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livewithwonderHi everyone. You don’t need me to tell you it’s been a long time since my last post. As a matter of fact, I left half-way through a series of writings on the Enneagram, just flat out abandoning those poor little articles without their siblings.

I suppose I should start with an explanation of my sudden disappearance from the internet. It went like this: First, one of my articles was on the receiving end of some powerful criticism. Now, let me say this: Criticism I can take, but this particular criticism had a lot of truth to it, and that’s something different. I was stuck, and I remember at the same time thinking that if I continued with the rest of the series, that same criticism would just apply to all the other articles too, and I would have that glaring criticism just staring me in the face while I just blatantly ignored it and failed to address it and before you know it the whole project along with my reputation as a “honest” writer tanks. After all, if someone criticizes you, and you think they’re right, and you go on writing the articles just to finish the series, well what level of OCD is that?

At the same time that I was pondering what to do with this…view that had been handed to me, I began the sudden and unexpected process of moving my family out of my sister-in-law’s house. Also, I got a new job, took up an interest in voice acting for a while, my wife began homeschooling my son, and every other day was insane with busyness. Since then, I took up a different job, moved into my mother-in-law’s house (poverty, yeah!) and have been busy raising two kids who pretty much keep me preoccupied 24/7. In case you’re wondering, I’m not writing this because I want to make excuses for not writing anything before now.

It is time to wake up again

My point is, I fell asleep. I began drifting. I let society hypnotize me and more time has sifted through my fingers.

Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t all been a blur. I won second place in a pizza-eating contest and gave the absurdly large local pizza-eating trophy to my older son. I’ve trained my one year old to make an explosion sound when I say “Ziggy boogy doog,” and if you get that reference I applaud you.

I think another reason I drifted is that I’ve always felt counterfeit in the spiritual community. Here you have people who take up the lives of monks, or who travel around like Jordan has, and are thus able to transcend their roots and grow in many ways by experiencing countless different cultures around them. I know people on Skype who claim to be able to speak with spirits, or work tarot, or astral project…and me?

Well…not so much. I drink caffeine, work a 9-5 (actually 11-8 currently), never remember my dreams, and basically, if you saw me face-to-face, you wouldn’t pick me out as the “spiritual” type at all. Sometimes I get lucky though. To quote the Grateful Dead, “Sometimes the light’s all shining on me. Other times I can barely see.” Lately for me, I’ve been pretty blind. You see, for me, spirituality, and writing about spirituality comes at a cost. Specifically, it comes at the cost of me spending less time with my family, especially since I work.

Why am I saying all this? It’s not to garnish sympathy, or to explain why I never update. It’s to say to the people who are in the same boat as me, that I get it. Sometimes it feels like there’s drugs in the air vents. Sometimes it feels like you’re going through life asleep. Sometimes it all feels like a blur, or a bitter struggle to keep any money you can so you don’t live the rest of your life in debt. I get it. But here’s the thing: All the stuff you’re worried about is the future. It’s not the present.

The other day, I was freaked out about money, because that same old fear of mine creeped up its head: “I had better save every penny I can, or else my family will starve on the streets.” It’s hard for me, because I feel like a miser sometimes, but I feel like I have to be. But I was thinking about this, and I realized that my fear and worry for the future were choking away what I had in the now. I was so worried about the future of my family, that I wasn’t spending as much time enjoying their company, playing with them, and being with them now.

I’ve come to realize that one of the things that causes fear is a lack of acceptance. If you know something will happen, then why fear? My kids are going to get hurt sometimes. There will come a time when I will pass away and my family will be on their own. And you know what? When that time comes, they are going to be alright. They’ll live on. And there will even come a time when my kids pass on. So when you know all this is going to happen sooner or later, you’re really left with two choices:

1) Spend the rest of your life in dread of the inevitable.
2) Enjoy what you have to the full extent while it lasts.

If you’re like me, wandering like a half-zombie through most of the morning, kids banging on the door when you try to use the restroom, working a ton. Just remember that not all the moments are painful ones. To take a big, relaxing breath, and just enjoy it all. For me, my family has done just fine so far, and they’ll continue to be okay long after I’m gone.

Until next time, keep it real.

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chess-nerdWelcome everybody to part five of my nine part series on the Enneagram. To read my past articles, please click the following links:
The One
The Two
The Three
The Four

Today, I am interviewing Five, also known as the Thinker/Observer. Welcome Five!

Hello, er hi. Yeah, hi.

You seem a little nervous.

Who um me? Well I guess I’m so used to doing my own thing that I’m awkward around people sometimes.

What is your own thing?

Well…it’s kind of hard to explain.

It’s okay, explain away!

Well it’s like…for most people, they don’t really enjoy being left alone. They get lonely. For me, it’s like I don’t ever get enough alone time. There’s so much to study and learn, and it just seems like people are always interrupting. No offense to them, but I wish I had more time to explore the things that interest me.

What interests you?

Well that changes from time to time. I’ll get really into something, practically obsess over it, and then I’ll hit a point where I move on. Right now I’ve been watching videos of all the TED talk videos and I’m categorizing which are my least and most favorite, in order.

Wait, you’ve seen all the TED talks?

Most of them. I still have a few to watch, but I’ll probably go do that when I’m done here.

If you don’t like interruptions, why did you agree to this interview?

Well, I made an exception in this case because I like to share my findings and things I learn with people. I find it’s easier to get along with people if they share the same interests as me.

What if they don’t?

Well…then things get a bit rough…

I see. So what is it you believe?

I don’t know. Am I supposed to believe something? I guess for me, believing something is just jumping to conclusions. What you believe is based on what you know, and there’s always more data to gather, and many times that data contradicts. The world is a very uncertain place.

How do you actually live like that? Don’t you value anything?

Well, I guess you could say I value knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the safer you are, so I hoard it. Knowledge protects you, empowers you, and liberates you.

Would you say that knowledge has its own problems?

It can. It certainly makes life more complicated, but I like to think of certain life problems as puzzles to be solved. Knowledge can also make you more miserable sometimes because you become aware of awful things in the world that you otherwise wouldn’t. The thing is, if you don’t know what the problem is, you cannot fix it, and people go on living in painful ignorance.

How exactly does knowledge protect you?

That question can be answered many ways. Without knowledge, you cannot specialize in anything , and if you cannot do that, you’re useless as far as society is concerned. You might as well be flipping burgers. I’m not taking that path. I want to have something to offer the world.

From a survival perspective, you can run away from a snake, but if you know that a particular snake isn’t poisonous, then you have nothing to worry about. You are not in danger of an illusion.

From a legalistic perspective, the people who are ignorant of the law get taken advantage of. Did you know the police can legally lie to you as a means to coax the confession of a crime? You may have known that, but my point is that if you didn’t know, you’d get taken advantage of.

Have you ever been arrested?

No, but its always nice to be prepared. You never know.

Honestly, though, you seem like a nice guy. What are the chances you’d be arrested?

Innocent people are arrested all the time. Its good to be prepared, just in case.

Aren’t there better uses of your time than learning something like that?

Well I suppose so, but when something catches my interest, I throw myself into it. It’s just what I do.

I was thinking of something more like a social life?

Like I said before, no offense, but other people waste my time. When I’m to myself, I have time to research and unravel the world’s mysteries.

But can’t others help you reach your goals?

Sometimes you have no other choice but to take donations from others but I try hard not to. Most people don’t understand what it is I’m trying to do with my research and discoveries. They usually just want to piggyback on my hard work for their own personal gain.

It’s always the same garbage. I’ll tell a well thought-out, researched, original joke and Three will spread it to everyone and take credit, or I’ll stumble upon a new fascinating discovery and Eight will find a way to turn it into a weapon. Most people don’t want to understand. They just want the results, the power that comes from knowledge.

Eight, for example, doesn’t care how a shrink ray works. He just wants me to build him one to crush his enemies. He doesn’t see the deeper potential. All he sees is s device that will add to his power. But a shrink ray could be so much more than that! You could, for example, drive to work, shrink your car, and put it in your pocket! Imagine, massive, ugly parking lots a thing of the past! But Eight…he just wants a toy.

I’m sensing a little animosity between you two.

Ha! I wonder why? If I’m going to be honest, I’d have to say I’m jealous of him. Like…deeply jealous, like you have no idea how jealous.

Why is that?

You know how I study to protect myself? To solve problems? With him, he just jumps into life and survives and even thrives just fine. It’s maddening! It’s like the gods themselves have spoiled him and given him whatever he desires. He’s like my kryptonite!

You know my snake example earlier? For me, its like, I see the snake, run away, find out if its dangerous, and if it isn’t, I come back. The snake is harmless. I am safe. You know what Eight does? He just stomps the freaking thing. Problem solved.

You put me in a sales type job, and I’ll study how to be a good salesman, body postures, what colors to wear to make people want to buy, what techniques work, et cetera. How does Eight sell? He just does. He’s a natural leader. How do you learn that? You can’t. Its just an innate quality, and it makes a mockery of me.

Eight shows me how weak I am when I’m doing everything I can to make myself strong. The worst part is that Eight is totally oblivious to the fact that he is doing this. Just being around him is enough to make me feel like a worm.The rare times Eight is in real danger, he gets a few quick tips from people like me, a lahdeedah, he’s off being superman again. Like I said, maddening.

What do you think of your friends Four and Six?

Both of them are great for different reasons. Four is usually quiet like me. We both share a taste for abnormal things, and I’m really blown away by Four’s creativity! Her only real downside is that she seems like she’s trying too hard. Some people try too hard to follow the crowd. Four tries too hard to not follow the crowd. Me? I just don’t care.

How about Six?

Speaking of following the crowd, Six does exactly that, at least sort of. Six is very self-contradicting, very hard to understand. Like me, he spends a lot of time thinking. He just thinks in a different way. We both have trouble making up our minds sometimes. His deal is that he’s constantly asking others to make up his mind for him, which is pretty annoying. Like they know any better than he does!

He gathers knowledge on things too, but then he throws all that info out the window and relies on people he trusts. Speaking of trust, he’s kind of weird about it. It takes him a long to form a belief about someone. He’ll even be suspicious, bordering on paranoid with some people.

Then, when you finally enter his inner circle, his trust is unshakable. You could steal right out from under him and move to Mexico, and he’ll be like, “Its cool. I’ll be here when you get back.” If a stranger asks him for a pack of gum though, Six will look at him like the guy plans to stab him.

That all said, don’t get the wrong idea. Six is a fantastic, loyal, friend. He doesn’t always get my weird taste in stuff, but he’s always been there for me when I overwork myself or don’t take care of myself. Between the two of us, people should call us the anxiety twins.

Thank you for your time Five. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Uh…nope. I think that covers it.

Oh…okay?

Bye!

Back during the first Spirit Science Podcast there was much discussion about what the ego was and if we should work to eliminate it or not. The general consensus is that we should embrace our egos but be wary of them as they are a part of ourselves. I’ve had some time to reflect on this and thought I’d offer a slightly different take on it.

I know there are people out there who wish to embrace their ego because they equivocate it with individuality. I don’t necessarily hold that point of view myself. If I did, I would encourage people to let their egos grow.

The ego is dead

Because I used the word “hipster” in my blog, I am now legally required to use a hipster Ariel image. I know, it’s ridiculous, but the law is the law.

Here is how I see the ego: It is this fake, dead thing that tries to be the self, but instead only parodies it and stereotypes it. It is not you, rather it is society’s label of you. It is your own false perception of you, given by society. To me, there is nothing really individual about it. The Enneagram shows nine common examples of egos, and to the extent that you follow those stereotypes, you are predictable. We all know a type four, for example, who chooses to stand out by dressing and acting in unique ways (goths, hipsters, etc.). Is this, however, what it really means to be an individual? Fours who do this, tend to give off a vibe that they are trying too hard to be individuals. What does it really mean to be an individual? It mean a lot of things, it means letting go of a lot of false perceptions of yourself, one of which is that you have to be an individual. Of course, ironically, once you stop trying to be an individual, you just kind of fall into it.

Similarly, you cannot free yourself from your ego by knowing more, or by being more stubborn, more successful, or anything else.You free yourself by simply being, by seeing your ego for what it is: a fake, dead, stereotype of yourself.

The ego isn’t you

Being free of the ego does not mean sacrificing your personality. It means removing the false and fake things that are in the way of your true personality. When you are free of the ego, you approach life from a much more light-hearted place because you don’t have to hold onto that garbage anymore! When you work on your awareness of your self, you realize how precious little most things the ego cares about actually matter. There are so many things in the way, so many things blocking that beautiful snowflake underneath, but the snowflake is there. It always has been.

You can see it when someone has cast off their ego, because it’s rare and beautiful. They are individuals in the true sense of the word, not because they try to be, or dress in a certain way, or hold a certain identity about themselves, but because it’s part of the essence of what they are. When there is no ego on someone, you can tell if you look closely, because there is something about them that just grabs you, and it is nothing they have done on purpose or have engineered to ensnare you, it’s just who they are.

Until next time, enjoy liberating yourself.

I have been thinking lately about those who criticize spirit science. I’m not talking about the critics who are skeptical of certain ideas we have. To be fair, some of the ideas we offer do seem to be pretty “out there”, and each person is entitled to their own opinion. Those aren’t the brand of critics I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the group of people who come from a place of deep pain. People who have experienced traumatic experiences in their youth and who snort at the idea of these happy-go-lucky so called “spirit people”. I’m talking about the people who see us as naive because our bright and sunny outlook doesn’t match the horrible experiences that they have witnessed in their lives, who cynically laugh at the idea of “All our pain is an illusion.”

I’m not going to lie. Life is painful. Anyone who says otherwise is either trying to delude you or is deluded. The mere act of being born brings pain to the mother. Pain is an honest fact of life. You are not responsible for your pain. It often comes to us whether we want it or not.

However: you are responsible for your suffering.

Perhaps you’re thinking “hold the fort, what’s the difference?”

To answer the question, I’m going to once again rely of the words of my Buddhist friend Barking Unicorn. “To see the difference between pain and suffering, bring a puppy to a cancer ward. You will see many people in pain, but no suffering.”

The story of Viktor Frankl

Stephen Covey in His Bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” writes about the story of Viktor Frankl, a man who spent three years in various concentration camps including Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau.

According to Wikipedia Frankl’s  “best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning (published under a different title in 1959: From Death-Camp to Existentialism, and originally published in 1946 as Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager), chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate based on his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. Frankl was one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists

In other words, the guy was both a badass and an inspiration. It’s not often you get both in one person. Here’s a quote from Frankl about his time in the Nazi prison camps.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Even when every thing else in your life is out of your control, even if you become a slave, you still have the right to choose your outlook.

We are not Pavlov’s dogs

The human mind is a powerful thing, and a key to achieving that power is awareness. There is a chain that is frequently mentioned in the psychology of behavior. That chain is:

stimulus – thought – result.

The stimuli is the initial thing that happens, the “cause” if you will. Thought is how you individually process the stimuli. Result is what happens because of the chain. Sometimes, we have control of all three, but we always have control of “thought”, provided we are aware and stubborn enough, and humans are good at being stubborn. 🙂

Most of the time, we get caught up in these stimulus – result chains without even giving thought to what control systems are in place that make us live the way we do. That’s where awareness comes in. If you are aware that someone’s putting you into a Skinner box, so to speak, then you become empowered to resist it.

Take Ghandi for example. Here is a man that willingly starved himself to fight for a higher cause he believed in. If he had the mere awareness of a rat, he would never have been able to accomplish what he did. He would have begun to search for food in a panicked state. But Ghandi used the ability that all humans have, or at least have the potential to have. He used his thought (and stubbornness) to ignore the stimulus of hunger, to ignore the stimulus that he was starving to death.

At the end of the day, suffering comes from what you think of the pain. Suffering is related to thought, and thus can be controlled. With meditation and focus, you can transmute the pain in your life to something different, something beautiful.

Until next time, hang in there, and know that I’m right there with you.