It’s a game…12!

When I went through my weight loss process I was incredibly open minded.

I considered all kinds of possibilities: if I didn’t want to stop eating but felt bad about my weight, maybe the answer was to stop feeling bad about my weight?

Maybe my objections to being overweight were just cultural conditioning?

This kind of thinking helped break down my old thought patterns. Even though I eventually concluded that it wasn’t simply cultural conditioning, or a desire to look more attractive to others.

What was it?

In the end it wasn’t about health or attractiveness. What it came down to was that my appearance didn’t match how I felt about myself; and that disconnect between feeling and appearance was the real source of my discomfort.

In much the same way I’ve felt the same kind of disconnect between how I feel about myself and my whole reality.

I’ve only met a couple of people in my life who share this feeling. Most people have areas of life where their expectations don’t match their reality, but for me it is a deeper and more pervasive sense of incongruence.

I used to find some solace in philosophical skepticism because for all we know we really might just be brains floating in jars (a standard philosophical thought-experiment). Reality might not be real. And that thought brought me comfort.

Finding congruence

When I looked in the mirror I felt discord. When I look at reality I feel discord.

Through attempting to understand weight loss I eventually discovered that the discord was already in me. I already felt bad about aspects of life, and I used food as a distraction from it. But the distraction only perpetuated the bad feelings, giving them physical form in weight gain.

Being overweight was a physical representation of my discord.

(As an aside, dis-cord means negation of the heart, from the French.)

I didn’t resolve my discord, I just decided to stop distracting myself with food and by letting myself feel the discord instead I changed my eating habits dramatically and lost weight as a result.

The same process also relieved chronic pain I had suffered.

Surely the same principle applies on a global scale: the discord in reality itself is a representation of the discord in me.

The many things that bother me are distractions and externalisations of something already within me.

Don’t blame external conditions for “making” me feel discord; I already felt it, and denying it has pushed it out into external manifestation.

Reality is therefore doing its job perfectly. It is perfectly reflecting what I feel inside – even if I don’t like it.

Don’t blame reality for something that I’m projecting into it. If reality changed right now I would still feel discord.

Making peace

I like knowing that the discord is in me rather than in reality. I’ll be glad to stop feeding discord into my reality. I’d prefer to just feel the discord in myself directly rather than create external conditions for me to blame.

Either way I feel discord, so I might as well keep it simple and just feel it directly. And in saying that, I notice that I reach out subtly for distraction, in much the same way that I used to look to food for distraction. I subtly reach out to my external reality for some kind of distraction from my own discord.

I appreciate noticing this subtle dynamic. I’d prefer to just feel the discord rather than try to distract myself ineffectively. I’m curious as to how reality will look and feel if I stop using it in a flawed attempt to escape from discord.

It’s okay to feel discord if that is what I’m feeling. It’s healthy to allow myself to feel whatever I’m feeling rather than trying to escape it, which doesn’t work anyway. I appreciate my growing conviction that reality has in fact been perfect in its reflection of my discord. It’s up to me to not project my discord on reality – reality itself has never been at fault in this dynamic.

I’ll end the post here even though it feels unresolved, because I can see that it is better to accept the unresolved feeling than to push for some kind of resolution. Let’s call it the resolution of being okay even if things feel unresolved 😉

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.

The suburbs don’t depress me…

…I depress the suburbs.

Walking with my daughter this morning I was overcome with a feeling of nausea at the suburbs around us.

It’s an old feeling so that means thoughts with momentum. And there are plenty of ways to justify my thoughts.

But the fact remains that I create my reality, and at the very least one might ask “if you don’t like the suburbs, why are you living there?”

Isn’t that kinda dumb?

Well yeah it is.

I heard a woman on an Abraham-Hicks video explaining that she lives in Boston but wants to live in California. That was the defining problem in her life.

The advice was to appreciate Boston first and then decide whether to move or not.

It’s good advice because you take your fault-finding mentality with you most places, and if she couldn’t be happy in Boston then there’s a good chance she wouldn’t be happy in California either.

I thought she was stupid, but I guess I’m stupid too 😅

Finding the positive

The suburbs are convenient because the population density draws in more shops, better roads, more attractions.

Then again, by that logic I’d be happier in the city centre, so why not move there?

Living in the hills is appealing because there’s more space, more nature, more freedom, more beauty.

The suburbs are like a middle-ground that gives people space without losing proximity to others, freedom without losing convenience.

Okay, so why do I really hate it?

I didn’t want to go too negative but sometimes describing how we feel gives clarity.

So for the sake of clarity: when I look at the suburbs I feel like life is small and meaningless. I see each little plot divvied up and built upon in varying degrees of same-old.

I feel the individuality of people circumscribed by standardisation. It’s like each block is a little box, and though they all look different, the differences are superficial.

Not to mention the architecture is frequently hideous.

When I walk by on a cold day I can only assume people spend all their time indoors or away from home, and I struggle to feel uplifted at the thought of their lives contained and defined by these ugly – and audaciously expensive – little allotments.

Bringing it home

Everything I just wrote says far more about me than it does about the suburbs. I mean, you could totally agree with me but just not care, right?

That’s because it’s not about other people and their houses, it’s about me and my thoughts.

These houses are like the one I grew up in. I’m a stone’s throw away from the suburb where I lived most of my life.

To me these suburbs represent a way of life bereft of idealism and joy; they represent acceptance of ugly convention at great personal cost and burden.

I don’t feel this way when I visit friends or relatives in their homes – it’s deeply personal. When I imagine strangers’ lives in these suburbs I project onto them my own thoughts and feelings.

So I am the one who feels as though my life is constrained and confined by the expectations and conventions of others. Yet no one ever told me where to live or what to do. I just inferred what was “normal” and made it into my own constraint.

I looked at what “everyone” was doing and railed against it. In Abraham-Hicks terms that’s a perfect way to get more of what I don’t like.

Holding pattern

In the end I think I live in the suburbs because it’s what I’m used to. I think we chose to live here because it was familiar, and I felt that I could only break with the familiar if I was really sure of what I wanted.

Living in the suburbs is like a holding pattern in lieu of knowing where I really want to live.

But that itself is a form of resistance, raising the bar on how sure I needed to be of a decision that breaks from the norm.

Back then less bad wasn’t good enough for me. I was intensely all or nothing and with that attitude I was pretty much guaranteed to wind up with nothing.

I’m sorry, suburbs. You didn’t deserve so much hate. You never asked me to be here in the first place and it’s not your fault I stayed. We don’t need to like each other, and we really don’t need to live together anymore.

The beauty of knowing what you don’t want is, in A-H terms, that you know implicitly what you do want. You just need to stop focusing on the unwanted long enough to let the wanted in.