Do We Change The World Or Accept It

February 26th, 2007

Surrendering to the moment is a very important teaching. Learning to accept what is, is one of the fundamentals of growing spiritually. So if acceptance is fundamental to this teaching, then why do all these teachers want to change what is? Why are they unable or unwilling to accept the world in its perfection exactly as it is? Teaching is asking people to be different than they are. Why don’t all the teachers just accept the current state of understanding and move on?

This is a really great question, and points out a large logic problem with all this teaching business, and what enlightenment means. Do we want to change the world, or learn to accept it? The answer really is both. And the important clarification is the misunderstanding that to become enlightened is to blindly accept everything. That is not necessarily what enlightenment, or growth is about. Accepting absolutely everything would leave us motionless. That idea of stillness is an illusion. To a mind that is trying to manage state experience only, that would make perfect sense, and hence be a very attractive thing to try to attain. But that attraction is the same attachment that’s in any other form of desire. So what is this growth or enlightenment we’re talking about?

Integral theory and spiral dynamics talk about the difference between states and stages. And while a full explanation of the difference is beyond today’s talk, I will say that we are definitely trying for deeper states of consciousness, but also (and possibly more importantly) higher stages of development. Each stage is a level of attachment. It is a set of beliefs, or a paradigm that we walk through and act from. So the idea is not that we are trying to stay peaceful, or joyful, or happy all the time (which would be a state experience only, and doesn’t happen), but rather we are trying to walk through these larger stages of development (which would lead to more and more wisdom, durability, capability, and hence better state management as well). We try to become identified with larger and larger portions of reality.

So no matter what stage we’re currently identified with, what can we do to work within this paradox? At what point is our own attachment to change, or to an idea of something better, a problem? It is compassionate when we want to help someone else with their pain. But we begin to get lost when we insist on their growth or begin to get attached to it. Work to explain things you understand to those who don’t understand it, but don’t get attached to the outcome. Be mindful of your attachments, especially when they are masked with change for the “good” of something. Change and creation is always occurring with or without our intention. Be involved in that change to whatever degree you want to be, but know that acceptance is always available to you, and use it well. We have the ability to change what is (the external), but we also have the ability to change instead what we are (the internal) to acceptance.

Referenced: Integral Theory

Fearlessly Feeling Fear

February 17th, 2007

A teenage boy just heard that Tommy wants to fight him in the schoolyard. He feels fear, but it’s not OK to feel fear. He’s supposed to be a man. He’s supposed to be tough. Or at least that’s what his belief system is telling him.

A woman in college was raised Christian and believes we should all love one another. But someone named Maggie just was hitting on her boyfriend. Anger starts to rise up in this woman, but it’s not OK to be angry because of her beliefs. So she feels anxious and get a second level of emotion because of the conflict of the first emotion, anger. It wasn’t OK to feel the way she felt.

Let’s take it away from a belief based idea. Let’s just say that we don’t like feeling fear, or sadness, or anger. I get scared and I don’t like the way it feels. It’s not OK to feel the way I feel. Once, for whatever reason, it’s not OK to be who I am or feel how I feel, I am in trouble.

This talk is about that second level of emotions. When we feel something and that feeling is not OK. When we feel fear and we don’t want to feel fear. The added anxiety and discomfort that we add to what we feel. This talk relates to beliefs, emotions, and surrender. All our feelings and emotions are necessary. Emotions are the language to tell us how we are relating to our situation and circumstance all the time. And yet it takes courage to feel what we feel sometimes.

Some teachings say we should try to transcend emotions. Some say we need to endlessly honor emotions. I say doing both is really important. We must investigate the self that’s feeling the feelings. It could need to adjust it’s beliefs and hence, change itself. But we also need to really feel what we are feeling.

The worst thing I see in people, and myself, is when we resist what is. When I am resisting life, I am deeply unhappy. When I accept what is, I can face anything. I can fearlessly feel fear. Whenever I choose to spend my time wanting what is not, rather than appreciating what is, I’m lost. The practice is to become aware that we are fighting this moment, and to drop that critique. We can feel fear, and not want to be anything else. We can be sad, and fully feel it without running away. When we do that we open ourselves to the joy underneath.

From Clutter to Clarity

February 6th, 2007

External clutter is linked to your internal state of mind. Ownership of things is part of what the self is trying to accomplish. It feels bigger and more important when it has more.

Because of this, we tend to let things define us. This is one of the problems of finding true happiness. Things decay. Nothing but change is permanent. Your car gets scratches. You kitten grows up. Your clothes gets stains or get worn out. A large part of us ends up attached to the identity of these things in our lives. But you are not only your car. You are not only your possessions. Understanding that tendency of self is very important. And rethinking our relationship to the things in our life can be very freeing.

I mention this to point out that our self is directly related to the things in our life. Self likes things. If growing your self is important (which it sometimes is for damaged people, like homeless people), then growing your things may be important as well. But if softening your attachment to self is important, then freeing yourself of things to some degree, or at least organizing them into what you really care about becomes very important.

Again, the external world represents our internal world. The busier we are in the mind, the busier our lives will look from an organizational perspective. Ultimately, it’s nice to have an accurate and orderly representation of our lives. But why is dealing with things and clutter so hard?

Many times it’s because of something called approach avoidance. We end up wanting to clean our clutter, but when we get close enough to see it, there is some pain associated with it and so we move on. We don’t want to clear our clutter because it is often too hard to deal with what that clutter represents emotionally. Often times we don’t see this consciously. That unconscious energy can be deeply draining.

This avoidance can come from pain, sadness, anger, or confusion. It could also be from apathy. You may like your stuff where it is, and if you do, that’s great. But if you don’t, then try to turn into the avoidance with commitment and courage. Once you clear some clutter, take note of how it makes you feel. That energy and clarity is powerful, and shows us that we’re much more in relation with the world than our mind would lead us to believe. We are not as separate from our things as we thought.