The Seeker of Peace


Asking Too Little
December 8, 2008, 10:25 am
Filed under: God, Non-duality, World | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I wrote recently about my attempts to use free writing to get answers from God, first on my job, then on accelerating my spiritual progress. In both cases, the answers were clear, but did not give me specific guidance on what to do in the world. That is, the answers essentially told me to focus on Truth, rather than giving guidance about what to do in the illusory world.

I mentioned last month my desire to have the divine guidance cited by some followers of A Course In Miracles. Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford would even ask for guidance on where to hail a cab or what to order for dinner.

I recently read Kenneth Wapnick’s book Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course In Miracles. He makes the point that since God deals in reality, not illusion, any guidance we get is necessarily filtered through our separate mind (ego). While the content of the message is always the same, our ego must apply the form that allows it to apply to illusion.

Wapnick even goes so far as to say that students should be “suspicious of any specific guidance they receive.” Apparently, Schucman had a whole collection of scribed predictions, ostensibly from Jesus, of (mostly positive) events that would occur. None of them happened as predicted, clearly demonstrating that she played a active, if unknowing role, in creating them.

This also helps me better understand a conversation I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing spirituality, and I mentioned my desire for divine guidance. He cautioned me, telling me that he knew several people who regularly received guidance, and “their lives are a mess.” I wondered why that would be, unless they were mistaking their own ego’s thoughts for divine guidance. Now it makes sense: the ego’s thoughts have to be involved in any guidance regarding the world, or else the guidance wouldn’t be comprehensible. And that ego involvement can distort the form of the message.

Perhaps I should be glad that my ego hasn’t intruded enough on the purity of my answers to give worldly guidance. Not only might it not be good advice, but after reading Wapnick’s book I would likely be doubting it anyway.

I think the key point here is that I’ve been looking for guidance on petty things. I’ve been wanting guidance on how to deal with a multitude of illusions, whereas there’s only one real answer: embrace reality. While I still need to make decisions regarding these illusions, maybe it just doesn’t matter whether I get divine guidance. Certainly, the more I embrace love and peace, the better I can cope with whatever the world dishes up.

So, I’m going to take my answers so far as a loving reminder that I’ve been asking for too little. I should be asking for the ultimate prize, the only one that really matters, to see the light of reality.

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Trying Too Hard
December 5, 2008, 1:29 pm
Filed under: God, Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been two weeks since I tried free writing to get a message from God about my job. Since that attempt was so intriguing, you might think I’d have tried again before today. However, I’ve felt tremendous resistance to doing more free writing. I guess my ego doesn’t like my having a competing source of instructions.

I finally tried again today. I wrote the question “What could I do to best accelerate my spiritual progress?” at the top of the page, and cleared my mind. Here’s what came out:

You need do nothing. Your desire for action is the root of your problems. You want action so that you can feel that you are taking control of the situation. Yet the “situation” is itself illusory, and thus any action is counterproductive.

Remember that your ego wants to seek but not find. Your actions reflect this. Allow yourself peace, and I will take care of action for you. Do not let your ego tempt you into activity. Look around you, and see how much of your life stems from darkness, not light.

Relax and embrace the light. Once you stop your ego’s fruitless quest, you will see the light is already there.

That certainly doesn’t sound like something my ego would say. On the contrary, it sounds as if I’m still too prone to falling for ego tricks.

I can’t help but wonder: who is the “I” in this message? My inner self? God? Jesus? (I’ve never believed in the Biblical Jesus, but perhaps reading A Course In Miracles has let me to a Jesus archetype.) This is probably exactly the type of question where I should use the Sedona Method to let go of wanting to figure it out.

Regardless, the message reinforces what I realized several weeks ago when I was feeling stuck: It’s far too easy for me to want to do something to make progress. This message makes clear that I should relax, and try easier.



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.



Believing in God
November 15, 2008, 3:30 pm
Filed under: God, spirituality | Tags: , , , , , ,

I wrote on Thursday about how I’ve been trying to control my relationship with God. I realized yesterday that the problem goes deeper than that.

As a long-time atheist, I’ve found it hard to give up my belief that God doesn’t exist. I have thus been working hard to believe in God, specifically one that could give me support and guidance. I just realized what a trap that is.

Coincidentally, yesterday was exactly one month after I wrote my post on religion vs. spirituality. I’ve been trying to instill a new belief system. I’ve been trying to do this despite my realization that all beliefs are counterproductive.

Creating a belief in God isn’t the answer. Succeeding at that would simply create a new basis for me to judge what is happening. I’ve known plenty of theists who were deeply unhappy – judging from within a theist framework isn’t any different from judging from within an atheistic one.

Yes, I need to let go of my atheistic beliefs. However, I need to move from there to knowing truth rather than creating new beliefs. If there’s a God along the lines described in A Course In Miracles, He should make himself visible to an open mind. The Course says that you don’t need to believe anything to benefit from the workbook exercises. I’d go further and say that believing anything is an impediment.

This is actually a big relief. It’s a lot of work to create a belief in God, set expectations based on that belief, and then judge God! It just goes to show what the ego can do, given a chance.



Controlling God
November 13, 2008, 10:18 am
Filed under: God, spirituality | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have been frustrated for some time by my inability to speak to God, get “signs,” or otherwise get clear divine guidance. I’ve read so many stories of people who can ask God for advice and get a response. I’ve been diligently asking, so why not me?

Yesterday, I received what may have been an answer. Hale Dwoskin runs monthly support calls for graduates of the Sedona Method. I rarely listen to these, but yesterday I had the unusual urge to download the latest recording and listen to it while preparing lunch.

One of the callers was asking for relationship advice. Hale pointed out that the caller was trying to control the relationship. He made the comment that when you try to speed up a relationship, you wind up slowing it down. That comment struck me very hard.

I’ve been trying to control my relationship with God, dictating what I want and making clear my expectations (clear advice, etc.). There’s something inherently paradoxical in saying, “Dear God, I want to surrender to your will. So, give me clear guidance, and I want it now!”

Part of the problem is that I’ve been trying to make myself believe in God. I’ve been trying to create a degree of faith to support this belief. I’ve fallen into the trap of being religious instead of spiritual. What an ego trap! I’ve deliberately put energy into creating a new belief that allows me to judge my relationship with God.

I don’t know if I’ll get the clear guidance that I’m looking for. (And, maybe, my sudden inclination to listen to Hale’s call was clear guidance.) What I do know is that, if there is a God, trying to judge and control our relationship won’t help me.



Absence of a Breakthrough
October 21, 2008, 5:57 pm
Filed under: Non-duality | Tags: , , , , ,

A few days ago I wrote about how I was feeling stuck in my spiritual progress. I realized that part of my frustration is that I’m hoping for some sort of massive breakthrough.

I’ve read many accounts of people who had dramatic shifts in perception, often overnight. Byron Katie, Karl Renz, Echkart Tolle, and Lester Levenson all had quick transitions from deep depression to a peaceful sense of oneness. While Levenson worked to trigger his transition, the others I mentioned all had their breakthroughs seemingly without conscious effort. Apparently, these people got a helicopter ride up the mountain, while I’m taking the walking path!

In talking with a friend today, I began to wonder if I’m reading too much into these people’s seemingly random progress. All of them were in states of very deep depression when they had their breakthroughs. I know what it’s like to be deeply depressed, having gone through a bout of suicidal depression as a teenager. If I had suddenly leapt from that state to my present state of consciousness, it would have seemed like a tremendous enlightenment experience.

I am much more loving and forgiving than I used to be, and less likely to be upset by the vicissitudes of the world. If I came here suddenly from deep depression, it would have been such a transformation that I would have wept with joy. There would be no doubt in my mind that something profound had happened.

What if I have underestimated my progress? I’m waiting for the day where I wake up and suddenly perceive non-duality, see everyone as a loving reflection of myself, and transcend the illusions of my ego. Maybe I’m already close enough to the goal that I haven’t recognized my gradual progress, and maybe my further progress will seem gradual too.

Karl Renz speaks about a definite shift from dualistic to non-dualistic perception, and Jed McKenna similarly makes it sound like there’s a definite point at which one is “enlightened.” Yet I have to wonder whether Renz and McKenna actually made it to the end of the path, or just became stuck in a cul-de-sac. Both of them seem to find their states lonely and empty. I’m therefore hesitant to look towards either of them as role models.

Maybe the point of Zen’s “gateless gate” is that there’s no well-defined endpoint to the path. I know Levenson kept studying and learning long after his transformation. Byron Katie sounds like she had to keep forgiving and consolidating her gains.

As a comment on my post about feeling stuck pointed out, “Expecting something – looking ahead – is another way of avoiding the present moment, yes?” I think that my expectation for a grand breakthrough is, indeed, another ego trick to interfere with my practice.



Religion vs. Spirituality
October 15, 2008, 7:18 am
Filed under: God | Tags: , , , , , ,

I recently saw someone’s passing comment that spirituality and religion are not the same thing. That got me to thinking: what exactly is the difference?

For most of my life I had a religion, in the sense that I was an atheist. Unlike most atheists, I freely acknowledged that it required faith. I absolutely believed there was no god, but I knew that there was no way to be absolutely sure.

As I’ve become more spiritual, my “religious” faith has crumbled. I know that most people’s faith has them believing in God rather than atheism, but could that be true in general? Is spirituality incompatible with religious faith?

I think of the famous prophets and enlightened men, such as Moses, Mohammed, Zoroaster, and Siddhārtha. Did any of them of them have faith? Well, why would they need it? When you have personal experience of God or enlightenment, there’s no role for faith. Faith is belief, something that fills in the gaps when you don’t know the truth.

Certainly, there are many who successfully used a religious framework for their spiritual journey. But I suspect that, as they progressed spiritually, they saw their faith replaced with knowledge. At that point, their religion would be solely a matter of cultural tradition, as they’d have direct knowledge of God.

Lester Levenson, creator of the Sedona Method, was fond of saying, “Don’t believe anything I say. Check it out for yourself.” That sounds to me like a man who no only had no faith, but also didn’t want to instill faith in anyone else. Any belief system is a way for the ego to block us from perceiving the truth, and Lester didn’t want to create a new one.

On the other extreme, all indications are that the 9/11 terrorists were extremely religious. I’m sure it takes incredible faith to do what they did. I would guess that they weren’t spiritual at all, at least in the sense that I think of the word.

So, in short, I think faith makes the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is about believing in God, while spirituality is about personally experiencing God.

Thinking about this also deepened my feelings about the Book of Job, which I discussed yesterday. Job went from having faith in God to knowing God. He went from being religious to being spiritual, while God denounces his friends for still being very much religious. The story has God saying that it’s most important to have a personal relationship with him, rather than making pious speeches or ritual demonstrations of faith.

I never realized before that the Bible contains a cautionary tale about letting ourselves be blinded by religious faith!