Posts tagged #pain

How to be an Optimist: See Life as a Dream

A young man wrote to me about his own pessimism (co-occuring with a scientific attitude toward life) and asked me what spurs on my optimism.  I wrote this reply:

Optimism and Transcendentalism

I guess a long time ago in my philosophical searchings I examined the kind of scientific materialist attitude you seem to be describing and.... utterly rejected it. I'm a transcendentalist - which means I see the world and everything in it (including my own self) as a kind of deep holographic dream projected by "my" consciousness (I put "my" it quotes because it's "mine" in the sense that I can make choices that influence it, but it's not mine in the sense that there ultimately is no me since "Carolyn" is just another part of the dream.... sorry if that's hard to follow, it gets a little complex).

Changing the Dream

The reason all this transcendentalism adds up to optimism is this: if everything is a dream, then it can change from a terrible dream into a beautiful dream. Whether the dream is beautiful or terrible depends on what angle of light, or motivation, I'm sending through the hologram projector (my brain). If I'm sending the self-centered motivation of gathering up pleasure and security and power just for myself, then I'm going to be faced with a hologram of an utterly ugly, difficult, barren and horrible world. I'll be in endless conflict with the people around me. I'll be miserable. I've spent years living in that "reality" and it's awful. I've also dipped down into that recently - I was hugely depressed and suicidal. I had lost my way and wound myself into a big mess of compassionless horror.

Generating Awake-heart aka Bodhicitta

On the other hand, I've found that if I'm sending the other-cherishing motivation of being committed to bringing all creatures into happiness (i.e., non-attached and unending bliss, freedom from addiction and craving) and I'm willing to project limitless loving-kindness (i.e., deliberately being willing to love and wish happiness for people I don't like and resent, being willing to delight in their triumphs and to work to spare them from pain)...

...well, then the hologram becomes beautiful, synchronous, full of joy and meaning and connection.

Life becomes easy and I find I can fulfill my basic needs and my big aspirations without much worry. I mean, there are still so many challenges - but the challenges are fascinating instead of frightening. It's not like hunger and war and tragedy and sickness and misfortune disappear from the dream - but they don't oppress me in the same way. Instead there's a light within me that is willing to take responsibility for healing all that pain in the world and in myself.

And ultimately, I think, this process of lightening and en-blissening just goes on and on until the dream becomes very transparent and dissolves entirely, leaving the consciousness in Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven or what-have-you.

My optimism is essentially this: that it's possible for everyone, including myself, to dwell in ecstatic happiness, and that there are things I can do to bring that about... and the very process of working to bring this about is incredibly fulfilling and fun. It's basically Mahayana / Vajranya Buddhism but I like to spice it up by thinking a lot about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

I don't know if those are flavors of Buddhism that you've investigated, but I sure love them. I've also been influenced strongly by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Don Miguel Ruiz and Byron Katie.

Man, I could go on and on. I'm sure I've used some shorthand in explaining this that doesn't make sense and sounds very fluffy. But I assure you, it all makes razor-sharp sense in my mind.

Warmth,

Carolyn

image: [seyed mostafa zamani]

What Is Unconditional Love

Love Without Limits

Unconditional love is the decision to never enact emotional violence against yourself or anyone else, ever.  It's a decision that's radical and deeply freeing.

You can become free of self-hatred and misery, free from patterns of suffering that keep you stuck. It doesn't matter if your problem is sucky romantic relationships or a job that torments you or a giant creative block or a compulsion to use substances or engage in dangerous behaviors.  It just doesn't matter what your problem is because all problems manifest from one thing: a lack of love.  If you become willing to apply simple spiritual principles in your life (love; forgiveness; hospitality; generosity; honesty; hope - and the greatest of these is love) without condition and without reservation, then your life can turn into a stunning glitter bomb of joy and possibility and magic.

I know that this is true because I went from being someone who shot heroin every day and wanted to die, someone whose primary concern in life was whether or not I could get enough drugs that day to numb the stunning pain of the problem of being me to being someone who wakes up every morning soaked in gratitude and thrilled to be myself - even when I'm broke, even when I'm single, even when I've failed at major projects that were dear to me.  This same self that I literally wanted to murder - I now cherish and delight in, without condition and without limit.

The Unconditional Decision

How did I get to this point? It happened because I decided to give myself huge joy and love and respect no matter what. What does that mean? It means that no matter what I do, no matter what happens - I'm going to feel great. "Carolyn - you mean, even if you kill somebody you're not going to feel guilty, you're not going to feel shame?"  And my answer to that is: yes, precisely. There's nothing I could do which I would not utterly forgive myself for, and forgiving myself means letting myself feel happy and wonderful. It means refusing to ever reject or punish myself, for any reason.  And the thing is, when I'm willing to give myself unconditional love, unconditional kindness- which really just means I'm willing to never impose shame and regret on myself - when I have that willingness, I'm without violence in my heart.  I would never want to hurt someone or kill someone because I feel so damn happy and loving.

Sometimes people think I'm crazy when I mention the unconditionalness and unlimitedness of my love for myself.  And that's okay - they can think I'm crazy and they can tell me all about the conditions under which they believe that shame and regret and guilt are appropriate.  Usually these conditions are situations of violence.  What the people who tell me this don't understand is that regret and guilt and shame are themselves forms of violence: inner violence, emotional violence.  The use of them creates more violence.  Do you think that people who hurt and abuse other people are filled with self-acceptance and joy? No; they're filled with shame and regret and bitterness and rage.  They're inwardly filled with emotional violence and that violence manifests outwardly as harm to others and harm to themselves.

What I've learned over the years is any limit I'm willing to put on the love I give myself is a limit I'm willing to put on the love that I give you and the love that I give the universe.  And the smallest, most seemingly reasonable limit becomes a giant dam that plugs up the flow of delight and wonder in my life.  So I don't mess around with making up limits on love any more.  I just give it all, all the time, without holding back, without trying to play it safe.

A Limit On Love is An Attempt to Control 

I realized that any time I'm seeking to limit love, what I'm doing is trying to control.  I'm trying to control myself to make myself fit into some "acceptable" mode.  I'm trying to control you; to control the whole world.  But it's impossible.  Any time that I try to control something, I end up in pain.  The magic that I am, that you are, that the world is - is quite beyond control.  Have you noticed? I did - I saw that no matter how much energy I put into making myself acceptable I always fell short - I always found reason to regret something I'd done, something I'd said, something I'd failed to do.  And what I realized is that regret, shame and guilt - they're all forms of violence against myself, they're feelings but they're actually the result of  a belief that's a weapon.  What is that weapon?  It's the belief that I'm not always already fundamentally good, that I'm not fundamentally perfect and whole and valuable and innocent.

By becoming willing to be happy and grateful in all situations - even in situations when I've failed or where someone or something has failed me -- I can practice unconditional love, I can practice the truth that undoes the lie that myself or anyone else is less than wholly good, wholly innocent, wholly wonderful as God created them to be.

 

 

 

 

 

image: [Lel4nd]

 

 

Art, Love and Transmutation - A guest post by Abigail Amalton

Art is about love. It is love, pure love.

 

I can't even begin to describe what music has done for me. How can an art form, independent of the flaws of its creators, catalyze such deep healing and transformation? How can somebody else's stories lead me back to myself, deeper into my own bliss? The deeper I move into the subjective, the more often I hit the universal. Do we all ultimately share the same core?

Art is love. And love is transcendent, transformative. Love has no opposite. Love is the step beyond dualist thinking. Dualism dissolves completely in the heat and light of pure love. This wonderful step beyond is not even thought nor is it just feeling - it's pure being. Love is being absorbed in the flow: the conscious observer-participant co-creating the universe, the drop of water in the endless ocean of existence. It isn't merely an emotion, not merely a state of mind - love is all-encompassing being. It is a subtle awareness of the life force that flows through us - through bone and bloody capillary, through neural networks and the serpentine energetic currents in our spines.

Love is the knowing that this life force is one and the same with what moves stars to begin their lives in misty stellar nurseries, light years away. It is the possibility that everything in this universe, every last little organism, every drop of blood is alive - purely. And simply waiting for us to realize this.

Love is a new way of being on this planet. It revolutionizes each individual who decides to make it a way of life, changing her so that she may never go back, never settle for anything less than pure joy. So what do lovers do? We live for love. We show, through our lives, that it can be done. That we can partake in this cosmic dance with joy - that this is our birthright. Love is the activation of our potential for continued and unending bliss.

Love transmutes.

 

It is the knowing that in spite of pain, we live. Pain, however deep, helps us remember that we are embodied and interconnected. When we reflect on our pain, then we remember that we are ensouled. As long as you love, you'll never lose your soul. So, why continue to hurt? Catalyze the transformation with a deliberate joy in every moment of this ecstatic existence. Push for it. Let it open you up. Let joyfulness be a breaking open of the calcified shell of the ego. Decide you'll never live in the egoic mode again - and when you do, laugh at it.

Live this way and let life have its way with you, move through you - let spirit sense matter in whatever way it will, for the purpose of love. Live this way and you won't have to meet with death to finally live - because you will no longer unconsciously push yourself further and further to hurt simply to feel alive.

Gather with other souls in love and explore collaborative ecstasy. Collaborative beauty. Explorations like these are how the planet will begin again, how we can jumpstart conscious evolution. Let go of the patterns we only cling to out of habit and replace them only with love.

Love is how we will reach the stars sooner than we think.

Abigail Amalton is an amazing artist who lives and creates in New York City.  Check her out over at The Silent Infinite!