experiences, when really I was severely depressed and probably not strongly inclined to such things by temperament.

Find the feeling place

What do I really want? Ultimately I want to feel good. That’s really important to me. It always has been, but I used to think feeling good had to be earned or justified somehow.

Spiritual enlightenment is just about feeling good, knowing how to feel good, and doing it consistently. People describe different paths and methods and practices but I think those are just each person’s “how I learned to feel good” story.

I don’t have to solve any problems. There are no problems to solve unless I make them. Accepting this, it’s possible for me to simply walk through that door to a good feeling place…no password, no key, no code to decipher to merit entry.

I’ve been banging on that door for twenty something years, but it was always open and always will be for us all.

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.

God in all things

It’s such a beautiful day. It’s overcast, crisp and fresh. I’ve lit some incense on the front porch and come out to sit with my morning coffee and write.

The clouds are diffusing the morning light so it seems to come from everywhere. I feel like every physical object is slightly luminous, and maybe the air itself too.

Every day is beautiful. Every physical thing is glowing with a mysterious inner radiance.

That inner radiance is God’s light.

My greatest desire

I tried for many years to see all things in God and God in all things. I believed I could find enlightenment, be freed from ignorance and delusion, see reality the way it truly is.

But my approach was “all or nothing”. I hated my life and wanted something entirely new, transcendent, unobscured.

And isn’t hating life supposedly how you save it?

Well not in my case.

Letting go

I’ve learned so much and come so far these past two years. I’m no longer depressed, and I feel anxiety losing its hold as well.

The answer to depression was my focus on feeling better, then feeling good, then feeling good all day. It took time and practice, but not much of either, relative to my years of depression.

The answer to anxiety seems like trust and allowing and letting go of the oars. I’m slowly but steadily practicing trust, noticing the thoughts that build it and those that don’t.

Pure desire

As these negative emotions diminish, I’m no longer all or nothing. I’m not looking for one violent solution anymore.

And it suddenly struck me, as I learn about desire, happiness, and trust in God, that I still want to have that vision. I still want to see God in all things, not as the answer to a question or the solution to a problem or as freedom from suffering and struggles, but for the sheer joy of it.

It feels so good to see that divine light subtly radiating from every being, in me and around me. It feels so good to feel the whole world of my experience shining with that invisible presence.

This is my greatest desire, and now I know it as a purely positive experience desired for its own sake and a source and a fulfilment of sheer delight.

To be aligned with your desire is to be aligned with God, and there is nothing closer to God than seeing Him in all things and all things in Him.

Except it will grow closer still, because this alignment and this intimacy with our own Source is infinite. The more we enjoy it, the stronger it gets, and the more we enjoy it, and the stronger it gets.

I remember

I remember my desire
Born out of suffering and misery
To awaken another world within me.

I remember being inspired
By poets and mystics
Who promised infinite treasures
If I could follow their meaning.

I remember wanting
To see God in every damned thing
Around me
And within me.

I remember trying
A hundred different ways
Meditation, prayer,
Knowledge and devotion
Desperate and shaking
Blaming myself, giving up
Endlessly addicted.
Dark night or just deluded
Depressed or half-enlightened
Realisation or rumination

And I remember the promise
In the joy of its fulfilment
The revelation and remembering
That all of my efforts
Weren’t wasted, unsuccessful
But they kept me on the path
Long enough for me to shed them
Like the lotus in the mud
To take the joy without the sorrow
And the love without the heartache
And knowing without doubt or confusion