The Seeker of Peace

Seeing Spirituality
May 28, 2009, 11:51 am
Filed under: spirituality | Tags: , , ,

Rather than the do the traditional Memorial Day barbecue, I spent Monday in Los Angeles attending my father’s ordination as a rabbi. There were roughly sixteen people being ordained that day, split between rabbis and cantors (clergy members who specialize in religious music).

I’ve written before about the difference between spirituality and religion. The ordination service was a perfect example to me of the dichotomy. As part of the service, each ordainee spent a few minutes talking. I heard many deeply spiritual things, as people discussed finding god in all things, building a life of love, and similar themes.

The proceedings included a full Jewish afternoon service, with the traditional liturgy. The liturgy is far from spiritual. It beseeches the Jewish god to “vanquish our enemies” and otherwise provide blessings to his “chosen people.” (Please note that I’m not criticizing the Jewish liturgy compared to any others – most traditional liturgies have content such as this.) The only mitigating characteristic of the Jewish liturgy is that it’s in Hebrew, meaning that many people don’t understand what it says.

How does an ordainee reconcile a spiritual journey with traditions that are rigidly religious? From hearing them speak, I think the answer is to see the traditions as merely that: a cultural heritage. Many of these newly minted clergy didn’t sound religious at all, instead expressing heartfelt personal experiences.

This reinforced what I wrote in my earlier post: that for spiritual people, their religion turns to cultural tradition as they gain spiritual experience. The ordination service also taught me something new: that there are schools training a whole generation of spiritual clergy. Perhaps this provides some hope for religion after all.

Yearning for Kyoto
May 1, 2009, 8:38 am
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality, Suffering, World | Tags: , , , ,

Even in Kyoto,
I yearn for Kyoto
– Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

I found this poem in the prelude of Mary Pipher’s recent book, “Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World.” See uses it to illustrate the point that, “Embedded in the concept ‘seeker’ is the less flattering word ‘dissatisfied.'” Matsuo-san’s poem resonated with me deeply, and in a very literal sense. You see, even when I was in Kyoto, I did in fact yearn for Kyoto.

The year was 1997, and the trip to Kyoto was an arduous one. It involved a flight from the USA to Tokyo, a connecting flight to Osaka, and then a 45-minute cab ride to Kyoto. That last segment I shared with several coworkers, making the airplane parts of the ride seem roomy by comparison.

This was a period when my Crohn’s Disease was flaring up badly, and as a result, my immune system was not working well. Thus, it as no surprise that, by the time I arrived in Kyoto, I had picked up a nasty cold. This proved to be even more of a problem than I could have expected. I was chairing committee meetings throughout the trip. There was a large population of Europeans and Asians at this meeting, and they politely expected to be recognized by the chair before saying anything. This was true even if two of them were carrying on a debate among themselves. At least I had a microphone, allowing me to quietly croak, “Go ahead,” rather than having to raise my voice to be heard.

During that week, I yearned for the other Kyoto. I wanted to see the Imperial palace. I wanted to eat some Japanese food, rather than the greasy and awful Italian, Chinese, and American fare I received. I wanted to see the town, not be stuck in a windowless conference room.

Yet, mulling over Matsuo-san’s words, I can now see another side to the trip. I [u]was[/u] in Kyoto. I got to marvel at the sophisticated features of the Panasonic toilet seat in my hotel room. I could appreciate the beautiful courtyard garden of the hotel. I laughed at the fact that Japanese hotel rooms, unlike their American counterparts, include a complementary adult diaper should you need one.

Thinking back on it makes for a very valuable cautionary tale. How much more would I have enjoyed the trip had I allowed myself to be in Kyoto instead of yearning in Kyoto? And how often, even now, am I still not present, still yearning for something else?

Return to Spirituality
March 26, 2009, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

In my last blog post, I mentioned that a week away form spiritual pursuits had given me a new vigor. That vigor was short-lived, as evidenced by the fact that it’s been three weeks since then without a post. I again strayed from doing the A Course in Miracles exercises, and mostly stopped doing the Sedona Method.

I’ve spent those weeks in a pattern of distraction and business. How far I had sunk hit home this week. I was reading an issue of Forbes, which had a list of the world’s billionaires. Apparently, the number of billionaires is down dramatically from last year, with most remaining billionaires still having lost huge amounts of money. I found myself feeling a perverse satisfaction that they were now closer to my net worth. How ego-driven can one get?

When I wrote my last post, I thought that the break from spiritual pursuits had helped. Now, I think that was just my ego indulging in self-justification. When I start enjoying the downfall of others, it’s a big warning sign that something is wrong.

This morning I resumed my ACIM exercises. I picked up where I last left off: Lesson #137, “When I am healed I am not healed alone.” Juxtaposed against the Forbes article, I saw a very clear choice: a path of spiritual pursuits and loving others, or a path of materialism and feeling satisfaction and envy.

I am very glad that I had previously made it far enough in my efforts that I was able to recognize the depth of my backsliding. Now, I pray I’ll have the discipline to overcome my ego and continue down the right path.

Vacation from Spirituality
March 4, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve struggled on and off with my spiritual work. Sometimes, I’ve felt okay with this. In general, though, it’s been a little frustrating, which I fully acknowledge is an ego response.

When I do Sedona Method-style releasing, the releases just haven’t felt as strong as they used to. The meditations for the A Course In Miracles workbook have been hard to sustain without even more distracting thoughts than usual. It’s as if I’ve developed resistance to the whole effort.

About a week ago, I decided to just indulge my ego. I took a hiatus for a few days from ACIM. I only released when it occurred to me, rather than trying to do it often. I spent a fair amount of time distracting my mind with reading and computer games. I even let myself get emotionally upset about the stock market, although that still produced much less angst than it would have just a couple of months ago.

(I did not, however, lose my recent health improvement. Even when backsliding, one has to draw the line somewhere!)

This break seems to have helped quite a lot. I resumed my ACIM lessons with a new vigor, and they were again easy. I’m still only releasing as it occurs to me, but I can again feel the relief from the thoughts. I feel much less resistant than I did.

Perhaps it’s all an ego trap to think that progress can come from backsliding. In this case, I’m very glad I took a few days back in the thick of the world and catering to my ego. Maybe I just needed a concrete reminder that what I’m giving up isn’t valuable.

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.

Letting Go to Control?
January 8, 2009, 9:35 am
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve spent a couple of weeks in a “spiritual slump,” feeling like my ego had largely reasserted control. Over the past several days, I’ve been feeling steadily better.

I received an email newsletter a couple of days ago that helped a lot. It was from Mechthild Ruggier, who used to be a Sedona Method instructor. In the letter, she says, “…[the Sedona Method] is also a method and as such it reinforces the belief that ‘the more you release the freer you get.’ This keeps you in a never ending cycle of releasing to gain more freedom, happiness, success, whatever, always looking to the future.”

As it turns out, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I follow a Sedona Method message board, and people there often talk about exactly that: releasing for hours at a time to get further freedom. I’ve tried releasing for hours at a time, and each time I became frustrated that it didn’t seem to make much difference.

Ruggier’s message made me realize what I should have known before: I was releasing to change things, make myself freer, and improve my life. As much as I spent time letting go of “wanting control,” the whole point of the exercise for me was to change myself. And I would get sucked into the idea of spending more time releasing so I could change myself faster – i.e., I released more because I wanted more control!

A Course In Miracles Lesson 110, “I am as God created me,” also helped me with this realization. Trying to change “me” is a fruitless exercise. The “me” that matters is unchanging and perfect.

The Sedona Method includes many exercises to let go of the stories that keep us separate, and I still find it useful for this. Where I went wrong was to believe the hype and testimonials: that using the Method would make me and my life better. In many ways it has made my life better. However, using it for that reason is ultimately self-defeating, another ego trap of wanting control.

Written Releasing
January 2, 2009, 3:02 pm
Filed under: spirituality | Tags: , , ,

In the Sedona Method course, Hale Dwoskin suggests writing thoughts down as we release them. His explanation is that the paper serves, in a sense, as a releasing partner. I did this when I first took the audio course about a year and a half ago. Soon afterwards, being an efficiency expert, I created word processor templates and switched to typing my answers instead.

As I wrote last week, I’ve been going through a patch where releasing has been much more difficult for me. With the holidays over, company gone, and kids soon to return to school, I figured now was the time to dedicate myself to getting past my resistance. I decided to go back to trying pen and paper while doing an “advantages and disadvantages” exercise on my health, an area where I’ve been conflicted for a while.

I’ve written before about how I was able to get insight by free writing about my job and spiritual progress. I don’t know if I would have gotten similar results by typing. I wondered if releasing with paper would be more productive than typing my thoughts had been.

The answer was most definitely yes. The process went much slower than with a computer, in the sense of the number of thoughts released per hour. However, the process seemed much more effective, and I felt a deeper sense of relief and insight.

I don’t know what it is about typing that makes it less effective for me as a releasing tool. Maybe it’s that I associate the computer with working, or that the “efficiency” of a computer made me move on to the next thought too quickly. In any case, using a computer was definitely a false economy for me.

I’m still working myself out of the spiritual slump that I’ve been in the past couple of weeks. I guess this is a reminder that sometimes it’s just best to go back to basics.