Friday, January 29, 2010

The Mindless Trap of Dogma

Some people, particularly those who hold strong religious convictions, opine that those of us who don't follow or adhere to their beliefs are somehow less worthy of divine blessings.  This type of condemnation is at the heart of the difficulties we have with understanding our relationships with others. It is also this type of  cancerous theological premise that's preventing many of us from examining what we have been taught by others.

The vast numbers of us are born somewhat serendipitous into different cultures, countries, and societies that were already deeply attached to the  various religions traditions in the world.  So, as children, we don't have a choice --at least one we're aware of -- where we are born. 

Similarly, it is where we are born that determines the degree of religious and secular dogma we are taught by our parents, teachers and others who are responsible for teaching us how to assimilate successfully into our various societies.

Nevertheless, after we're fully indoctrinated as Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and so on, we claim these beliefs as our own without ever examining where they came from or the benefits we expect to get from them. All that most of know is they define who we believe we are in society. 

And it is from this level of awareness that we begin to establish a hierarchical criterion regarding the utilitarian value of our beliefs vis a vis others' beliefs.
We firmly believe, regardless to our public pronouncements, that our beliefs are superior and more divinely supported than those with different beliefs.

And, unfortunately for us, we cling tightly to our beliefs and their righteousness, refusing to even try to understand or tolerate others' beliefs.   We continue in this manner until we decide to seek unconditional enlightenment and begin the self-discovery process of clearing away the stale beliefs in our consciousness.

It's in the self-discovery process that we discover the cause of ego and its relationship with others. This is a difficult challenge for most of us. Whenever  someone questions us about our beliefs, we become highly agitated and defensive.  We raise our voices to high decibel levels to convey the importance of what we are saying.  The more opposition we get, the greater our agitation, impatience, and the more defensive we become.

Similarly, whenever we hear someone express beliefs that awaken us, we initially distrust them, especially if they're not expressed by someone who holds the same beliefs that we hold.  This inflexible attitude toward accepting or rejecting knowledge is responsible for the judgments we have about who is able to receive divine salvation, grace or afterlife rewards.

As enlightenment-seekers, one of the greatest challenges we face is beginning the self-discovery process, which requires us to examine our behavior and the information taught us by others.  This examination does not mean we are required to change all of our beliefs instantaneously. It does, however, mean that we take the time to understand their origins. And it helps us to understand why the self-discovery process is a prerequisite for seeking enlightenment. 

It's very challenging for us to explore other opportunities.  This type of exploration requires a willingness to become vulnerable, unprotected by long held beliefs and to have the courage to move forward toward enlightenment with nothing more than faith and determination. Nevertheless, this is the vulnerability required of us if we want to grow in consciousness.

Meanwhile, when we begin to seek changes in our lives, we realize at different intervals on the journey that this requires a re-birthing, born-again process.  And this re-birthing does not occur in the rituals associated with baptisms, ascetic vows, initiations, and so forth. To be born-again means to release ourselves from the teachings of others and claim the enlightenment within us as our own. 

In a certain sense, being born again is similar to releasing the teachers and begin using enlightenment principles to teach ourselves.  This is a difficult, even frightening, challenge for most of us.  We find this such a challenge because we want to hold on to our current beliefs and not risk the punishment we attach to not upholding them.

Similarly, by releasing our attachment to our beliefs, we gain the freedom to travel in the vastness of our consciousness.  It is in this vastness where we discover our inner power to free ourselves from our mother's womb and begin to live on our own. Being born-again or re-birthing is just that simple.

When we free our minds to think clearly, we know there's more to life than just me, me, and me.  We become aware of the great potentiality present in others to achieve enlightenment as well as ourselves.  This awareness frees us from self-righteousness,  judgments, and inertia so that we're open enough to go beyond beliefs of right and wrong. And as the Sufi poet says, "I'll meet you there."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taming our Behavior

Today, many of us overwhelmed by social, economic, and political fatigue are searching for ways to deal with the angst stirring the emotional waters of discontent swirling through us. At the heart of our concerns is our constant failures with changing our behavior and reacting to external uncertainties. 

These feelings driving our uncertainties are much more difficult for some of us, because we haven't reached the level of awareness to even acknowledge we are victims (powerless) in most of our relationships with others. So we continue prodding along, sedating ourselves with materialism and egoism, while remaining victimized by life's uncertainties.

When  it comes to living and coping with life's uncertainties, in so many ways we act with childlike behavior. We have to be reminded over and over that we are powerful.  Yet, regardless to how many times we are reminded of our power, we continue to ignore these warnings by embracing intellectual hubris and illusions of grandeur.  In other words, we believe our accomplishments and contributions to society inoculate us from being considered as victims.

Perhaps we feel this way because we have enthroned ourselves to teach those whom we believe are victims how to become like us. This is understandable given the high dosages of egoism we are injecting ourselves with everyday.  When we become so loaded off of egoism, we see the behavior of others quite clearly. Unfortunately, we don't see ours at all.      

As we go through life, shifting through the murk and mud of victimization, we never sober up long enough to understand how we became victims in the first place.  And regardless to the difficulties we face in trying to change our behavior, we seem to always return to those habits that define us as powerless. And it's our habits, our thoughts, that shape our behavior and cause us to feel unworthy or overcome with egoism about ourselves and the relationships we have with others.

The ego-driven behavior we express in our everyday actions is fueled by our insatiable desires for material acquisitions, which only reinforces our victim-hood.  Unfortunately, we believe materialism liberates us from thinking of ourselves as victims.  The more  material acquisitions we have, the more we require to sedate us from the deep angst burning in us. We want to change, but we don't how of anything that's greater than materialism.

Nevertheless, for those of us who are willing to acknowledge our powerlessness and seek ways to overcome it, we must overcome the belief that materialism is a liberating fore. Our quest to acquire materialism has created  grooves of powerlessness in our consciousness that are responsible for subtle, hard-to-detect victim beliefs shaping our everyday behavior.

Although we don't recognize this behavior as victim behavior, particularly in those instances where we have acquired significant amounts of materialism, it's still in us causing us the silent pain and anger we're trying desperately to hide from others.

Meanwhile, when we think about it, we give very little thought to acknowledging that most of our days are the same.  We get up in the mornings, brush our teeth, comb our hair, wash our faces, get the kids ready for school, fix breakfast, greet our spouses, and rush to work.  We don't have to think about doing this, because it's what we do all the time. 

At work, we spend our time meeting deadlines, driving buses, greeting customers, making sales calls, doing presentations, supervising, worrying, gossiping, and complaining about the drudgery of our lives.  We don't examine this behavior or think about changing it.  It's a way of life with us. To change it would be disruptive to our behavior.

After work, we rush home to have a beer, glass of wine or whiskey. We relax for  a few minutes before preparing and eating dinner, chatting with the family about how their day went, while constantly wondering about the  work and challenge facing us tomorrow.

Similarly, with such drudgery-filled lives, it's difficult to accept that we created this environment to spend our lives. Yet, with only minor deviations, this is the way we live five days a week or 260 days a year, minus vacations. And with our days off, we sedate ourselves with more egoism to believe we are actually escaping from the work we find so unfulfilled. This is our legacy to the world.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the mix of work, fun, and rest, we seek refuge in our spiritual realm.  We  work on preparing for life after this one is finished.  As victims, we have been told to join religious organizations, to donate money to worthwhile causes, and to be nice to people, at least those who aren't too obnoxious. By doing these things, we make up for the powerlessness in our everyday behavior.  This helps tame the egoism.

After awhile and after much pain and suffering, many of us still find it's difficult to stop living the way we are living. And without any self-evaluation of our lives, we remain committed to the mundane work that's shaping our legacy.  And like it or not, it's the work we are doing now that defines who we really are. 

Regardless to the importance or lack thereof that we give to our work, it is what defines us. And like it or not, our current behavior defines who we are, and unless we change, this will become our legacy. We either do something different or accept this life for what it really is and begin living it with joy, peace, compassion, and love or we focus on working on the afterlife.

Let's assume we believe we'll have better lives after this one has ended. How do we imagine ourselves living in the afterlife? What kind of behavior will we be expressing there?  Will it be our current behavior or some unknown behavior that will magically appear in our other lives after we begin our new lifestyles? 

The habits we have now are the only ones we're using to define ourselves.  And until we develop the clarity of mind to create some new ones, there's nothing to suggest that we'll act any different somewhere else than we are now.  We are our habits.  We are our thoughts. We are our beliefs.  And like it or not, we are responsible for the habits expressing themselves as victims in our lives.

To change our habits, we must change the awareness we have about ourselves and the power available to us. We must find this power and use it to create new beliefs and actions that express who desire to be. And in the process, we must enter into enlightenment awareness to help us overcome our addiction to materialism and egoism.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Overcoming Victim Behavior and Symbolism

Now that the new year is here, we can move beyond the symbolic hyperbole of believing we are actually beginning anew.  Even though this time period doesn't represent our actually starting over, it's still a great time for many of us besieged by victim beliefs to refocus on setting or reaffirming new goals to change how we think and live. 

Whenever we stop to take the time to refocus on what's important to us, it's a momentum's occasion.  This allows us to celebrate by reclaiming the power we have to change our lives. And, regardless to what we call this day, it's an opportunity for us to discover and use the light of enlightenment to guide us in our daily actions. 

Unfortunately, too many of us get caught up in the symbolism of New Years Day and all the resolutions that we forget it's just another day for us to work on achieving enlightenment. Sadly, we like the rituals, the hoopla, more than working on overcoming the challenges creating the resolutions. This is understandable.  It's a daunting task when we must  face the challenges of overcoming procrastination or over indulgences  in food and drink, while constantly complaining about the vicissitudes of powerlessness and its effect on our lives.

When we consider the magnitude of our problems, we want to hide from them by cloaking ourselves in rituals and all sorts of fanciful thoughts of escapism.    And regardless to how we daydream and engage in wishful fancies of someday having the power to overcome our problems, we cannot escape the inexorable challenges looming greatly over us. 

To become engaged in solving our own problems, we must first make the commitment that we are no longer afraid to believe we have the power to do so. Yet, unquestionably, our commitment to change is based on the level of  faith we have in ourselves. 

In other words, if we think less of ourselves, then our faith is diminished accordingly. Conversely, if we think more of ourselves, then our faith is increased accordingly. This also applies to deities we believe in or worship. We cannot have faith in The Creator-God-Lord and doubt ourselves.

Commitment is believing without having actually produced what we are seeking. It is sticking to the task, the daily grind, of doing the necessary work to move us closer to our goal of enlightenment. And commitment means we believe we are empowered to do the work to solve our own problems.

Meanwhile, whenever we take the time to form a vision, we immediately become acutely aware of the magnitude of the task before us.  The process of envisioning ourselves without victim beliefs is an arduous, unrelenting one. It's not as easy as it sounds when we hear it from others. We are so victimized by our thoughts and beliefs in powerlessness that we cannot find the resolve to change anything about us, not even to stop overeating and filling our minds with harmful information. 

Similarly, as enlightenment seekers, we know the difficulties we face in making a commitment to change our lives. We know it takes time to form a clear vision: one without victim beliefs and doubts about our power. And unlike those overcome with symbolism, rituals, and fanciful wishes, we know that an unclear vision filled with problems is wrought with seeds of ignorance.

When our visions are unclear and incomplete, we are unable to remove the ignorance so that we can see what we're doing. So instead of working on enlightenment, we work on becoming successful victims. This means our success is found only in things, people, and places.  It is this ignorance of enlightenment that inextricably tie us to victim lifestyles.

Nevertheless, ignorance is not necessarily something we should eschew, nor should we believe it is a negative reflection on us.   It is merely an awaken awareness to remind us that we must continue to seek clarity. Our ignorance is the expression of our awareness about what's truly important to us. It's what keeps us on the path to enlightenment.  Whenever we believe we know everything, then we stop seeking.

Some of us believe there's a causal relationship between our behavior and the external world.  We think others have conspired against us to plunge us deeper into debt, unemployment, spousal disagreements, relationship problems, and so forth. So we set out to focus our attention on those outside of us.  We want them to change and enter into harmonious relationships with us that are consistent with our visions for them and for ourselves.

The impact that others have on our behavior is significant and, from a victim's perspective, causes us great pain and suffering.  We live among people that we  frequently judge very harshly.  Whenever they do something we don't like, we harbor this dislike, nurture it constantly, and over time claim it as a part of ourselves.  In other words, we allow it to become part of our thoughts.  And we excoriate them in the silence of our homes, strolls in the park or anywhere they spring forth into our world. 

It's natural for us to believe we must focus on the people we believe  are responsible for our pain and suffering.  And armed with this ignorance, we devote our time working on making them become the people we desire them to be. We develop all types of strategies to convert them to our way of thinking and to assist us with changing the way we think and live.  It's only after they rebuff our attempts over and over again that we begin to wake-up and discover that we can only change ourselves, not them.

For us to truly work on making a commitment to change our lives, we must refrain from focusing on other people.  WE must find the compassion and forgiveness to allow them to be who they are without our judgements.  And when we are awaken enough to see where we are going, we will move much faster toward achieving our goal of enlightenment.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Seeds from the Ashes

As enlightenment-seekers, we search for clues to enlightenment in just about everything we do.  Is this going to help us?  What's the meaning of this? Is this a sign or indication we are on the right track?  These are the questions overwhelming us as we work through the pain and suffering in our lives.

We are inquisitive in many instances because we are earnest in our desire to find enlightenment and overcome the pain and suffering in our lives. The journeys we have chosen to travel have no final destination.  We are living like so many others who find fulfillment in the idea or concept of that which we are seeking to obtain.  The concept sounds great, even erudite in many cases, to others who listening to us espouse  our spiritual goals.

Many of us believe that somewhere, beyond the concept of enlightenment, we will actually find enlightenment during our lifetimes.  And, unlike many spiritual seekers who believe enlightenment is found only after our deaths, we fervently, doggedly pursue onward on our journeys without maps or directions from anyone, at least anyone we know, who has ever achieved the goal we are seeking.

When we really think about enlightenment from a practical perspective, it's similar, if not identical, to other goals we set for ourselves.  And if we believe this, we must act according to the way we do whenever we work on our other goals.  This means we must work on it diligently until we have achieved it. 

To begin our work, we must clear the deleterious thoughts, beliefs, and actions that are preventing us from achieving our goals.  We must be willing to overcome the harmful actions that are interfering with our work. And although some of us believe we have already done the work, we must continue the self-discovery phase until the path is clear to us.

 Nevertheless, for some of us who stubbornly hold on to our victim beliefs, we must work harder to overcome the stumbling blocks we have placed in our lives. This is a difficult task.  It's difficult because we don't want to continue working on the same issues over and over again.  We want to do it once or twice and then move on to something else.  Unfortunately, if we want to see clearly, we must work until the anger, worry, fear, doubt, and so on no longer cause us to reclaim our powerlessness.

The changes we seek are the ones that define us. To remove any of them is to redefine who we are.  It's similar to removing the grass from our lawns.  When we do, we no longer have lawns, at least ones with grass.  When we clear away the grass (victim beliefs), we have something radically different from what we had before.  And when remove the thoughts preventing us from moving forward with achieving our goals, we have begun the seeding process to produce someone radically different from who we were before we began our work.

To achieve enlightenment there's no way for us to escape from changing how we think and live. The change how you think and live is a disciplined, methodical process we must adhere to.  It's not magical. This means we must relentlessly pursue our work with a heretofore unknown work ethic. With enlightenment as our goal, the work becomes more urgent; it takes on a more serious tone. It's an acceptance that we are now living to express only enlightenment in our thoughts, beliefs and actions, nothing else.

As enlightenment-seekers, it really doesn't matter to us whether we become totally enlightened on our journeys.  What matters is that we become engaged in the work to achieve enlightenment.  It is in the work that we experience the joy of living rich and fulfilling lives.  And it is our work where we gain the necessary clarity to understand the true meaning of enlightenment.

Meanwhile, many of us overcome with victim beliefs find it difficult to envision anything other than our current situations of lack, limitation and struggle. We see the world from the prism of victim beliefs, which limits what we are able to see. We cling to the notions that we deserve to have more in life without our doing the necessary work to achieve the things we desire.

So to change, we must begin the work to plant new seeds of enlightenment.  And by doing this, we remove the dead grass (beliefs) from our garden (life).
This is the opportunity for us to plant enlightenment seeds (thoughts) into the fertile soil (receptive consciousness) and bring forth new beliefs and actions.

And during this process of fertilization, we must understand that enlightenment can only express itself in our lives unless victim beliefs pass away.  In other words, we must first remove the victim beliefs before we can plant new seeds to express enlightenment in our lives.

For us to achieve our goal of enlightenment, we must be willing to do the necessary work to make it happen.  It's that simple.