Posts filed under Optimism

How Do I Get a Life? - the 5 step answer

The question of how to get a life is one most people have to ask themselves at some point.  Very few folks spring into the world knowing full well how to pack a social calendar or spark a glamorous career.

How to Get a Life

1. To Get a Life, First Get a Mission

Getting a life is a tedious, defeating and nearly impossible process if you're driven only by loneliness or the desire for approval.  What many folks don't realize is that a full and wondrous life flows from having a mission.  So - what's your mission?  You get to make it up.  No one is going to hand it to you.

Sheesh, I get worn out just thinking about it.  This is tough business.

Here's a hint, though: ask yourself - what do I want the most in life? If your answer is, "money" "sex" or "fame" - think a bit harder.  What feeling state do you want those things to give you? A sense of being secure? A warmth of being welcome in the world? A rush of deep fulfillment? Astounded wonder? Vitality? Happiness? Focus on that feeling sense.  Now ask yourself this: what can I do to give that lovely feeling to as many people as possible?

Why are you asking yourself this? Because the more you give others that feeling, the more you'll experience it yourself.  But there's a catch. The catch is that you can't offer it just to folks you like.  You have to be willing to extend it without condition, to everyone. Otherwise the magic  boomerang effect doesn't happen.  That's how the gift world works.

Your answer to "what can I do" to spread the feeling state that you crave far and wide is your mission.  If you want to give yourself and others a sense of astounded wonder, maybe you had better get busy making art.  If you're into spreading happiness around, perhaps you should start throwing cozy sing-along-parties wherein you serve Swiss fondue.  Doesn't that sounds great? Or whatever.  Like I said, you gotta make it up.

 It's your mission, honey.

2. To Get a Life, Spread Your Mission Far

So you start off making art and throwing Swiss fondue singing parties.  Fantastic.  That's a smashing start.  But for the getting a life thing to keep working, I recommend that you further the momentum.  Pool resources together with other people, rent a hall, and throw a GIANT Swiss-fondue-singalong-art-party.   You'll probably become famous and get lots of money and sex since people will be so grateful for all the happiness and astounded wonder you've given them with your singing fondue art.

But by this point you won't even care about all the sex and money and fame because you'll be so freaking happy and full of astounded wonder that really, the cash and the smooth ripe flesh and the camera flashes from the bushes are all just gravy.

3.  To Get a Life, Teach Others How to Fulfill Your Mission

You're not the only one who longs to give others happiness and wonder.  Gather people around you and teach them the intricacies of your cheese-melting voodoo.  Show them how to craft sing-a-longs that people will talk about for years to come.  This is another way for you to be generous, and being authentically generous is what getting a life is all about.

4.  To Get a Life, Don't be Fake Generous

Fake generous is when you invite everyone to your fondue sing-a-long but instead of just wanting them to feel happiness you expect them to be grateful.  This isn't actual generosity – instead, it's a subtle form of manipulation.  People can sense that and they don't like it.  It's also draining and not fun.  There's an element of control and neediness to it that actually pushes folks away.  So at the end of the night you're left holding some dripping greasy chunks of bread and wondering why you don't feel at all fulfilled.

5. To Get a Life, Let Go of Your Bullshit

What's your bullshit?  Very simply, its your resentments, your envy, your cruelty, and your tight attachment to having things your own way on your own schedule.  That's your bullshit.  Don't worry, almost everyone else has the same bullshit. I've got massive reeking piles of it.  You're not uniquely awful because of it.  But you do have to give it up, because that stuff just drags you down and thwarts all your efforts at joy.

Why? Because resentment, envy, cruelty and attachment are patterns of thought and feeling that make you feel alienated from other people.  And the more alienated you feel, the more your limbic system will perceive others as threats to your well-being.  The more you perceive others as threats to your well-being, the more you'll be uptight and the worse you'll treat people (even against your conscious intention).  The worse you treat people, the less friends and true success and happiness you'll have.

So how do you let go of your bullshit? There are many light-weight methods  that work for people- but for me, since I've got such giant stores of it, I have to use the heavy-duty stuff: brahma-vihara practice.   It's a lot of work.  But it does erase the bullshit.  And you're looking to get a life, so you probably don't have anything better to do, right?

So - go I would love for you to tell me in the comments - what's your mission?

 

The Gift World vs. the Mad World

Dear Reader, As I began discussing in my last post, the gift world is a subjective experience of life in which your genius is fully supported and welcomed in its expression, and in which your needs and authentic preferences are joyously met by a provident universe.

I might elaborate on that by saying it's also a condition in which you don't need to control or manipulate anything, nor are you subject to any control or manipulation.  It's a state wherein you offer yourself fully as a gift and experience yourself likewise fully supplied with everything-- also as a gift.  The gifts which supply you come to you through a variety of people and circumstances, but they simply come.  There's no struggling and striving involved, no need to force yourself to do work you don't want to do, no sense of barrier or disconnection between you and other people.  In other words, the gift world is a lot different than the mad world we currently live in.

What's the mad world? It's the state in which we apparently need to strive and do drudge work in order to support ourselves, or, conversely, we need to manipulate, lie to, and exploit others in order to spare ourselves from drudgery (i.e., do business).  It's a world in which we must exert control and force over ourselves (how else do you get yourself to go to work in an ugly office other than through forcing?), where we feel painfully alone and disconnected from our own vital souls and from the other people that surround us.  It's something wrought upon us from the time we're very young and made to go to school in a thoroughly corrupt and increasingly pointless educational system. I think Gary Jules' cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" in Donnie Darko sums it up pretty well. But then again, the original Tears for Fears version is way easier to dance to:

 

The mad world is a condition in which we're desperately trying to control ourselves, other people, and all the factors which surround us out of an intense survival anxiety.  Charles Eisenstein sums it up very well, blow by blow, in his book The Ascent of Humanity (which is available online in its entirety-- as a gift, because Mr. Eisenstein knows what's up). The mad world is a world in which technology and science, surveillance and laws, discipline and punishment are used to maximum effect in order to produce a very tenuous and unsustainable version of security in which we're not only not actually safe, but we're also now bored and depressed.

In the gift world, since you have no need to control, there's no fear.  As the teacher Adyashanti has observed, fear is just a by-product of frustrated control. In the gift world, you do things, but nothing you do is "work" in the sense that we've come to think of it, because your security and your identity don't come from what you accumulate as a result of your effort.  Instead, you give your efforts freely, accruing no obvious security or bolstering to your seperate ego-self.  As you give in this manner, your wants and needs are subsequently mysteriously met in delightful and miraculous ways by the universe.

This miraculous movement happens because, as Lewis Hyde observed in his seminal work The Gift, when gifts received are consumed or passed on, the spiritual power at work in the gift grows-- more is drawn forth, more gifts flow to you. When gifts received are hoarded, stored up, or used only to accrue individual gain, the spiritual power at work in the gift departs-- it dries up, and no more gifts come to you. The gift spirit as it moves creates connection and joy, satisfaction and fulfillment among a circle of givers and receivers.  The gift as it is hoarded creates disconnection and ennui, alienation and discontent.

Our genius (talent, intelligence, creativity, soul-- whatever you want to call it) is clearly a gift given to us by the source.  We didn't manufacture our genius deliberately, of our own clever device.  We didn't make it out of duct-tape and cardboard. It came to us freely, from outside our own will and effort. When we use our gift of genius only promote ourselves, only to make ourselves as individual egos more secure and safe in a seemingly threatening universe-- we then betray the spirit of the gift. We become hoarders. The genius then stops giving us ideas and inspirations and means to carry those out because we've proven ourselves ungrateful.  When we wrongly use gifts graciously bestowed upon us as possessions to which we are entitled,  the spirit of the gift dies.

It was a revelation to me when I learned from Lewis Hyde about the need of the gift to move.  While it made deep sense to me on one level, on another it contradicted the perverse notions of gift reception that I'd learned in childhood: gifts are given to me on my birthday and at Christmas and they are MINE all MINE.  I was taught that to give away a gift that I received as a birthday or a Christmas present was rude. Not only this, but I was prevented from actually formally reciprocating the gifts given to me. When I was invited as a guest to the birthday parties of other children,  the birthday gifts bestowed on my friends by "me"  were toys bought by my mother. I was not allowed to give the pine cones and twigs, the flowers and quartz pebbles I really wanted to give.  The toys my mother presented did not come from me-- they had nothing to do with me. I was deluged with gifts and yet kept out of the circle of giving-- and perhaps unsurprisingly, the gifts I was given in this fashion meant nothing to me on a deep level. They represented nothing to me but a hoard of "my" toys.  The ethos of giving and receiving taught to me thus denied the  actual spirit of the gift.

As I practice the path of virtualizing a great universe and surrendering into my innocence, I can more and more clearly perceive that what I'm virtualizing is the gift world-- and as the gift world is more and more  coming to be my reality,I'm growing increasingly excited.  In the coming days, I'll be sharing more regarding what it takes to move from the mad world to the gift world.

 

Love, Carolyn

Image Attribution: Photo "Presents under the tree" by VancityAllie, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

Raise Your Resonance with Loving-kindness

Dear Reader, One of the most potent means I've found for improving the resonance of my being so that I'm more open to love and happiness and all the good things of life is to practice loving-kindness virtualization.

About Loving-kindness Virtualization

Loving-kindness virtualization is like traditional Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, except instead of just verbally wishing others well, you take time to vividly imagine and feel the happiness and well-being that you wish for them.

I notice that when I practice this form of virtualization it gives me a big energetic boost and enhances my awareness of my connectedness to all other people. When I vividly imagine another person feeling happy and loved --  sometimes especially if I don't like that person or have a grudge against them -- I feel the happiness and love that I'm imagining on their behalf.

This clues me in that my happiness really isn't separate from theirs. It's all one big field, available to be shared.

How to Practice Loving-kindness Virtualization

1. Find some place to be relatively alone and relaxed.

2. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself in the intention to extend your love and drop your grievances.

3. Bring to mind someone you're a little bit irritated with-- a friend, a colleague, someone you see on the bus every day.

4. Imagine that person in a place where they're tremendously happy, doing what they most love.  This can be tough if you don't know the person all that well or you've never seen them really happy. Nonetheless, make something up.

Example: See your colleague who likes to bake standing in the midst of a totally gorgeous kitchen with glossy blue walls and a high stamped-tin ceiling: she has graceful cake plates stacked with luscious cupcakes all around her; her heart is full with joy and peace; she's stirring a bowl of golden batter; she's surrounded by people she loves who are sharing in her bounty. She's radiant, her face is beaming. The room smells like swiss cocoa and cinnamon. Someone makes a joke and the happy baker bursts out with a delighted, full-bodied laugh.

This virtualization might take some work to come up with because you usually encounter your colleague looking bored across the table from you at meetings, quibbling with your ideas, rushing past you in the hallways.

The Benefits for Another

To invest your time imagining her gloriously happy and fulfilled is a real act of generosity on your part.  Since all of us human beings are connected by a morphic field, your kind vision for your colleague actually has the effect of improving the probabilities in the field directly surrounding her.  The altered condition of the field can then draw forth from her new manifestations of joy.

The Benefits for You

While practicing this loving-kindness virtualization for your colleague, you'll immediately start to feel more of your own love and generosity. Even if you begin from a place of resentment or irritation, you'll discover after awhile that you really would like to see this person being completely fulfilled and relaxed. Just realizing this brings you to some important knowledge: you're a kind person who can take real pleasure in the happiness of others.

You'll also start to feel happier and lighter yourself.  It's impossible to vividly imagine anyone feeling really great without you also starting to feel really great.  You've not just improved the field surrounding your colleague-- you've improved the whole field surrounding you.

You may notice that after doing this meditation you feel more alert, more interested in your life, more inclined to do things, more glad to listen closely to other people when they talk.

The next time you see your colleague after you've practiced the loving-kindness virtualization on her behalf, you'll feel more inclined to be soft towards her and less inclined to judge her.

You'll sympathize with her own best wishes for herself, and you'll be able to intuitively grasp how her irritating actions (quibbling, rushing) are part of her means of coping with life's difficulties and defending her tenuous sense of self.  You'll see she can't help it. You'll feel more compassionate, and interested in helping her.

We human beings are all extremely perceptive. Because we're connected by the field, we can feel when someone genuinely wishes well for us, and we respond to this positively.

Over time, your colleague will pick up on your altered resonance. She'll notice that you don't put out vibes of irritation or disapproval when she brushes by you.  She'll be able to relax more when she's in your presence. She might ask you how you're doing. She might support one of your ideas brought up at a meeting.

One day she might bring you some rad cinnamon cupcakes with cocoa-custard icing, and then you'll know the magic is really working.

Love,

Carolyn

Image Credit: Photo of cupcakes from Little Cupcakes, Desgraves St., Melbourne by dootsiez on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Virtualize Your New Universe - Part 2

Dear Reader, Today I want to take you step-by-step through the virtualization process.

Yesterday I wrote about how through the virtualization of our authentic preferences, we can alter our resonance and take ourselves into the range of morphic fields which can powerfully shape and organize developments in our minds and in our lives for the better.

1. Pick a Preference, Any Preference

One of my authentic preferences (something I would still like to happen, even if I was completely blissed out) is to record a freak folk album. Actually, upon reflection, I might especially like this to happen if I was blissed out.

Please note-- this is not an especially "realistic" preference. I don't yet know how to play an instrument (I'm working on guitar- slooooowly).  I don't know how to read music. I don't have any ties to any aspect of the music industry. I've only yet "written" (i.e., recorded myself whistling on my phone's voice recorder) a few little tunes. My optimism surrounding this matter is, indeed, Extra-Rational.

Something that I find very important in this whole optimism process is not to limit the things I hope for to things that I think are realistic based upon my current skills and what's happened in the past.  Why? Because the morphic fields can handle all that stuff.  When I alter my resonance, I get swept into currents where I learn things rapidly and I find out I somehow have more resources and knowledge inside me than I realized.

For example-- at the time I started practicing the dating optimism which eventually resulted in me meeting the love of my life, Dey, I had a rotten track record with relationships.  Nothing in my past repertoire told me I had the chops to maintain a romantic interaction that was happy and healthy.  But I embarked on the process of awesoming my life in that dimension-- I virtualized, I was honest with myself, I surrendered (I'll have more to say about all these parts of the awesoming process, stay tuned)-- and then, not only did I meet my amazing partner, but as he and I spent more time together I discovered that somehow, I did have within me the necessary skills to consistently relate well with him.  Yikes! Where the heck did those come from?

Although I work hard to practice spiritual principles in my every day life and those principles are an essential part of any kind of good relationship, I didn't consciously cultivate romantic intimacy skills. The morphic field of successful romantic love which I entered into with my virtualization caused them to develop in me, drawing them out of the chaos of my heart.

2. See it, Feel it, Smell it, Hear It

This is the fun part. Let's say "you" share my preference to record a freak folk album-- and let's say you're recording it live.

Go somewhere that you can be alone and relax.  Take a few deep breaths.  Imagine yourself on a stage at a summer music festival. Feel the ruffled linen of your rad threads flutter on your skin as a breeze goes by. Feel the gentle weight of the guitar on your knee.  Breathe in deeply.  Smell the fresh sweat of the crowd; the inevitable fragrance of illegal herb smoke that rise up from their midst; the yummy summer smell of hot sun on green grass.  See your band mates wearing their quirky robes, fat flower garlands, carrying their handmade instruments.

Finally, hear yourself start to play and sing, and feel your heart opening and going out to all your audience and all your band members as you do it.  Hear what the music sounds like.  Hear yourself singing, feel your fingers on the guitar strings.  Breathe in the great energy from the crowd, the grins on their faces, the sight of all the dancing, swaying torsos.

There's music moving through you that's more than just the love in your mortal heart, it's the grace of a higher power that wants to come into the world and touch people through you. It's ecstatic-- your ego fades into the background and there's a oneness amongst you and everything around you.  You're right where you're supposed to be.

3. Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Now, future denizen of the folk realm-- keep that up.  If that vision were your authentic preference, I would recommend to you that you set aside ten minutes each day to virtualize it to the max. And when you virtualize it, make sure you imagine it happening in the greatest way possible for you and everyone else who's involved. In other worlds, don't virtualize yourself up there on stage, giving a so-so performance to a crowd that's more focussed on selling and buying acid than on listening to you play.  Focus on seeing a picture of dynamic harmony, with all elements working together to bring forth something that's just insultingly sublime (i.e., way bigger than your self).

Why? Because for some weird reason, life is just crazy about fulfilling expansive, gorgeous dreams like that.

Love,

Carolyn

Virtualize Your New Universe - Part 1

Dear Reader, Yesterday we talked about how it's possible to travel to a whole new universe through the power of Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism and hops.

Today I want to talk more about exactly how this travel is accomplished.

Why Virtualize

Virtualization is a process in which you vividly imagine the fulfillment of your authentic preferences, drawing upon all five senses and upon your emotions. Let's say that I'm working on manifesting some roly-poly pigs.  I would relax, lay back, and spend some time seeing myself hanging out in a pig pen, feel the soft squishing of the mud, hear the sweet grunts of porcine oinking, smell the fragrant shit, feel my heart swelling with joy. Why do this?

Because in order to jump to a better universe, you've got to get the feel for what it would be like.  This works because imagination, as my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson realized, is not just making stuff up. It's actually a kind of insight, or what Emerson called "a very high form of seeing." It feels like "making stuff up" at first because our imaginative light is dim to begin with.  As that light gets stronger and stronger, we begin to see that when we're imagining the fulfillment of our authentic preferences, we're actually not just making stuff up-- we're perceiving a possible world, and the act of vividly perceiving it with our imagination draws it into physical manifestation.

Virtualizing your new universe is itself a hop-- a hopeful optimistic practice -- and a very powerful one at that. When practiced regularly (every day is best) it alters your resonance.

On Morphic Resonance

What does that mean? Allow me to explain: the biologist Rupert Sheldrake posited that the development of life forms doesn't just depend on the information in their genes. The development of plants and animals also depends on something he called organizational fields, or morphic fields (meaning "fields that influence form").

Sheldrake offered that these fields work by creating order in otherwise chaotic or random patterns of gene-instructed activity. He said that these fields are not static, but constantly evolve:

The fields of afghan hounds and poodles have become different from those of their common ancestors, wolves. How are these fields inherited? I propose that they are transmitted from past members of the species through a kind of non-local resonance, called morphic resonance.

That is to say, morphic fields are a kind of collective memory which each individual of the species both draws upon and contributes to. Thus if one member of the species learns to do something unprecedented for the species as a whole (say, a cat in Pittsburgh learns to flush toilets), the rest of the species, due to an alteration in its morphic field caused by the advance of its individual member, thus instantly becomes more easily able to learn that same new thing (cats in Japan, unacquainted with the original Pittsburgh cat, are now figuring out how to flush toilets at a rapid rate).

Sheldrake proposed that religious rituals are a way in which "the past becomes present" because the people enacting the rituals, by the very act of the ritual, thereby enter into a morphic resonance with the people who in previous centuries performed the same rituals. Thus they partake of the wisdom and strength of all those ancestors. Also,

The morphic fields of social groups connect together members of the group even when they are many miles apart, and provide channels of communication through which organisms can stay in touch at a distance.

This phenomenon of non-local communication is very interesting for us folks on the path of awesoming our lives, because it implies that  through entering the morphic field of a certain group by adjusting one's resonance to match it, one can gain access to that group's implicit knowing and force of developmental organization.

In his book Power vs. Force, the psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins claims that Sheldrake's theory of morphic fields and morphic resonances offer an explanation for why 12-Step Recovery Fellowships work so well to heal members from life-threatening compulsions and addictions: the frequent meeting attendance and repeated ritual behaviors which these fellowships encourage align suffering newcomers with the morphic field of those who are already successfully recovering from the illness.  Through the morphic field of the group, the newcomer who on his own could not stop abusing substances becomes capable of getting time away from active addiction just by simple actions that align him with the sheer power of the group's non-local field of recovery.

So if your life is kind of sucky right now, you're a newcomer, in a sense, to awesomeness.  You need to get aligned with the morphic field of an awesomed life. And virtualization is one important way to do that.

By spending time virtualizing a universe in which your authentic preferences are fulfilled, you alter your own morphic resonance so that it's in harmony with the group of people who have previously achieved those preferences. In doing this, you thereby access not only the collective group knowledge of people who know how to achieve those preferences but you also come into an organizing field which shapes the whole landscape of your life (including factors well beyond your conscious control) into the morphic pattern held by that field-- into the pattern of success.

Stay tuned for How to Virtualize Your New Universe Part 2!

 

Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism (TERO)

Dear Reader, Let's explore what it means to be Throbbingly, Extra-Rationally Optimistic in a way that makes your life burn well. I'm going on the assumption that by now you've made a list of 25 things you desire and you've put the items on that list to the bliss test. Great! Good job! I also hope you're beginning to practice our 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life.

Optimism is a tricky thing. It has a bad rap as being foolish, fluffy-headed, liable to get you hurt and in trouble. It can be and do all of these things when it's executed in a misguided manner, directed toward the fulfillment of desires that are really conditioned attachments or addictions and not authentic preferences.

False Hope

For example, I used to be very optimistic that I could live a life of constant partying and shameless self-promotion and thereby become a indie art world icon, not unlike Nico of Nico and the Velvet Underground fame. This was misguided optimism because it had to do with my conditioned attachments to attention, glamor, and various unsavory behaviors.  It was also an optimism that was based on a very limited and actually pessimistic assessment of my worth as a human being and also of the goodness of the world. In other words, I didn't trust that I could be valued by others for my intellect, my sensitive intuition and my kind heart-- in large part because I didn't value those things in myself. For a long time I thought those major virtues were actually liabilities-- they prevented me from being as tough and cool, nihilistic and frivolous as I thought I needed to be to be accepted.

It actually wasn't until I was working at the Andy Warhol Museum (you see, I was NOT kidding about my Velvet Underground / Warhol / Nico fandom) as a curatorial assistant in the archives, and I there came a cross a long-out-of-print biography of Nico which focused on her highly ignominious death in a ditch after collapsing while desperately seeking heroin in the hot sun that I came to question my aspirations and lifestyle decisions.  I thought to myself, "Hm, perhaps I do not wish to die alone in a ditch while desperately seeking heroin in the hot sun. Perhaps my current choices are leading me in that direction. Maybe I should try something else?"

The Need for Change

Those thoughts were just the beginning of me questioning my false optimism. It would actually take real tragedy and shock in my own life-- the ugly dissolution of everything that I had planned and hoped for-- until I became willing to work on cultivating a more genuine path for myself that had less to do with fulfilling glamorous images and gaining the approval of hip people and a lot more to do with living by spiritual principles and being of real service to the world.

Optimism put in the service of shallow hopes and aspirations that do not take into account a balanced, compassionate and accepting view of who you are CAN indeed be quite damaging.  However, if you've been living a life that's not burning well for quite some time (you've felt stuck, flat, afraid, paralyzed) it can be damn hard to achieve a balanced, compassionate and accepting view of yourself! What's a person to do?

The Double-Bind

It's a double-bind: In order to improve my life, I need to see myself much more kindly and much more clearly so I can cultivate a truly positive vision.  But my life is messed up to begin with because I don't see myself kindly or clearly, and everything in my messed-up life thus reflects back to me all the messed-up things I believe about the world, myself, and other people: it sucks, I suck, and they suck.

In other words, it's awful hard to start improving my vision for my future and my perception of myself when to all appearances around me, such improvements are not justified.

For example-- when I was at my lowest point after my party girl life came crashing down, it was very difficult for me to believe that I was a vibrantly worthwhile person who could have a major positive impact on others and thereby sustain herself financially and creatively.

Why was this so tough to believe? Because I had alienated all of my friends with the power of my crazy, was utterly broke,  and magestically miserable. I used these undeniably yucky circumstances as prime evidence in support my view that I was hopelessly flawed and mostly worthless.  This view of myself fueled the alienation, the crazy, the brokeness, and the misery by causing me to desperately seek quick-fix validation outside myself from dubious sources (shady and unstable guys-- a long-time favorite!).

A very unhappy circle.

The Way Out of the Double-Bind

In order to alter my perception of myself and the world and thus come into an authentically optimistic vision that could improve -  rather than degrade -  my life, I needed the help of others. A lot of others.

I needed therapists, spiritually-oriented friends, mentors, and books and advice columns and horoscopes by loving authors who addressed me compassionately and deeply. I recommend that you seek out all of these resources. Hopefully, this blog and maybe even personal consultation with me can serve you in this way. All of these resources things can help you get a better idea of what's possible.

So, Carolyn, What's Possible?

Imagine that I'm back from the future. Really. I've been to 1 year from now, I've hung out there, and I've seen what's up with you. I have a report of my findings to share. As I have a world-wide reputation as an utterly honest and infallible time traveller, you know you can trust my report absolutely. Here's what I've found: all of your authentic preferences arrived. They just showed up one day. You were hanging out, doing your thing, and one-by-one, things just started falling into place, magically and synchronistically.

Man, I'm serious. I talked to your future self. I found out all about it. You didn't strive, you didn't work extra-hard--  it all just happened.  The gypsy caravan that's so rad you can hardly stand it showed up full of gold coins and pug puppies, and it carried you to a house that looks just like a Lisa Frank sticker exploded all over it, wherein you proceeded to dress up in a very glittery manner ala David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust era, record a hit freak folk album and soak in your clawfoot bathtub before your roaring fire place while writing a much-sought-after self-help book and didactic novel.

So-- what's your experience like after you learn about this great news?

Odds are, you'd feel a wonderful ecstatic lift-- like, WOW! The world is a MUCH kinder place than I thought it was! Whoah! Who knew, baby? Things aren't so bad after all! You'd feel exhilarated, giddy, glad and boggled. You'd stop beating yourself up for what happened in the past. You'd stop pressuring yourself to make something good happen because you'd know it was going to happen. You'd deeply relax.

You'd feel thrilled and blessed and you'd derive much pleasure out of anticipating the arrival of the gypsy caravan of gold coins and pug puppies.  This anticipation would be so much fun that you'd probably start jotting down notes to yourself for song lyrics for your freak folk album, self-help book, and didactic novel. You might even want to begin really writing those things, so as to get a head start. You'd experience a surge in energy and a lot of great ideas for what you're going to do with that caravan and what kind of uplifting parties you're going to throw in that house. You might start reading about how to take care of pug puppies, 'cause sister, you gotta be ready. There's going to be a gazillion of them, remember.

Probably you would want to focus on savoring the pleasures of being a relatively anonymous person of modest means for the duration of the remaining months before the magic kicks in full force.  You might slow down, take it easy, revel.  You'd cease trying so hard to impress anyone or get ahead. You'd be much more generous with your time and willing to help others out because you'd cease to be so worried about your own future. You'd let your freak flag fly and no apologies about it, honey.

In other words you would let-go.  You'd have fun! You'd stop resenting what you lack now and regretting what you did in the past because-- heck, what have you got to complain about? There's a freakin' awesome gypsy caravan comin' round the bend!  You'd be your true self and every atom of your being would start humming with joy, humor, and goodness.  You would yourself become the sort of very magical creature that magical gypsy caravans are notoriously drawn to.

Sound good? Well, that's the power of Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism. Stay tunes for more ideas about practicing it!

Posted on March 3, 2011 and filed under Law of Attraction, Optimism.

The Dance of Faith

Dear Reader, Are you busily working with our 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life? I hope so, because I, for one, am having a blast with my Truth and Beauty Pages, Throbbing Extra-Rational Optimism, hops, and 5 Minutes Towards Beauty.

Questioning Desire

My razor-sharp friend Tait McKenzie Johnson over at The Absent Narrative wrote an insightful reply to yesterday's post on How to Desire, which can be found just under that post on this very blog and also here.

To briefly summarize, Johnson raises a fantastic question, "are desires necessarily a good thing to fulfill?" and then goes on to outline the ways in which desiring can be potentially deleterious to the soul.  He also notes that most of the things I listed as things I "Really, Really Want" are material objects, and offers his skepticism that material objects can really do all that much to promote happiness, observing that "there's a difference between having goals and wanting stuff."

I fully agree.  And while I don't myself subscribe to the practice of releasing all desires, I do think it's incredibly important to release all of what the pioneering human potential author Ken Keyes Jr. called "emotion-backed addictions"-- otherwise known as attachments to having things a certain way which cause us to get upset when things don't turn out as we wanted. These things have been called "desires" in certain contexts.  Keyes advocated that we focus on "upleveling" all of our attachments / emotion-backed addictions to "preferences." I highly recommend that everyone on earth read all about it in his 1970s classic, The Handbook to Higher Consciousness, which is invaluably wise and available in its entirety here online. To me, Keyes' distinction between attachments / addictions and preferences is very important.

The Dance of Faith

I think in order to have a life that burns well, one needs to not only release one's addictions to having things a certain way (i.e., surrender, let go) but also fully embrace, hope for and pursue the fulfillment of one's preferences. As you might imagine, this is a bit of a difficult dance to do.  Executed at its highest level, it's what the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called "the dance of faith" and elaborated in the brilliant treatise Fear and Trembling.  According to Kierkegaard, one who executes the dance of faith may be called a "knight of faith" and thereby distinguished from someone who succeeds in surrendering but not also hoping for finite fulfillment-- whom he calls a "knight of infinite resignation."

Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling has such a scary title because it's mostly about the adventures of one particular knight of faith, Abraham, who had a rough going of it, what with the Lord ordering him to sacrifice his only son Isaac and all. Kierkegaard uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to highlight that in order to be a knight of faith, one must first fully and completely surrender (i.e., drop one's addiction to having things a certain way).  Abraham had to completely surrender his very normal and natural attachment to not murdering his own son with his own hand.  But according to Kierkegaard, Abraham didn't stop there with his surrender-- he also had an intense dose of Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism in which he trusted that even though he was killing his own son, things would still turn out okay. Of course we all know that Abraham's faith was rewarded-- an angel appeared and stopped him from killing Isaac at the last second. Whew!

So you see, there was a lot of fear and trembling in all of that.

But Kierkegaard also relates that there doesn't necessarily need to be a giant Old Testament tribulation in place in order for one to become a knight of faith, and emphasizes that knights of faith are not apparent to the eye.  They can be completely indistinguishable, in fact, from a sort of person that Kierkegaard quite loathed-- materialistic philistines like me. Kierkegaard imagines a scenario in which he is introduced to an utterly ordinary-seeming person ("Good Lord! that person? Is it really he—why, he looks like a parish‑beadle!") who likes to eat and drink and putter around and hope passionately that his wife has prepared his favorite dish for dinner and yet who is not at all disappointed when he finds she has not-- in short, who is actually a knight of faith.

I may not have my head quite wrapped around the whole Abraham-as-a-knight-of-faith thing, but I think I do grasp the philistine-as-a-knight-of-faith idea. It makes sense to me after having read Keyes' book and Byron Katie's book A Thousand Names for Joy.

In short, the Philistine Knight of Faith is a person who has managed the amazing feat of fully surrendering attachment while also zestfully embracing and pursuing her preferences.  This non-attached zestful pursuit has rather dazzling results. Witness Byron Katie, who is so non-attached to her continued earthly existence that she doesn't bat an eyelash when a dude holds a loaded gun to her belly and says "I'm going to kill you" but who also surrounds herself with lovely stuff and has a wildly successful metaphysical self-help business with her partner, the brilliant translator Stephen Mitchell.

As Kierkegaard points out, knights of faith are rather rare.  I myself am nowhere near that degree of profound surrender and simultaneous hope.  I am, however, deeply involved in practicing its movements to the best of my ability.

Something that I didn't get around to fully discussing when I wrote about Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism in my 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life post wherein I described the amazing story of how I manifested my dream lover, Dey, is that while I worked on practicing total optimism that my true love would show up (and fast!) I also worked on surrendering my attachment to having that relationship at all.  In other words, I practiced the dance of faith.  Paradoxically, though-- I'd been trying to surrender my attachment to having a relationship for years without any success (I remained riddled with attachment! Just riddled!).  It was only when I began to practice Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism that I would get the wonderful relationship that I longed for that I became capable of surrendering my attachment to it, my frantic seeking of it.  Doesn't that just sound immensely complicated and weird? Just describing it -- I'm like, whoah, how the heck did I do that? It sounds impossible-- but that's my experience.

I want to break down and explain for you exactly how I did that, because I think it's an immensely valuable and awesome thing to do.

And, frankly, it is a little complicated and tough to explain and easy to misunderstand. It's also what I think is actually the way the whole law of attraction thing works.  So keep tuning in right here, folks, as I endeavor in the future to lead us through the dance of faith! In the mean-time...

What to Do With that List of Desires

Well, that was an interesting jaunt through existential theology, wasn't it? Now, you will ask, "What should I do with this damn list of 25 things I want?"

1. Notice Your Attachments / Addictions

Go through the list and make notes about what things on it you're especially attached or addicted to.  In other words, what things on that list are you totally bummed and resentful that you don't currently have? For example, I am amazingly resentful that my poetry hasn't been published yet by any of the magazines or book contests I've sent it to.  It also continually bugs me that I do not have absolutely gazillions of gold coins to swim in, and that no one has yet seen fit to award my unpublished manuscripts of poetry The Nobel Prize in Literature.  Of course, since I if I had gazillions of gold coins to swim in, I would also have a house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way and a gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it, not to mention a pug puppy-- it stands to reason that I am fairly resentful about my lack of these things as well.

And that resentment and attachment, friends, is not just something that pollutes my current life, it's also something which stands in the way of me actually attaining those desires or dreams in the future.  Why? Because resentment and attachment create an inertia that affixes me to a negative and lacking self-image, drain me of energy, excite paralyzing fear, and cause me to grasp desperately at things that seem to offer what I truly desire, but actually do not. It's bad ju-ju. In other words, my resentment and attachment make me vulnerable to being self-deluded and deluded by all the dazzling lies of our consumer culture. Which, as perhaps you've noticed, sucks.

2. Ask Yourself a Very Deep Question

The question is this: what among these things would I still like or much prefer to have, even if I felt a constant inner state of fulfillment, peace, and bliss?

This question can be helpful in discerning your authentic preferences from ones that are largely false and fear-driven attachments. After we've done this work of discernment, we can get down to the nitty gritty of practicing surrender around the things that truly matter to us.

For example, if I were blissed out, I wouldn't really give a fig anymore about winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Those Swedish snobs could kiss my enlightened ass. Noticing this clues me in that my desire for a Nobel Prize is a conditioned or false desire-- not part of an intrinsic shape or Urpflanz model that my soul longs to blossom into, but a side accessory to bolster my oft-faltering writerly ego.

However, if I was totally blissed out, I would still like a house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way and a gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it.  Of course, I wouldn't need these things-- I'd be blissed out! But I would like and prefer to have them-- whereas all that Nobel Prize riggamarole would just be an annoyance.

3. Take the Weeds of Resentment out of the Garden of Desire

Yes, even blissed-out me would still like the caravan and the crazy color house. Also the pug puppy and the gazillions of gold coins to swim in.

But! One might say. Carolyn! You should let go of those desires! You just said you feel all kinds of nasty attachment and resentment surrounding them. How can they be good things for your soul when you feel all that mucky yucky stuff surrounding them?

Well, let me tell you about that.  I used to use the same argument on myself in regards to my desire for a truly wonderful relationship.  I'd recognize that wanting it so much hurt (because I seemed to be constantly frustrated in my attempts to fulfill that want) so I'd try to talk myself out of wanting it.  This never worked because my desire for a wonderful relationship was an authentic preference-- it passed the "bliss" test. I could honestly say yes, if I was completely blissed out I would still prefer to have a fantastically awesome romantic partner in my life, just like Byron Katie has her "dear Stephen." Once I recognized that my longing for true love was an authentic preference, an intrinsic part of the design my soul wanted to blossom into in my life, I was able to give myself permission to fully, innocently, soaringly hope for it with a totally open heart, as I had never hoped for anything before.

As I previously noted, by some mind-boggling paradox, the very act of this Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism helped me to surrender my attachment and resentment surrounding the lack of an awesome relationship in my life.

And then, zooooooom! It worked!

So, concerned reader, I understand I still need to do a lot of work surrendering my attachment to gazillions of gold coins and the gazillions of pug puppies such gold coins could pay for-- or, as dear Mr. Keyes would say "upleveling" my emotion-backed addictions to them to preferences. But since I have now identified those as authentic preferences, I am prepared to begin practicing the magic of my Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism on them.  More on that tomorrow!

On Transmuting Life Into Truth

Emerson had this to say in "The American Scholar" (one of my all-time favorite essays along with... all of Emerson's other essays): The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing. Or, I might say, it depends on how far the process had gone, of transmuting life into truth.

Posted on February 28, 2011 and filed under Life Adventure, Optimism, Poetic Inquiry.

4 Tools to Awesome Your Life

Dear Reader, A few of my friends and I are having an adventure this March. I hope you’ll join us. We’re having an adventure in our own lives. We’re going to turn up the heat in our existence and fling off some brighter sparks. This is what we’ll do:

1. Truth and Beauty Pages

Each morning, first thing, we’ll write four pages in response to the question: “What’s true in my life? And what’s beautiful?”  I’ve been writing Truth and Beauty Pages on and off for years now. Whenever I do it, things go better— I’m more in touch with my life, with who I am, and with what I need to do (that’s the truth part) and I’m more sensitive to the glorious glories all around me (that’s the beauty part).  I’ve been doing it for the past two weeks and I can feel myself coming alive in a thousand surprising ways— I can’t believe I had stopped for so long!

Actually, let revise what I said in the first paragraph— it’s not just that things get better when I write my Truth and Beauty pages— it’s that Truth and Beauty pages have literally kept me alive at some points in my life. When I was young and in a really bleak situation, living with an older guy who lied to me and abused me on a daily basis, writing Truth and Beauty pages was the only thing that kept me sane and connected with my soul.

Writing each day about the reality of my situation (it sucked SO much) and about the beauty that I saw in myself, others, and the world served the dual purpose of both making me face the facts without denial, minimization, or

rationalization (three ugly devils who like to keep me stuck!) and also letting me dream about what could be possible. This gave me enough strength to eventually leave that man and build the awesome existence I currently enjoy.

Now that I’m quite a bit saner and about seventy trillion times happier, writing Truth and Beauty Pages continues to serve me because… as it turns out, there’s always more to discover when it comes to these primary spiritual principles. They’re no longer dramatically rescuing me from abusive scenarios, but they are bringing the much needed oxygen of consciousness to my experience— thus stoking the flames.

2. Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism

As every life-coach new-agey metaphysical finger lickin’ person out there will tell you (and I, friends, am no exception) you have to vividly imagine your life working out in a way that will utterly rock your socks if you want your socks to end up rocked. The reason everyone will tell you this is because they are kind and good and it, ladies and gentlemen, is true.

How do I know it’s true? Well, that’s a good story. I was once in a completely yucky state with my dating life.  I could only seem to get interested in and attracted to guys who would lie to me and or harm me in some fashion (see above instance) and every “romantic” interaction I had was actually a disaster.  I overcame this situation in part by practicing the brilliant, exceptionally well-written instructions in Amy Spencer’s life-altering book, Meeting Your Half Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match. If you have any trouble finding the right person at all, I highly beg you (notice: I am not highly recommending and I am not begging— I am highly begging) that you purchase and read and practice this book.

I practiced the kind of optimism that Spencer so wittily describes— and that optimism gave me the power to fearlessly examine my previous patterns and change my fundamental false beliefs about who I am and what I deserve… which resulted in me cosmically attracting to myself my now-boyfriend, Dey, who I will put up against any dude you got in the “most phenomenally awesome lover and friend and human being” contest that we will organize and hold next year.

This experience— of going from a situation being so awful for such a long time (my romantic sorrows, oh, they were manifold!) to being so flippin’ great that I gush at every one endlessly about it— has taught me that yes, Amy Spencer and everyone else is right. Optimism works.

And not lazy optimism. Not, “Oh, whatever, yeah, that could happen” optimism.  I mean balls-to-the-wall, hoping-with-all-my-heart, completely exposed and vulnerable optimism.

I call it throbbing optimism, because when you’re really doing it (and more about how-to soon) your whole body pulses. It feels great.

I call it extra-rational optimism because it rationality and reason are way over-rated. The reasoning mind (at least mine) only knows what was true in the past, and makes deductions out of that.  It says that any hope that something truly different and way more better could happen is “irrational.” Well, I say it is NOT “irrational” — it is extra-rational.  It exceeds reason. It exceeds the known. It’s willing to accept the unknown— and that unknown is super-neat.

3. Hops

Hops are “hopeful optimistic practices.”  Yes, you’re right. That’s redundant.  It is so redundant because guess what? Our habitual negativity and existential dread is incredibly redundant.  So the stuff that combats it has got to be the same way. Hops are kind of like leaps of faith. Except they’re not leaps— because leaps are big and really really hard.  Hops are— you know, just hops. They’re fun. Less like soaring across a rocky gulch and more like bouncing— as bunnies bounce.  So you see, cadbury candy eggs.  No, wait. Cadbury candy eggs was not my point.

My point is this— we need each day to take little actions that are in line with the dreams of our Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism.  These little actions must also be fun.  I don’t mean big actions. I don’t mean stuff that feels like a drag. I just mean little hip hops that are on the trail.

Hops are much, much easier to do, by the way, when you are indeed practicing your Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism— because that stuff has some oomph in it, and provides inspirational energy that we might otherwise lack.

When I was practicing my dating optimism a la Amy Spencer, my hops were these: sifting through okcupid profiles, looking for guys I liked; getting dressed up all fancy and going to parties that sounded cool.  That’s it. So you see, these hops were not only not tough— they were also fun.

Here’s the thing though: had I not been practicing my Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism, I totally would have talked myself out of those hops. “What’s the point at looking at okcupid? I’ve been on that stupid site for years and I haven’t met anyone I really liked who really liked me.” “Go to the Beaux Arts Ball? But

getting a costume together would take so much energy. Better to just stay home and look at LOLcats.”

So what happened due to my hops? Well, at the Beaux Arts Ball I dressed as my true self, Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, and this hot French guy asked me out while we were standing in a glorious topiary garden. He took me out on fancy dates to the theater and classy restaurants— which was a great time.  Stuff with the French dude did not ultimately work out, but it sure did help bolster my self-esteem which had been trampled by my years of misadventures— and weeks later, while trolling okcupid, I came across the profile of an astoundingly gorgeous Indian man who looked just like the astoundingly gorgeous Indian man I’d been seeing repeatedly in my (romantic, tender, luscious) night-time dreams. Hmmmmmm.  Well, that was Dey and that DID work out.

So yeah man— hops.

Currently, my Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimistic dream is to become an internationally-known speaker, spiritual self-help author, workshop-leader, and life advisor (I would say “life coach” but I really just hate the word “coach”… it makes me think of coaches).

It occurred to me that writing a blog in which I share with the world what I know about making life richer would be a fun, not-difficult action that would align with my dream. So. Here I am. Hop! Hop! Hop!

4. 5 Minutes Towards Beauty

Every day we’ll spend five minutes making something beautiful. A painting, a story, a song, a poem, a cake, a comedy routine, a comic strip.  What you make doesn’t need to be “beautiful” in the “wow, that’s pretty” sense. It’s more that it’s beautiful in that it’s revealing something real through your craft— whatever that craft is. Remember, truth IS beauty. Honesty— even difficult to look-at-stuff— is also beautiful.  What I’m saying is, just because your comic strip is a vividly rendered piece about university professors who melt into nauseating, hairy gremlins when deprived of coffee doesn’t mean it can’t count as your “something beautiful”— because it’s true, so true, you see.

Devoting 5 minutes a day to making something beautiful has the powerful effect of putting you in alignment with the creative force of the universe— which, as you may notice, makes something (or, arguably, everything) beautiful every day.

Also, if you don’t yet have enough skills in a particular area to sit down and “make something beautiful” right then and there— that’s absolutely fine. Practicing and playing around counts too, as long as that practice is towardsthe beautiful.  For example— I’m just learning to play guitar right now (through the good grace of my friends who are so generous with their time!) and I can’t yet just sit down and write “Hallelujah.” Heck, I can’t even play “Hallelujah.” I’m working on making the transition from the C chord to the G chord. But that counts!

Okay, so that’s what we’ll be up to for the month of March.  So I hope you’ll join in! Feel free to write in questions to me under the “Ask me anything” tab up top.

Love,

Carolyn