The Seeker of Peace

Thanks for Nothing
November 26, 2008, 7:42 am
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality, World | Tags: , , ,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. For a few years now, I’ve tried to incorporate gratitude as a regular part of my life. I used to keep a thankfulness journal, where I would weekly write down things for which I was thankful. Every night, when my family sits down for dinner, we hold hands and take a moment to each mention something that happened that day for which we’re thankful.

However, as we come up on the biggest celebration of gratitude for the year, I find myself questioning the approach. Isn’t being thankful for things just another form of judgment? We are thankful for things because we’ve judged them to be good. How often do we say we’re grateful for an illness, or thankful that someone insulted us, or happy for an unexpected expensive car repair?

This year, I’ve come to see cataloging the “good” things in my life as yet another form of ego reinforcement. I’m trying to shed my beliefs and love what is. But decreeing aspects of my life as worthy of gratitude implicitly designates other aspects as negative.

I see a parallel with interpersonal relationships. A Course In Miracles distinguishes between “special relationships” based on ego and judgment, and “holy relationships” that are free from judgment. My previous approach to thankfulness was like a special relationship with life itself. Loving what is, as Byron Katie does, seems more like a holy relationship with life.

Thus, this Thanksgiving, I’m going to be thankful for nothing. I mean that in the positive sense, just like being happy for no reason or loving everyone just because they’re fellow people. I’ll try to be as thankful for my chronic illness as I am for my wonderful family. I’ll try to be as thankful for my challenges at work as I am for having a warm home and food to eat.

After all, if I need something to be thankful for, I’m still looking to the external world for my happiness. So, this Thanksgiving, I’ll be giving a deep and profound thanks for nothing.


Writing with God?
November 21, 2008, 2:21 pm
Filed under: God, Suffering, World | Tags: , ,

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I was waiting for God to give me guidance on what to do. Two days ago, I wrote about my lack of passion about my job. With the stock market hitting a five-year low yesterday (something that directly impacts my job as a money manager), it’s been especially hard for me to find peace at work.

I’ve read of people who were unable to hear God’s voice in their head, but were able to get advice through the mechanism of free writing. For those unfamiliar with it, this is simply the process of sitting down with pen and paper, and writing whatever comes without thought or censorship.

My first few lines were clearly my thoughts. They sounded like me, and were written in the first person. Then the text abruptly changed to being in the second person, and started sounding like something out of A Course In Miracles. I wrote:

Do not confuse worldly deeds with function. Any deeds can be an expression of love. The world is merely illusion, whereas love is real.

You seek a decision, but there is no decision to be made regarding your job. Stay or quit, the outcome is the same. Rather, your decision is one of happiness versus despair. Choose happiness, and your job will be a source of happiness. This must be so, as the job merely reflects either God’s reality or the ego’s illusions.

What do you seek from your job? Approval, control, security? None of these exist within an occupation. They are the birthright of a child of God, already yours, hidden by the ego’s delusions.

I was hoping for more, but my writing stopped with a sense of finality. I guess it answers the question. Even if I were to leave my job, what would I do? Some other job, where I would seek to get approval, control, and security through my work? I’ve been seeking those in my work for many years now, and I have to agree that they’re not there to be found. This verifies what I wrote earlier, that no matter what my job, I need to bring the happiness to it.

I guess the last question is whether this was really a message from God, or just the wisdom of my subconscious. I’m trying to take the same approach as I did a month ago: it just doesn’t matter. Maybe God communicates with me this way rather than vocally because it leaves more room for ambiguity, and is thus easier for me to accept.

Purpose and Passion
November 19, 2008, 8:41 am
Filed under: spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

For a long time, I’ve been searching for a purpose for my life. I’ve read many stories of people who knew from an early age exactly what they wanted to do. When I made my career change from software to investments a few years ago, I used the book The Pathfinder. The author, Nicholas Lore, describes his passion for career counseling, and encourages others to do work they’re truly passionate about.

Lore, like many other well-meaning sources, suggested that if I found just the right work, work would be like play. The hardships and challenges wouldn’t seem so bad if I were passionate about my work. Work would be an integral part of my life, not just a job. In short, finding the right purpose would make me happy.

I managed to believe this despite my increasing frustration with my software career. I loved software as a youth, and programmed for fun. When I started doing it for pay, I could bring an energy to it that made highly successful. That didn’t stop it from growing old after a couple of decades. I convinced myself that that hadn’t been my passion, and I just needed to search further.

Unfortunately, my new job, while interesting and rewarding, hasn’t been a magical panacea to make me happy either. The more I think about it, the more the whole idea of “finding a purpose” based on my passion seems like a very ego-driven exercise. After all, how much more extremely judgmental can you get than having your ego pick your passion for you?

I tried the alternate approach of asking God for guidance in my career. As I wrote last week, that didn’t work. Yet I felt it was wrong to go through another ego-centric exercise to consider yet another career change.

Now, I’m wondering whether the “purpose with a passion” idea even has merit. There are several lessons in the Workbook of A Course in Miracles that equate “my function” with happiness. That made me wonder if the cause and effect are reversed: perhaps those people who find happiness are able to bring passion to their work, rather than passion for the work making them happy.

I’ve been trying for several days now to see my purpose as being simply to bring peace and happiness to those around me. That’s not easy. Taken seriously, it means not complaining, not attacking, not whining, and not doing all the other things that bring others down. I’m failing at it frequently, as old habits are hard to break. But, I’m getting better with practice.

My hope (which I’m trying hard not to turn into a belief or expectation) is that this approach will ultimately render the question moot. If I can make others happy, and am happy myself, does it really matter what I’m doing for my job? And maybe, at that point, things will just work themselves out with my career without any need for me to make another ego-based decision.

Believing in God
November 15, 2008, 3:30 pm
Filed under: God, spirituality | Tags: , , , , , ,

I wrote on Thursday about how I’ve been trying to control my relationship with God. I realized yesterday that the problem goes deeper than that.

As a long-time atheist, I’ve found it hard to give up my belief that God doesn’t exist. I have thus been working hard to believe in God, specifically one that could give me support and guidance. I just realized what a trap that is.

Coincidentally, yesterday was exactly one month after I wrote my post on religion vs. spirituality. I’ve been trying to instill a new belief system. I’ve been trying to do this despite my realization that all beliefs are counterproductive.

Creating a belief in God isn’t the answer. Succeeding at that would simply create a new basis for me to judge what is happening. I’ve known plenty of theists who were deeply unhappy – judging from within a theist framework isn’t any different from judging from within an atheistic one.

Yes, I need to let go of my atheistic beliefs. However, I need to move from there to knowing truth rather than creating new beliefs. If there’s a God along the lines described in A Course In Miracles, He should make himself visible to an open mind. The Course says that you don’t need to believe anything to benefit from the workbook exercises. I’d go further and say that believing anything is an impediment.

This is actually a big relief. It’s a lot of work to create a belief in God, set expectations based on that belief, and then judge God! It just goes to show what the ego can do, given a chance.

Controlling God
November 13, 2008, 10:18 am
Filed under: God, spirituality | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been frustrated for some time by my inability to speak to God, get “signs,” or otherwise get clear divine guidance. I’ve read so many stories of people who can ask God for advice and get a response. I’ve been diligently asking, so why not me?

Yesterday, I received what may have been an answer. Hale Dwoskin runs monthly support calls for graduates of the Sedona Method. I rarely listen to these, but yesterday I had the unusual urge to download the latest recording and listen to it while preparing lunch.

One of the callers was asking for relationship advice. Hale pointed out that the caller was trying to control the relationship. He made the comment that when you try to speed up a relationship, you wind up slowing it down. That comment struck me very hard.

I’ve been trying to control my relationship with God, dictating what I want and making clear my expectations (clear advice, etc.). There’s something inherently paradoxical in saying, “Dear God, I want to surrender to your will. So, give me clear guidance, and I want it now!”

Part of the problem is that I’ve been trying to make myself believe in God. I’ve been trying to create a degree of faith to support this belief. I’ve fallen into the trap of being religious instead of spiritual. What an ego trap! I’ve deliberately put energy into creating a new belief that allows me to judge my relationship with God.

I don’t know if I’ll get the clear guidance that I’m looking for. (And, maybe, my sudden inclination to listen to Hale’s call was clear guidance.) What I do know is that, if there is a God, trying to judge and control our relationship won’t help me.

Unbalanced Beliefs
November 11, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, Suffering, World | Tags: , ,

I wrote yesterday about the great progress I had made on my health goal: I no longer held the destructive belief that my life would be better if I were healthy.

Later in the day, I found myself breaking down crying while talking to my wife about my job. The problem is that much of what I’ve done around my job was not because it gave me pleasure in the moment. Rather, it was investing for the mythical great career I would have when my illness went into remission.

Put another way, I have a set of beliefs about my career. These beliefs were dependent on, or at least intertwined with, my belief about my health. When I got past my health belief, it was like sawing a leg off a table: it destabilized everything.

I’m trying to see this as a gift: I can’t think of any clearer sign I could possibly receive of what I need to work on next. Also, it helps explain why I’ve made so little progress on releasing job issues to date; I couldn’t see the issues clearly through the judgment of my health-related beliefs.

I probably have a lot more beliefs to unravel. For now, it seems best to focus on the one that’s staring me in the face. My job has been a problem (emotionally speaking) for a long time. It’s time to finally pay attention to how I’ve been judging it.

Goal Progress
November 10, 2008, 10:37 am
Filed under: Non-duality, Suffering, World | Tags: , , , , , ,

I wrote a few days ago about my health goal, and the belief behind it. I believed that my life would be better if I were healthy.

I’m very happy to say that I no longer believe that’s true. Combining Byron Katie’s The Work and the Sedona Method has let me free myself of the grip of that belief. As I realized weeks ago, no belief is helpful, and this one was no different.

I see now how destructive my belief was. In many ways, I’ve been deferring living my life, because supposedly things would be easier once I was healthy. I’ve been judging my life overly harshly, minimizing many good things; after all, things can’t be that great if I’m sick, right? I’ve even hesitated from taking some actions that could make me feel better, because I didn’t want to “get into the habit” of being sick.

If a magic genie offered to heal me, I’d still take the offer. However, I’m not emotionally vested in it anymore. I can’t know for sure that life would be better that way. What I do know for sure is that my life is better now that I’ve accepted reality.

I almost broke into tears as I realized how much freer I am now. I’ve spent 15 years fighting my illness – what a waste of energy! (My ego almost tricked me into beating myself up about it, rather than celebrating the progress.)

This is the first time I’ve felt “hootless” about a goal. I can finally understand how someone can just put a seemingly important goal aside. It’s because the goal really doesn’t matter. Our inner peace is available whether a goal manifests or not.

I’ve come full circle now to the post I wrote several weeks ago, seeing a dilemma in goals. Having goals is counterproductive to inner peace. I understand now why Lester Levenson said it was so important to work on goals. It wasn’t so that we could get our goals to satisfy our egos. Rather, it was because getting hootless on the goal dissolves the belief that we need it to be happy.

It’s too bad that the Sedona Method goal process didn’t work for me. I’m just thrilled that I found an approach that does work. Maybe my health will actually manifest now – it’s still amazing to me that I don’t care whether it does or not.