“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
– Dalai Lama
Category Archives: Seeking
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
Much of our thinking takes the form of self-talk—conversations we have with ourselves, inside our minds.
Clearly, the original root of this verbal thinking is speech. Speech gave humans the ability to communicate with each other, share experiences, learn from each other, and amass a collective body of knowledge. Using verbal language within our own minds brought many new abilities, including the abilities to rehearse what we might say to another, to recall past conversations, and to plan future actions.
This gave us a whole new way of meeting our needs. We can understand the world around us, how it works, and take steps to improve our circumstances. This is the present root of so much of our thinking.
Needs and Wants
If you look at your own thinking, you will find that a good proportion of it is concerned with meeting a need of some kind or another—the needs for security, approval, love, companionship, status, respect, control, stimulus, comfort, etc..
For many of us, such thinking is going on nearly all the time. Sometimes, it may just be in the background, but it is there, occupying our mental resources. Most of it is a complete waste of time and energy. As Mark Twain famously remarked, “My life has been full of disasters, most of which never happened”.
Looking more closely, you will find that many of these thoughts concern imagined needs—things we imagine we need in order to be happy. We imagine we need someone to regard us in a good light, or we need some new clothes, or we need to eat some gourmet food. These are not true needs; they are “wants” or desires, or in some cases simply preferences. But still they occupy our thoughts.
When we believe we need such things or situations in order to be happy, we become fixated upon getting them, and this leads to no end of thinking about how to get the world to be the way we believe it ought to be.
The Roots of Discontent
This, as so many spiritual teachers have pointed out, is the root of our much of our suffering. By telling ourselves that things need to be different, we create a sense of discontent, a dis-ease.
This is the sad joke about human beings. We all want to find greater contentment, but many of us are so busy worrying about whether or not we will be content sometime in the future, we never allow ourselves to be at ease in the present. Instead, our minds become preoccupied with planning and scheming, worry and anxiety, hopes and fantasies. And when things don’t turn out the way we think they should, we easily fall into anger, grievance, judgment, or depression.
When we do manage to get whatever it is we think we want, we may indeed feel better. But we feel better, not because that particular thing has made us feel better, but because we have, for the moment, stopped creating a sense of discontent. We are no longer disturbing ourselves. But before too long we find something else that is missing, and again fall into discontent. And again start thinking about what we might do to make things the way we want.
Return to Natural Mind
Careful observation of the mind reveals that focusing on a particular thought limits our perception. We become lost in thought, unaware of much is what going on around us. And also what is going on within us; a mind caught up in self-talk is less likely to notice how it is feeling, or how the body feels. Moreover, all this thinking results in a background mental tension. There is a sense of tightness in the mind, a constriction in our consciousness.
The world’s mystical traditions repeatedly affirm that the mind in its natural state—that is, before it is filled with thoughts, worries, plans, and regrets—is a mind that is at ease. In one way or another, through meditation, prayer, dance, ritual, or service, they seek to undo the damaging consequences or over-thinking and return us to the state of ease that is our spiritual birthright.
Peter Russell 2007
Those wise ones who see that the consciousness within themselves is the same consciousness within all conscious beings, attain eternal peace.
When I was a teenager, I discovered this poem on a poster. I felt (and still strongly feel) that this poem describes the person I want to be, the way I want to live my life. I very much love this poem and wanted to share it with all of you. I feel so good when I read it. (“Desiderata” means “desired things” in Latin.)
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.
photo borrowed from The American Academy of Family Physicians
Do not seek truth. Only cease to cherish opinions. – Zen saying
I drink tea and forget the world’s noises – Chinese saying
The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear – Zen saying
photo borrowed from Grow-a-Brain
Those of you who read my blog know that I am a spiritual person in that I believe in God, kindness to others, collective consciousness, and the afterlife. I disapprove of organized religion, dogma, judgmental people, fundamentalism, and black-and-white thinking.
To that end, I have been doing some spiritual reading this week and found some poetry and quotations that inspired me. I would like to share them with you here.
The first poem by the Sufi poet Rumi says to me that problems and difficulties in life are only as bad as you choose to let them be; if you can take troubles and learn the lessons they bring, you will lead a happy life. “Bad” situations may be precursors to “good” things.
The second and third quotes I can deeply relate to. Sometimes I will be overcome with joy and love for others; it’s like a very bright light is shining on me and I truly feel a benevolent presence surrounding me. My relationships with any person I meet while under this influence become totally effortless. I find that there is no such thing as a difficult person because I approach everyone with love and they seem to feel this somehow, as if I am broadcasting love and appreciation of each person I meet. People can even cut me off while I’m driving and it just rolls right off my back!
The last quote is self-explanatory.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
(from The Essential Rumi; translated by Coleman Barks)
At certain moments, always unforeseen, I become happy…I look at the strangers near as if I had known them all my life…everything fills me with affection…It may be an hour before the mood passes, but latterly I seem to understand that I enter upon it the moment I cease to hate. – William Butler Yeats
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup.
While on the street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
– William Butler Yeats
There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
borrowed from The Daily Om
Free Of Gravity
As earthbound beings, humans have always had a fascination with winged creatures of all kinds. The idea of being able to spontaneously lift off from the earth and fly is so compelling to us that we invented airplanes and helicopters and myriad other flying machines in order to provide ourselves with the many gifts of being airborne. Flying high in the sky, we look down on the earth that is our home and see things from an entirely different perspective. We can see more, and we can see farther than we can when we’re on the ground. As if all this weren’t enough, the out-of-this-world feeling of freedom that comes with groundlessness inspires us to want to take flight again and again.
Metaphorically, we take flight whenever we break free of the gravity that holds us to a particular way of thinking or feeling or being. We take flight mentally when we rise above our habitual ways of thinking about things and experience new insights. This is what it means to open our minds. Emotionally, we take flight when the strength of our passion exceeds the strength of our blockages; the floodgates open and we are free to feel fully. Spiritually we take flight when we locate that part of ourselves that is beyond the constraint of linear time and the world of form. It is in this place that we experience the essential boundlessness that defines the experience of flight.
Taking flight is always about freeing ourselves from form, if only temporarily. When we literally fly, in a plane or on a hang glider, we free ourselves from the strength of gravity’s pull. As we open our minds and our hearts, we free ourselves from habitual patterns of thought and emotional blockages. As we remember our true nature, we free ourselves from identification with the temporary state of our physical forms. The more we stretch our wings, the clearer it becomes that taking flight is a state of grace that simply reminds us of who we really are.
photo credit Larena Woodmore