The Seeker of Peace

Meditative Focus
July 16, 2009, 2:45 pm
Filed under: spirituality | Tags: , , , , ,

I am currently reading Winifred Gallagher’s recent book, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. It’s a well-researched discussion of how we change our subjective reality by what we choose to focus on. There’s no spiritualism or Law of Attraction here; Gallagher is drawing on research about how the brain operates to explain why, for example, a higher emotional state can result in a better life.

One section on meditation struck me as particularly interesting. Here’s an excerpt:

Not only how you focus, but also what you focus on can have important neurophysiological and behavioral consequences. Just as one-pointed concentration on a neutral target, such as your breath, particularly strengthens certain of the brain’s attentional systems, meditation on a specific emotion – unconditional love – seems to tune up certain of its affective networks.

This runs counter to the claims of many self-proclaimed self-help gurus, who say that any type of meditation will give you the same benefits. I have seen many recommendations to do whatever type of meditation you feel most comfortable with. However, if Gallagher is correct, different meditative focuses will produce dramatically different results.

If I meditate on a point of focus, I’ll have better attention and be less distracted. If I meditate on emotions such as love, joy, and gratitude, I’ll become more empathetic and less prone to fear and anxiety. Frankly, I could do with improvement in both areas.

The funny thing here is that I don’t recall anyone ever recommending meditating on an emotion. As part of my Sedona Method practice, I’ve summoned particular emotions, although not for long enough to qualify as meditation. Larry Crane often recommends “loving yourself,” although that’s hardly the same thing as meditating on love.

I have been terrible with my meditation practice to date. This is largely because I’ve been sucked into trying for the Zen ideal of a blank mind. It would be much easier to focus on something specific, or on an emotion. Perhaps it’s time to redouble my efforts at meditation. And, this time, I’ll make sure to choose my focus carefully.


Dealing with Death
April 5, 2009, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Suffering | Tags: , , , ,

I wrote last week about my fear of death, and how it related to the impending death of my dog. Yesterday, the matter went from theoretical to practical: we had her put to sleep.

As I wrote earlier, I believed that her death would mean that I would lose her. After a fair amount of Sedona Method-style releasing, I realized that I had things completely backwards.

In many ways, the dog I loved was already gone. She had constant pain, was mostly blind and totally deaf, and was constantly confused from senile dementia. She had lost any opportunity to enjoy life. Watching her suffer kept me from fully enjoying the memories of the many good times we’ve had together over the past 16 years.

As the veterinarian gave her the injections, I saw her fully relaxed for the first time in months. Having experienced chronic pain myself, I understand well what it’s like to be in pain even when asleep. How selfish would it have been to keep her alive? And, much of the time, I was trying not to think about how bad her condition was. Now, she can be fully present in my mind.

The most painful thing about letting her die was acknowledging that the pet of the past would never return. However, that was already the case. Now that I’ve accepted that, both of us can stop our suffering.

Why Do Anything?
January 28, 2009, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

For a while now, I’ve struggled with the motivation to do anything. It’s not that my ego doesn’t find worldly distractions to keep me busy. Rather, it’s been hard to see anything as too important. As I wrote three months ago about working in a world of illusion, non-dualistic traditions teach that the world is illusory. So, why put a lot of effort into work, retirement planning, home maintenance, etc.?

There are people who are enlightened (or at least claim to be) and live with very little material wealth, doing very little in the material world. Would that be easier and a less encumbered path? While that didn’t feel right to me, I thought it might be my ego attachment to worldly success.

Fortunately, I had a realization today that gave me new clarity. Yes, the world is illusory and meaningless. However, what I perceive is a reflection of what I do. If I do something that is an expression of joy and love, then my (illusory) world will contain more joy and love.

The enlightened people who seem to tread lightly on the material world are probably doing more than I realize to express their love. Certainly, being apathetic is not an expression of love at all. This speaks strongly towards the importance of doing something that brings more love and joy into my world.

I spend a lot of time doing things that are counterproductive in this sense. Reading the news, which is usually bad news, hardly brings more love and joy. Whereas writing that story that’s been bouncing around in my head, if done with the right attitude, could be an expression of love.

Perhaps this is the explanation of the old Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I had thought that the saying meant that you still have to do your worldly chores after awakening, but now I think it goes deeper. Maybe it means that after awakening, you can do the same tasks as manifestations of your love.

For an unawakened person such as myself, making tasks a manifestation of my love might be a good place to start. As an approach, it’s certainly a way to snap out of apathy.

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.

Giving and Receiving
December 25, 2008, 7:02 am
Filed under: Non-duality, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , ,

For the past few days, I’ve been feeling tense and troubled. There hasn’t been any external reason for this. I don’t have any compelling stories of woe to tell. Being happy and peaceful is simply a choice. For some reason, my ego has been choosing to go the other way. Perhaps I’m punishing myself for winding down my business.

During this period, I’ve found releasing using the Sedona Method to be very difficult. It’s been similarly hard to do the workbook exercises from A Course in Miracles. The exercises I’m on now ask me to spend the first five minutes of every hour on them. I’ve had so much mental noise that it’s been hard to concentrate on them for that long.

Fortunately, I seem to be returning to normal. The ACIM lesson I’m doing today, Lesson 108, has been helping. It says, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” In my current mood, it’s much easier to allow myself to give peace and joy to others. Offering them to others causes me to feel them myself.

I’ve often heard the aphorisms that “You can’t love others unless you love yourself,” and “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” However, my recent experience would seem to indicate the opposite: I can’t love myself without loving others, and I can’t have what I don’t give away.

In a way, this is a reassuring thing to learn. When my ego is in the worst throes of self-loathing, it can be much easier for me to offer peace to others. Lester Levenson found freedom by changing all of his feelings to love. From his description, it sounds as if he started with loving others, and then loving himself came naturally. After my recent experience, I can understand much better how that could work.

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.