It’s a game…06!

The whole point of feeling better consistently is that we can finally arrive at a point where real love is within reach.

Genuine love for ourselves and others is something we experience when we are in alignment with our inner being, what we sometimes call God.

But feeling better is like any practiced skill. You can’t go to the heights of skill right away.

I can’t start learning the piano and immediately begin playing my favourite pieces. They are too advanced.

But I can keep improving, and if I focus on improving then eventually my favourite pieces will be the next logical step in my improvement.

So while it’s good to be inspired by advanced pieces, it’s also very helpful to focus on improvement as our daily practice and source of satisfaction. Improvement is always within reach, even when Schubert isn’t.

The same applies to “feeling better” by finding relief, and “feeling wonderful” which is a point we will inevitably arrive at by practicing feeling better.

Feel better, find relief, practice that direction and wonderful feelings are inevitably in your path.

Take satisfaction in feeling better and finding relief, and you will master it even more easily.

And relief is so powerful. It can be used on everything. So even when impatience and doubt about your path strike you, look for relief. When you beat yourself up for feeling bad, find relief. When you find past traumas cropping up, find relief. And even when you have sudden insights and clarity and moments of elation, enjoy them but don’t forget relief.

After a time you’ll see all kinds of themes and patterns at play in your life. Just don’t give up. Keep finding relief and you will grow so strong and so sure in it that you will be able to soften any discord in your path, ease the turbulence that sometimes strikes, and find your way assuredly to the feelings of inner love, joy, freedom and contentment you seek.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

What are feelings anyway?

As a writer there are words I really like, but don’t use because it never seems appropriate. When do you need mellifluous in a sentence? When does communication justify apogee, let alone demand it (outside astronomy)?

But if you know these words, you can use them! You are the master of your own vocabulary and you don’t need an excuse or a chance to use words you love to read and sound.

Favourite feelings

Life has introduced us not only to wonderful words but wonderful feelings; yet we treat them in the same way. I once felt exquisite joy, and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have an excuse to feel it again!

Circumstances once dictated a buoyant felicity but lately things have been utterly crap so I’ve put that good feeling in the archives for now.

These days everyday life seems to demand a grinding slog, so I keep that feeling near at hand to save me having to go look for it.

Feeling good is the goal

We’ve fallen hard for a big mistake: we think our feelings are by-products, epiphenomena, of material causes. We think things make us feel a certain way.

And even with the Abraham-Hicks material we can persist with this mistake, believing that our thoughts make us feel a certain way.

That’s not the worst interpretation to hold, but how about this instead: Feeling is what makes us feel a certain way, and reality helps inspire us to better and better feeling, but it doesn’t make us feel.

If you like the word mellifluous then use it wherever and however you like. If you like the feeling of freedom, relief, and peace, you can find those feelings and indulge in them anytime.

If we could take the feeling as prior and substantial instead of subsequent and ephemeral, then life would be very different. If I had sought feeling as the spiritual treasure instead of using it to keep score of how well I was doing, then I’d be there right now, feeling good and not caring about anything else.

What are feelings anyway?

I’m not going to launch into some deep-dive philosophical or historical, but I’ve been fascinated by past glimpses of the old view of human emotions in the medieval and classical world.

Back when I used to read Aquinas, he would describe, as if it were obvious, how feelings of love and joy are physically expansive and warming of the body, while in sadness and fear the vitality is suppressed or shrinks as evidenced by cold and shaking in the extremities and loss of colour in the complexion.

It’s fascinating not only that they had such a holistic view of the mind and body working together, but that joy and love were synonymous wth vitality whereas sorrow was directly opposed to it!

Feelings could be interpreted not as some messy and unnecessary mental by-product but as the very experience of life expanding and shrinking in response to our perceptions and experiences.

Consider in that context the significance of divinely infused love and joy, life eternal that did not shrink from worldly circumstances but trusted in the undying nature of the spirit that sustained it.

Participation in life, felt as joy and love, or to put it another way: the realisation that love and joy are our human experience of life itself.

Feeling is life itself

If we could understand our feelings as our experience of the life in us, the spirit that animates us, then reaching for and allowing good feelings to flow is literally the substance of our life and happiness here and now. And (to tie it all back) what could be more mellifluous than that? 😄

Your interpersonal self

When you grow up feeling dominated by the expectations and pressures of others it is easy to lose yourself in that interpersonal space.

In the interpersonal space they use a different currency. Things you don’t really care about become important, and you feel a pressure to be somebody in the eyes of others. Or at least not be nobody.

But when it comes to your real self, interpersonal currency is not legal tender. Your real self doesn’t give a fuck about all the things you’ve been striving for and struggling to maintain in that interpersonal space. Your real self doesn’t care about who you hope to become, or how your dreams will change everything for you.

Polarised extremes

If you experience this massive contrast between your interpersonal self with its plans and striving and motivation, and your real self whose down-time consists of wanting to block everything out and just avoid difficulties, then it can seem impossible to reconcile the two.

You’ve carried on such a convincing public performance, you’ve fooled even yourself into thinking these goals of yours will bring you happiness. How can you possibly stop right now and let people see that you simply don’t give a crap? That your number one motivation in life is to avoid trouble as much as possible. That the things that seem to excite and please others barely move you.

I don’t know the answer yet. But I think this sense of polar opposites, night and day, is exacerbated by the division. Your real self is extra disagreeable and uninspired because it’s been so alienated and suppressed.

Your real self has no apparent interests or purpose because it’s been drowned out by interpersonal ones for so long.

So it may seem like too big a change to suddenly give your real self more air time, to bring your dour self with you into your life. But even though it feels poorer in all the values and virtues you’ve tried to bring to please others, it has something your interpersonal self will never have: alignment, authenticity, acceptance, and therefore the seeds of genuine love and joy. Not the joy you thought you’d feel when you were finally good enough in the eyes of others. Not the love you thought you’d find when you met the standards you learned from those around you.

You’ve been playing with shiny, glittering fake currency. Your actual wealth doesn’t look like that, but it’s real. Real enough to let you give up at last on chasing approval and validation out there.

Pleasing others, denying ourselves

This Abraham-Hicks excerpt explains how we end up feeling bad while trying to please others:

“Because the source within you adores you so much! There is nothing that is more disabling than focusing in ways that disagree with the way the source within you feels. You didn’t make that up…there were other people outside the vortex that trained you how to think about yourself. When there’s somebody outside the vortex they feel awful, and when they look at you, they feel awful. And then you say, oh something must be wrong with me because they’re lookin’ at me and they feel awful…I wish that I could behave in a way that when they look at me they would feel wonderful…and you tried…you gave that everything you had…but you just couldn’t behave in enough ways to make them feel wonderful could you, and so then your assumption was something must be wrong with me…which is the biggest flawed premise in the whole universe! And the source within you never agreed with that.”

I think this is where things go wrong for many of us, typically as children. We feel there is something wrong with us and we have to change so that others can feel better.

This idea that we are responsible for how others feel is like a noxious weed. It can take years to recognise that denying our own alignment for the sake of pleasing others is a flawed strategy that leaves us utterly depleted.

Some of us build our whole persona around the premise of pleasing others – or at least trying not to displease them. Life feels inauthentic and empty, because, as Abraham-Hicks puts it in another context:

“people have trained each other, people have trained you, they’ve said to you if you behave in this way i will love you and so you just knocked yourself out being lovable, you knocked yourself out being lovable, but you weren’t knocking yourself out being in alignment. so you never felt the love that you thought you were eliciting from others, that’s why it’s so confusing, you see.”

The love and happiness we sought can only come from alignment, and that’s as true for others as it is for us.

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 10: Insecurity

I sometimes get hit by feelings of insecurity, and I’d like to change that. So in this post I’ll go through some of the Abraham-Hicks teachings options to shift the insecurity.

1. Distraction

I can stay off the subject of insecurity and just focus on something that feels better.

2. Change my thoughts

I can look at my thoughts relating to insecurity and try to soften them. For example: instead of feeling insecure, i can start by framing it as not feeling as secure as I’d like. Even small shifts like this make the subject easier and softer to work with.

3. Times I do feel secure

I can think of times that I do feel secure and use those as a kind of touchstone. For example: I feel secure when I have a reason or purpose to justify my presence. So maybe I could look at my overall reason or purpose for existing?

4. Visualisation

I can imagine what I would act and feel and think like if I felt completely secure. If I can imagine it, I can practice it. And with practice it can become normal for me.

What these four methods show is that there are multiple ways to shift how we feel on a subject. Some methods might appeal to us more than others, but there’s no single way.

At the same time what they all have in common is to feel better. The goal is to feel better and the method is to feel better.

Insecurity is one expression of resistance. If we release our resistance, we naturally feel better.

Complications

But be mindful of complications. On an issue like insecurity we can get caught up thinking we need to justify ourselves; the process of shifting our thoughts can inadvertently become an “effort” that seeks to earn our security.

That’s how people get stuck in these and other teachings, as processes designed to help us feel better become burdens that reinforce a sense of unworthiness and struggle.

So don’t do that.

It shouldn’t be a struggle, and it should feel less bad immediately.

Let’s do it right now

My Achilles’ heel is in searching for deeper wisdom and spiritual insight to give me more value and control over my life. So with that in mind, I need to be mindful of when the processes are helping me feel better and when they’re just feeding this action pathway.

The proof is in how it feels: it should feel immediately better.

So if I persist with method 3 and look for my reason or purpose for existing, it should be an affirming and positive reason, not a bleak or unfeeling one.

In fact that’s probably why I feel insecure: I’ve accepted already that my reason for existing has nothing to do with happiness or meaning or fulfilment. I’ve taken it a priori as an impartial and detached universe.

The answer is therefore to feel better about my reason for existing, and to acknowledge that my reason for existing must be one that feels good.

After all, there are any number of possible reasons for existence that we can choose from. My old belief that existence (and God) was detached and remote and cold probably just suited how I felt generally back then.

So in conclusion, I feel insecure at times because I’ve believed my existence has no real reason, purpose, or justification beyond what I myself can scrape together.

It’s an old belief from when my whole worldview was more bleak and depressing. But I can see it now with the perspective of recent years and a commitment to happiness.

I think my purpose for existing is to enjoy my life in the unique circumstances and experiences of my individual being. That means happiness is the point of my life, and, like every other being in creation, I don’t need any further justification beyond the fact of my existence right here and now.

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.

From relief to appreciation

Everything is changing, evolving, and expanding.

The last few days of meditation have been like a flood of relief. Today it no longer feels like relief, and once upon a time I’d have lost faith and given up because “it’s not working anymore”.

But relief is the feeling of releasing resistance, and it doesn’t make sense to think that there must be never-ending resistance to let go.

Think of relief as preparing a space for appreciation. When the same practice of meditation – letting go of your thoughts and your stories – is no longer bringing relief, that’s actually a sign of progress.

Appreciation is a more stable, powerful, aligned energy than relief. Relief only comes when we let go of resistance, but appreciation can be forever.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on relief without finding the appreciation implicit in it. It’s a relief to get what you want after a long period of feeling deprived. But often we get what we want and then immediately forget about it, moving on to the next thing.

It’s how you play the game

I’m gradually getting my head around this idea, from the Abraham-Hicks teaching, that life will always contain contrast and always call us to expand. The question is how we welcome (or don’t) this call.

From a negative point of view nothing in life will ever be “enough”, we will always want more and never find contentment. No sooner are our desires fulfilled than we want something new.

But from a positive perspective this inherent incompleteness is the source of growth and expansion. If we can just learn to appreciate what is, and find a way to feel eager about what is coming next, then instead of an unending struggle or Sisyphean frustration, the exact same life is revealed to be an infinite journey of discovery and ease.

The flip side of “something always goes wrong” is that things are always getting better.

Floating downstream

When we look at life in ways that feel bad, we are fighting the current that carries us.

But as we learn to let go of the oars, we feel relief at giving up the struggle followed by enjoyment of the easy journey before us.

It’s the ease of this journey, and the sheer genius of the blessings along the way, that offer us endless opportunities for appreciation and savour.

Relief comes when you rest your tired muscles. But when they are no longer tired, then relief is replaced by enjoyment, satisfaction, and appreciation.