Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Examining Deeper Meanings of Life Lessons...

A dear friend wrote, this morning:

someone ruffles our feathers, it’s because we are seeing an aspect of this person that exists in us as well. We attract people who mirror our own negative traits. That’s why these people are in our lives – to offer us an opportunity to transform ourselves, and our anger."

This is a very wise old teaching... I have run across it in spiritual settings, as well as in the course of studying traditional psychology. Indeed, it can be very useful in understanding ourselves, because we tend to be more open to experiencing our own quirks and foibles when they are illustrated in the actions of another, rather than in ourselves.

On the surface, the lesson looks fairly simple. But it is actually one that can sometimes require a lot of insight and contemplation, in order for us to understand the true how of the "negative aspect" that actually lives in us. In my own years of contemplation, a large part of my lesson has been about understanding the deeper subtleties of this teaching. And if you don't, you'll often tend to reject what appears on the surface... and, I might add, rightfully so!

As I said, sometimes it's quite simple:

Our friend Bob annoys us because he's always in a hurry. And it feels like he "herds" us, every time we go somewhere. And we feel annoyed, because we deeply identify with being "laid back." Although not pleasant (because the truth seldom is, at least up front), we can pause and recognize that whereas we may not always be in a hurry, when we do have a lot that needs taking care of we'll tend to "herd people," and annoy them.

That's easy enough, right?

Most people could look at situations in their own lives and nod, and think "Yeah, I can recognize this-and-that tendency in me, embodied by 'Bob,' or my partner, or one of my friends."

But... it's not always that straightforward. Let's say that what ruffles our feathers is that our neighbor puts puppies in the microwave and defends his right to do so-- sorry, I know that's pretty graphic, but it's needed for the example, AND to stretch people's "reality threshold." When someone holds up the teaching of how we are "reacting to a negative aspect in ourselves," we may recoil in horror and utterly reject the idea that we latently embody that particular negative trait. And OF COURSE we would be entirely RIGHT... we have no latent desires whatsoever to put puppies in the microwave.

Right! So what's the problem, here?

H.H. The Dalai Lama once explained-- about Karma and reincarnation-- that people's lifelessons don't return as "obviously" in subsequent lives as one might think. Just because you were a thief in one lifetime doesn't mean you'll necessarily be stolen from in the next lifetime. You might be born without arms. Or even live a beautiful and compassionate life, but every attempt you make for gain fails. Or you simply live a life in which you always have to "go without." All of these, of course, a reflection of the (indirect) result of having been stolen from.

So what about us getting riled up about neighbor and his treatment of the puppies? Can we just throw away the teaching when it's as graphically ugly and seemingly inappropriate as this?

It pays to consider carefully, what the teaching might be, before we dismiss it.

Indeed, there may be nothing to be learned. But what IF the lesson at hand actually IS valid... we're just rejecting it because because what's in front of us is graphically literal and wrong? Could it be, for example, that on a greater scale of life we have latent tendencies to bully and terrorize the innocent and defenseless? And THAT's what we "don't like" and what "ruffles our feathers?" Maybe we lived a horrendously rough childhood in which something gentle and innocent ("a puppy") not only would be doomed to perish, but our caring for it would be a direct liability for us, because it reflected (perceived or real) "weakness" in us... and thus it would anger us... because such weakness put us at risk.

Now, I hasten to add that our anger at our neighbor is probably absolutely righteous and justified. My point here is that just because our anger is righteous and justified doesn't mean that I couldn't contain a valuable teaching, as well.

So... what inspired me to write (apart from my friend's words) was a desire to "expand" the lesson... and to remind myself (and others) to not reject an idea because it fills us with reactionary rage, but to pause and consider that even in the darkest and most horrific acts there may be a nugget of valuable enlightenment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Attitude and the Law of Attraction... It's All About Energy

My beloved often says "People are exactly as happy as they choose to be."

As I sip my coffee this morning and watch the sun come up, I have been sitting here, contemplating the world and the power of how our perceptions and beliefs affect our surroundings and what goes on in them.

Is the world an "evil" place? Is the world a "benevolent" place? Or is the world merely an extension of what we believe it is... how we individually perceive it? Is the true bottom line merely that the world is filled with "is-ness," and we assign (for better or for worse) value judgments to essentially neutral experiences?

I am reminded of one of my friends from a distant past-- when I was living down in Texas-- who was constantly fearful and believed there were muggers, thieves, rip-off artists, rapists and sex offenders around every corner. Keeping in mind that we lived in the same neighborhood and pretty much did the same "rounds" about town in the course our daily lives, during the brief years we knew each other, she was mugged, her car was broken into, her house burglarized (twice), her identity stolen online and she was sexually harassed at work. Meanwhile, I never saw anything "threatening" in my surroundings... and nothing "bad" happened to me.

Now, before you go off on me about the situation being "different" because she was female, or I'm "too naive," or I'm "blaming the victim" or whatever... the preceding is just there for illustrative purposes. I am perfectly well aware there are dangers in the world. That's not my point, however.

My opening thought (above) was brought to mind because I came across a heated discussion in facebook comments about whether or not the oft-discussed pop culture phenomenon "The Law of Attraction" is actually a crock of shit. On one side, people arguing fervently that "it works;" on the other, people arguing that it's patent nonsense that you'll get a mini-mansion just because you sit around and focus on it.


Aren't both sides exactly right?
Aren't both sides exactly wrong?
And isn't it most likely that both sides get exactly what they believe in?

Consider this, for a moment:

We all act in support of what we believe to be real.

Think about it.
It's true, isn't it?
It might rain today.
If you take your umbrella with you, and it rains, you pat yourself on the back and believe you have "good foresight."
If you leave your umbrella at home, and it rains, you conclude that the weather sucks.
Perceptions. Beliefs.
"It might rain today."

Then consider this:

Everything-- and I mean EVERYthing-- is energy.

The rock on your window sill is held together by energy. The coffee in your cup is held together by energy. Even the "empty" space around you is a manifestation of energy. At its most basic (physics and quantum physics) level, I'd hazard a guess this is truly what is meant by those (even if they don't really understand it, consciously) who claim that "we are all one."

We are.

But I digress.

The point is... with everything we do, we manipulate and move energy.

Now, let's return to the Law of Attraction, "intentional manifesting" and similar ideas.

What do you BELIEVE to be true?

Here's what I believe... about these "systems" and beliefs, and how the Universe works:

Energy-- in whatever form-- will tend to flow along a path of least resistance. You pour water in a funnel, it's gonna go through the hole, not through the top edge. Air in a balloon will escape where it finds an opening. Energy is pretty real... even if we can't see it. Radio waves are invisible, but we can't deny that the radio plays. The magnetic force is real, even if we can't actually look at it. Energy (including at the quantum physics level) is also real... we can't "see" it, but we can see the effects of it. Everything-- even chaos-- is "organized" and "behaves" a certain way.

Now, let me return to the two statements about acting in support of our beliefs, and everything being energy. If I wake up in the morning and put my energy (voluntarily) into the idea that "my life sucks," I am setting something in motion... however subtle. "My life sucks" is a belief. However subtle and subconscious it may be, I am now going to start scanning my environment for "supporting evidence" that my life does, indeed, suck. How (and why) do I do that? Largely through the basic human survival instinct which leads us to attempt to organize disparate information into meaningful patterns.

The irony is-- I may even be giving myself a daily "pep talk" about having a good day, while I actively believe that it's part of my sucky life that it's raining. And that I'm out of creamer for my coffee. I notice the rain (negatively) and I notice the lack of creamer (negatively). I perceive these things as fitting the pattern "my life sucks," even if I'm sure I'm not actively looking for them. This is one of the reasons (sidebar note) that "affirmations" seldom work for people.

Meanwhile, my neighbor wakes up and believes her life is beautiful. And her "attention" is on supporting evidence of that. She sees the rain and goes "Yay! I don't have to water the lawn today!" Then she considers the peaceful sound of water dripping off leaves, and how calming it feels. When the absence of creamer manifests itself... she thinks "Yay! I get to have a Starbucks today!" Her rain, and her lack of creamer, are just as real as mine.

OK. I grant you that's pretty simplistic, but I expect you see the deeper point. Moreover, I expect you'd agree with me that there was no "New Age magic" involved in the business of one person perceiving a sucky life, and the other a happy life.

But how does this apply to manifesting a mini-mansion? Or the job of your dreams? Or the perfect relationship partner?

Same game, higher stakes.

Let's look at the "job" scenario, for a moment. Let's say you have a soul-sucking job, and you want your dream job.

Person A wakes up every day and focuses on identifying, finding and getting the job that pays them well and fills their life with meaning. That is their primary directive. Their "dominant belief" is that such a job does exist. And so, their energy goes into supporting that root belief. In a sense, they are looking for the "evidence" of their dream job... clues, ideas, whatever. They read articles, take seminars, scan web sites and job listings, take aptitude tests and so forth. Do they still have a soul-sucking at the moment? Hell, yes!

Person B wakes up every day and knows that they want a dream job... but their energetic focus is primarily on how awful their current situation is. The dream job is just that... a dream; an unreachable side show in a horrid existence. Most of person B's daily energetic output goes into various forms of self-protection against their environment... and because that is their focus, they will (just like my friend in Texas) "find" lots of supporting evidence of their soul-sucking job that's destroying their sense of well-being. And-- sadly-- have very little energy left at the end of the day to pursue their dream.

Who do you think is more likely to actually get their dream job?

Perhaps you're scratching your head and going "Bah! Humbug!" That's OK, really.

The most common protest I hear is this: "Yeah, but it's just not that SIMPLE or EASY!"

Let's talk about beliefs, again.

"Life is difficult" is just another belief that can trap you in a pervasively negative pattern. Indeed, you are right. For YOU, it is "not that simple or easy" because you have a deep seated belief that things like finding your dream job is "not easy." Your approach... no matter how "positive" it may feel to you... is tainted by your subtle attachment to "not easy" as a way of life.

It IS that simple and easy.
But not for the reasons you are thinking...

Let me share something that has probably happened to you-- it's a very common piece of documented human science.

Remember the last time you bought a car? You probably didn't notice any one car more than any one other, until you decided that what you wanted was a dark green SUV. Then-- as if by magic-- there were dark green SUVs everywhere. Remember going camping, and being warned that bears had been sighted in the campground? Suddenly, you noticed evidence of bears everywhere. Maybe you even saw a bear. Were there actually more green SUV's? Were there actually more bears? Or was this just about where your attention (energy) went?

In a sense, that's the "de-mystified" Law of Attraction. Things happen ("appear") because we focus on them; they become forefront in our awareness and we assign more energy resources to them. For some, this is easier to understand if it is wrapped in a pretty New Age package. Some call it "creating reality." Yet others simply call it determination and hard work.

Approaches to life are learned... and can also be unlearned, if the ones you're using are not working for you. I'll end with a case in point.

As I finished up these words, a voice inside me went: "Yanno... I bet someone has already written an explanation like this... and I'm just wasting people's time with what is probably old information-- I should scrap this article." And I seriously considered it. My childhood paradigm was one of being expected to provide perfection, and shutting up unless I felt sure what I had to offer was "near brilliant," and sure to help the vast majority. Hence, my natural tendency has been to follow a strategy of voicelessness centered around fears of not living up to other people's (unrealistic) expectations.

Then another voice inside me said "Yeah, but you know what? Even if 19 people say 'HEARD IT already!' (or just plain disagree), but ONE person gets something from this, then you have added something positive to the consciousness of the planet." That is the new voice of my "unlearning" years, centered around a changed set of beliefs-- a change in my approach to life, considering first how my contributions might add (positive energy) to life, rather than focusing on how they might subtract (negative energy).

Like most things in life, the process of getting what you desire is both stunningly simple and incredibly laborious.

For the hardcore skeptics out there (because I can hear you clearing your throats...), I will add that the large chunk of my life that sucked mightily also happened during years where I deeply believed that life and the world were nasty, hard and unfair. Subsequently, I also didn't find the stunning woman of my dreams, an amazing occupation, and a place I love to live until I actively believed I could have (and deserved) those things...

Did I use the Law of Attraction? Or some "magical" method? A silver bullet? Did I wander barefoot around India for thirteen years, eating nothing but grasshoppers?


I just made a small shift in my thinking... and in where I put my energy. Every day, I "saw" these things in my life... and put my energy in getting what I wanted, rather than putting it into escaping from (or running from) what I didn't want... and I gave up my focus on what I didn't have in my life. You can, too.