Thursday, October 30, 2008
The first step in the awakening process is to question yourself. If you can't question yourself and your world view you're lost. What if you have fooled yourself? Maybe your Liberal agenda is just a mental construction, a castle in the air, like Fascism, Communism or Catholicism? Could it be that you have mixed up the map with territory? Could it be that you see the world through colored and distorting lenses? Could it be that you're not an enlightened and superior westerner? Could it be that you're just a human being, like all the rest here on this planet? Could it be that you're not broadminded? What if you are, really, a narrow minded philistine bourgeois? Maybe you're not waking up. Maybe your meditations and affirmations are just mind games.
The mind is constantly producing words, ideas and fantasies about the world. Nothing is wrong with that. It is something it has evolved to do and it has proved to be very useful. Planning for different future outcomes is a normal process and so is brooding on the past. "What went wrong? Can I learn something from my mistakes?" It is not a problem if you leave the now, the reality, also for lengthy periods of time, the problems appear if you don't come back, if you settle down in your castle in the air. The problems appear when you pick out one idea and stick to it like a religious fundamentalist. Then you are in trouble. You might say to yourself: “Hitler was a great man and he did what he could to clean up Europe from filth.” or “Ronald Reagan did a good job in Central America to stop Communism.” or "Life has no meaning until you invent one." Whatever you believe, know that it is a mental construct, a map, not the truth. Good maps and useless maps are both maps, not the territory.
However, you will probably not begin to question your self and your misperceptions until some disaster happens to you, a divorce, the death of someone near, a bankruptcy, whatever. Why would you question yourself if everything is fine? In that way afflictions can really be blessings. But core beliefs and misunderstandings are so extremely strong and tenacious that afflictions are usually not sufficient. Many people experience horrible things but are not waking up anyway. Something else is necessary. Here the synchronicities can be very helpful. When everything is fine the synchronicities usually don’t mean much to you, if you notice them at all. When you are vulnerable and more open, however, they can sometimes show you a glimpse of a greater scheme of things. Life is so much bigger than you, and far more mysterious than your narrow minded misperceptions of it. However, afflictions and synchronicities aren't necessarily sufficient either. Something more is needed. Grace, maybe. I don't know.
Anyway, alcohol, drugs, positive thinking or weird religions makes,of course, also the awakening impossible. It is lost in a fog, the same old fog where you have already spent so many years of your life.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Suffering is not only for the unfortunate. The four noble truths are considered the essence of Buddhism and the first noble truth is: “Life means suffering“. We have to endure physical suffering such as sickness, injury, tiredness, old age and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like fear, frustration, depression and disappointment. What Buddhism is about is the path to the end of suffering, but that path is only for monks. We common people can only hope for a more fortunate future reincarnation.
Well, medical science and all the religions and psychological schools are trying to reduce the suffering or inventing explanations to it to give it a meaning? Which method is the best? Alcohol, marijuana and tobacco can also be very helpful; frantic work, the fanatic support of a football team, running and self hypnotism are also useful, as well as TV sets and iPod’s. There are many different ways to escape psychological suffering - delusions, denial, rationalizations, you name it.
I have tried out many alleys in my life but for the time being I’m into acceptance. (This is because I have read Russ Harris, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Steven Hayes.) This seems to me as a new approach. Acceptance is not pleasant, not enjoyable and it is not leading anywhere, not even to enlightenment. It is about being here and now with whatever there is here and now, pain, the endless nagging mind, an ugly ego, all of it. There is no way out. This is it. Whatever thoughts or feelings that I have in my head and in my body, I now try to let them be there, simply because, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, they are there already. (Physical suffering shall of course be treated. If you have a splinter in your finger, you shall not try to accept it, you shall take it out and if you have a bad head ache you can take an aspirin, but it is different with psychological pain. If you, for example, feel bad because you have been too egoistic this feeling should not be medicated or escaped. Medication is of course important if you are deeply depressed, but as soon as you are reasonably back on your feet again you have to start working with your delusions again.)
However, life is not just suffering. Sometimes life can be so kind to us. How could we possible survive if there were no love at all to be found, only acceptance of all the suffering. Love stories, sunsets, big oak trees, crazy little children, chirping little birds, jokes, friendship, such tings balances the suffering and that is why they are so important. “Chirping little birds and crazy little children are very important.” This is my first noble truth.
What is awakening? When we talk about a green apple or a red house everybody knows what we are talking about, but when we talk abut the ego, the false ego, the true self, the mind, the I, spirituality or awakening, everybody seem to have different ideas about what we are discussing. Here are my present ideas about awakening:
Nothing is permanent. Everything will pass. You fall asleep at night and you wake up in the morning. It is the same thing with spiritual awakening. It comes and goes. Awakening is not a once and for all event, but the waking up from a daydream, again and again. Suddenly we are lost in our thoughts again and suddenly we wake up to the here and now. To be completely lost in thoughts and beliefs without this intermittent awakenings to the the fact this was just thoughts or beliefs, is to live in an unawakened state of mind. It is to be mesmerized or bewitched.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
15 % of the population of developed countries suffers severe depression. (WHO)
Everyone will at some time in their life be affected by depression, their own or someone else’s. (Australian government statistics)
15 % of depressed people will commit suicide. (National Quality Health Care Report)
One in three American children suffers from depression. (National Mental Health Organization)
26 % of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Depression and anxiety disorders are common all over the world. And aren’t diagnosable mental disorders just the tip off the iceberg? How many people out there are just feeling low, miserable, unhappy or anxious without being actually sick? And how many people hide their sadness or worries behind a mask of optimism and happiness? And how many people suppress their misery with alcohol, cigarettes, pills, excessive work, excessive exercise, TV, computer games or weird hobbies and weird religion? If you feel miserable you are for sure not alone.
So, what can we do, we who can't afford another therapist or a new life coach? Should we get ourselves one more self help book on positive thinking and the importance of loving ourselves? Should we simply pull ourselves together, pick ourselves up, get a better outlook on life and let the sunshine in?
Spontaneous, sudden, deep and lasting spiritual awakening is possible, for some people, (Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie for example). However, many people, like me, have experienced partial and quite deep spiritual awakenings but we have slipped back down in the ditch again, and again. For us, and for all the depressed and lonely people who have never experienced any spiritual breakthroughs, spiritual books and teachings about the blessings with enlightenment and cosmic love are not very helpful. Tell a depressed person to be more positive, more loving, or that he need to live in the now instead of brooding on the past and worry about the future and see what is happening. A depressed person can’t think positive and he can’t live in the now. This is the very problem. How do we get out of the misery? What can we do? This is the question.
I have found Russ Harris book `The Happiness Trap´ very helpful. And also, of course, Jon Kabat-Zinns books. Eckhart Tolles books are wonderful but not when you’re stuck in the mud. And you have to have had some previous spiritual experiences to understand him, I think. If you’re feeling low the spiritual teachers can make you feel even lower because you feel that spirituality is only for the chosen few. This is the problem with the spiritual teachings. They are not helpful for us down and outs. And this is difficult to understand for those who have never experienced depression.