Triggered by ignorance

Recently I heard second-hand a relative disparaging the martial art I practice.

It really got to me for a couple of reasons.

First, I struggle to understand how someone can make self-assured pronouncements on subjects they are profoundly unfamiliar with. I’m bewildered and don’t know where to begin.

But beneath that, if I’m honest with myself, I’m sensitive about my proficiency in the art. I’ve been training for a long time and I don’t think I’m as good as I should be.

That’s not to say my relative’s opinion had anything to do with me or my proficiency. She didn’t say I was bad at it, she just disparaged the art itself in a sweeping statement.

She’s never seen the art, she’s never seen me practicing, and as far as I know she’s never done a martial art nor is she interested in them.

But that doesn’t stop part of me thinking that if I were just more proficient then I would change her mind…in much the same way that part of me thinks I can change people’s minds by providing logical arguments supported by facts.

When was the last time that happened?

You create your reality

So despite my irritation at this person’s opinion — no, because of my irritation, I have to acknowledge that this is my creation.

My insecurity and self-doubt is making me react to people’s words regardless of what was meant by those words.

And I don’t just mean my self-doubt about my proficiency in martial arts; I mean my self-doubt in thinking I need proof, evidence, and convincing arguments to validate my own beliefs, perceptions, and feelings.

The reason it bugs me so much when people make ignorant and inconsiderate pronouncements with full self-confidence is that I don’t allow myself the same privilege.

No matter how much research or experience I accrue, I always err on the side of self-doubt. So it’s galling to hear someone just say what they think, without fear, shame, or hesitation.

Appreciating contrast

These interpersonal conflicts are so valuable because they highlight areas where we are resistant to our own wellbeing and expansion.

This person’s comment would not upset me except that I hold myself hostage to rules they refuse to follow.

They may be ignorant, but they don’t care. I know more than they will ever know about martial arts, but I’m the one feeling constrained.

Must ignorance be contemptible? Is life about being as knowledgeable and rational as possible?

Well this particular episode is not. This episode is about whether I make my happiness conditional on other people, or really accept that it doesn’t matter what I or others think, say, or do.

No one can assert anything into my experience. This came about purely because I was primed to react.

But I’ve chosen to clean it up instead, taking it as an opportunity for expansion, freedom, and joy.

It doesn’t matter what others think, say, or do, because it doesn’t matter what I think, say or do either, so long as I feel good.

No one is measuring the validity of my words, thoughts and deeds (and if they are they’ll be disappointed). There is no measure more objective than how I feel. If other people say disparaging things, why is that my problem? I don’t have to agree with them and they don’t have to agree with me.

The best part is feeling good whether we agree or not, whether our opinions are based on deep knowledge and experience or not. It really doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have the power to stop me feeling good.

Expressing dominance

I grew up in a household where people expressed their dominance in unhealthy ways. I learned to associate dominance with conflict, aggression, coercion, manipulation and unhealthy competition.

Due to my own temperament and circumstances in that environment, I believed the best response was to submit and withdraw from the contest of wills. And as I grew older I interpreted spirituality through that lens of surrender, selflessness, and dying to self or ego.

But at the same time I’ve been increasingly indignant at having taken this burden on myself. Why do I alone suppress my dominance while others are so self-assured in their right to be and do and have?

The harder I tried to justify and explain my point of view to others, the more self-assured they seemed in rejecting my view and asserting their own – no matter how unexamined or invalid it might be.

So what now?

Well, it turns out that dominance is not a bad thing after all. It only looks bad when it’s used to harm or manipulate others, when it functions through conflict and aggression.

I like to use etymology to reframe loaded terms and in this case dominance comes from the Latin dominus meaning “Lord, master”, as in the head of a house or domus.

Dominance is not about aggression and control, but ownership. It’s natural and healthy for us each to take ownership of ourselves and our possessions and our beliefs, actions and choices.

Dominance means it’s your house, and you can do whatever the hell you want and if other people don’t like it they can GTFO. But dominance also means that each person is their own “house” as well, and you need to respect that or GTFO yourself.

You can be dominant without domineering, and for those of us who grew up on the receiving end, that distinction is one we need to hear.

…and enjoy. Because a tyrant’s pleasure in dominating others doesn’t tarnish our own healthy pleasure in taking full ownership and mastery of ourselves. Pushing back is not the same as pushing others down. Your freedom to disagree with others is not the same as them trying to make you wrong.

We are all free to disagree, and it’s a sign of something awry when people baulk at that freedom in themselves or others.

So enjoy your dominance. Appreciate your freedom…and the freedom of everyone else in your life as well.

Freedom from desires

I’m beginning to understand why some spiritual teachings talk about having no desires.

It’s not that they have no desires or preferences, but that they have learned to find happiness independent of external conditions.

This is not an outright denial of desire, but an acknowledgement that we do not need to wait for the fulfilment of desire in order to feel good.

Just thinking about the things we desire brings us the good feeling, so long as we don’t counteract it with thoughts of obstacles and unwanted conditions.

But “freedom from desire” is not as advertised. More like freedom from conditionality. Freedom from requiring desires to be physically manifested before we can feel good.

You don’t need to eliminate desires. You can’t. Just recognise that you can feel good right now without needing to see it first. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.

It’s a game…03!

As I listen to and read Abraham-Hicks material it’s clearer than ever that the most important thing in any moment is feeling good.

Feeling good sounds so modest to us, like the soundtrack of a movie we’d like it to be there in the background, comfortable and pleasant while we enjoy other things.

Like clement weather, like comfortable clothes, that’s how we imagine it. And when you’re accustomed to feeling bad, comfort and clemency are pretty good.

But if you still think it’s just about feeling good enough to get on with life you’re missing the most significant, most powerful, and most satisfying essence of the teachings.

It’s possible not only to feel good but to feel wonderful. How wonderful? There’s no limit to it. Take your most satisfying, joyful, meaningful moments in life and imagine being able to feel that good every day.

It’s possible, not only is it possible but it’s the whole point of why we are here. We came here to experience joy, freedom, and expansion. The greatest joy is available to us in every moment. We are simply too accustomed to shutting ourselves off from it.

That’s why it’s so helpful to understand it as a vibrational game.

All you need to start feeling better is to find better-feeling thoughts, and there’s no ceiling to those thoughts.

You don’t have to spend your days struggling to feel it. You can feel better right now. If you pick a subject that already feels good you can even feel wonderful right now.

If you believe that you are an extension of what we call God and that the greater part of you is always enjoying the greatest love, satisfaction and delight, then you can use such thoughts to find alignment with that greater part of you and begin feeling the same joy right now.

That joy is the only reason you do anything. And you don’t have to “do” anything in order to allow joy into you. It’s only your focus on joyless resistant thoughts that keeps you apart from it.

We’ve gotten so trained into thinking life has to justify our good feelings…we think we need accomplishments or circumstances to make us feel good. But the whole time we are here, in each moment, we can turn our attention to thoughts that feel good and soften and disengage from thoughts that don’t.

Use your powerful mind to give attention to the most soothing, pleasing, satisfying thoughts you can find, and appreciate how good it feels.

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 22

Exploring the relationship between wealth and body weight helped me recognise the feelings of insecurity, insufficiency and vulnerability that are helping create my reality.

Wishing I had more wealth or feeling bad about lack of wealth turned out to be self-deceptions that kept me from noticing how I feel at a deeper level.

Living a “marginal” existence reflects my fear of external forces, my desire to withdraw into safety even if that means making do with material insufficiency.

Yet there’s another beautiful paradox at the core of it: because wealth to me means or feels like sufficiency, security, and invulnerability….things I had already regarded as beyond me.

Denying my own sufficiency, security, and invulnerability, I thought it better to treat that awful state as “true” and adapt to it as best I could. Make the most of subjugation and try to limit my exposure to damage and suffering.

I really thought it was true, hence the terror I felt. It is terrifying to be convinced of your own insufficiency, insecurity, and vulnerability in a hostile world, and believe that no one and nothing is coming to save you.

It felt like an improvement to say “that’s just the way it is” and quash any hope it might be different. It seemed like progress to put all the pressure and burden on my own internal efforts to transform myself.

“Grow up”, “this is just life”, but I held onto my spiritual goal, thinking I could somehow transcend the limitations of this ****** existence.

But I was wrong. I was wrong to accept that I am insufficient, insecure, and vulnerable. I was wrong to believe in hostile and cruel external forces. I was wrong to think I am powerless unless I somehow met the requirements of spiritual transformation.

My thoughts create my reality – so I made that my truth, but it doesn’t have to be. I can change my thoughts and change my reality. I can allow sufficiency, security, and invulnerability to be my reality. I can deny the ability of any external force to create my reality. I can accept and allow the power already and always within me.

Real freedom, real security, real sufficiency real invulnerability — I can allow these with my thoughts and begin enjoying them immediately.

My life is my creation, and I can choose what goes in it – thoughts that feel good or thoughts that don’t. It’s entirely up to me. And when I change my thoughts my reality really does change. I feel it, and I see it, and that process of deliberate creation is the most satisfying and delightful thing of all. It’s the meaning and purpose of my existence – freedom, expansion, and joy.

What is self-esteem?

Someone asked me recently about self-esteem and I admit I fudged it.

My answer was along the lines of self-efficacy…which is more about recognising that I’m good at certain things.

So what’s self-esteem then?

I’ve been thinking it over and I’ve read plenty about it before, but self-esteem has to be more than just words.

Self-esteem isn’t about your skills, talents, or other qualities, but your intrinsic value. Specifically, it’s feeling good about yourself for no f***ing reason whatsoever other than…you’re you, and it feels better this way, and it makes everything easier and more enjoyable.

Baseless, irrational, and subjective…in a good way!

That’s what really threw me about self-esteem. I grew up thinking we were supposed to value objectivity and truth and give reasons for what we believe and reasons for how we feel.

But if you apply those criteria to how you feel about yourself…you’re pretty much screwed because there’s no objective basis for feeling good about yourself. You either already feel good, in which case you’re merely gilding the lily with fresh excuses to proclaim your wondrous existence; or you already feel crap, and there is nothing on earth that will overcome your crappy feelings and convince you to be otherwise.

Self-esteem is not objective. And yet it is vital and life changing, because if you can find a way to feel good without reason then that good feeling goes before you like a holy aura and changes everything around you.

If you can find a way to feel good without reason, then everything feels good the moment it comes into your presence.

Find a way to feel good without reason? More like remember the good feelings you’ve already had, feelings you probably crushed or put away because they seemed unreasonable at the time, as if you were going to be graded on the realism of your good mood.

That’s what self-esteem means to me. It’s not about holding myself in high regard, that’s just how people try to explain why they let themselves feel good for no reason. I prefer to see it as acknowledging that there’s no reason to feel this good, so there’s no reason not to. Life isn’t waiting on me to accomplish something that justifies these good feelings. If anything it’s the other way around.

How to do it

I don’t know if a “how to” will work, but for me my good feelings were all tied up with the fantasy novels and superhero movies and anime and manga that inspired me so much. Feelings of freedom and empowerment and adventure and excitement, love and authenticity and, yeah, worth, and the sheer joy of the characters at the height of their powers.

These are the things that speak to me. Why the hell shouldn’t I use them? Why shouldn’t I take those good feelings and carry them with me? Because I’m old enough now to know that none of the people with “strong” self-esteem I’ve met in the past had any real justification for how they felt. There was not an iota of considered, objective thought behind those people’s bias in favour of their own value. They just felt good because they’d felt good more often than not in their young lives and knew nothing else.

What I’m getting at is that we may not have had that foundation, but we did have inspiration and we still do. Knowing that we create our reality, how we feel is far more important than we ever knew, and it now makes complete sense that every time we put aside those good feelings we delayed their fruition into something more.

No, we had no reason to feel that good, but if we do it anyway, indulge in those wonderful feelings of freedom and empowerment, everything must give way to that.

 

 

 

 

It’s not about answers

I spent years trying to make it. I spent years trying to find the answers. I had these feelings, I knew inspiration, but I thought the feeling and the inspiration were about what you then do with them.

Wrong way around, completely.

It’s all about the feeling and it’s all about the inspiration. Actions and answers and ideas can flow from that source, but don’t leave the source for any reason.

I thought I needed something to show for myself. But showing is about other people. I can’t share a feeling with you, and I don’t have to. A feeling is just for me. I’m the one who feels it, and that’s where putting myself first and caring about how I feel converge.

Every time I felt this good I’d look for the take-away. But there is no take-away when I’m here to stay. There’s nothing to take away because you’re not meant to leave. It’s not a brief reprieve of pleasure, delight, and satisfaction, it’s not a holiday, it’s where you live.

Welcome home, again. Try to stay this time. Don’t flee for any reason. You love it here, I promise.

Born in the wrong era?

How many of you grew up feeling like you were born into the wrong era, the wrong culture, or even the wrong reality?

I used to want to escape into a fantasy world; or I’d imagine what life would be like if I’d lived in the Middle Ages. Sometimes I’d wish I had an ethnic or cultural background a little more interesting than the Anglo-Celtic “default” option in Australia.

The cynical side of me poured cold water on all of these: you only think other cultures are cool because they’re unfamiliar and exotic; you want to live in the past but you’d be a peasant, not a knight; you want to escape into fantasy but that’s all fantasy is – empty escapism.

Yeah, my cynical side is a bit of an arsehole.

And ultimately cynicism is for arseholes. There’s nothing creative or beautiful about shooting down people’s inspiration and dreams. It’s true that the grass can look greener on the other side, but it’s still grass, and why let that stop you exploring the other side if that’s where you want to go?

Maybe it’s just fear of disappointment masquerading as wisdom? “What if I go, and it’s not as good as I’d hoped?” Well at least you’ll have a story to tell. But I can guarantee cynicism won’t help you find what you’re looking for.

Making peace with your reality

But at the same time there is a bit of escapism here. I didn’t just want to be somewhere else, I really hated where I was and saw evidence of it everywhere.

I wanted excitement and adventure, not suburbs and mortgages. I wanted a suit of armour, not a business suit. I wanted to live in a fortress or a mysterious and magical old warren of interconnected buildings and passages, not a McMansion or 70s era unit by a main road. I wanted every day to feel full of meaning and excitement and satisfaction, not some monotonous grind of swapping time for money in a miserable office.

How can I put this delicately…it’s not that I should accept all these things I hate and just live a normal life filled with resentment. Instead, it’s actually possible to see that the way things are right now fulfils a lot of people. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it was in many ways. Toilets, for example. Modern toilets should inspire endless gratitude and appreciation in us all!

In fact there are so many things about the modern world to appreciate; they vastly outnumber the things to resent. And even if I don’t want to work 9-5 in an office, can’t I at least appreciate that some people do?

Do I really need to be surrounded by peasants for me to be a knight in armour? That’s metaphorical but also literal: there are people around the world who compete in jousting and melee combat with historically accurate weapons and armour, and they get to do it with modern conveniences.

If that doesn’t appeal to me then what does? Maybe that “different era” I longed for was really about a specific feeling I wanted? And maybe that feeling is not about the era or the culture or the clothes people wear or the buildings they live and work in? Maybe that feeling is something accessible right now and the fantasy of a different era was just one way of accessing it?

I can feel that feeling right now, but I don’t know what to call it. Maybe I’ll leave it there, maybe it doesn’t need to be defined or nailed down right this minute. Maybe I can leave it for you to find your own version of this feeling you always longed for, in the form of “another era”.

Manifestations just aren’t that important

Manifestations are not as important as we think they are.

When we look to manifestations to make us happy, we begin clinging to conditions and circumstances, trying to get things just the way we want them.

We think manifestations have the power to make us feel good, but how we feel is determined by how well our thoughts align with God’s perspective within us.

Clinging and craving are universally recognised as obstacles to happiness, and most spiritual teachings encourage us to let go of manifest reality and find the true source of happiness within us.

That doesn’t mean manifestations will disappear or that reality is bad. And those same spiritual teachings promise us miraculous changes in our reality when we do find God.

Sometimes we let these promises confuse us, and we end up chasing spiritual growth because we hope for a change in our manifestations. That’s putting the cart before the horse, and simply won’t work.

It’s almost a paradox, but the promise is that manifestations will change to reflect the love and joy flowing through us. In other words: when we no longer desperately need them to.

Have you ever noticed that things you desire remain out of reach when you’re yearning for them, but when you forget about them and find peace they often turn up when you least expect them?

And by contrast, sometimes in our desperate yearning we manage to get what we want, but it doesn’t bring satisfaction or joy because we are still shaped by the sense of need.

Visualise

For me at this time the best answer is to view manifestations as akin to a music visualiser that generates animated images correlating with aspects of the music such as frequency and loudness.

When we watch a visualisation of music we know that it is just following the music. We appreciate how it complements the music but we never think it should change or be a certain way other than how the music is playing right now.

If we could have the same attitude to our manifestations, knowing that our whole reality is just reflecting the alignment and misalignment within us, we would stop clinging to the manifestations around us and focus instead on the love, joy, freedom, and happiness that flows inside us when we align our thoughts with God.

And that very perspective: letting go of manifestations and focusing on God; is one major component of the alignment we seek.