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 21

“I create my reality” means my reality is a reflection of my thoughts/vibration.

I used this principle when I lost weight – deciding that my body weight was a reflection of my eating behaviour. But then it turned out that my eating behaviour was a reflection of my emotional state, and hence my thoughts/vibration too.

How?

I found that I was eating more than I needed because of the pleasure it brought, and when I stopped, I felt negative emotions that had been there the whole time.

In psychological terms I’d been using eating to regulate my emotional state. Many of us overeat for this reason, often unconsciously.

When I was overweight I’d wish I was leaner and better looking. That wish or yearning was painful, but it gave me a sense of control or rightness to my situation. To be unrepentantly overweight was frightening and shameful, so feeling bad about being overweight and yearning to be leaner brought a kind of balance.

Painful yearning

These lessons apply to my broader reality.

As with my weight, my whole reality is a reflection of my thoughts/vibration.

When I painfully yearn for life to change, it’s the same as wishing I could be lean.

But wishing did not accomplish anything and was in fact part of the problem!

My painful wish for relationships, money, housing, and other conditions to change is in fact a ruse designed to balance out my actual thoughts and feelings on these subjects.

When I was overweight I would feel bad for various reasons, and then eat to escape those bad feelings, and inevitably put on weight. Then I would feel bad about being overweight and wish I was leaner and make attempts at dieting and exercise that didn’t really address the cause.

Real change came when I allowed myself to feel bad without escaping into eating, knowing that if I stopped dysfunctional eating my body would inevitably return to a healthy weight.

It worked. So the same will work with the rest of reality.

I create my reality

On an issue like money, wishing for more money and feeling bad that I don’t have it is akin to wishing to be lean and feeling bad that I’m not.

That means it too is a self-deception.

If I don’t pay lip-service to being financially secure I would have to face the deeper fears and worries I’m escaping from.

Both the “i wish I had money!” cry and the feeling bad about not having enough money are parts of a bigger dynamic. They shouldn’t be taken at face value. Like wishing to be lean and feeling bad about being overweight, they appear solution-oriented but accomplish nothing. They are in fact problem-oriented.

Take them away, and what lies beneath them is a much more potent feeling of terror; and this terror is an emotional response to thoughts of insufficiency and insecurity. Thoughts of not enough power to survive amidst brutal and crushing external forces. Thoughts of being vulnerable in the face of harsh and uncaring others who will exploit and abuse you if given the chance.

Dealing with terror

These thoughts are a significant component of my vibrational set-point. To escape them I focus on less terrifying thoughts of being out of the way and detached from that terrifying reality.

In other words: I focus on whatever is left when those emotions are blocked out. I eke out an existence, and to complete the self-deception I lament my marginal existence and wish it could be otherwise.

I don’t know if you can follow this, maybe it’s too personal. But the reason I’m not rich is because wealth would contradict my thoughts of insufficiency and insecurity and vulnerability.

But to stop me exploring that fact and ending up facing the painful feelings of terror once more, I commit the self-deception of wishing I had more money and thinking of ways to obtain it.

If I just went out and got a job I would be placing myself in that situation of interdependence, submission, and vulnerability that I’ve worked hard to escape.

Yet I create my reality, and what I’m truly escaping is not external circumstances but my thoughts and feelings around those circumstances.

If the perfect job were offered me, I’d see it as a trap. If money were freely given me, or I won a lottery, I’d be challenged by the money itself to face the insecurities and fears I’ve described here.

Finding coherence

To be free of self-deception, to understand how my thoughts create my reality, is profound, meaningful, and brings relief from struggle and confusion.

Where I am makes perfect sense right now.

And the answer for me is to feel the terror I’ve been avoiding. But feel it in an atmosphere of knowing that it has always been there whether I feel it or not, and avoiding it merely kicks the can down the road.

The influence of that terror on the whole of my life is palpable. I wonder what life would look and feel like if I stopped trying to escape it?

I’m curious. What would happen if I allow myself to make peace with those terrifying thoughts of vulnerability and insufficiency?

How will my life change when I no longer think of myself and life in this terrifying way?

Because these thoughts are old. Really old. And while that means they have momentum, it also means they are out of date. I haven’t examined them for ages, maybe ever? And in the meantime I’ve been growing and learning and expanding so much.

Am I vulnerable? Am I insufficient? No. Those beliefs only formed within me in very specific circumstances many years ago. Given a chance to air them and examine them in the light of day? I think they are ripe for change.

Close the gap…but not too much

There is always going to be a gap between your vibration and that of your inner being. When the gap is wide we feel bad. So in order to feel better we must close the gap.

That’s why we find better-feeling thoughts. Each better-feeling thought is vibrationally closer to the joy and love and appreciation our inner being (God) already enjoys.

But the gap is not a bad thing. The gap – and the contrast it brings – is why we are here. It’s only because of the gap that we can form new preferences and desires and allow expansion.

Sometimes we try too hard to close the gap or we think there shouldn’t be a gap, shouldn’t be any contrast in life. These efforts to eliminate the gap do not bring happiness, nor can they succeed.

The gap is important and necessary, it only feels bad because we are looking at it the wrong way. From God’s perspective this gap is of tremendous value. And if we can learn to appreciate it as well then it can become a source of eagerness and joy rather than fear and incompleteness.

Learning to love contrast because contrast is the foretaste of new expansion; learning to appreciate the gap because the gap is what this life is all about; this is the way to true happiness, happiness in the path and the journey, not happiness conditional on outcomes and circumstances.

Letting go 05: What is reality, really?

We think we inhabit a physical world with fixed rules based on observable forces and objects. But when we dig into this solid, enduring reality we find that there is nothing substantial at its core.

Molecules reduce to atoms, atoms reduce to subatomic particles, subatomic particles reduce to…what exactly? Measurable quantities of energy, properties of mass and charge, probability functions?

And if we go in the other direction, turning our attention back onto the observer, what do we find there?

No one has come close to reducing consciousness to something more tangible or physically explicable. The experiential core of your individual reality defies a material explanation.

Many people have encountered and contemplated this intangible reality of ours and there’s a consensus of sorts that however we explain both the subject consciousness and the objects or phenomena known by consciousness, the two cannot be truly separate and distinct in nature.

Non-dualism rules

This used to be my thing, but I got a bit cynical when this “enlightened” perspective didn’t yield any apparent benefits to me.

Back then I didn’t understand that I could feel better just by making how I feel my top priority. I didn’t yet believe that nothing is more important than feeling good. I didn’t know that feeling good is good.

I know so much more now, and it’s funny and satisfying to see old knowledge I’d let gather dust suddenly fall into place as a component of my happier and more aligned perspective.

So what do I have to gain from my unusual perspective of reality? What does it benefit me to see beyond appearances? What can I do better or differently now that I know how things work?

Vibrational reality

The upshot of all this is a different causality. A different kind of cause-and-effect at work in reality.

When we wish things were different, we tend to look at our circumstances and ask “but how can all this simply change?” We imagine physical laws and physical reality governing all things. We regard manifestations as dominant.

But this leaves no place for the miraculous. It leaves no place for revelation. It leaves no place for providence.

In the Abraham-Hicks teachings we are told that there is a vibrational reality waiting for us that is a perfect match to everything we desire – with the caveat that our desires will never stop expanding and evolving.

The only thing missing from that vibrational reality is…us. We are the only component that freely chooses whether or not to allow vibrational change within us. We are the only part of our reality that can resist the pull of our desires and the outpouring of love and blessings that is God’s response.

We resist this pull by focusing on the unwanted and misaligned aspects of everything. This habit of thought keeps us feeling disjointed and out of harmony with what we desire. It turns an effortless journey into an unpleasant struggle.

But the solution is easy. We just have to learn to let go and allow ourselves to be drawn into the new reality that awaits. We just have to let ourselves be part of the tapestry God is weaving on our behalf. We just have to let ourselves be taken care of, and enjoy being passengers on the way.

What could be more valuable than a deep and moving feeling of appreciation and love in your heart? Well maybe you’d like to be rich too. But only because you associate being rich with having feelings of freedom, joy, trust, confidence, appreciation and joy.

The audacious claim in the A-H teachings is that by finding those feelings you will allow that wealth to come to you. It’s not just that: whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be added unto you.

That will require letting go of resistance, including perhaps the resistance in your old view of “how the world works”.

Letting go 04: Metaphysics? It’s the vibe!

I’ve been really unsure about the Abraham-Hicks concept of “vibration”.

They say that we live in a vibrational reality, that the underlying nature of everything is vibration, and we create by our vibration relative to God’s; but I’ve treated all this as just placeholder metaphysics without really engaging with it.

Because I’d have wanted to ask “what is it that vibrates? And how does it vibrate?”

But looking at it now, I know that’s not the point.

The point is that there is a deeper level to reality and creation operates on that level and according to those principles.

Accepting vibration is important because it helps us let go of physical cause-and-effect and shift our perspective to one of detachment and deliberate creation.

Vibration means giving ourselves permission to let go of limiting beliefs about how the world works.

But there’s more

But that’s not all. If we accept that vibration is the essence of everything we experience and think and feel, then vibration is what we are truly working with when we change our thoughts and feelings and manifest reality.

It’s not necessary to translate our thought into words and parse it and thresh it out. It’s not necessary to pay attention to the details of our reality. We can refine the process to a vibrational work.

It’s the vibe

From a vibrational perspective, God/inner being is pure positive energy and constantly expands to become a vibrational match to our desires.

Our physical self is a vibrational match to whatever we are focused on. The discrepancy between this vibration and the pure positive vibration of our inner being is what we call feelings or emotions and it serves us as guidance to our alignment.

Everything we desire, all we really desire is vibrational alignment with God within us. We can accomplish this alignment by following the guidance of our feelings bringing those two points of vibration together in us.

That’s the essence of this work: that is where we allow thoughts to come, where we enjoy the most wonderful satisfaction and appreciation and love, and where matching manifestations must follow.

Letting go day 02: detachment

Detachment is so strongly recommended and praised in most spiritual teachings that I took it to heart and practiced it at a young age.

Looking back, I was often successful. But after finding detachment I would run into inner turmoil and end up feeling depressed and confused.

In hindsight this is because I had some mistaken impressions of how detachment worked, but also because successful detachment brought me into contact with pockets of resistance.

Real detachment

Real detachment means no longer clinging to manifested reality. It goes hand in hand with feeling better from within, and requires us to be stable enough that we can easily find alignment with God/inner being.

It’s simply a light, buoyant sense of being not so focused on immediate experience. It’s the sense of having inner love and ease surround us and uplift us rather than looking for manifestations to make us feel better (they can’t).

When you stop looking for manifestations to make you feel better, you’re then letting go, allowing reality to follow its own changes while you remain comfortable and secure in your alignment with God.

It’s not a cold and aloof detachment, more like being a kid again. Kids don’t “get” the serious side of life that we fixate on as adults. They don’t share our morbid thoughts or grim outlook until we force it on them.

They take things lightly, because their own inner guidance is still mostly intact. That’s what we can aspire to in letting go: an easy, comfortable detachment from somber thoughts and clinging to reality.

And as a good omen, while writing this a bird crapped on my shoe…I see the humour in it, so long as I stop fretting about having to hurry home and clean it off!

Instantly change your reality

People often come to the Abraham-Hicks teachings because they want their life to get better. And the teachings promise that it will. They promise you can be, do, or have whatever you desire.

But then they point out that you only desire these things because you think you will feel good in the having of them, and it’s up to us to let ourselves feel good right now.

The path to a good-feeling reality is to feel good now; that’s the crux of “believe that you have received it, and it shall be added unto you”.

Proof

It helps to be able to prove to ourselves that this is indeed how it works.

So here’s some proof.

If you close your eyes and forget about who you are, where you are, and anything that needs doing, you will feel immediate relief.

That feeling of relief is proof that you can change how you feel by changing your focus. You instantly changed your reality to an experience of relief.

Not very impressive?

That may not seem like very impressive evidence. No doubt you opened your eyes, immediately remembered who you are, where you are, and what you’re meant to be doing, and the relief vanished.

But that’s just further proof, isn’t it? Bear with me…

Thoughts->feelings->reality

Your thoughts tell a story, and for many of us we’ve ended up telling a s*** story that makes us feel bad.

When you “forget” in meditation you stop focusing on those thoughts and your feelings immediately change.

That’s how easy, simple, and direct it is. Then you focus on your story again and feel bad. Your reality changes.

You need to practice. It took me two years before I was ready to meditate, because I’m a stubborn, intense, incredibly focused person who spent more than half his life digging himself into the deepest hole he could imagine.

I spent these past two years reading books and forums and listening to YouTube videos about the Abraham-Hicks teachings, and learning to find better feeling thoughts, tell a new story, soften my approach to contrast, and find relief no matter what.

Now I can meditate, and meditation is like letting someone lift you gently out of the hole you’ve dug. So that’s two years learning to stop digging before I was ready to let myself be rescued!

Relief is real

If you look out on your world with a mind full of relief, is it still the same reality you see?

If I feel appreciation for my home instead of frustration at it, hasn’t my reality changed?

At first these teachings sound like you can close your eyes, imagine a mansion, and then it will magically appear and you’ll live happily ever after.

But what it’s really like is closing your eyes, forgetting you don’t like your house, and then magically feeling better.

Better-feeling thoughts

Using meditation to forget my old story allows me to instantly inhabit a reality where I feel extremely good.

My old story was fairly intense, so it’ll take some practice to change it. But when I feel better from meditation I naturally gravitate to new story elements that reflect my good feelings.

And then I won’t have to forget my story in order to feel good, because my whole story – and my reality – will be about feeling good deliberately.

Inner citadel of the Self

Imagine yourself as a city, concentric rings radiating out from your core being.

Each ring is made up of thoughts, patterns of behaviour, and plans accrued through different stages of life.

Like Palmanova pictured above, they are very much layers of defence.

Renovation – make all things new

As we work at focusing on good-feeling thoughts, these rings or layers of defence are slowly dismantled and transformed.

The darkness and tension of wartime-footing is gradually overcome as we look for beautiful, wonderful things in our reality, confident that the more we embrace the good, the more good will come.

Persevere – don’t lose heart!

Remember that your core self right in the centre still has a lot of defences in place. The regime and fortifications against a world once thought to be hostile take time to release and undo.

That’s why it can sometimes be frustrating and disappointing to find negative thoughts appearing in the midst of new-found relief.

But don’t lose heart! These layers of defence do come to an end, and we dismantle them not by confronting and attacking but by finding relief and proving them unnecessary.

The inner citadel

As we get closer to the core we begin to see how these layers of defence came to be in the first place.

Right at the centre, with a young child’s natural sense of worth and appreciation, we first encountered unwanted aspects of reality and struggled to make sense of them.

We were “helped” to focus on the unwanted aspects as truth and unchangeable reality. Something had to give, and so we wavered in our sense of worth and expectation of good things.

That self-doubt turned our expectation of good into an expectation of…more of whatever was already happening. More unwanted, more doubt, more disappointment, more giving way to harsh realities.

The need for defences was born of no longer expecting good things, no longer thinking we deserve or are worthy of happiness.

That’s why learning to feel good is the answer. If we can learn to feel good despite unwanted circumstances then we rewrite that original conflict between our self-worth and “harsh realities”.

Our innate worth and goodness is not touched or tainted by unwanted circumstances. As we learn how our focus creates our reality, we learn that it is safe and sound to once again expect happiness and good things to come to us, because the promise of our own innate worth is self-evident, and we actively choose to no longer doubt it.

The Happiness Challenge

A couple of years ago I wrote a super-intense, psychologically-driven diet book.

The heart of the diet was making a commitment to only eat when you are genuinely hungry, and only eat enough to sate that need for physical nourishment.

The rest of the book was about understanding why this approach works, and finding clarity around our true motivations for eating.

If you commit to the rule of only eating for nourishment, then it immediately becomes clear how often we are eating for other reasons, typically as an escape from unpleasant emotions. Excessive body weight is then best understood as just a by-product or symptom of eating for these other reasons.

Isn’t happiness the same?

Today it hit me that my desire to feel good is very very similar to my approach to diet.

The underlying premise is that we are meant to feel good, and that we would naturally feel good if we weren’t doing something to interfere with this natural state.

Just like we would naturally arrive at a healthy body weight if we weren’t interfering with our appetite, using food and the experience of eating as an escape from feeling bad.

The most confronting moment in my diet journey was contemplating a future of never again using food as an escape. It was an incredibly daunting thought, but I gradually saw that it was the next logical step for me. And so I resigned myself to fundamentally changing how I related to food.

The same sense of a daunting, yet logical next step is now arising in the context of happiness. Because I know from experience that I can feel good simply by focusing on better-feeling thoughts like contentment and appreciation.

And I know in theory that my circumstances cannot prohibit me from finding better-feeling thoughts.

So the situation is simple: I can choose, if I will, to focus on better-feeling thoughts all of the time.

Making a commitment

It’s a bit like committing to get up early every morning and do some exercise.

The next logical step is that I commit myself to make better-feeling thoughts my rule, and view worse-feeling thoughts as exceptional, accidental setbacks.

Without this commitment I’m liable to continue haphazardly feeling good when I remember to, and making little overall change to my consistent emotional state.

At first it’s going to take some effort, because I’m accustomed to just letting my mind wander all over the place.

But to be honest I prefer an “all or nothing” approach over an incremental one.

If this process continues to mirror my diet journey I’ll likely break my commitment a number of times over the next few days and maybe weeks.

Yet each time I break it, I’ll reinforce my intention to stay on track.

Discovering what a happy life looks like

Part of what kept me so intensely motivated during my diet journey was that I had never really been in the “normal” weight range as an adult. I’d always been 10-20 kgs overweight.

So I was inspired by my desire and curiosity to experience life differently, to see what it was like to finally be in the normal BMI range.

Once I got there and maintained it for a year or so the inspiration ran out, and other demands like a new baby changed my eating habits.

The old resolve is hard to recapture, because I already accomplished that body weight goal. I’m not curious about it anymore.

But I am profoundly curious and inspired to see what life will look like when I am consistently happy and feeling good.

Happiness is harder to measure than body weight, but my experience has shown me that small improvements make a big difference.

I also have faith that how we feel is intrinsic to the creation of our reality and the shaping of our individual experience of life.

When you feel really good, bad or irritating or disappointing things cannot insert themselves into your reality anymore.

Feeling good….feels good!

Finally, it’s actually very sensible to learn how to feel good all the time, because feeling good feels good after all!

And on reflection it’s actually deeply silly that we spend so much time either fixating on things that feel bad, or simply letting our attention drift and gravitate into whatever old patterns we have already formed.

It feels bad to feel bad, so why do it if you don’t have to?

Repentance for the disenchanted

I succumbed to disenchantment at a young age and took for truth my fear that there was nothing magical or mysterious in this world.

That’s what led me to investigate religion. Not the outer form but the inner essence, the mystics and sages and saints who performed strange feats and spoke of an utterly different relationship with reality.

I divided life into the sacred and the mundane, the mysterious and the miserable.

Yet this very division was an error that made most of life a misery to me, a self-fulfilling prophecy of disenchantment as I tried to push back against the banality around me.

Turning mysticism inside out

All the mystics spoke of a transformed vision of reality. They went to the very heart of existence and their eyes were opened to the true beauty of all things.

I tried to follow the same path, but my experiences were fleeting, ironically because I was so desperate for that transformation.

Like a clingy guy who pushes people away with his neediness, I was so fierce in my disenchantment that even God couldn’t make me appreciate this “ordinary” existence.

Even now I take for granted my deep antipathy for modern life. I’ve written screeds that only touch upon my full disdain for modern ugliness and meaninglessness, projecting my own unhappiness onto an entire planet.

All the this time I never thought disenchantment might be my fault, something I was doing rather than being done to me.

Too many people talk about having to grow up and accept harsh realities of life, it can’t be just me that resents and despairs of it, right?

No, it’s not just me. But that doesn’t make it the truth either. A delusion can be shared but that doesn’t make it reality.

I’m the one who chose to see the world that way, and of course I found evidence to support my choice.

It may have been an unconscious choice but it was still a choice, and one I repeated over and over for years.

Forgiving reality

Forgiveness might not be the right word but forgiving reality for being mundane, crappy, ugly, and bland goes some way to realising that maybe it isn’t like that after all.

Repentance might not be the right word either, but perhaps we disenchanted cynical and disillusioned people can accept that this very attitude of ours is what keeps us stuck in an unwanted reality.

I’m the one focusing on the ugliness and banality around me. I’m the one telling a story about a bleak and empty world. I’m the one wishing life was different and constantly reminding myself “but it’s not!”

I’m the one who approached mysticism as a way to transform the unwanted reality that I myself created.

And I’m also the one who undermined every moment of transcendence, quickly checking to see if things had “changed” yet.

In the Abraham Hicks material that’s called “keeping score” and it tends to undermine any actual progress in feeling better.

Feeling better about life

There’s a subtle yet profound difference between clinging to a problem and receiving a solution.

Often people sound like they are wanting a solution when in fact they just want to reiterate their problems.

But after a while it becomes obvious.

It’s obvious to me that my focus has been firmly on the “problem”, my unwanted aspects of life.

I’ve lived and breathed disenchantment, mistaking it for truth and reinforcing my own powerlessness and despair.

And how was that working out for me?

It’s time to take a deep breath and appreciate that the disenchantment was in my thoughts alone.

I create my reality, and by focusing on thoughts of disenchantment and banality I created more of the same.

But I also have the power to change my focus. I can find thoughts that match the enchantment, wonder, and excitement I have yearned for.

I can re-enchant reality as easily as finding thoughts that feel good to me.

A good place to start would be the exact opposite of the unwanted. If I don’t want disenchantment and banality then what do I want? What story would I prefer and to tell?

And if the answer is “I don’t know” then that right there was the real problem all along. Not reality, not banality, not other people, but my own unfamiliarity with the stuff of my desires.