Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Mystery of The Right

I recall coming across Buddha's Eight-Fold Path for the first time over 20 years ago----and my first thought was "What is the right thing, dammit?"

The Buddha laid out that the Eightfold Path to Liberation as consisting of such things as:

Right Livelihood
Right Thinking
Right Action &
Right Speech

....among others.

What struck me was that "right" was not so clearly defined by the Buddha. Yes, there were some guidelines such as not "making profits off of suffering" or contributing to the increase of suffering for others... and then calling it "making a decent living." However, there was not the concise outline of what I SHOULD do in any one situation in life. It was all so vague and incomplete. It left me a bit disappointed.... and even, to a degree, frustrated. What was "I" supposed to do?

Now, with a bit of age and experience under my belt I still don't have a clue. I still don't know what I am led to do in any one situation. Yes, there are these general moral guidelines that set boundaries on the array of potential choices before me, but to know specifically and exactly what I am to do in order to be "right" or "righteous" in any one moment is still as profound a mystery as it always was.

I suppose this must mean I am morally empty and have no strict ethical guidelines for conducting myself in the context of being in relationship to everyone and everything. It may mean that I have no "moral compass." Or... in another breath.... it could suggest that none of us have any assurances as to what we "should" do in any specific instance in life. Sure, we can guess.... we can do hypotheticals, too. We can also say what others "ought" to be doing based upon our rather narrow observations and understanding of their dilemmas and personal history.

Ultimately, though, maybe "right" is as mysterious and perplexing as quantum physics can be. Where the question is at least as important---if not more important---than the answer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Spirituality Is Nothing More Than Trash

There is a wonderful documentary that has recently received much fanfare and aplomb. It is about a whole society that has arisen on the outskirts of a large dump. These are families whose whole subsistence is based on going through the trash that others have thrown out. Perhaps you have seen this movie.... or heard abut it from a friend.

Recycled Life

Seeing passages of this film recently lead to me pondering how my own life has come to be based in part on the reality of finding value in what others have discarded. No. I don't live on the outskirts of a massive dump. Not yet anyways. I do, though, find a lot of value in what others have discarded and want to be rid of. In fact, I could easily suggest that my own personal heaven, and the wealth I have discovered, is completely contingent upon looking at and examining what others have considered trash---i.e., of no value to them, worthless.... mere refuse to be left out to rot.

In terms of contemporary spirituality and modern psychology there is the popular habit of attempting to only cultivate what are considered "positive" or "beneficial" attributes and states of mind. Generally, this means if it feels good then keep it. If not, throw it away.

Keep the joy and the peace and throw out the anxiety and the conflict. Keep the love and throw the anger in the trash. Keep the shiny attributes of the mind and psyche and even place them on display atop the mantle in your home. Or maybe you construct an altar loaded with the gems of spirituality. Then you can show it off to others and reveal to them what a "with it" person you are.

Yet God is in the trash, too, no? I would even suggest there is more God in the trash than in our curio cabinets and safe deposit boxes. In fact, I am going to be arrogant and say that I know this is so. Just the sheer volume of what is thrown away in the name of the "good" and "positive" suggests to us that there is more of God in the refuse than upon our altars.

This is where my own spirituality has been discovered more and more. Yes, I had my own fancy with the fanciful. I did my best to only cultivate and keep that which was deemed culturally acceptable as having value and worth. I tried to keep up with the "spiritual Jones's" by only "jonesing" for what may give others the impression that I had done well for myself with my spiritual practice. So I displayed my peace as best I could and did the love-vibe until I felt like I was holding my breath all my days with the pressure of attempting to live up to an ideal that forced me to throw away so much of my own God-given experience.

The truth is that trying to appear spiritually correct left me with this full-time job of throwing away most of me in the name of presenting to others what I was led to believe was the best of me. I was creating a lot of waste. I was throwing away jealousy and envy and anger and selfishness and when I was not throwing them away I was busy going through my psyche looking for refuse to be tossed out so I could be pure and righteous before God. Or just popular and looked at as someone who knew what the fuck he was doing.  :-)

.......... to be continued. 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Musings On The Unseen In Positive Psychology

(Some thoughts on Martin Seligman and Positive Psychology.)

He has come under increased scrutiny in the past few years by some critics of his work and the whole "Positive Psychology" movement, Duff. Sounds like he is trying to answer those critiques with such comments and statements. Maybe even putting an.... ahem, "positive" spin on those events. Irony?

I have noticed how the whole "Positive Psychology" movement has progressed along with his recent Presidency of the APA (and how that status allows him to push his agenda (and their underlying assumptions which informs his work/theses). It is as if "positive psychology" has become a new catechism and dogma within psychology as a whole. People are not looking for the holes and the blindspots in it. They are just jumping on board and Seligman has knowingly used his influence and weight to push his "baby."

For instance, the Corporate influence is huge in his work---both the money granted for studies to "prove" his theses and how Seligman then uses "positive psychology" to empower the individual (supposedly) within the Corporate structure.

My main beef is this: that Seligman derived from his studies on "learned helplessness" the exact opposite of what I personally would have.... or what I feel a sane person would. He did not look to environment. He looked to the individual and reinforced a sort of pathological individuality that I feel plagues Western Civilization and Culture as a whole. In his view it is about learning optimism in unhealthy contexts and holding to the optimism in spite of what is taking place environmentally or contextually.

Maybe this is going to far for some. Be that as it may, my view is that Seligman and the Positive Psychology movement, in general, have this faulty assumption at their CORE which makes a destructive and unhealthy environment an individual dilemma. Just learn optimism. Just gain some personal empowerment and learn optimism in a culture and civilization that randomly shocks you, that electro-convusively disempowers individuals in order to see who it is that can learn optimism and those who can't.

He did not seem to notice that it was and is the environment (it's health or toxicity) that was and is the larger and more glaring issue. It was not the monkeys that were the problem/solution.... it was the larger nexus created by the culture of the military-industrial-corporate complex. That a few random monkeys could learn a few tricks to seemingly thrive in a hellacious situation is meaningless. The fact that we perpetuate such climates and conditions and that we would think learning optimism would be the "solution" smacks of the worst kind of insanity I can imagine, Duff. It is an upside-down view of the world with an upside-down solution provided. That it works for a few random individuals, to me, is pointless and beside-the-point.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Imagine the distance 
back to your suffering:
travel as an opportunity
to love back into 
the community of your heart 
those tender aspects 
of your own world 
in their fragile essence 
the piercing sting 
innumerable sensitivities 
perpetrated by those 
who abandoned themselves.

"You are too sensitive,"
 the chorus resounds--
as if being insensitive were somehow
more fitting and functional
in a world were the threads
connecting our senses to our
sensitivities and ultimately 
our capacity to be sentient
have been forsaken.

They might as well say
"You are too aware,"
"You are affected by what
you need to numb yourself to."

The subtle pressure to be insentient
in this world is not always so subtle
Sensitivity can be pummeled and beat into
submission like it were hot iron ore and not 
the radiant flower it once was in our youth.

We learn how to be tough and hardened---
as if this were learning and not the cruel adaptation
whose price is a vital loss of that foundation 
upon which valid insight forever rests.

This is when I hear that other chorus 
beginning to rise, the one that takes us deep 
into what we know is truer, that,
"You are too insensitive."

We are not sensitive enough. 
We need to become more sensitive,
otherwise we are destined to be the 
pawns and puppets of our own
self-reinforcing ignorance and stupidity.

Feel everything and let it fill
your raw nerves with the news of the 
day and the secrets of the night.

Feel and let those sensitivities
carry you to your destiny
as one of the ones who knows
they are too sensitive and yet
not sensitive enough. 

Feel your way to 
understanding the consequences
of history's misunderstandings
and trust that those feelings
will foster us a future where 
sensitivity is fully realized 
as the essential basis for
knowledge that has a heart.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hero Myth & Our Triumphant Suffering

How noble is the one who pushes through pain and overcomes great obstacles? in spite of  the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?" Unyielding in the face of suffering, such a heroic figure seems to suggest that there is glory in not bending to the voices of suffering that echo inside of us. These figures are upheld throughout the ages as exemplars of human nobility---of the greatest that we are each capable of, of what we all should aspire to. 

And yet, it appears that there is more to the story.

I cannot help but wonder what kind of world we create when suffering's voice is merely a sound that we feel compelled to overcome all the time. I wonder what kind of a society we encourage when suffering is seen as merely a personal struggle that each and everyone of us should find the steely resolve to be triumphant over. Do we unwittingly create a society that is hardened to care and compassion in relation to suffering and its many shades and timbres? Do we create a culture where suffering has no value except as a weight that the force of our personal will is supposed to uphold day after day? Do we maybe create---subtly, over time--a world indifferent to the various calls and claims that suffering makes upon us , if for no other reason than because our preferred mythology has been that suffering is what heroes and heroines overcome, and that is all suffering is good for---another mountain to climb and conquer?

When suffering is merely that which is to be conquered by our will, by our technology, by our spirituality and metaphysics what do we miss in viewing suffering so narrowly? And what do we create, inevitably, as a result of so narrow a view of suffering's continued presence in our many realms and worlds?

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Origins of Our Ancestors

The question of our own origins appears to remain a profound mystery. Where we come from is a point debated by scientists and religious scholars alike. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Many defer to authourity on the matter. They believe what the Priest says, and take it on faith. Or maybe it is an Omar or Mullah, a Mystic or a Medicine-Man that gives us the answers we possess as our own on the question of our origins. 

I wonder what we miss out on when the depth of our questioning goes so deep. Maybe we miss out on the origins that are near to us---and, in many ways, dearer.

Do we overlook the immediate as our gaze extends out to the farthest horizon? Is the matter of our religious origins a topic that can actually result in our overlooking what we can know?

We know that we come from Mothers. Each and everyone of us. There is no one who is able to read this who did not come from a Mother..... and a Father. Whether we know them, love them, despise them, revile them, rejoice in them the fact stills remains: we are rooted deep in the soil of Mothers and Fathers.

Certainly we can follow this thread of Mothers and Fathers back as far as our stories can travel. We can do genealogical research into the origins of Mother and Fathers until we arrive at what exactly? Apes? Planets? Stars? Primordial Soup? Interstellar dust? How quickly we lose the thread.

Science tells the story of our Mothers and Fathers in terms of inherited traits and the inevitable mutations brought on by sexual reproduction, whereby we each are part Mother/part Father. Wrestle with this as much as we like we are this once in a lifetime medley of all the Mothers and Fathers who preceded us. We are the connections made. We are the connections being made right now. We are this unraveling thread of heredity and inheritance that extends back to a time before time. The thread disappears into a slippery void out of which not even our voices seem to echo back at us.

Which brings me to what I wanted to share today: Respect thy Mother and Father. I believe this is a commandment in some book or other. Maybe you know the name of it. Apparently, this commandment is up near the top of the list. Not that we are prioritizing here. :) Or maybe we are. Maybe this business about "Respect thy Mother and Father" has little to do with obedience and other such assumptions. Maybe it is just another way of saying, "Respect your lineage. Respect your heritage. Respect your ancestry. Respect your origins."

What is our heritage and ancestry and lineage if not life itself? There is really no separation from our own unique heritage and what life is. Life is heritage. Life is ancestry and origins. The continuation of existence in all of its forms is the story of these lineages and ancestries and inheritances.

It could suggest to us that respecting our origins is synonymous with respecting our self. They are inseparable and indivisible, after all. We did not emerge apart from them. It is the same as respecting life. The tenuous and tenacious story of life's survival has found its pinnacle of success in us... in each of us.... in all of us. <3 

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Perhaps There's No Denying It: We're Wired For Denial. Wait.... That Doesn't Make Sense???

How's that for a "catchy" title that just grabs you? Of course, if we are made for denial then it only stands to reason that we will probably end up denying that we actually are. The denial of our states of denial.

So what lead to this stunning revelation? Not that it is actually stunning, or a revelation, at all. So many have commented on the seemingly all-encompassing nature of denial, from Freud to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And if you have ever been married and asked your spouse "What's wrong?" and heard the terse reply, "Nothing," then you, too, know all too well just how prevalent denial is ... and can be.

Isn't it interesting how we assume we can avoid certain facts---like the fact that something is clearly bothering us---by wishing it away. If we just don't admit it then it won't exist. Meanwhile, someone who knows us well from years of engagement with us know without a doubt that something is bothering us. Apparently a something that is actually nothing.

Or is it? I have been a Father for just over 6 years now and I would like to think by this point I know when my son is tired. I even ask him if he is on occasion. "No I'm not!" is often the response I receive from him. Followed by him zonking off within 30 seconds of him denying the fact that he was tired. Yeah, he was not tired at all. It happened and came over him just like that. 

So where does this built-in predilection for denial come in? How do we come upon it? Is a lot of the self-help and contemporary spiritual literature perhaps indebted to this built-in predilection for denial---i.e., so many ways of saying we are not tired when we are, that we are not sad, that nothing is bothering us when clearly this is not the case?

It seems to me that while we can fight off sleep for a little while through our tenacious denial of an encroaching reality eventually that reality wins out. Eventually we fall asleep. Eventually we end up at the marriage counselour's office!

"What's wrong, Honey?"

"Nothing, dammit. Would you leave me alone. I told you nothing is bothering me. Now please, for the love of God, don't ask me again."

So much for NOT being bothered by anything and NOT being tired, eh? Denial might win a battle or two but it has always already lost the War. And I suspect knowing this won't change you or I from denying our tiredness, our turmoil, our trials and tribulations. It's probably a given that having this instinctive capacity for denial means that we will deny that we do.

"I'm ok. Really. Nothing is bothering me. I swear."