The Seeker of Peace


Valuation Analysis
February 15, 2009, 11:10 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality | Tags: , , , ,

In my training as a financial analyst, a key component is valuation analysis. This is the discipline of figuring what a stock, bond, company, or other asset is worth. As you might imagine, there are many nuances, and different analysts will often come up with wildly divergent answers. The same thing seems true in other areas of garbage, as exemplified by the old saying, “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”

This occurred to me when I was doing A Course In Miracles lesson #133, “I will not value what is valueless.” If people disagree over the value of something, its value can’t be eternal. That’s a good reminder not to become too caught up in the material world.

As the day progressed, I realized that I was valuing some of my memories as much as anything material. I’m not talking about cherished memories here: the awful boss I had in 1996, the high school P.E. class I took, and similar slights. I hadn’t realized before how much such memories pop unbidden into my mind, so I can relive the experience and feel superior, victimized, or angry.

What is the value of a bedwetting memory from when I was five? From the way I clutch at them, you would think it provided some bedrock to my character. It certainly provides grist for the ego, which is arguably a liability rather than an asset. Are these memories compatible with inner peace? If not, they are truly valueless.

This lesson was a big wake-up call. After a year and a half of doing the Sedona Method, I thought I had let go of much of my garbage. Now, I see how much I’m still holding on to garbage. I’m pretty sure that, in this case, my garbage is not another man’s treasure.



Deserving Happiness
January 15, 2009, 11:56 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , ,

When I use the Sedona Method to work on a goal, I invariably have the thought “I don’t deserve it.” Why not? The answer goes back to the guilt and shame I feel over my past – as if punishing myself for past deeds will somehow help.

I had some new insight into this, thanks to A Course in Miracles. I wrote a few weeks ago about the lesson, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” I realized that giving peace and joy to others created it in me. I found it much easier than just trying to create self-love out of nowhere, something I still find very hard.

Today I’m on ACIM lesson 119, which reviews that same topic, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” As I meditated on it, it occurred to me that the same applies to being deserving.

I’ve long felt that most people don’t deserve happiness. I’ve been very judgmental – everyone is too dumb, greedy, lazy, or (ironically) too worldly and not focused enough on spirituality. If we’re all one, what does that make me?

This has been a major unexplored flaw in my thinking. I try to love people, and see their perfection. However, I judge myself against them. I used to make comparisons on worldly possessions and needs; now, I’m more “spiritual” in that I make comparisons based on happiness. (“Sure, she’s rich, but she’s obviously miserable…”)

It’s time for me to acknowledge that everyone deserves happiness. Even if I don’t get it myself, everyone else should still have it. The more I think about others deserving it, the more I feel that I do too.



Why is Self-Love So Hard?
January 6, 2009, 10:40 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, God, spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

A few months ago I wrote a post about self-love. I had realized that forgiving myself was easier than loving myself.

I had an insight yesterday into why loving myself is so difficult. I was doing A Course In Miracles lesson 110, “I am as God created me.” The core of this lesson, that there’s a core of divine perfection within, is something that the Workbook has covered many times – I guess it just took a lot of repetition to get through to me.

Loving myself, in the sense of true, unconditional love, effectively requires me to let go of my ego and separateness, revealing the divine inside. My existence in the (illusory) world has been full of problems, guilt, blame, and judgment. How could I possibly love myself in that context? My actions in this world don’t merit love.

Therefore, to love myself, I have to put aside what I’ve done in the world (and what the world has done to me). Loving myself, in effect, requires dropping my whole story, my sense of separation, my being special and unique. Isn’t that the end goal of the path to enlightenment? It’s a difficult place to start.

Maybe some people have an easy time jumping into self-love. As I wrote earlier, though, it’s easy to instead fall into the trap of searching for worldly deeds to pat ourselves on the back about, thus reinforcing the ego.

As I let go of my story, I have more moments of love towards myself and others. For me, it seems to be a consequence, not a catalyst, of letting go.



Happiness as an Obligation
December 17, 2008, 10:02 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, God, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , ,

Over the past few days, I’ve come to an important realization: we have an obligation to be happy.

I credit this insight mostly to A Course In Miracles. I recently did Lesson 100, which states, “My part is essential to God’s plan for salvation.” The lesson goes on to explain that my part is to be happy. I can then spread joy to everyone else. Seen this way, wallowing in misery is a downright selfish choice.

It’s been hard for me to be happy. Between my chronic Crohn’s Disease, the stresses of my job, and the continual drumbeat of terrible national and world news (which I must follow thanks to my job), it’s been much easier to be sad and depressed.

One of my recurring self-destructive ego thoughts has been that I don’t deserve to be happy. A Course In Miracles addresses this very directly. Sin is not real, and anything undeserving I think I’ve done is merely illusion. In fact, the workbook covers this in the context of happiness in Lesson 101. However, knowing that intellectually hasn’t made it much easier.

However, seeing happiness as an obligation changes the equation. Regardless of whether I deserve to be happy, I owe it to everyone else to be happy! It’s not selfish to be happy, it’s the ultimate charitable act.

Much of the earlier Course material made sense on an intellectual level, but I had trouble applying it on an emotional level. I understood that feeling guilt was pointless, but my ego kept piling it on. Now, I have a very rational counter to the ego: even if there were some value in the guilt hurting me, it’s wrong to let my guilt hurt the world.

Yesterday and today, I’ve been using the Sedona Method to work on the goal statement, “I allow myself to be happy.” I’ve tried to do that before, but my ego got in my way. Now, I’m rapidly feeling happier than I have in a long time.

I finally understand that we can simply choose to let ourselves be happy. I had heard this before and not believed it. Now, I see that I simply never allowed myself to make the choice!



Making Decisions
November 2, 2008, 9:00 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality | Tags: , , , ,

Today, I’m on lesson 64 of A Course in Miracles. This lesson mentions that the decisions I’ll make today “are all really very simple. Each one will lead to happiness or unhappiness.” That’s great to know, but how do I tell the difference? I’ve spent a fair chunk of time reflecting on that this morning. (My Crohn’s Disease woke me up around 3:00 AM, which gave me several hours to think.)

As I’ve mentioned in several recent posts, I’ve realized that judgment is the key. Passing judgment can’t create happiness. This meshes well with what Byron Katie teaches in The Work. It’s clear from her writings that she never passes judgment on what’s happening. She gives her books names like “Loving What Is” and “Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are” for a reason.

To date, I’ve focused my efforts to be less judgmental at people. However, I see now that I’m still passing judgment on everything that happens throughout the day. My illness is causing me pain – that’s bad. The stock market is up – that’s good. My daughter’s meeting was rescheduled, making me change my plans for the day – that’s bad.

I think that the real decisions throughout the day are whether we’ll judge what’s happening. There’s a Zen story about a boy who gets a horse as a gift. A series of events ensue that everyone judges as a good or bad, but the alternating nature of the events makes clear that the judgments are worse than pointless. That story never really struck me before as it does now.

Not judging people is an important goal for me. However, it’s simply a part of the larger goal: not judging life. Everything that happens to me forces a decision: to judge or not? As I think it through, the answer is obvious.



Self-Love
October 29, 2008, 11:15 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality | Tags: , , , , ,

There’s a Sedona Method exercise in which you sit and simply give yourself love. I’ve always had a hard time with this exercise. For me, it all too often became an ego-reinforcing self-justification: “I’m not so bad. I’m actually a pretty good person. Yeah, I love myself.” It felt a little too much like something from Affirmation Girl.

I’ve long known that this wasn’t the point. The exercise is supposed to be about divine love, feeling the perfection of our underlying Beingness. That is, the point is to transcend our ego, not reinforce it. I still found the exercise very hard to do in that sense.

(As I get better at detecting my ego’s tricks, I understand my difficulty better. After all, it’s like an ego-dream come true: an opportunity to distort an exercise into something that will directly justify and reinforce the ego! It’s a great chance for an ego-preservation exercise.)

I recently realized, largely due to my work with A Course in Miracles, that my guilt keeps me from diving self-love. My self-love efforts have been a type of egocentric self-love, an exact parallel to the egocentric forgiving I discussed last week. Trying to make my ego feel better about my ego is just like trying to make my ego feel better about someone else’s ego: a pointless exercise, even if I succeed.

Thus, a simple change in the exercise helped me a lot. If I sit and give myself forgiveness, there’s much less opportunity for ego distortion. My ego can’t truly forgive, because it can’t let go of judging. So, sitting and forgiving myself, in the sense of realizing that there’s perfection underneath the ego, gets me much more in touch with that divine love.

Egocentric love, whether loving myself or someone else, is just another form of judging. I find giving myself forgiveness to be much more effective at helping me lay down the burden of judgment.



Egocentric Forgiving?
October 22, 2008, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Forgiveness | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been working hard to become a more forgiving person. As I wrote on the day after Yom Kippur, I can see a perfect symmetry between guilt and blame. Once I realized that there’s no difference between forgiving others and forgiving myself, I redoubled my efforts.

However, today I read something in A Course in Miracles that makes me wonder if I’ve been going about forgiving the wrong way. The text seems to say that the way to forgive is not to perceive others’ errors in the first place. In contrast, perceiving the error, and then decided to overlook it, is an egocentric way to forgive.

I have to admit that I’ve tended towards the egocentric approach. I’m not even sure how to not perceive others’ errors. Perhaps I should retract everything I wrote yesterday; maybe I do need some breakthrough in perception.

At least this gives me some new clarity on Byron Katie’s approach. In her book Loving What Is, she makes the non-dualistic point that everything we blame others for is a projection of ourselves. Her “four questions” are a way to illustrate this. Until now, I’ve missed the full significance of this: her technique doesn’t help us forgive, but makes us see that there’s nothing to forgive.

At some level, I think I’ve understood this for some time. However, my ego didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to understand. And why should it? Having my ego nobly overlook someone else’s misdeed is pretty satisfying. (“Look ma! No blame! Aren’t you proud?”) My ego has tricked me again, leading me into the kind of forgiving that gives me the illusion of forward progress, while actually reinforcing the ego instead.

I had a brief flurry of activity with Byron Katie’s “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” a couple of months ago. (It’s simply a worksheet with her four questions on it, which you can download here if you don’t have her book.) While the process seemed very productive, I moved on to other things. I’m now sure that was because the process deeply threatened my ego. That’s a good sign it’s worth my time to revisit it!