Sunday, May 31, 2015

How to Achieve Permanent Happiness

Sometimes I feel like a marathon runner who forgot where the finish line is. It's like blackberries growing on the side of the course distracted me and I decided to veer off to pick them. But then my hands got sticky so I had to find some water to wash them off with. And then while looking for water, I found a lake and decided to take a swim, and by that point the finish line is a distant memory.

Doesn't life seem like that sometimes? To paraphrase Elbert Hubbard, one damn thing after another? I keep chasing after one thing or another thinking it will make me happy, but it never does. Or I'm happy for about five seconds and then it's on to the next thing. I am on a search for infinite happiness. I've been sampling the goodies Earth has to offer and infinite, unlimited happiness ain't here because by definition everything on Earth is limited and finite. This is why people turn to spirituality in the first place, we are craving mind-blowing bliss of a permanent nature. How do I find that? Especially when there are so many cool things to savor? It's easy to get distracted, I mean, just look at those blackberry bushes.

I don't know why this pictures says, "permanent happiness" to me, but it does.

Some people say the way to no longer get distracted by the world is to withdraw from it. Go to a cave or a cabin in the woods with no wifi or cellphone service. Meditate all day long and immerse yourself in thinking about God. I don't know about you, but after a week of that, I start to go stir crazy. In the words of my father, I become “bored out of my gourd.” There are so many cool things in the world! I don't want to shut myself off from everything and everyone. Doesn't sound very fun to me.

This dovetails into the post I wrote last week about the the reincarnation merry-go-round. I said the only way to get off the ride is by making everything the divine, because that way we're like Teflon – nothing sticks to us. We don't incur the consequences of any actions negative or positive. For instance, when I eat an apple think, “I am eating God in the form of this apple.” That way I'm savoring all that the world has to offer, but I'm not getting caught up in it. I'm not getting distracted or swerving off course from my ultimate goal of merger with the divine.

This concept is what I believe the Bible verse means in 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” What we're striving for is remembering what the true form and the true source of everything is.

I can count the times I've been able to accomplish this task on one hand. It's hard, yo, but when I've been able to feel into it, to really know the apple I'm eating is God in the form of this apple, wow. Incredible. Amazing. What I love about this practice is instead of making bliss and enlightenment a future goal, something that happens to me down the road, I'm doing it now. I'm immersing myself in the cosmic ocean and swimming in it this very moment.

To recap, making everything the divine, or the divine in the form of an object, not only stops the reincarnation cycle, but also ensures I'm still on the path toward my goal AND experiencing bliss along the way. I'd call that a win.

I dream of a world where we're all able to experience bliss. A world where we're able to feel everything comes from the divine and is the divine. A world where we make enlightenment a current goal. A world where we chase after what will make us happy permanently.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Reincarnation Merry-Go-Round

Reincarnation is a belief system that makes sense to me; it fits in with the experiences I've had and the people I've met. Sometimes I meet someone and our connection is instantaneous, as if we've known each other before. And I've visited places where my feet seemed to know the way even if my brain didn't, which suggests to me I've been there before in another life.

Reincarnation seems to me like a merry-go-round: I'm born, I live, I die. I'm born, I live, I die. On and on it goes. Death is like changing to a different horse – the circumstances are a bit different, but I'm still on the merry-go-round. I'm starting to think I'd like to get off the ride and try something new. But if death is not an exit strategy, just a chance to change horses, what to do?

I couldn't find a merry-go-round, but this is pretty close.
I couldn't find a merry-go-round but this is pretty close.

According to the spiritual philosophy I've read,the only thing to do is to stop taking ownership for everything and make it about God/Brahma/Source/the divine. Instead of thinking, “I'm browsing the internet,” think, “The divine is browsing the internet.” I know, this is where my merry-go-round analogy falls apart, but what I'm trying to say, is instead of making everything about me, I have to make everything about God if I want to get out of the cycle of reincarnation. And that means everything, which already fits in with the notion I wrote about that everything contains consciousness.

It means God is the one typing this blogpost, it means God is the one reading this blogpost, it means God is this blogpost. I can't take credit for any of my actions because as soon as I identify with my ego, that means for better or for worse I have to undergo the consequences and repercussions. Sometimes the consequences are pretty cool, like winning an award, but if the goal of my life is really to dance with the divine and stop the reincarnation cycle, then I don't want any consequences from my actions either negative or positive.

There's a pretty popular Sanskrit chant/mantra that sums this up well. Some people chant it before eating or when they get out of the shower. The translation is:

Salutations to the ancestors, salutations to inventors. The act of offering is Brahma; that which is offered is Brahma; the one to whom the offering is made is Brahma; and the person making the offering is Brahma. One will merge in Brahma after completing the duty assigned to him/her by Brahma.
I know that's a lot of the word “Brahma.” Like I said to my dad yesterday, don't get hung up on the word. Find one that resonates. For me, right now, saying Brahma doesn't mean much. But if I say everything is God or the divine, that works better. The point is to start to get out of my own head a little and recognize the world is a bigger, broader place than what I realize. And also not to take things so seriously because instead, I recognize I'm an instrument. Life isn't about me and my happiness, it's about what can be worked through me. When I start to view things from that perspective, I'm closer to getting off the merry-go-round.

I dream of a world where we set our egos aside. A world where we let ourselves be instruments. A world where we make everything about the divine. A world where we stop accumulating actions and reactions and finally get off the reincarnation merry-go-round.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reverence for Everything

One of the things that's been bugging me is the disposable nature of the goods our society makes. Appliances aren't built to last anymore, they're built to break, because if something breaks then we'll buy another one.

A few years ago I had to return a cable box or internet router, something like that, to AT&T. The UPS store THREW AWAY perfectly good power chargers and cables because AT&T doesn't take them back. That means working, functional cords and cables end up in a landfill. I'm angry just thinking about it. Where is the reverence for life? Why aren't we holding inanimate objects as sacred? Should inanimate even be sacred? Is something only sacred if it has a soul? Do inanimate objects have a soul?

When I stare into the eyes of something living and breathing, like a cat, it's easy to say, “Yes, this creature has a soul.” But what about something like a rock? Or something man-made like concrete?

Right now I'm trying to hold everything as sacred.
Right now I'm trying to hold everything as sacred.

In my quest for the answer, I turned to the work of my spiritual teacher, who seems to have written about everything. He said there are two components to everything in the world: consciousness and Prakriti. Prakriti is a Sanskrit word that has no English equivalent but is similar to nature, or creation. Prakriti has to use consciousness to create anything; it's the basic building block for all of life. It's like a sculptor using clay to mold different shapes: The clay becomes a pot, a vase, a cow, but its origination is still clay.

Obviously there's a difference between a cat and a calla lily (many differences, actually) and part of that difference according to my spiritual teacher, is the exertion of Prakriti. When the force of Prakriti is strong, the creation becomes more dense or crude. When the force of Prakriti is weaker, the creation becomes more light or subtle. If I'm maintaining my clay analogy here, Prakriti can be likened to soil and consciousness to water. The more Prakriti, the more soil, the thicker the clay. The more consciousness, the more water, the thinner the clay. A rock is very crude and dense so it has more Prakriti than consciousness, but it still has consciousness.

If a rock has consciousness, what does that mean for us? For me, yesterday as I walked down the street, my feet pounding the pavement, it meant the world took on a different hue. It meant I starting thinking about how concrete has a consciousness. How everything around me is sacred and an expression of consciousness/source/the divine. No longer is a piece of cardboard a meaningless bit of disposable packaging, but instead something more precious that it pains me to toss away so easily. Everything suddenly becomes more valuable and something I want to express my reverence for.

I'm not sure I can articulate what I mean, but there's something about knowing that the keys upon which I type have consciousness that makes the experience more transcendent and special. It brings out the caretaker in me who wants to make sure every object is used to its fullest capacity. It changes my mindset from, “I can throw this away and always get another one,” to, “I want to cherish and reuse this for as long as I can.”

I dream of a world where we all have a reverence for everything. A world where we treat ourselves and everything around us as sacred. A world where we cherish each and every thing in the known universe because we recognize it, too, has consciousness.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Goal of Life

The post I wrote last week about chasing likes made me question everything else in my life. Where am I headed? What is it I hold dear, and what, exactly is the goal of my life? Up until this week, I would say I've had a foot each on two different horses. One horse is headed toward self-realization and service to humanity. The other horse is headed toward name and fame, wealth, love, and making money doing what I love.

When I realized accolades and accomplishments don't have any lasting effect, that they don't make me happy for long, I started to wonder about the other things I've been chasing after. What about the desire to be a best-selling author? Or to find a great love? Or to make a living writing and talking about spirituality? That last one could turn into a whole separate blogpost, but for now, all I'll say is I've realized I don't have to monetize everything in order for it to be valuable.

Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to see this in person, but should that be the goal of my life?
Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to see this in person, but should that be the goal of my life?

What about all those once-in-a-lifetime experiences? All the places I've traveled to? Is that the goal of my life? Should it be? Chasing experience after experience? My dear friend Amal Jacobson discussed this in an essay he wrote about such an experience. He said, “But what did it all amount to? Experiences I could pocket away like fashion accessories? Something I could uselessly recount to somebody someday as proof that I had lived?” That's been the case for me. When I want to seem exciting and interesting I'll trot out a travel story, or casually mention that time I did whatever. But for what? As proof I lived?

I'm going to quote the great bard himself, William Shakespeare, who said:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
In the end, the things I've longed for will crumble into dust. My life is but a brief candle, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing unless I change which horse I'm riding. I'm coming to the same conclusion as Jim Carrey who said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it's not the answer.” I think you're right Jim, those things are not the answer. Infinite happiness does not come from finite objects, it can only come from something infinite. That something is God/cosmic consciousness/brahma/higher power/source – an entity with many names. I will gladly accept blessings along the way such as a great love, but I can no longer make finite things the goal of my life.

It's become clear to me that the goal of my life is to merge with the Supreme and to help others along the way. To be of service in any way I can, but to recognize first and foremost I am an instrument. I am a finite self looking for an infinite Self and nothing short of that will give me the infinite happiness I seek. I get glimpses of infinity when I meditate – not all the time, but enough to assure me I'm headed in the right direction. I have that wish for others too.

I dream of a world where we all take a look at what the goal of our lives is. A world where we recognize what will give us the happiness we truly seek. A world where we each dance with the divine and awaken the spirit within.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Chasing Likes

I had an interesting experience this week where I decided nobody cares what I write, that the content I put out in the world has no value, and therefore I should stop writing and delete my blog altogether. Nevermind that earlier this week a friend told me unsolicited she liked my post on perfectionism. If I'm not getting a thousand likes on facebook, hundreds of retweets, and a million page views, there's no point.

Let's be real here: I've been chasing likes and placing all of my validation in the external world. My life is setup for it because as a journalist, I measure the success of a story by its page views and popularity. The trouble is, this blog is not like other blogs, and my reason for writing week after week is not to garner a million page views, but because I'm working through stuff and want to share my experiences with others. Part therapy, part service, this blog is not a money-making endeavor and when I use the normal yardsticks of other blogs, of course I and my writing will fall short.

I chase likes the way birds chase prey.
I chase likes the way birds chase prey. 

What's interesting to note is that even when people tell me they enjoy my writing or a particular post, it goes in one ear and out the other, which is what happened today. I appreciate the comments, they're gratifying, but they don't stick. Clearly, even a bottomless pit of adulation wouldn't satisfy me because there's something else going on here. I'm pretty sure that “something else” is me, and how I'm feeling about my writing.

I've noticed when I feel good about anything – an article, an outfit, baking cookies – I don't care if other people like it because I'm self-satisfied. When I'm self-satisfied, compliments stick like Velcro because they affirm something I already think, and criticisms slide off like Teflon because I don't believe them to be true.

What I'm saying here in a long-winded way is if I'm constantly checking facebook to see if people liked a post, or if I'm becoming too concerned with page views on my personal projects, it means something else is going on. It means I'm giving other people the power to tell me what my worth is. It means I'm letting my self-esteem ride on whether or not people can be bothered to show they “like” something. That's a little bit kooky.

I'm not sure what else to say other than that. How can my precious self be measured and quantified? How can I boil my being down to an electronic interaction? When I think about the people in my life, I would say it's absurd to believe their worth is dependent on how many likes they generate on facebook. Now I need to start doing the same for me.

I dream of a world where we know our worth is independent of outside factors and other people. A world where instead of chasing likes we're catching self-love. A world where we realize we are precious, invaluable, and loved beyond measure. A world where we realize our self-worth cannot be quantified.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.