On Fearing Emotions

When you fear feeling a certain feeling, you set up all sorts of defenses and strategies to keep yourself from feeling that feeling. For instance, if you fear that you might be bad, you will try to convince others of your goodness by not displaying healthy negative emotions and by allowing yourself to be mistreated, thereby bringing to life various formations geared towards obtaining the confirmation from the outside that you are good. The fear of experiencing that emotion of being bad is what sets everything in motion. As always, the difficulty of it is that it is unconscious, which means you are not aware of the force that is driving you into action, appearing as a spontaneous inner impulse. “I just feel that way.”

But if you observe yourself like you are an objective thing in the world you can ask yourself “what am I trying to get from others?” and it is very likely that you will find that you fear the opposite in yourself. So if you try to convince others you are good, you are probably afraid that you are bad.

So what can you do when you find that fear? Agree to it! Fine, I am bad! And feel whatever pain/fear/anger/etc. might arise in association with that. So, ok, fine, I am bad. Game over. But don’t fall into the trap of judging yourself for it or trying to change it, just feel it as it is. And then you can release it.

The thing is that when you fear an experience on the spectrum of emotions, you bind yourself to it and you filter reality through the fear of being that, but the moment you go through the experience, it dissolves. It has nothing on you anymore. The reason you fear it is that you believe it is a permanent, immutable reality when the truth is that you are maintaining it because you fear going through it.

So back in childhood, because you didn’t allow yourself the feeling/experience of being bad, you carried it with you into adulthood, but feelings are there to be felt and let go, they carry information and then they leave. It is us who turn them into verdicts.

Knowledge vs. Shoulds

“You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Nothing is more revealing than personal experience. One can read hundreds of books on personal development and spirituality, understand them intellectually and still find, despite all the teachings, that the personality is geared towards immature attitudes.

You see, you haven’t been acquainted with yourself. You think yourself to be only that part of you that wills and decides. But if you pay attention, if you learn to look at yourself like an objective thing in the world, you will learn that you actually hold beliefs that go against those that you hold in your mind.

So what is that part that pulls in the opposite direction, seemingly geared towards self-sabotage or towards distrust, fear, anxiety? Why does it seem to have a mind of its own?

The things we don’t know about ourselves are in our unconscious. From there, they manifest as feelings, disturbances, conflicts, fears that seem out of proportion to what we experience or completely out of place. What we usually do when we encounter them is explain them away as caused by an external stimulus. After all, the mind likes to make assumptions about what it sees, that is precisely the way optical illusions work.

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But if you sit with the emotions, if you observe yourself and draw out the underlying belief, you will get in contact with a part of you that has been suppressed for a long time and because of this suppression, it did not get a chance to mature. So in one part of the personality you are an adult, a mature individual, capable of great insight, and in this other part, you are still a child, because you had disowned a part of yourself early on.

Now, as long as you don’t link knowledge with experience, as long as you don’t bring this truth into your emotions, into that immature part of your being, not by force, but by self-observation, truth can become disembodied knowledge. It can become a rule, a should, a rigid demand, disconnected from the being, as though it were an authority figure giving out orders.

I mean, nobody likes preachers, right?

And just like you can shift responsibility on authority figures, so you can shift responsibility onto ideas, instead of following the truth within. And what value does your act have if it doesn’t come from within?

If there’s a part of you that is still inclined to do something despite the knowledge you have, then do you really know? Do you really understand? In that sense, I think there is value in negative experience, in choosing what you want to do. Then you will learn by experience how that knowledge applies, even if it means suffering.

Now, I do not meant to advice doing something despite knowing it to be wrong. If you know it to be wrong, I think all effort should be geared towards understanding why it is wrong and where that inclination originates from within you. But if you are not convinced that something is right or wrong, then I think there is value in that experience for you.

I think that’s why they say “don’t take my word for it, see for yourself”. I always thought that they say that in a way that means… “hey, you can verify it if you like, but I’m telling you, it’s true.” When in fact they mean “you must understand this for yourself, experientially – in your emotions, otherwise it has no value, it just becomes yet another idea onto which you shift responsibility.” That’s why you need to see how it applies to you! You must let your actions stem from within, from your own perspective, not from the perspective of your shoulds, as good as they sound.

If you are unconvinced, experience will reveal it to you. There is a world of difference between finding things in yourself intellectually vs. experientially.

On Indecisiveness [Part 3]

I was in an antique book store a few weeks ago and among other interesting titles I found Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. I had never read a book by her before but I wanted to so I bought it. I noticed that one page was bent at the top corner, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. A few days later I started reading it and I was amazed at how good this book was. I have read many books on topics like these, yet this one felt so unique. It was about how the reality we experience is closely related to our state of consciousness. In particular this book looked into how people can get sick when they don’t deal with the catalysts in their lives properly. It made a parallel between the 7 chakras (Buddhism), the 7 sacraments (Christianity) and the 10 sephirot (Kabbalah/Judaism) in order to show that they referred to the same things and provided insight into how imbalances can develop into our systems in relation to these energy centers.  She explained through many stories of her patients how these imbalances are ways of showing us that we are refusing to acknowledge something in ourselves and how illnesses develop in our bodies in order to get our attention. If the catalyst is not dealt with at a mental level, then it moves into the body.

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The stories were the highlight of the book and were very powerful illustrations of the insights that Caroline provided. A chapter was dedicated to each Chakra/Sacrament/Sephirot correspondence. The page that had a bent corner was on the Third Chakra chapter: Personal Power (now that I think about it, it seems very fitting). It was on page 180 (180 degrees = changing directions/changing mind?) and this is what it said:

“[179] For the most part information that is accessible to intuition makes its presence known by making us feel uncomfortable, depressed, and anxious – or at the other extreme, drifty and detached, as if we were suddenly cut off from all of our own feelings. In dreams of an intuitive nature, we receive symbols of change or chaos. Such dreams often occur more intensely during emotional crises. Energy or intuitive sensations signal that we have reached a crossroads in our lives and [180] that we have an opportunity to influence the next stage of our lives, at least to some degree, through the choice we make now.

The intuition and the independence of the third chakra together give us the capacity to take risks, to follow through on gut hunches.  Evan, twenty-eight [my age], contacted me because he was suffering from a severely ulcerated colon. As I evaluated him, I kept receiving the impression of a horse being led to the starting gate but never running the race. He seemed to have no energy left to stand on his own. In fact, he seemed to have fled from the opportunities life had given him because he was afraid of failure. He would not take even one chance to seek confirmation of an intuition.

In his own words, Evan’s life had been a series of false starts. He had considered all sorts of business ventures, but had decided against each of them. He was forever studying the stock market, looking for a formula that revealed the rise-and-fall pattern of stock prices. Obsessed with this ideal, he had carefully accumulated statistics. Actually, he had become pretty good at identifying stocks that were about to increase in value. When I asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and invest in some of those stocks, he said, “The formula is not yet perfect. It has to be perfect.” Yet, he was filled with bitterness toward himself because he knew he would have earned a great deal of money had he followed through on some of his hunches. In fact, he would have become fairly wealthy. When I commented that, having done so well on paper, he was equally likely to succeed in an actual investment, Evan responded that the stock market is volatile, and he could never be certain that his hunches would prove accurate.

With the ulcerated colon, Evan’s body was being ripped apart by his inability to act on his gut hunches. He could not bring himself to invest even a little money in a stock. His fear of taking a risk was literally destroying his body, yet he was completely obsessed by a business that is nothing but risk. Telling Evan to use a relaxation [181] technique would have been about as helpful as telling a teenager to be home on time. Evan needed to release his computerlike mind and shift to his gut instincts. He insisted his gut instincts don’t provide “proof” of outcomes, but only suggest possibilities.”

— Caroline Myss, Anatomy of the Spirit

I was blown away by how much this resembled the biggest challenge I was facing. I too felt too afraid to try anything as long as I didn’t have the certainty it was going to end in success. This was a beautiful synchronicity telling me I had to initiate something, whatever it may have been. And I wasn’t doing anything. I had received similar guidance at the beginning of the year when I was watching The Office. It was that episode when Jan comes to Scranton to talk to the girls and she tells Pam about some free art courses that are available, and Pam doesn’t know whether she should take the opportunity or not. My right ear started ringing just as Jim was telling Pam “you’ve gotta take a chance on something sometime, Pam.” I usually get ear ringing in my right ear when I need to pay attention to something I’m experiencing, whether a thought, or something I see or hear somewhere. It usually means “this is important!” or “pay attention!” or “this!” At that time I had quit my job for a few months and I still had no idea what I was gonna do next. So the message was spot on. I found it incredibly beautiful to receive such graceful guidance.

More recently I was on Omegle and I was feeling king of discouraged and I just needed to talk to someone. For those who haven’t used it, Omegle is a website where you can chat with random strangers. It has both a video version and a text version, though I wouldn’t recommend the video one.  I was connected to a guy from Australia who had woken up too early and couldn’t fall back asleep. He was a psychology student, so I became his subject for a good chunk of our conversation which was kind of fun. I started telling him about my exaggerated sense of self-doubt and this is what he told me:

Stranger: I think to succeed something you should be okay with failing

Stranger: Because you can’t get anything without struggling

Stranger: And through that struggle you draw your path better than before

Stranger: Which might lead you to success

Stranger: Thus, failure is a risk that should be taken to succeed something

Stranger: Like for example

Stranger: Let’s say you were hurt from your ex

Stranger: And you’re very done with your love life

Stranger: But that shouldn’t stop you from loving someone again

Stranger: Like I get it, you might end up getting hurt again but what if you become very happy

Stranger: So that’s the risk to take to become happy

And it was like, oh wow, how do I manage to forget the basics so often? Why don’t these things stick with me? Why are my whys not strong enough? Why am I avoiding choice? And I figured I have a big commitment problem, I always want to keep my options open. I seem to be afraid of taking risks, even though I thought myself to be courageous. And I have been courageous in many instances, and yet there are some things that I just don’t seem to want to risk. I think these are some things that have made me lose confidence in myself:

  • I take on challenges which are too big, and I get discouraged when they don’t work out and I attribute the failure to my lack of skill.
  • I don’t break down challenges into achievable milestones and so the climb seems too long and the rewards too little.
  • I change my mind too often and it has become too strong a habit. It’s like a black hole sucking me in whenever I need to make a decision, like I can feel the pull of doubt dragging me into confusion.
  • I have bathed into victim mentality for a while and I have allowed myself to believe that I was powerless. I refused to take responsibility for the way I feel and I let others decide things for me.
  • I am afraid of missing chances and of making mistakes. I feel pressured by the idea that each choice has vast ramifications, and I want to make sure that it leads to good things.
  • Once I make a decision I go through the decision process again to make sure I didn’t overlook anything, which starts making the other option more appealing.
  • I question myself too much. I try to analyze too many aspects of a problem and I lose perspective by focusing on the details.
  • I have a sense of guilt which creates mental confusion.

The guy from Omegle reminded me that any choice implies some form of struggle and has attached to it the possibility of failure, of making mistakes and that’s perfectly ok. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about being clear on what you want and need and seeing which choice can provide that for you. Also it’s about choosing (the fuck) something so that you can advance by finding out once and for all if it works or doesn’t work so that you can learn something and adjust. Otherwise you’re wasting your energy on self-doubt, weakening your soul, distrusting your ability to decide and enhancing this self-image of powerlessness. Lingering there can only put you in a feedback loop. So you need to trust yourself and have faith that the path becomes clearer after you make the choice. Even if you have to change your decision afterwards. It’s exploration, learning by experiment, trial and error. Once you get the confidence, your intuition becomes stronger as well. Intuition needs to be developed too. It is strongly linked to the faith you have in yourself. But you have to choose, you have to explore, you have to start the experiment, otherwise there is no data to gather. And it doesn’t help if you’re just sitting there waiting to be illuminated as if from the ether without anything on your part.

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I recently had a thought that went like “faith in yourself is the same thing as faith in God/Truth/All That Is”. I don’t know if I got it from somewhere, or if I came up with it, but I found it to be an extremely powerful idea. It may seem paradoxical, because one could say that if they had faith in God to look after them, then they wouldn’t care about doing anything in their life, and so they would just rely on the Divine Will to work things out for them. But that is not how I view it at all. That interpretation does not take into account the will as a creative act. Trusting that things will work out is both an affirmation of your own power and that of the Divine. The way I see it is that if you have faith in God/Truth/All That Is to take care of you, then you will have the courage and the confidence to do anything in life, and you wouldn’t experience self-doubt and fear, because you would know you are being supported. It’s like the saying goes “God helps those who help themselves.” The Universe seems to respond to your intentions and your thoughts.

A great book I read right around the time I was thinking about these things is The Way Out by Joseph Benner. This 45-page book is one of the most profound things I have ever read. I took some very important teachings from this book, mainly how we should defend the fortress of our mind with great care from thoughts that have no place in being there. I found the same idea of “faith in yourself is the same thing as faith in God” in this book as well. Doubts and worries weaken us and they show a lack of faith in the path that is laid out for us, a lack of faith in the Divine Will. Therefore, it is advised to relinquish such thoughts of despondency, discouragement, disappointment, doubt, fear and whatever darkness may cloud our minds and to have faith that everything is taken care of, just like a small child doesn’t doubt that his parents are taking care of his needs. That makes room for joy and curiosity and completely shifts our focus from what we think we should do to what we like and want to do.

“We will take as an illustration a friend who recently lost her position. Several weeks before, this friend mentioned to the writer that their business was very poor and that they had laid off several who had charge of departments similar to hers, and she supposed she would be the next to go. The writer remonstrated with her and tried to show that that attitude of mind would bring to her what she did not want. Two weeks later another friend reported that she had said the same thing to her, and we do not know to how many others she had voiced it. But a few days afterward, as she had pictured it, the notice of her dismissal came.

Now let us analyze the mental process which created and brought to pass the losing of her position. The conditions of the business, the letting go of other department heads and clerks naturally caused our friend to build a picture in her mind of her also probably having to go sooner or later, and through the fear of it she actually saw herself leaving. Day after day the conditions in the office, her talks with fellow employees and with others in other businesses in similar bad straits, and with those who had lost their jobs, increased and intensified her fear and helped her to build in the details of her picture, until she had it all finished and perfect. Then she naturally felt she would soon have to go.

So of course it had to come to pass.

Now do you understand? The proof that she and she alone created the necessity of her going was,

  1. she was the last of all the heads of departments let go, for she was the most efficient;
  2. she began criticizing her employers and their actions;
  3. she learned afterward that they did not want to lose her and they might give her back her position, having hired two young men to replace the other women let go.

But she had created on the mental plane the finished thought form of being dismissed and had vitalized it with her fears and other feelings, and as a result that thought form had to outmanifest; and so it forced itself into the minds of her employers and impelled them to do what they otherwise would not have done.”

— Joseph Benner, The Way Out

So were she to have faith that everything would work out, she would have projected that image into reality instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance. We often forget that we are creators and that our will is our greatest asset. Giving it up is equivalent to succumbing to determinism or refusing catalysts. The biggest growth we experience is when we choose.

Lastly, here are some things that I find helpful whenever I experience self-doubt:

  • If I find myself overthinking things, I just stop. I postpone the decision, I give it a few more hours or days and I distract myself with something else, preferably something I enjoy doing.
  • I try to see whether I got myself into this predicament due to some assumptions or shoulds. Maybe I think I should do this or maybe I’m doing this for the wrong reasons.
  • I try to get into my body. Move, go out, do something. Dance, do yoga, jump around, play some sports, go running, anything that can get me back in touch with my body, as overthinking things can make you dissociated from the intelligence of your body, which is where you get your intuitive impressions.
  • Breathe. Relax. It may not be that big a deal.
  • Be more organized in my approach to my decision. Deal with the facts of the situation, try not to project into the future. Focus on your whys, not your shoulds and forget about the consequences.
  • Realize that there are no mistakes and whatever you choose will still lead you to the right path.
  • If you experience resistance to doing something, maybe you don’t really want to do it or perhaps you are not ready yet. It could be a possibility that you pushed yourself into it too soon.
  • If you made a choice and old addictions start resurfacing or they get more intense, it probably means that you’re not satisfied with that decision. For me that addiction is buying books, but it can have varied and subtle manifestations, it’s whatever recurring pattern of repetitive or compulsive behavior you might find yourself engaging in.
  • If your mental clarity decreases and you don’t find a sense of determination and/or joy, then you probably aren’t satisfied with the decision you made.
  • If you want to do something, but you just can’t pull through, you may be holding contradictory beliefs that are causing friction with your intentions.

 

On Indecisiveness [Part 2]

“Choice is the act of hesitation that occurs before making a decision.”

– Alan Watts

A few months ago I was met with a trivial decision. Do I spend another night at the country side or do I go back home? One moment the best decision seemed to be to leave, the next…to stay. Following moments…changed my mind again. Aaand…again. I probably would have gone on either changing my mind or worrying about the right decision for a while, had it not been for the heavy rain that started pouring soon after that which made it clear that I wasn’t gonna leave anywhere that night. These sorts of “hard” decisions were beginning to be regular occurrences since I made some mistakes relatively recently that I found difficult to live with [Part 1]. Decisions of whether to read a book or not, go out or stay indoors, buy an item of clothing or not soon became of life and death importance, as if the fate of the world depended on it. All aspects of the problem needed to be examined before proceeding with an action. If there was reason to suspect that the outcomes were going to be less than perfect, then the action needed to be abandoned. Due to this, I withdrew myself from many situations that I had signed up for, often times wasting money needlessly because of it.

That night at grandma’s I started feeling sick for no apparent reason other than the fact that I had induced that state to myself with excessive worrying. It started with a mild headache. Then it grew, and it grew and it grew until I started feeling feverish, the back of my neck was all clenched up, my stomach was hurting and I felt so sick I thought I was going to die. It was another “dark night of the soul”, another initiation. These were starting to get very violent. I lied in bed for a few hours and then I went outside and purged. I kept on feeling very sick, so my Mom made me some chamomile tea. When she gave me the cup, there was one word, and one word only that I could see on the cup. It was “Indecisiveness”. It hit me like a bus. There it was, the answer to why I was experiencing all those things delivered to me by the universe. I turned the cup and I saw that it was one of those cups designed for each astrological sign. This one was Libra – my sign – and it was a list of traits that were representative of it. I was amazed at this synchronicity. Soon after I was done purging I started feeling much much better. I was exhausted, but my two cats found their way to me, one on my stomach and one at my feet and all was well again. The danger had passed. But I have to tell you, for a brief moment I thought I was going to die and at times I may have even wanted it to happen.

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Tom Montalk of montalk.net has spoken of a concept called Plausible Deniability, which is a way to explain away something by invoking a cause even though that cause is unlikely to be powerful enough to provoke the observed effect. That day I ate a few blueberries – which apparently can cause acid reflux/acidity in the stomach – but not nearly enough as many as would have been needed for me to have that disproportionate reaction. There was something more there, and I was being shown the weakening effects of self doubt on the soul.

I think that night was when I realized that my indecisiveness had turned into a big problem. Before that it was perhaps something to be amused about, like one of the strange things I just do. But something had changed and it was no laughing matter anymore. It was beginning to have a life of its own, like a force exercising its influence over me. Whenever I doubted myself, I could feel its presence, like it was torturing me with my own thoughts. Whenever I settled on something, it would make the other option more appealing, like I was a puppet it manipulated to its amusement. I was starting to feel like a leaf in the wind, going with the feel of the moment which could change at any time. I had lost my center. I had allowed self doubt to seep in too deep. And I was losing my sense of self.

Paul Levy described in his phenomenal book Dispelling Wetiko how humanity is exposed to a psychic virus – which the Native Americans have called wetiko – which often influences our thoughts and exploits our vulnerabilities, making us believe things that are not true or that are unproductive. I suspect my challenge that night was of a wetiko kind.

“Wetiko can insinuate itself into our decision making process by making us too intellectual, overly mental, and cut off from our feelings. And yet, wetiko can just as easily work the other way around, too, convincing us to naively and unilaterally trust our gut feelings above all else. Of course, at certain points in time we have all experienced how our gut feelings are the very form our inner knowing and wisdom is manifesting, and therefore at these moments these deeper feelings most definitely should be honored and listened to. But there are times when our thinking itself produces what seems like a gut feeling, which we then mistakenly interpret to be an expression of our inner wisdom. Our thoughts profoundly affect our emotion and the whole state of the body, which in turn affects thought in a self-reinforcing feedback loop which can easily lead us astray. Wetiko distorts our ability to differentiate between true feelings and feelings that appear to be deep feelings but are produced from thought. In addition, wetiko can obscure our discernment for when we should listen to our thoughts and follow our reason instead of simply going with our gut feelings.”

– Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko

Around this time of my life I would start different projects and I would abandon them soon after because they didn’t “flow” easily which is how I imagined things should go. I would start something and then lose interest, then move to the next thing and do the same. I needed the certainty that what I was doing was going to lead to great things, that the path I was pursuing was going to be fruitful. Due to this attitude towards work, I found myself discouraged by the smallest obstacles. I was in it for the outcomes, not for the struggle, and you cannot have one without the other. Of course, if you truly enjoy what you are doing, then you are willing to go through any obstacle in order to develop yourself in that area. In fact you wouldn’t even perceive those as obstacles, but like challenges in a game, thresholds that you need to pass to advance to the next level. And so work becomes play. But what I was doing was different. I constantly needed confirmation that I was going to get something out of my endeavors. If the result of my work was less than perfect I would became discouraged and I would take it as as proof that I didn’t have the skill/talent to create great things. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort, but I was expecting results. Self doubt was affecting many areas of my life.

The universe kept bringing to my attention things that showed me the erroneous assumptions I was making. One of those things was Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. That book reminded me that in life you always struggle with something, but in order to make it meaningful you have to figure out what struggles you are willing to bear. That’s why they say pick your poison. Because some poisons weaken you and even kill you while others help you become stronger. Another thing that found its way to me was an interview with Bernhard Guenther of veilofreality.com. In it he was talking about how Terrence McKenna had introduced him to psychedelics and the idea that they were tools for transformation. He said he was curious about them and he experimented with them, even taking them at rave parties in the desert. Nowadays he no longer uses psychedelics, as his journey has brought him to new realizations, as can be read here. But this story made me realize that if he had not made that choice to try psychedelics back then, had he let doubt conquer him, maybe he wouldn’t be where he is today. Had he not allowed himself to try anything because of the bad things that could happen, he would have learned nothing and he would have kept himself safe from experience. And so, even if from the perspective of today he wouldn’t do the same thing, because he’s learned a lot in the meantime, his choice at that point put him on the path to self-discovery because there were valuable lessons in that experience. He had made the right choice at that time, because that’s where his sincere seeking had taken him. And by trial and error you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Life is choosing pathways of experience. It is an awesome web of potential, highlighting threads with each choice. Focusing on the impact of your actions can remove you from the energy of the choice and instead make you imagine their consequences and implications. This backwards perspective is a way to avoid responsibility and can act as a way to justify your choices in a way that ignores the means. The choice is where it’s at, that’s where the learning occurs, the choice is what tells you who you are or where you are, not your imagined outcomes. So choose what is right and ignore the consequences, because you are choosing causes, not imagined effects. Your choice is a new cause, a new ripple, a new thread and it would be preferable to give it the momentum of truth, authenticity, wisdom and love, because that is what it will propagate. What you choose and the true intentions with with you choose create echoes that ripple across time. Infinity arrives at this one point and it’s asking you ‘how should I flow next?’ And you have the answer.

[TO BE CONTINUED…]

On Trying to Overcome Negative Behaviors

Jiddu Krishnamurti and Alan Watts quite often insisted that fighting against something in order to overcome it does not solve the underlying problem. They said that whatever reaction may arise as a solution, it is still rooted in the level of understanding where the problem resides. Such an attempt would be like trying to build rocket ships and launch them into space without being familiar with the notion of gravity. If you are selfish, then trying not to be selfish is still a selfish impulse. Trying not to be envious is just as pointless. Such tendencies/attitudes/emotions cannot be removed from your experience in the same way that a plant cannot block photosynthesis in the presence of sunlight. It is something that is arising in you as a consequence of a preexisting condition/disposition and an external stimulus. It has good reasons to be there. It is trying to tell you something.

In addition to this, if you try to do something despite yourself, you will feel like the world is taking something away from you while you are censoring yourself to accommodate it, which is a good way to build resentment. It would be a way of denying your experience.  So this is something that cannot last. This is not to say that you should act on your negative impulses, but it might help to observe them impartially, like a scientist overseeing an experiment.

A third aspect for why fighting against a problem does not bring about a solution is well illustrated by Mark Manson in his great book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.

It’s like this one time I tripped on acid and it felt like the more I walked toward a house, the farther away the house got from me. And yes, I just used my LSD hallucinations to make a philosophical point about happiness. No fucks given.

As the existential philosopher Albert Camus said (and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t on LSD at the time): “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

Or put more simply:

Don’t try.”

In other words, whatever arises as a reaction to a perceived flaw is an affirmation that the flaw exists and has legitimacy. It’s an acknowledgement of the thing that you are trying to flee from. It’s like introducing yourself to people saying “Hi. I’m Tom. I’m definitely not awkward.”, instantly bringing the idea of awkwardness into the interaction. It would be like living in fear that anything at any moment might confirm to you that you are indeed awkward. The problem would be amplified instead of mitigated.

Therefore, it would appear that rushing into finding a solution to our problems ignores one very important step which is to have a true understanding of what the problem is.

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When I was in primary school, I used to do my Math homework with my Dad. He was kind of impatient with me, but he did teach me one very important thing that has always stuck with me. He said that if you want to solve a problem, you have to really understand what the problem is in the first place. A problem fully understood, is a problem half-solved. In Math that made a lot of sense, because you have to analyze what you know, examine how you can approach it and see what conclusions you can draw from the data that you have. But I didn’t realize back then that that piece of wisdom could be applied to real life situations as well.

It’s only through recent experiences that I have come to see the importance of this. There are some things I’ve been struggling with since I can remember myself. Over time I have tried every trick in the book to overcome them. Nothing seemed to work. I said, oh well, and I let life continue its course…Sooner or later something would happen that would confront me with with the same problem in a different package. And every time it would happen it would force me to give it more thought, more attention, more feeling. It would create a space between me and the problem so that I could see its mechanics more clearly. And every time I would acquire more understanding of why I am experiencing it. This came with suffering, of course – though it is not always necessary – because suffering does have a way to get our attention, right? One is sure not going to ignore suffering. So I stopped considering suffering to be a bad thing, it is just life giving you feedback.

Eventually, all of these things start to add up and you gain momentum and you get the courage to launch yourself into the core issue. You realize that you are not looking for a solution, but you just want to understand the problem, how did it come about? Even in Math, you are often given the premise and you are asked to prove the conclusion. So you have the conclusion, and yet it’s still a problem right? We don’t need conclusions, we need to understand why it is a problem. What is it about it that is not known, what about it is not clear? And then you realize that if the problem is truly understood, then the solution arises by itself, you just have to follow the signs as they will lead you to outstanding realizations. And in doing so, you learn that it hasn’t been about the solution all along, it was about an incomplete understanding of what caused the problem in the first place. A misperception, a misinformed opinion, an assumption. And you understand that all your attempts to overcome this challenge have been based on a false interpretation of reality. The puzzle piece that was missing wasn’t the necessity for the right reaction, but a comprehensive understanding of the problem, something that eluded your perception that would completely reframe the challenge and explain everything.

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So this is why at times we get stuck and no solution seems appropriate, you cannot decouple it from the problem. I even read full articles about my problem, but I couldn’t recognize it because I wasn’t ready to see it. I didn’t have the experiences that would open me up to that information. Like cognitive dissonance, having difficulty integrating new information that contradicted my beliefs. So you may adopt certain solutions that seem to work for other people, and perhaps they really are the solutions to your problem, but if it is not based on understanding, it may not have a true grasp on the mind and the original problem may resurface. This understanding may come through a lot of challenges and suffering, but even so, life is our ally, no matter what comes our way. And it sometimes has to use tough love to awaken us to our true selves.

“To understand is to transform what is.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein