Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Maybe They Don't Know. Maybe You're Wrong.

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness



Not-So-Fashionably Late

Many years ago in the midst of one of my 5th grade math classes, a classmate came in late, walked across the room in front of the teacher, and then sat down at her desk.

The teacher freaked. “That is so disrespectful! You don’t ever walk in front of a teacher who’s in the middle of teaching! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

I don’t recall seeing the girl’s face, but I can only imagine that she been amazingly upset and embarrassed. She had no ill intent and hadn’t known better, I’m sure. Clearly, however, no such similar thought had arisen within the teacher to prevent her from blowing up at the girl as though she’d thrown a textbook at somebody’s head.

Musical Scares

A different time in grade school when I was in music class, a student was given the opportunity to play on the piano. It wasn’t a recital or anything and may even have been during some free time at the end of class.

While the girl played, another girl must have had an itch in her ear because she began scratching at it.

The music teacher flipped. “How dare you! You are so rude putting your finger in your ear when someone is playing for us! You’ve just lost your privilege to play the piano for the rest of the year!”

I’m not going to lie: I certainly wasn’t that girl, who must have felt horrified, but this one actually traumatized me. I can’t tell you how many times in my life after this incident had happened that I’d felt fear when in a group of people, especially when someone was talking, and I’d felt the need to scratch an ear.

Imagine…

There are plenty of instances in my life where I had been the one directly receiving other people’s totally blown out of proportion emotional explosions—or implosions.

I would say or do something, perhaps mistakenly or perhaps just being myself, and people would utterly lose it. Usually they’d react by berating and/or punishing me, and sometimes they’d just completely shut down and not want to talk—ever again.

If someone I’ve hurt decides they don’t want to talk to me anymore or get revenge, even after an apology (which I’m usually quick to give), while I think both options are quite stupid and immature, I can still understand it if I had stolen their car or had killed one of their family members. But nothing remotely close has ever happened.

Below are 4 general categories and scenarios to describe what I mean. Afterward, I’m going to give you some questions and further thoughts to ponder.
  1. Mistakes
    Imagine that you were asked to help someone to do something you’d never done before, this being something that they are quite experienced with. When you made a mistake or didn’t perform to the level they expected, they blew up in anger at you; perhaps they abused you in some way.

  2. Differing Beliefs
    Imagine speaking your mind because, why not? Imagine living your life as you because, why not? In no case are you being negative or harmful but another perceives you as offensive. You’ve neither said nor done anything wrong, but another flips out at you because they believe that what you’ve said or done is wrong.

  3. Challenges
    Imagine that you’re a kid growing up in “The System of Standardization.” You don’t know much about anything and you’re a curious one, so you ask a lot of questions. Sometimes your questions may be misplaced, which is something you can’t know because you’re so young, and sometimes your questions are fair. Naturally, you ask these questions to people you view as “authority” figures, such as teachers, who you think would have the answers. Trouble is, these questions don’t fit either "The System’s" structure or the “authorities’” mentality of “what an acceptable question is.” The “authorities” go berserk, and you’re the victim.

  4. Ignorance
    Imagine that you said something to someone but hadn’t realized that what you were saying was misplaced. This is to say, you were positive in your words and hadn’t intended harm, but you hadn’t known that the context within which you were making your statements was inappropriate for those statements. Offence was taken, though you were told more through a “cold shoulder” than anything. You immediately apologized to the degree you could, but were then curtly told to go away and don’t come back.

Ponder This

I’ve seen it happen plenty of times to others, and I’ve experienced it plenty of times myself: I or another says or does something that should, theoretically, do little if any harm, and the one on the receiving end loses their composure faster than an ice cube melts in a volcano.

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you been, or are you still, the person who completely loses their shit in a way like that described here? The person who can’t tolerate ignorance or innocence; who can’t tolerate mistakes?

If so, I’d like you to think of similar experiences from your own life and then reflect on the following questions in regard to those experiences:
  • Is it possible that you were wrong?
  • Did you really know best?
  • Could it be that your reaction was overblown?
  • Could your perceived offender have had no ill-intentions?
  • Could it be that your apparent offender didn’t know any better?
  • If you think they “should” have known better, don’t you think they probably would have chosen better?
  • What, really, caused you to erupt? Your perceived offender’s words and actions, or what those words and actions triggered inside of you?

Unjustified Reactivity

If someone offends another, the offended one has a right to be upset.

But, one, most people wouldn’t be offended most of the time if they could actually see what they were getting offended about—hint: it’s internal and is very likely not about the person who they perceive to have hurt them—and, two, in situations such as those discussed here, the people who are the perceived offenders typically have little if any idea that they’re apparently in error!

With very rare exception, in all the cases described above as they’d been witnessed or experienced by me, there’d been no blame, no slander, no nothing lousy at all on the part of the perceived offender. Just people being people, making mistakes in ignorance—or maybe not making any mistakes at all but either not being “perfect” by another’s standards or not knowing, say, that the person they’re about to ask a question to is afraid of curiosity.

Similarly, in any of these instances, it’s not as if I or others were usually jerks and so people would make the assumption when they’d felt offended that any of us were trying to pick a fight. A mere moment’s conscious thought would have revealed to those offended that we were probably completely ignorant that what we’d just done was apparently wrong.

Multiplying the Hurt

These kinds of situations provide clear evidence as to one of the reasons why many people try so hard to be “perfect,” to be “right,” to be “good enough.”

We’ve not been given the room to make mistakes. We’ve not been given the space to gently grow out of ignorance but have forcibly lost our innocence.

It’s not that a mistake is made or a personally appropriate action is taken, someone happens to feel offended, and then there is discussion between the two people as to differences in their perspectives.

Rather, hurt is inadvertently created, and then rage flares instantaneously, blame is laid, and shame consumes the perceived offender. It doesn't help that the one feeling offended is often perceived as an "authority" and this person basically overpowers the perceived offender. When the offended one says it's over, it's over.

Not only, then, does the perceived offender walk away traumatized, but because there’s no conversation, they must often walk away without ever knowing why they’d apparently erred. As for the offended one, he walks away in self-justified anger never considering that through such an unnecessarily-explosive, negative reaction he’d caused more harm than he’d perceived the other to do unto him.

Don’t get me wrong, I can understand that certain situations described here could initially provoke a WTF?-type of reaction. However, the reactions are always blown out of proportion.

Driving in the Pain

Let’s take this one a step further.

Imagine being traumatized at some earlier point in life and thus being thrust into a state of mental-emotional imbalance. Imagine carrying this pain around with you for years or decades, and necessarily yet helplessly behaving in a way indicative of the pain.

Although your behavior doesn’t cause harm to others, someone takes offense anyway and goes blitzkrieg on you because you’re not living up to their standards.

I fully acknowledge that there is a time and place for shaking people up, including traumatized people, to push them toward action and healing. Life itself does this all the time through karma, or the Law of Cause and Effect.

The trouble, here, is that the ones freaking out make no consideration whatsoever for the pain their perceived offenders may be carrying. They may even know about this pain; the physical, mental, and/or emotional distress may be quite evident. Yet they show no love, compassion, or empathy.

They cannot help but be charged up to the point of detonation due to a given situation’s resonance with their own repressed, earlier-life trauma.

Indeed, they unconsciously see “out there” a reflection of their own hurt “in here,” and they attempt to destroy it “out there” by hating on the one who portrays it.

These explosions are, of course, to no benefit. The offended ones remain lost in their self-righteous indignation, and the traumatized ones hurt all the greater having had the nails of their affliction driven in further.

People clamor for positive change, but so few understand that, one, we cannot force people to change, and, two, we cannot instigate positive change by utilizing the same low level of consciousness as the perceived problem itself. Hate, anger, and resentment cannot heal trauma or instigate positive change: only love, compassion, and empathy can do that.

The Deli

A few years ago, I was walking by a local deli when I looked in and saw a friend sitting at a window seat. He waved for me to come in, and I did.

Just inside the door, the owner, who saw me enter while working in the back, asked if she could get me something. I said, “No, thanks,” and then sat down next to the friend to talk to him for several minutes before leaving.

While sitting there, the owner hadn’t said anything to me, and I can’t say what she’d felt. I would guess, though, that she’d been annoyed by what I’d done, as I’m sure a lot of people in her position would also have been. The deli is small, it’s a place of business, and it had been lunch time.

This awareness came in hindsight, however: I hadn't even realized my mistake until I randomly thought of the occurrence a year or so later. That is to say, at the time I’d erred, it hadn’t yet crossed my mind that I was doing something generally perceived as “wrong.”

Now, in this instance, suppose the deli owner would have said something to me about the faultiness of my actions. Would it really have been necessary or appropriate for her to have angrily shouted, “What the hell are you doing!? You think you can just walk into this place and hang around and talk? If you’re not going to buy anything, get out of here!” Couldn’t she have walked over and calmly said, “Hey, I’m running a business, and it’s lunch time. It’s not right of you to come in just to talk but not order anything. Would you please leave?”

In either scenario I would have both respected her request and learned what not to do should such a circumstance arise later on. In the latter case, however, I wouldn’t have had to potentially experience a whole gamut of feelings from fear to shame to anger, and I wouldn’t have had to walk away senselessly traumatized.

Just One Moment

All the situations discussed above have been similar. Yes, some may have carried more initial shock value than others.

But as I said earlier, if people would take only a moment’s rest before losing their composure—to consider the whole of the situation rather than being immediately washed away by their emotions—they’d see that, most likely, no harm was intended and there’s really no reason for them to get all bent out of shape, to attack their perceived offender, or maybe to shut their perceived offender out of their life altogether.

So if and when you feel like blowing the hell up at somebody, please take one moment—just that one moment—to stop and consider these two things:

Firstly, consider how you feel when someone else goes into a fit of rage at you because you’d unwittingly said or done something to bring their deep disapproval. Profoundly uncomfortable and quite unhelpful, is it not?

Secondly, consider that maybe the person who you perceive to have offended you doesn’t even know that he or she is wrong. Consider that maybe he or she isn’t wrong, but that you are.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Wise Men Are Human, Too.

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness



"The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."
--Oscar Wilde

The Misperception

When we think of wise men (and women)—those we commonly label, if incorrectly, as “prophets,” “sages,” “saints,” “saviors,” and so on—conventional thought has us picturing them as wearing robes or, in some cases, as minimally dressed.

To an extent this is appropriate. Such clothes are loose and comfortable, they’re simple, they’re not cause for distraction, and sometimes, such as with the coloring of robes, they’re symbolic. Also, this choice of clothes has frequently been a reflection of the cultures and times in which any given wise men have lived and/or their state of renunciation.

We also often picture wise men as perfect, super serious, unshakably tranquil, and so forth.

The trouble, so I feel, is that we’ve taken this imagery and bound it to our mental, and thus perceptual, definition of “wise man.”

As we now awaken spiritually as a human collective, we would do well to release this concept.

The reason is that wise men are human, too.

A Reasonable Need

Let’s consider Jesus.

Except for his birth and then at his death, Jesus is always shown wearing a robe. In the Gospels, his words are always straight to the point. As far as the “official” books of the Bible and Western religion go (to the best of my awareness), Jesus was a preacher—no more and no less—in day to day life.

This imagery may be somewhat reasonable.

Back in the day, due to people’s profound depth of spiritual sleep, it seems important that wise men would need to look the role. The same holds true for those who later made Jesus the focal point of their religious and spiritual practices—Jesus would have to appear believably spiritual.

While living, I doubt Jesus would have had quite the following if, rather than a robe, he’d worn jeans and a “Goliath and the Giants” rock ‘n’ roll t-shirt. (He might still have had a following, but just not of spiritual aspirants.) I doubt the same, with Christianity, if the Bible included passages wherein Jesus had attended backyard bocce ball tournaments or had made jokes, even if the jokes had pointed to deep spiritual truths.

Why So Serious?

But unless a person is completely, traumatically numb, all of us have some sense of humor, preferences for clothes, hobbies, and so on. No, the people of centuries and millennia past did not have the amazing variety of choice that we have today. But they were all still human; they all still had things they liked to do or jokes they liked to tell—they all had things that made them unique—though these things rarely, if ever, have made it into historical records.

No wise man is exempt from this same humanness because wise men are human, too. They were, are, and will be people just like you and I.

I think if most people would take a moment to consider what I'm saying, they'd see my argument as reasonable. Not having done this, however, and otherwise bogged down with stiff religious concepts, people have generally come to think and behave as though such awake and aware beings are deifically above and beyond; as though they wear human flesh but should be placed in a scientific category separate from the “average” human; Humanus propheticus, perhaps.

A consequence is that the mental imagery becomes a burden. It's a weight that people either seek to mimic or set themselves below as unworthy as though either one will make them more spiritual, will take them to salvation.

“I’m so serious because God is so serious.”

Chill, Dude.

As a collective, we’ve been spiritually asleep for so long. Hence, why we’ve run to others for so many eons looking for spiritual truth yet never finding solid, satisfactory answers.

The time we’re now in is different because we’re in the midst of what has been variously termed “ascension” and “awakening.” This is happening on many different levels, but most notably on an inner, spiritual one.

Maybe, then, this process should be termed “inscension,” for we’re not actually going anywhere, but instead realizing our true, inherent nature; we’re realizing the infinite wisdom within ourselves—the wise man nature.

This means that the multi-millennia-old “spiritual” identity is inappropriate.

You and I can grow spiritually—to the level of “wise man” and beyond—though we may wear “Goliath and the Giants” rock ‘n’ roll t-shirts; we can tell jokes, we can be architects, we can play ping-pong, and we can eat meat. If it’s true to any given one of us to look the role or to be a renunciate, we can most certainly do that, yet what is appropriate to any given one of us is extremely broad.

See

In Matthew 6:4, Jesus says: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”

So many people are stuck in the false “spiritual” imagery; they continue looking for a “robed holy man,” a “perfect one,” a “miracle worker,” a “haloed saint,” or (worst of all) a “savior”—one deemed by religious “authority” to be “The Real Deal"—to give them “The Answers” and take away all their woes. Stuck on false appearances, these people cannot see, even refuse to see, the awakened ones walking among them.

But wise men are human, too.

They eat, they sleep, they go to the bathroom. They wear all sorts of different clothes, they go to the dentist, and they sing and dance. They may work in the field of spirituality or in restaurants or factories in order to support themselves financially. Sometimes they may seem infallible, sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re sad. They’re born, and they die. They come from all classes of society, and are men and women alike. They may or may not be affiliated with a certain religious tradition. Some are young, and some are old.

Whatever the case may be, wise men are human beings just like every other—they simply see beyond appearances and live accordingly.

And these wise men walk among us, now more than ever before.

So, why not open your eyes? You might be surprised by what you see.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Spirituality Flows

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness



WANTED: Spirituality.
Stagnance and savior-seeking
need not apply.

Origins

Our conventional view of spirituality comes from religion.

What is religion?

Religion is basically a stringent set of rites, rules, and practices that are claimed to move the adherents of these rites, rules, and practices closer to God—one that is commonly perceived as “out there” somewhere. As it’s set forth that the rites, rules, and practices are created and given by God and are “The Truth,” they rarely if ever change.

Concurrently, although religious sects number in the thousands, many of these religions will claim themselves, if indirectly, as “The One Right Way,” and will purport that without them one cannot know God. They will further assert, if indirectly, that the positions within their clerical hierarchy define depth of wisdom and closeness to God—with all positions above and separate from the average congregant. Religions will sometimes further push that those who don’t follow obediently will be punished—perhaps forever.

At least by the ages-old viewpoint, it would seem that religion begets spirituality and spirituality has a clear, set course: all are to follow the same, supposedly God-prescribed path, and they will be rewarded, often not until the afterlife, if they follow adequately.

Into the Flow

In my own experience and what seems to be the experience of many who see themselves as spiritually-oriented although with minimal if any with religious attachments, I have to contend that the spiritual path includes far fewer restrictions and demands than religion and much more flow.

Be Where You Are. Go Where You Need To Be.

One primary way in which spirituality flows is with regard to spiritual teachers.

The spiritual teacher who you first learn from is not necessarily the spiritual teacher you’ll be walking with 1, 15, or 65 years later. Furthermore, if you’re truly evolving spiritually, you’ll eventually become the spiritual teacher (if in being rather than deliberation), for you’ll have acquired the very wisdom you’d once sought.

Think of this like schooling:

If you want to learn math at the level of algebra, you only need a teacher who has a satisfactory understanding of algebra. Once you learn algebra sufficiently, not only would you then move to a teacher who teaches the next level of math, but you would now be in a position to teach algebra to others.

It is so that you can be taught algebra by a teacher whose forte is calculus. In some instances this might be okay, but such a teacher might only teach higher-level courses. And if the calculus teacher were to try to teach you calculus before you’re ready, you simply wouldn't be able to grasp it, and you'd walk out. None of this being to suggest hierarchy or better-than/less-than, but merely to provide a realistic view. Eventually, were it your will, you would become the calculus student and later the calculus teacher.

Now, suppose you’d become interested in probability but your current teacher hadn’t learned it. Maybe your current teacher, in her zealous "certainty," tries to selfishly tell you what to do: "Probability isn't even real math—it's calculated guess work. You'd best stay away from that!" The reasonable response would be for you to find a new teacher, one who would be able to support your higher good.

It's important to see that:
  1. A true teacher gives freely and allows the student to move on in due time, even when this means the student will surpass the teacher in a particular area;
  2. A false teacher creates a power struggle, withholds and distorts information, and maintains student dependence;
  3. Student-teacher alignment varies based on resonance and where one is on their path;
  4. The teacher and student are equally important to each other.
Spiritual growth is the same way. Every being in existence has a different path. Every being in existence also has a different perspective and a different way of coming to answer questions such as, “Why am I here?” and, “Who is God?”

You and I and everyone else must each therefore find our own way. And whatever way this may be for any given one of us, it will flow because it’s our personal path—it’s the path most aligned with our soul’s evolution and our life’s unfoldment.

My Own Experience

I was born into Roman Catholicism and did all the typical Roman Catholic things. I’d always rejected the religion internally—it didn’t feel good to me at all—but I’d also forced it on myself because it seemed the safest option.

This went on for around 24 years until I’d finally had the courage to be honest with myself and to put my own needs before the selfish desires and unkind judgments of others. At this time, not only did I drop religion, but I’d become apathetic—I felt no connection to religion, and had no idea what spirituality was since I’d always perceived religion and spirituality to effectively be the same thing.

Then at 25 years old, now nearly 10 years ago, I had a spontaneous spiritual awakening and met a spiritual teacher a few years later. I’ve read many of his blog posts, watched many of his livestreams, and had a few one-on-one sessions with him.

About 2 years ago, I began feeling that his work was not supporting my needs any longer. This is not to suggest anything negative—I would happily recommend him to others—but for whatever reasons, the resonance simply shifted. I took note of my increasing disinterest, I accepted this feeling, and I let go.

To point out, at no time did this teacher ever even hint at things such as, “I know ‘The One Right Way’,” or, “Give me your money and allegiance and follow my rules or don’t bother coming around (or you can burn in hell).” Quite contrarily, he lived and spoke his truth, he clearly stated that he is here to help others know themselves and their own truths, and he ran his work based on suggested donation rather than guilt-based financial demand.

During my time on the spiritual path, I’ve also read plenty of books related to spirituality. These books have been written by authors/teachers from all walks of life. I’ve read them all with an open mind, I’ve taken what I’ve found to be useful, and I’ve left behind what didn’t resonate. Some of these books I’ve reread, interpreted previously-read ideas in a fresh way, and then accepted the ideas my own and will continue to do so—unless I become aware of something I perceive as better, for me. All the same could be said for spiritually-based videos.

As for what's next? I don't know, and it doesn't bother me to not know. Life will provide the next spiritual teacher, in whatever form, when the time is ripe.

Stagnance and Self-Inquiry

Recently, I’ve reevaluated some sources from which I’ve been going to for information for several years. These sources are not teachers, per se, but they are providers of information, and where there is the acceptance of information, there is also learning. But mind you, learning doesn’t always mean that what we’re accepting is true or useful.

After some “what do you think of such-and-such” conversations with a friend who is quite familiar with the information, I got asking myself questions such as:
  • What am I getting from this?
  • How much has this served me in the past?
  • Am I too attached?
  • How is this helping me?
  • How many times has this been right or wrong?
  • When I don't read this stuff for a time, do I feel fear as though I'm missing something?

What I came to realize is that, although I have a lot of respect for the providers of the information and know their intent is for the best, I can no longer justify giving my power to them in the way I had. This isn’t to say I was regularly commenting on their blogs, donating money, or anything like that—and I certainly wasn’t idolizing them! But I’d still been regularly visiting their websites or receiving periodic emails and, far more than I’d realized prior to the self-inquiry, placing trust into them as though they know better than I.

I’m not about throwing the baby out with the bath water, and I’m not saying that these sources have never been useful or are now dead to me. But do the pros outweigh the cons? How useful is the information to me in reaching greater clarity, peace, understanding, etc. at this time? How do I feel when I view it, light or heavy?

The less we’re moving forward, the more we’re in stagnation. The more we’re in stagnation, the more what we perceive becomes “normal,” the less we become able to recognize how unhealthy our situation has actually is, and the more we become fearful of change.

We would therefore do well to self-inquire of the different aspects of whatever makes up our spiritual life. It’s totally fine to stick with what works for as long as it works. But it's quite easy to get used to a certain way of going about and then become so identified with it that we both lose sight of what’s really happening and become numb to any feelings which are guiding us toward a different path.

Use the Useful Unless It’s Useless

Other examples of change within the flow of spirituality are as follows:
  • Meditation and/or contemplation practices may change.
  • Affirmations and/or mantras may change.
  • One might go on a self-inquiry “rampage” one year but by the next hardly inquire at all.
  • The course of spirituality may begin in a very practice-oriented manner but evolve into a being-oriented experience.
  • The student may eventually become the teacher. The hurt may become the healer.
  • One’s diet will change, perhaps many times.
At any time in the flow of spirituality—which is an evolutionary way of life, not merely a standardized event reserved for Saturday or Sunday mornings—new practices may be picked up at any time, and old practices may be released at any time.

As our consciousness, or our level of Self-awareness, and the energies of life shift, so, too, do our spiritual needs and practices.

As we progress, we come to realize that all of Life is our teacher, and that our true Guide is within; we realize that all external tools (ritual, chant, etc.), if healthy and appropriately applied, are meant to increase our awareness of this Guide but are only useful in their appropriate time and place.

Like good craftsmen, when we need a single screwdriver, we reach into our toolbox, pull out a single screwdriver, and take it to where our project is. Unless we need many tools at the same time, we don’t take the loaded, 60-pound toolbox all around with us. We use a given tool when we need it, and we don’t use a saw when we need a hammer. When we’re done with any tools we’d been using, we put them away. If we don’t have a tool to achieve a certain end, then we find some way to obtain this tool (or make it ourselves) and learn how to use it. If we have sufficient experience with a given tool, we might give it to another and teach them how to use it.

Flow

As we go through life, family changes, friends change, activities changes, bodies change, and, well, everything changes.

Why wouldn’t the same hold true for our spiritual needs and practices?