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.



Provoking the Inner Child
June 25, 2009, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Suffering | Tags: , , , , ,

I have heard many times of the “Inner Child,” the idea that our childlike aspects live on within our psyche. We can think of the Inner Child as an independent entity, one who needs our explicit attention and support to meet his needs.

I’ve done various exercises in the past to connect to my Inner Child. Self-hypnosis, visualizing my inner child, trying to have a dialog with him, and similar techniques all came to nothing. Sure, I could daydream about my Inner Child as well as I could any other topic, but it never affected me more than any other daydream. I concluded that either the Inner Child idea was psychobabble, or that mine was healthy and needed no help.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago: I recently joined Facebook, and was reconnecting with several old friends. Out of the blue, in a public discussion, someone I haven’t spoken to in decades says, “Hey, weren’t you the one who…” and proceeded to relate an embarrassing incident from my high school days.

It was an incident that I hadn’t thought of in years. Mental association quickly provided several other emotionally punishing moments I had repressed. Before long, I could actually feel a teenage version of my Inner Child crying inside me, begging for comforting and reassurance. Apparently, I had repressed him along with the memories, and done it so successfully that even deliberate exercises couldn’t break through the walls. It took the emotional sucker punch of a jerk to bring the feelings to the surface.

After giving an internal hug to my Inner Child, I found a wellspring of material to release using the Sedona Method. I realized that these incidents still had the same emotional charge that they did in high school; repressing them and my Inner Child had prevented any progress. With releasing, I could quickly realize how pointless it was to carry around this emotion from long ago. How many people, aside from me and the one person who brought it up, even care about any of this ancient history?

So, in a way, I suppose this old acquaintance did me a favor. Lester Levenson would probably even say that I manifested this now for a reason. I still have a lot of releasing to do on old pains, but I do think that I’ll be better for it.



Cleaning House
June 10, 2009, 7:48 am
Filed under: World | Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday, we replaced the carpet in much of our house. The preparation for this included emptying half of our rooms. I found this a deeply cathartic experience, in many ways a metaphor for clearing my mind.

It’s stunning to me how much detritus we’ve accumulated after living here only 14 years. Some of it was merely neglected – who can remember everything we stick in a drawer or closet? However, I discovered I was holding onto a ton of junk due to emotional attachments. A combination of Sedona Method-style releasing and physical disposal worked wonders to help resolve these attachments.

There were many books that I was holding onto “just in case.” Most of these were ridiculous. I had books on software engineering that were a decade out of date, just in case I should return to writing software. I had books from a executive training program I took at a large company; they consisted more of corporate propaganda than useful information, but I held on to the just in case I resumed a big-company management track career. The list goes on. As I went through them, I realized that I kept them out of pride in my past work; they were a physical manifestation of how stuck I was in the past.

There was a similar process with the various knickknacks left around. Whether a set of Baoding balls I picked up free at a trade show, or a finger painting project my daughter did 10 years ago, they were all things that had significance at the time. However, that time was long ago. Discarding them was like releasing my emotions: freeing up space to live in the moment.

My wife mentioned how wonderful she found the enforced spring cleaning too. Jews start the Hebrew year with the Ten Days of Repentance ending with Yom Kippur, clearing the guilt from their community. Many Asian cultures start the New Year with a traditional deep house cleaning. I think we miss something not having a set time to do an annual cleaning, whether emotional or physical. Perhaps we would be better at that if the Romans hadn’t changed the start of the year from March to January.



Life’s Little Challenges
May 18, 2009, 8:37 am
Filed under: World | Tags: , , ,

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was considering become a math teacher. I mentioned then how I hoped I could tell if that urge was guidance by whether it was easy.

I received the word back from the university’s transcript evaluator. It turns out that, despite the program director’s initial optimism, I don’t have enough college-level math classes to qualify for the program. (Ironically, I could easily qualify to teach physics. It’s too bad that doesn’t hold very much interest for me.)

If I want to enroll for next year, I’ll need to go to a community college and retake a host of basic subjects I learned back in high school: algebra, geometry, etc. It doesn’t matter that I took many classes that had those as distant prerequisites; for this purpose, having classes about Fourier series and Legendre polynomials is no substitute for good old fashioned basic algebra!

Going back to school to take four or five basic math classes sounds anything but easy. While passing the class would be easy, since I’ve already learned all of the material, dealing with the excruciating boredom would be hard. I imagine that I could mitigate that by taking online courses and thus not having to sit through classes, but that’s still hardly an example of the universe clearing my path.

It’s situations like these where I struggle with the mindset promoted by the Sedona Method and A Course in Miracles. Both of those suggest that, when you approach the correct goals properly, things should be effortless. If I use that criterion, either teaching is the wrong goal or I’m approaching it incorrectly.

This viewpoint contrasts with decades of training for me. I’ve learned since an early age that obstacles are things to overcome, and that much of life’s satisfaction comes from overcoming barriers. Any number of self-help books and inspirational teachers say the same thing. However, fighting against the tide seems a perfect example of what the Sedona Method refers to as “wanting control.”

I still haven’t decided what to do. Since I have a few months before I would have to register for any of these math classes, I can take some time to think about it. However, given how fundamental the decision is, I’m not sure whether a lot of thought will actually help.



Keeping Up with the Joneses
April 14, 2009, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , ,

I recently did A Course in Miracles Lesson 149, which includes a review of the thought, “When I am healed I am not healed alone.” When I first covered this thought back in Lesson 137, it didn’t affect me much. This time, however, I found it much more profound.

I have always had a tendency to compare myself to others. In many ways, relative status was more important than absolute achievement. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of unhappiness: there are always people with more money, faster promotions, more authority, etc.

I realized this weekend that I’ve carried the same competitiveness into spiritual work. That may sound silly, but I now realize it as something very insidious. At a subconscious level, I would actually dismiss or denigrate the spiritual progress of others. That person is still too wrapped up in the world. This other person claims to be happy, but has some huge series of misfortunes. No one can prove that the Law of Attraction works. Etc., etc., etc.

Why should I expect to have abundance in my life if I wish something different for other people? Why should I expect to be healed if I’m doing it to be more advanced than others? It’s a concept that seems obvious when stated, but was strangely hard for me to realize.

I’ve been doing some work with the Sedona Method on allowing myself to enjoy the abundance of others. I can tell that I have some resistance to this idea, but it’s settling better with me after doing some releasing. Ultimately, others’ abundance is part of my experience, and thus mine too.

So, on that note, I sincerely wish for your success and happiness!



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.



Fear of Death
March 30, 2009, 4:22 pm
Filed under: spirituality, Suffering | Tags: , , , ,

Lester Levenson said that overcoming our fear of death was a key step in going free. An article in last week’s issue of The Economist reminded me of this. The article reported on a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that religious people were more likely to try to prolong their lives with extreme medical procedures.

I’ve written before about beliefs, going so far as to cite them as the source of unhappiness. I would expect that people with strong religious beliefs would also have strong beliefs about life and death. The irony here is that many of these people believed in an afterlife, and thus been less fearful of death.

I suspect that, at some level, even our ego knows that our beliefs are merely that. Who wants to actually test their belief in an afterlife? I’ve heard people actually say they don’t want certainly beliefs tested; a common example is when religious people claim that if there were proof of a god, then there could be no faith. True, but hardly helpful for finding Truth.

Maybe this is why Lester found the fear of death such a key topic. For most of us, death forces us to face some of our key beliefs. To avoid fearing death, we have to let go of our beliefs of what will happen. Otherwise, we’ll recoil when those beliefs are put to the test.

Coincidentally, or perhaps synchronically, death has been on my mind a lot this past week. Not my own in this case, but that of my dog. At a ripe old age of 17, she’s lived a long time, especially for a pet rescued from the Humane Society. Yet, as her health fails at an increasingly rapid pace, I can’t help feeling sad about it.

I believe that when her body fails, she’ll be gone forever and lost to me except for fading memories. How’s that for a belief that causes unhappiness? This appears to be the time to use the Sedona Method. As I try to do so, I see why teachers usually leave addressing the fear of death for advanced courses.