Happiness?

December 20, 2011

A wise person asked me recently why I think we are here, as humans—alive, in this physical world. I was surprised that I had to think about my response. I was already so shaken by the conversation up to that point that I had to sift through mental “rubble” to find a response.

“To be happy” was the agreed-upon answer to that question. But life has me examining every particle and detail about my view of myself, relationships, and the world. “Happiness” and “why we’re here” are in a part of my self-concept that I have temporarily dismantled for cleaning and repair.

This is because, in my own experience, I’ve found it impossible to be happy all the time! If something is impossible, how can it be our reason for existence? But I’m willing to question anything. Maybe I have the wrong idea of what “happiness” is.

I’m certainly not “there” yet, wherever that is. (Intuition tells me it’s “here”!)

We all have our own perspectives, and none of us (or very, very few of us) see our inner and outer worlds with true clarity. It seems to me that when we can see with perfect clarity, then—and only then—can we say that we are truly happy.

Happiness is on a scale, though, like a ruler or a thermometer or anything else. All emotion is, as it were, on this scale, with happiness at or near the top.

I’m going to go out on a limb and define “happiness” as enjoyment of the present moment. In other words, in a happy moment we don’t drag our past into the present and we don’t preoccupy ourselves with an imagined future.

But, as I said, I don’t think it’s possible to be happy, by this definition, all the time.

Why?

We have all been harmed in life. Harm tends to cause negative emotion—particularly when we didn’t fully express the natural, normal, and healthy negative response to the harm when it happened. (Like when our parents made us stop crying when we were little.)

If we don’t express negative emotion, it remains within our being, where it lurks among the unconscious part of our mind that corresponds to the 95% of our brains that we don’t consciously use. This negative emotion then takes over the conscious 5% when activated—by either an inner or an outer stimulus that the mind/brain recognizes as similar to the conditions that produced the negative emotion the first time we felt it.

(The late spiritual giant OSHO invented “dynamic meditation” as a way for modern people to express this negative emotion because he recognized that traditional spiritual techniques won’t work if unexpressed negative emotion is in the way.)

We cannot be happy and feel negative emotion at the same time, according to the previous definition. Negative emotion is not “enjoyable,” in my experience. Releasing it sure is, though!

We also cannot entertain wrong thoughts and feel happy at the same time, except temporarily. An example of this temporary “happiness” would be the “happy” feeling some people get when their favorite football team makes a touchdown. These people do not feel “happy” when the other team makes a touchdown, according to my definition. In both cases, though, the person is in the present moment!

Maybe I don’t know what happiness is. Maybe happiness is just being in the present moment, whether it’s enjoyable or not—not trying to escape it to the remembered past or the imagined future, but just being fully present, here, now, no matter what! Maybe this is the “letting go” that frees us from our mental prison, like the one from which I’m writing right now.

“Man, what a great game!” I’ve heard this expression many times after someone has watched a football or baseball game with high drama, where there was much emotion, excitement, and even disappointment in the game. It can be a “great game” even if the favorite team loses.

Maybe I’m learning something here.

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Attachments: On Suffering and Healing, Part II

December 6, 2011

In the essay “On Suffering and Healing,” I wrote these words:

Is there a way to thrive, meeting life openly, yet without suffering when difficult events happen? Is this even a desirable goal, or is the process of suffering and healing an integral part of the human experience? Is “suffering-and-healing” the essence of human life, or is it a major problem to be solved and prevented? Answering this question seems to be my next task in unloosing the threads that keep the secrets of life hidden from my view.

I think I can answer that question now.

In life, we form attachments. These attachments can be to people, ideas, places, habits, sensations, feelings, and just about anything else you can imagine. This is a safety mechanism, enabling us to survive and function when we’re little. It also serves to chain us to exterior circumstances as we accumulate attachments.

This is because attachments are real things (not just concepts) on a higher level of our being. Most of us can’t see them, but we do feel them, here in the physical.

Attachments always limit our experience.

This is not to say that all attachments are bad, or even undesirable. For example, I have kids and I have no intention of breaking my many attachments to either of them. Nor to Metallica’s music or the Internet.

So, attachments can enrich our experience.

If one of my kids were to die, though, those attachments would become a ball and chain—a wrong attachment, which is always accompanied by unexpressed negative emotion. I would have to grieve (break my attachment and release the emotion associated with it) in order to live freely again.

I did this after my mom died, and I’ve done it more than once when relationships have ended. I’ve even made new attachments to the same people or ideas after I junked the old wrong attachments!

Attachments are always accompanied by emotion when formed. Breaking attachments always releases negative emotion. The negative emotion is as strong as the positive emotion that accompanied the attachment previously: it is the previous positive emotion’s “flip” side.

After we release negative emotion, “new” positive emotion fills its place. The positive emotion was always there, but hidden from our view for awhile by the negative emotion.

Positive emotion surrounds our core; negative emotion surrounds our positive emotion. We see this from the “outside,” looking “in.”  If there is much negative emotion in us, that’s what we see when we turn our awareness inward.  If there’s little negative emotion, then we naturally and effortlessly see the (deeper) positive emotion.

To release negative emotion is to allow access to our natural positive emotion. To release negative emotion is to become free, because unexpressed negative emotion affects our thoughts, feelings, and behavior—always for the worse. It possesses and controls us, pretending to be us. It makes us act like someone we are not.

We are all good underneath, at our core.

If we understand attachment, then when we experience loss (an attachment that no longer has a valid object) we can move more quickly to heal, thus minimizing our suffering.

So, to answer my previous question, the process of attachment, loss, suffering, breaking attachments, and healing is an integral part of being human. But we can reduce our suffering and quicken our healing if we understand attachment. We can escape the process, though, if we really want to break all of our attachments. We have that choice. Personally, I don’t want to break them all. Many of them enrich me.

But now my wrong attachments have targets on them.

The good, beautiful, and true attachments enrich my life. But any attachments can be broken because they are exterior to myself. It’s my choice. Understanding that I have that choice is one aspect of true power.

Only what I carry within myself, at my core, cannot be broken. It can only be hidden, for awhile, until I uncover it by releasing wrong attachments.

What are attachments, by the way?  Attachments are “only” ideas with (positive or negative) emotion holding them in place. And oh, how powerful they can be. Even the wrong ones.

We can have both right and wrong attachments to the same thing, at the same time. Only the wrong ones hurt.

(written in 2008)


On Suffering and Healing

December 1, 2011

I want nothing more than to understand the best way to live my life, and to do my best to live it that way. This has been the driving desire of my life since I was a teenager. Much of my time since then has been spent in the pursuit of understanding, with the intention of living my life as well as possible—that is, as truly and correctly as possible.

What does that mean?

Is there some standard by which I am to conform, as I was taught to believe as a child? Is there a potential for growth (whatever that means) which I should try to achieve—some inner mold I should try to fill to capacity so that I’m fulfilled someday? Or am I truly to enjoy every moment as fully as possible, or perhaps simply to appreciate the gift of being alive, no matter the circumstances?

If so, to whom or what do I direct my appreciation, if anywhere?

I’m moving toward the idea that the ideal is acceptance of life events and circumstances, without fighting the often uncomfortable or painful changes that they bring. This does not imply a powerless attitude and submission to fate, but rather a shortening of the healing process by immediate acceptance of change.

Healing begins with the process of adjusting one’s thoughts to change: realigning one’s concept of reality with reality itself so that there is no conflict, no suffering.

It’s a strange fact that experiences often seem extremely intense and emotional while they’re happening, even though years later we can talk about them without feeling any emotion at all.

Why is this? 

Perhaps with time and experience we are able to put past events into a context and see how the events have affected our lives since then, which takes the “sting” out of the events after the fact. We see later that things weren’t as bad as they seemed at the time. This implies that, at the time we are going through a difficult situation, our negative reaction to the situation is caused by our fear of the possible negative effects that the situation will have on us, rather than by the situation itself.

In other words, in the present extreme circumstance we fear loss, harm, pain, or death—we suffer. Suffering means fearing the loss of our own survival potential, which includes our ability to enjoy our life, since our emotional state is intimately linked to our ability to survive and thrive.

Suffering is the mental and emotional state that results from our belief that we have lost, or will lose, something necessary to our survival potential and/or enjoyment of life.

Is it possible to experience every life event with the same lack of emotional involvement and attachment that we have years after the fact—that is, without suffering? If indeed we suffer because in the midst of difficult circumstances we fear losing our survival potential, and if our fear is itself a reduction in our future survival potential, then what good is suffering in the first place?

It isn’t rational.

Is there a way to thrive, meeting life openly, yet without suffering when difficult events happen? Is this even a desirable goal, or is the process of suffering and healing an integral part of the human experience? Is “suffering-and-healing” the essence of human life, or is it a major problem to be solved and prevented? Answering this question seems to be my next task in unloosing the threads that keep the secrets of life hidden from my view.

The Buddha already answered this question for himself, with his Four Noble Truths about suffering and his Eightfold Path that describes the way to end it. I intend to see if he was right.

(Written in 2008 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)

54 Principles of Emotional Healing

November 25, 2011

Emotion is energy, felt in the body and inner being as pain or pleasure.

Painful emotions include despair, shame, grief, and anger.

Pleasant emotions include courage, compassion, gratitude, and Love.

In this context:

  • Painful emotion, negative emotion, negative energy, negativity, emotional pain, and “evil” are the same thing.
  • Positive emotion, positive energy, emotional pleasure, and “goodness” are the same thing.
  • Emotional release is the expression and depletion of painful emotion (negativity) that results in a return to positive emotion (“goodness”).

The following principles can serve as a guideline for people who want to know how to heal from emotional pain and improve their ability to function in the world and in good relationships.

Emotional Pain and Negativity

1. Emotional pain splits and splinters the self and the person’s energy and focus, producing functional incompetence in life and harmful, destructive relationships.

2. Emotional pleasure results in personal power and mutually satisfying relationships.

3. All emotions are experienced (felt) through either repression or expression.

4. Positive emotion is transformed into negativity through repression.

5. Negativity is transformed into goodness through expression.

6. Emotional pleasure is a sign of healing: moving toward wholeness and unity with the True Self.

7. Emotional pain is a sign of self-splinteredness and the need for emotional healing.

8. Emotional harm is caused by negative emotion (negativity) in the person harming. It causes negativity in the person harmed.

9.  Emotional healing means releasing negative emotion from your being through expression. Positive emotion automatically replaces it.

10. Human history is the process of emotional healing—overcoming or releasing negative emotion (negativity) caused by harm.

11. Everyone (at this point in history) receives harm and negativity at some point in life.

12. Negativity came to you through someone else, who harmed you.

13. The negativity you got wasn’t the other person’s, either. They got it from someone else, who harmed them. And so on, back in time.

14. Negative events happen to you for a reason: you are helping to rid the world of evil by releasing the negativity someone else gave you instead of passing it on to others.

15. You are more powerful than any negativity.

16. With any emotion (positive or negative), you can either express (release) or repress (hold) it. These are your only options.

Repression

17. Repression is postponing the expression of (or, holding) your negative emotion.

18. Repression demands a lot of energy from you.

19. The pain you feel (in the background) when you repress negative emotion is not intense, but it can last a long time—even until death.

20. Repression affects every aspect of your life in a bad way, especially your most intimate relationships.

21. Repressed emotion causes or contributes to many physical ailments, including headaches, stomachaches, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, and cancer.

22. Your emotional pain will last as long as you’re willing to expend energy repressing the emotion.

23. When the perceived cost of repression exceeds the perceived benefit, you will express (release) the negativity.  (This can be inconvenient.)

24. Repression leads to the spread of negativity through your actions.

25. Repression kills. Expression brings life.

Expression

26. Expressing an emotion is the same as feeling it completely, the way you didn’t when an event happened to you (or you wouldn’t be holding it now).

27. When you express an emotion fully, you release it from your inner being.

28. When you express (release) negative emotion, you are involved in the most human of experiences: emotional healing.

29. When you express an emotion fully, others can see the emotion by observing your actions.  You can’t hide it.

30. Expressing negative emotion stops the historic transfer of negativity (evil) and spares others from harm—that is, it keeps you from transferring your negativity to them by harming them.

31. The pain you feel when you release negativity is intense, but temporary.

32. With experience, emotional release gets easier and faster.

33. To release negativity completely, you have to relive (emotionally) the experience that brought it to you.  You do not have to remember the event, just feel the pain.

34. When you release negativity, positive emotion takes its place, letting you know that you did well.

35. Although intimacy facilitates emotional release, the release itself is private and personal.

Intimacy

36. The male and female creative principles are complementary aspects of (two “halves” of) the wholeness that resides at the core of our inner being.

37. The male and female creative principles long for unity together, in humans.

38. Intimacy is the closest that physical beings can come to re-claiming the unity of wholeness in the physical.

39. Intimacy is witnessing, and accepting, another person’s emotional pain and inner ugliness.

40. Acceptance is Love.

41. Intimacy is the highest calling of human relationships.

42. Intimacy creates the strongest bonds possible between two people (except possibly for motherhood).

43. Intimacy is the result of two people’s desire to achieve wholeness and emotional healing.

44. Intimacy and monogamy are not the same thing, and neither requires the other.  They are different worlds, which nevertheless can overlap.

45. The desire for wholeness and emotional healing is a result of sexual maturity (puberty).

46. Through intimacy, we watch ourselves and each other become weak—and then more powerful.

47. Intimacy is a powerful force against negativity. No negativity is stronger than Love, which intimacy can produce (indirectly).

48. Intimacy creates a safe environment that fosters emotional healing (releasing negativity), which results in growth toward wholeness.

49. Sex exists ultimately to produce intimacy. Reproduction is a convenient by-product and evolutionary mechanism.

50. Ideally, intimacy releases negativity before sex produces children. This spares them of the burden of their parents’ negativity.

51. When sex produces children before intimacy produces emotional healing, the children bear the burden of their parents’ unresolved negativity.

52. Negativity is a physical (outer) phenomenon. Intimacy is an inner phenomenon.

53. The inner is more powerful than the outer.

54. Emotional healing will one day eradicate negativity (“evil”) in the world.


Spiritual Precipitation into the Physical

October 29, 2011

The physical world, including the body, is but one layer of expression of the greater Self that comprises many conditions, most of which are normally outside the range of human sensory perception. In other words, most of Reality passes us by as we sit, unawares. Meanwhile, Reality—the physical part of it that we know and are—tries to make sense of itself in the best ways it knows how, in accordance with the particular physical structure (body) that It occupies.

Life energy is expressed in this physical form through nerves, which are this energy’s pathways, so to speak. There are centers of this energy, which correspond to major muscular groups in the body: biceps, triceps, deltoids, quadriceps, heart, and so on. That’s why massage can be so therapeutic. Muscle massage deals with this energy and its ability to flow through the body.

Chronic muscular tension is a sign of resistance to, or coagulation of, this energy. We call this condition of non-flow or coagulation “stress,” and we know today that it kills us early and in large numbers. Stress is resisting or hindering life energy instead of allowing it. Its most obvious physical manifestation is chronic muscular tension, including the heart muscle, although stress also shows itself eventually in many other unpleasant bodily conditions.

The unobstructed flow of life energy “through” our physical being is an ongoing process that we are participating in at all times—and usually hindering as a result of our incorrect perception of ourselves and our relationship to others and to the world around us. This incorrect perception is inherently limiting because it comes from the perspective of the physical, rather than the spiritual.

At the same time, we have a certain kind of awareness that we might call “spiritual”—a sense that we generally aren’t taught to use. (We aren’t taught specifically not to use it, either, but we generally don’t and it’s there nevertheless.) This spiritual sense detects, measures, evaluates, and responds to energies in its vicinity on a level we’re normally not aware of. The results of these interactions coagulate or condense on this spiritual or psychic level and then precipitate or “trickle down” to us, here in the physical.

This precipitation is largely what we refer to as “our lives.”

Emotion is the word I’ll use to try to contain the physical (human) effects of these interactions of numerous, layered, intricate, and indelible channels of awareness through which flows the interminable echo of Consciousness in our physical world. This world that we see as ultimately real—and the “objective truth” against which we tend to judge other (people’s) perspectives as “right” or “wrong”—is, in reality, only the individualized coagulation of this Energy-Consciousness. This coagulation is caused by the Divine Urge (the mysterious “will of God”) and dissipated by means of forgiveness and healing.

In other words, the Reality we live in is the result of a multitude of Energy-Consciousness interactions between our “higher” self and other energies on some spiritual level. We exist here so that we can correct unseen wrongs within ourselves and return to our more permanent existence, better in some way than we were when we “came” here at birth.

As heirs of this culture-carrying Life Essence, we are powerful to release past effects and coagulations, thereby dissipating their potentially negative effects upon us and the world around us—on many different and, in many cases, hidden levels of awareness. The means whereby we achieve this unity of will that permits the free and unobstructed flow of life energy is human relationship, typified primarily in the male-female interaction.

This movement toward unity is also evident and powerful to overcome coagulation in other relationships, such as parent-child, friend-friend, and clergy-faithful. (There is an undeniable power in the cloth to harness the innate awareness of the temporal and the eternal in the “average, ordinary” human being.)

All of creation aches to feel the oneness of unity again. In separateness there is pain, but there is healing as well: there is meaning, which can be fulfilled in our individual lives and relationships. As healing happens on an individual scale, its effects are radiated outward through paths of relationship of various degrees of power. True power lies underneath who-knows-how-many layers of intersections and bisections of planes of exchange of energy and consciousness on many levels—like threads in a Cosmic tapestry.

There’s no Bad Guy against whom we’re all fighting to wrestle back control of some long-forgotten thing that people used to bash each other’s heads over. Just wrinkles, for each of us to smooth out on our own side of the bed.

What are we to do with these fleeting moments of tenderness between the womb and the tomb, but kiss our grandparents before they die and teach our kids to do better?


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