Posts tagged #desire

Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering - Part 3

 

This is the third post in a series on Surrendering Your Addiction to Suffering.  You can read the first post here (wherein I give an overview of the nine commitments necessary to the process) about the and the second post (about the first commitment) here. Today we're talking about the second commitment in surrendering your addiction to suffering:

 

2) Understand that these judgments, though voiced by your own internal monologue, represent the distorted perceptions of a spiritual dis-ease and not “the truth”

 

The Buddha (one of my favorite dudes, along with Jesus, Byron Katie and Lao Tse) said that ignorance is the primary affliction of the human mind.  The two other afflictions he noted, desire and hate, are secondary manifestations of that ignorance.  The ignorance that makes us suffer isn't a lack of knowledge in the conventional sense -- instead, it's a fundamental misperception about the nature of who we are and how reality works.

 

Our misperception leads us to think that we're discrete, solitary individuals separate from the whole of existence.  We identify with the contents of our mind and emotion and mistake the aggregate of those contents to be "me." Once we've made that basic mistake, we have the sense, at a fundamental level, that it's "me against the world." Even if we're generally happy-go-lucky people, the moment something goes not-according-to-plan in a big way (we lose a job we depended on for our security; a relationship goes sour; a loved one dies; we get ill; we get old... on and on) we feel attacked.

 

This feeling of being attacked by things not matching up with our internal picture of how life should treat us is a symptom of our misperception that we're basically separate from the rest of life. We resent the people and situations that appear to be battling us (i.e., we experience hate) and we long for whatever circumstances we think would make it all better (i.e., we desire).

 

In the absence of the fundamental mistake of thinking we're a separate "me" we would be unable to see anything as going against us (because there would be no "us" for "it" to go "against") and we'd be unable to wish for anything other than what's already present in our lives (because we wouldn't be able to perceive ourselves as lacking anything -- you can't lack something if you are everything).

 

Ignorance, desire and hate are the dangerous trio that make up the spiritual disease of addiction to suffering, which we ordinary humans are all afflicted with to some extent or another.

 

Sometimes I think that Jesus said we must become as little children in order to reach the Kingdom of Heaven because very little children don't yet have a sense of themselves as discrete individuals; they don't hate; and while they sure make a fuss about getting fed and having their diapers changed, they don't desire in the sense that they don't mentally attach themselves to specific stories about what life should look like.

 

Enlightenment (or "entering the Kingdom of Heaven" in the Christian tradition-- a Kingdom which, by the way, Jesus adamantly stated could be found here on earth) is the state of consciousness in which one is totally free from the disease of addiction.  It's the condition of being free from ignorance, hate and desire.  Far from being a boring condition (some folks imagine desire-less-ness as a kind of numbness) it's actually a profoundly vivid state of joy, abounding love, and deep fulfillment.

 

I've long been putting in my petition to get hit with the enlightenment bolt, but until that happens in order to stay remotely sane I have to focus on letting go of my ignorance, hate and desire to the best of my ability. The second commitment in this process reminds me that my mind's stream of negative judgments just aren't the truth.  They're the product of my fundamental confusion about who I am and what life is doing. This commitment represents my willingness to be humble and to be aware.

 

When I keep this commitment at the forefront of my awareness I find that a bit of air and spaciousness comes into the dark, foetid chambers of my mind and makes room for truth and love to come in.

 

If you'd like some help on getting to spaciousness around your suffering, you might want to check out my low-cost life coaching.

 

Love!

Carolyn

 

Image by Dalbera. Borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

Admit You Want the Gift World

The first step to entering the gift world is to admit that you want it.  "What do you mean? A world in which everything is a gift? Of course I want it!" you might think.

Yes! But do you fully, deeply, wildly want it-- without hesitation or equivocation?  Isn't there a voice that argues that you shouldn't want it? Does it argue that you should want more practical, more attainable things-- like a respectable job, a nice car, some better clothes, a vacation?  Does it suggest that your desire for the gift world is foolish, childish, pointless?

That voice is incorrect.  It's made out of the conditioned messages of the mad world and it is not telling the truth-- you can know because what it says is not kind to your deepest self, the part of you that is a gift-- your soul-- also known as your genius.  It's not foolish, impractical, or pointless to long for the gift world.  It is pure, wise, and powerful to want it and to want it without hesitation or equivocation.

Such a wanting is actually sacred because it is in accord with the nature of who we are. We are gifts. Each one of us was lavishly bestowed upon the earth.  We learned as children not to want what we truly want because such a wanting went against the very structure of the society in which we were born-- the culture of separation and competition, of belief in scarcity.

Our experiences-- our defeats, the insults we received, the treatment we were subject too-- all argued very loudly to us that the world we longed for was not possible, could not exist, and we didn't deserve it anyway.  We were taught to channel our desire for the gift world towards objects of desire that the mad world deemed acceptable: namely, individual signs of success, security, and power.

The matter was probably not helped much by the fact that our parents had lived through the beautiful opening and excitement of the 1960s, only to see it fizzle down into the Reagan and Bush Eras.

Our parents didn't want us to be plowed down by the merciless system-- they wanted us to succeed in it.  They made sure we went to good schools, got good grades.  In their own disappointment and lack of faith they encouraged us to play it safe and mind the rules.

Playing safe, of course, has turned out to be not safe at all.   We're in debt. Jobs are being outsourced.  The jobs which still exist and which pay well demand us to focus our energy and attention on things extrinsic to the concerns of our own souls and communities.  The system sucks. The mad world is broken, and playing by its rules to win its paltry consolation prizes for the life we could be living won't satisfy our souls, won't give expression to our genius.

If you're an awakening genius, the more you try to play the mad world's game, the more you'll find yourself feeling depressed, blocked, alienated.  You'll struggle with addiction and chronic illness.  Parts of your heart will be closed down and sealed off.  You'll be very far from bliss and contentment.

Fully admitting  that what we want is the gift world and that  what we won't be satisfied with anything less is enormously frightening.  It's frightening because to acknowledge the truth that what the world of competition and separation offers us is lousy and to simultaneously richly embrace our real desire instead makes it much less easy to lie to ourselves and those around us that the mad world is okay, is good enough, should be participated in.

It's frightening to wholly own our real desire because we rightly sense that owning such a thing undermines our ability to be successful in the mad world-- and our sense is absolutely right.  Admitting and embracing our real desire does undermine our false participation in a world that demeans and instrumentalizes us.  The more fully we allow ourselves to know the truth about what we really want the more impossible it will be to keep up the charade of chasing  money, prestige, security.

We may be afraid to admit that what we want is the gift world because such an admission opens us up to be mocked as flakey and new age.

Also, we don't want to appear foolish and pathetic if the gift world never shows up for us. We don't want to be sitting, left behind in the dust after all the others have trampled over us to conventional glory. It's much safer to pretend that we're okay with the mad world of separation and competition-- even to pretend that we want to succeed in it.  We imagine that to try to succeed in the mad world and to fail is embarrassing-- but not nearly as embarrassing as longing for and believing that the gift world can come and then being disappointed when it doesn't.  This imagination is false because it belies the fact that when we desire a true solution and actively seek it out, that true solution comes. The gift world is a true solution to the wound in our hearts that comes from trying to keep ourselves separate and safe.

We might say things to ourselves like, "Yeah, it would be great if the gift world showed up in my experience-- but I can make do with the way things are."

Or we may say "I'm committed to succeeding in my career-- but I'm open to the gift world showing up."

We hedge our bets. We equivocate, in our words and in our action.  So our world doesn't change much.

I invite you to stop saying, "I don't mind" or "It's okay" in relation to the mad world.  Those words may sound like acceptance-- but they're actually rationalization and denial.  True acceptance is the acceptance that a greater solution is both desired and possible.

Let me put it this way-- if you're shooting heroin everyday and saying, "It's okay, I don't mind, I'm okay with being a junkie," you're not actually accepting the reality of your situation.  True acceptance that one is an addict entails both admitting that the addicted life is miserable and insane and also cultivating the hope that a non-addicted way of life is possible.

So I invite you to do the scariest thing-- admit that life in the mad world we've been conditioned to perceive is miserable and insane, that it's completely inadequate to your deep longing and your wild genius.  Admit that you are not content with a world of separation and competition.  Admit that nothing you gain in the mad world can truly satisfy you.

Make it a simple choice. Decide which is more true:

1) I'm okay with the status quo

2) I really, really want to live in the gift world.

If the answer is 2), embrace it. Don't be ashamed. Let yourself fully feel that desire-- its scope, its power.  Don't minimize it. Let it be huge. Let it be holy.  Let it light you up.  Let it eclipse your substitute desires for power, security, and prestige.  Let it lift you up out of your kitsch.

Love,

Carolyn

 

Image Credit: Photo, "Presents!" by queercatkitten, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

Posted on April 4, 2011 and filed under The Gift World.

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!

How to Desire

Dear Reader,

Let’s work on getting in touch with what we want. It’s our first step in the March Adventure. Write “Stuff I Really, Really Want” and list 25 items, everything from grand abstract achievements to the most paltry of household goods. Got it? Good, now if you have a mind whose automatic setting is anything like mine, you will now be thinking “I won’t do that, it’s pointless.”

The Depths of Disbelieving

My mind tells me it’s pointless to bring to the forefront of my mind all the things that I long for because, as it reports, “I won’t get them anyway.”  This automatic setting of pessimism is a strategy I learned in childhood to protect myself from the wrenching disappointment of missing out on things I really, really wanted. This was a great strategy when I was five and my acknowledgment of my impotence was actually spot on— back then I couldn’t read or write, I was 3 feet tall with limited motor skills, and I didn’t even have the right to vote! Yes, I was an illiterate, disenfranchised little person. Things were bleak back then. But look how far I’ve come!

I’m now (like you, if you’re reading this) in full possession of literacy, motor skills, and voting rights. You’re no longer limited by your parents’ arbitrary and tyrannical decisions regarding bedtime and dessert.

The Power of Innocent Longing

Frankly, you’re empowered and it’s time to start recognizing that. The “I won’t get them anyway” belief that your mind espouses is outdated. Since you’re big and literate now your odds of attaining most of your desires are pretty darn good.

Even if your life does indeed turn out to be one long dreary European film, if you go through it holding the belief all the while that you “won’t get them anyway” (your desires) your life will be a completely unwatchable long dreary European film.  Why? Because heroes and heroines desire stuff.  They go out and pursue their desires through various means. They learn stuff along the way.  Even if they completely fail to get what they set out to attain at the outset, the very act of valiantly, innocently, even somewhat stupidly, reaching to fulfill their desire puts forces in motion that show them valuable things and connect them to fascinating people.

Yes, that’s right. I’m getting all Joseph Campbell on your ass. This March Adventure is a hero / heroine’s journey.  I know, it’s terribly unoriginal of me. But that’s because it’s also just plain true.  I think Joseph Campbell may have missed some of the finer points regarding the heroine’s journey (I’ll be happy to discuss this at some point) but all in all, he was really right about the underlying mythic structures that span across time and culture, and which have things to tell us (Poetic Truths!) about the magic ways that life works.

The Call to Adventure

The first leg of the hero / heroine’s journey is the Call to Adventure.  Maybe you have not lately had a recurring prophetic dream calling you to travel to a strange land in search of hidden treasure.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have a Call to Adventure! Our longings and desires are our Call to Adventure.  They’re the stirrings that prompt us to undertake a course of action that will change us and our understanding of the world for the better. Some of them more so than others. And of course, it matters how we go about pursuing those desires. And also, there are certainly dragons to slay along the way. But we’ll worry about sorting all that out later. For now, get started with your list!

My List

To encourage you in coming up with your List of 25 Things you Desire, I figured I’d show you mine in all its random, jumbled glory:

1. A fireplace

2. A claw foot bath tub.

3. To publish an awesome self-help book.

4. To record a freak folk album.

5. To perform a stand-up act.

6. To be rich, having absolutely gazillions of gold coins to swim in.

7. To be struck enlightened like Byron KatieEckhart Tolle, and Jan Frazier.

8. To be very very glittery, like David Bowie circa the Ziggy Stardust era.

9. To finish my PhD.

10. To learn to play the guitar and write songs.

11. A super-flashy glam rock wedding.

12. New clothes for spring and summer.

13. Speaking engagements around town.

14. To make some videos for youtube, like my friend Kevin, who is super-cool.

15. The Nobel Prize in Literature

16. A lot of rainbow colored silk scarves.

17. An awesome house in the woods somewhere with giant fireplaces and clawfoot tubs.

18. A pug puppy.

19. My poetry books published.

20. A mind-blowing flower garden.

21. A gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it.

22. To make and sell incredibly awesome tote bags.

23. To write a didactic novel like The Alchemist.

24. To make meditation cds / podcasts.

25. A house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way.