Friday, February 26, 2016

Of Conscience and Sin, Custom and Nature

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Examine your conscience and confess your sins, says the Roman Catholic Church.

What does this even mean?

Millennia of Misguidance

I spent the first 24 years of my life as a Roman Catholic in a strongly Catholic environment: heavy family and friend support, church every Sunday and “holy day of obligation” and others in between, an altar server, 12 years of Catholic schooling, and so on.

But in all this time and experience I was never told the truth. I was never told what conscience and sin truly are. I was never offered any clear-cut means on how to examine my conscience or to stop sinning.

How can I say this? As in, how can I say, “I was never taught it,” as opposed to, “I just didn’t do it properly”?

Because I’ve been given the opportunity to see in from the outside without losing the awareness of or going into denial over what went on inside.

I’ve since learned what conscience and so-called “sin” really are. I’ve since healed monumental piles of inner garbage which had held my life in darkness, that, in days prior, I’d have sinfully repeated over and over and over again no matter how many times I’d confessed them nor how much overwhelming guilt and shame I’d felt about them and hatred I’d felt toward myself for being unable to keep from doing them.

I’ve also since found out that many “sinful” things are actually perfect and healthy expressions of being human.

What Is Conscience?

I think conscience, in the form nearly every observer of Western religion knows it (though wouldn't define it this way), has been described best by Michel de Montaigne:

The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Were most of us to wake up tomorrow to the authoritatively instated invalidation of all policies of religion and government and the like, people would be utterly lost.

Who am I if not what I’ve been taught? What do I do? How do I behave?

Herein lies the misguidance of religion’s teaching on conscience. We’re so hell-bent on creating and upholding arbitrary-but-appearing-true laws, rules, and regulations of a purely mental nature that we’ve become utterly lost in our minds and unwilling to open to anything contrary.

Said differently, we believe we’re attuned to the tenets of nature, of God, when in fact we’re just adhering to man-mind- and culture-defined gobbledygook seemingly applicable to some absolute nature of the present day.

This may bring up arguments such as, “But if there were no laws against killing, people would be killing each other left and right.” This type of disagreement is nonsense because it’s avoidance on the arguer’s part in facing the haphazard nature of their life beliefs. Not only do most people not have the innate inclination to kill others, but, look at us—we were given the 10 Commandments thousands of years ago and we still haven’t learned—we’ve been killing each other on a mass scale ever since. (With the one's who actually claim to have been given those commandments, ironically enough, carrying the greatest liability for mass murder. In the names of "love" and "divine justice," no less.)

The difference will not be made by written law. What can and will make the difference is our hearts. Yet our “hearts are waxed gross.”

True Conscience (with a capital “C”) is a function of heart awareness, something which simply cannot be grasped when life is wholly a function of mind.

The heart just sees and operates without judgment or force. Its speech is subtle, not seeking to overpower the racket of the ego-mind. Within the heart reside the Laws of Heaven and Earth.

It’s thus only when we bring our minds into quiet focus, when we make slaves of our minds rather than being slaves unto them, and tend to our hearts that we can come to know Conscience.

We are aided in this process by knowing what “sin” actually is.

What Is Sin?

According to the Church, not only are you born in sin—whatever that is to them, some inherent filth you acquire just for being alive—but you are sinful by nature. Should you intend to reach heaven, as opposed to spend eternity in the flames of hell, you need to confess your sins to obtain God’s forgiveness. You will sin and sin and sin (i.e.: you will live in a state of perpetual wrong-doing, guilt, and shame), but as long as you confess regularly and don’t have any particularly “mortal” sins staining your soul when you die, you’ll at least reach purgatory.

Folks, sin is in—your head.

As I’ve said before, sin can be defined as simply as “errant thought.” Thought always precedes word and action. Which means that if your thoughts change, then everything else must shift accordingly. Which means you can stop sinning.

For instance: You’ve been working the same job for 25 years. Your boss was once an asshole, and every day you’d thought nasty things of him. You’d felt lousy about this and went to confession regularly—for 20 years. But one day you stumbled upon a self-help article in which the author suggested that life is a mirror and there’s a personal lesson in the discomfort you’d been feeling related to your boss. After doing some more reading and several weeks of daily self-inquiry—wah-lah! The author was right! You had an epiphany that your boss was merely a demanding reflection of your father who you’d never stood up to. Though uneasy, you decided to lean into your discomfort and stand up to your boss the next time he tried to ream you out. And—zippy-zam! He never treated you like crap again, you never had to think about dumping your piping hot coffee on his bitch-ass face again, and you had no reason to feel guilt and shame or the soul-crushing need to make haste to the confessional booth again.

This is the way it works, ladies and gentleman. As you release traumas, fears, false beliefs, and repressed emotions, the source of what is considered “sinful” disappears. This emptying allows your heart—the space of Conscience—to open.

Consequently, the heart is also the seat of nature’s wisdom. Had we not all the inner baggage of misguidance, we'd be able to realign ourselves with what is the way of both nature and heaven. Opposite of Montaigne's words, we'd no longer need to pretend.

Examination of Conscience

I can’t help but think that this is what it means to do a true “Examination of Conscience.”

We’re very complex beings. Examination takes meditation and journaling. It takes an incredibly huge tolerance to witnessing one’s own darkness, feeling its discomforts, learning its lessons, and fully embracing the darkness as “this, too, I am.” It takes spiritual and/or psychological healers, teachers, and counselors. It takes a great willingness to be wrong and to see life from wildly unconventional perspectives.

One can and will have to chip away by moment, day, and month, but overall the process takes years of dedicated effort, especially to knock out the heavier, more repressed issues. A true Examination of Conscience is an intensive, layered endeavor—not something to mentally spend between 5 and 30 minutes on before going to a monthly, quarterly, or yearly penance service.

In Closing: A Word On Nature

As you go about your days, keep the following in mind:

You are not separate from nature.

Yes, you do have a different, higher level of consciousness than the rest of nature. But this level of consciousness does not put you above the natural world. As you can now see so readily, we are rapidly destroying the natural world because we’ve made believe for far too long that we’re somehow in it yet separate from it, because we’ve believed in man’s law rather than living in nature’s law.

And as we are a part of nature and have within us the whole of it—bits of reptile, bits of amphibian, bits of animal… and huge quantities of bacteria—so too do we feel inclinations this way and that for what may be perceived as “lower” behaviors.

But rather than experiencing and/or healthily managing them, we’ve often accepted lies as truth and then chosen repression, guilt and shame, instead. This is wrong. Oh, God. Have mercy on my soul.

Repression, guilt , and shame are not transcendence; they are repression, guilt, and shame. And they lead to behaviors being played out in excess or not at all—both of which corrode body, mind, emotion, and soul.

The hippopotamus doesn’t feel guilt or shame to be a hippopotamus; nor does the black widow in being a black widow, the begonia in being a begonia, or the E. coli in being an E. coli. They all simply be what they are.

Unload the baggage, listen to your heart, and then think and behave as you in integrity with yourself and nature would think and behave.

Become once again what you already are.

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