The Seeker of Peace

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.


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.

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.

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.

Summing Up
November 8, 2008, 8:37 am
Filed under: Non-duality, World | Tags: , ,

Today, I wrote a long page summarizing my views about beliefs, judgment, and their role in unhappiness. I’ve found that the Sedona Method, while very useful, is a bit too indirect in tackling this area. I’ve found working on beliefs directly to be much more productive than hacking away at wants and emotions.

Given the ultimate result of having beliefs, I’ve entitled the page The Source of Unhappiness.

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.

Guilt vs. Blame
October 10, 2008, 10:22 am
Filed under: Forgiveness | Tags: , ,

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking about guilt.

I realized, even more deeply than when I wrote yesterday’s post, that an absence of guilt is essential for forgiving others. I thought of the story from John 7:53 of the adulteress. Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I previously thought this was a misguided message that nobody’s perfect, and only someone who is perfect could dispense justice. But now I have a much more profound understanding of the text.

Jesus could say this with confidence, because a person without sin wouldn’t cast the first stone. We judge and blame to justify or minimize our own guilt. When we are free from guilt, we no longer have any reason to judge others. Thus, the story tells us not that nobody’s perfect, but rather that by shedding our guilt we can become perfectly forgiving.

The fact that the story is missing from many first millennium bibles reinforces my conviction that the story has this non-dualistic meaning. Many branches of Christianity would find anathematic the suggestion that people should stop feeling guilt.

This understanding has also given me new insight into Byron Katie’s The Work. I see now a perfect symmetry between guilt and blame. To cure the one, we need to forgive ourselves, to cure the other, we need to forgive others. The missing piece of the puzzle for me is that the forgiveness is all the same. We can’t stop judging others without being willing to stop judging ourselves, and vice versa.

Up until now, I’ve been working on forgiving others and forgiving myself as if they were two different things. In a way, it’s a huge relief to realize that they’re the same, and I have one less thing to work on.