Saturday, August 27, 2016

Back to the Meditation Room

The essence of pleasure-seeking is neediness, a longing for satisfaction, a feeling of living in a vacuum, always moving toward pleasure-giving objects, always grasping at straws. The seeking of pleasure is probably our greatest cause of suffering. When we closely observe mind, we notice that if there is an object we want, inherent in our wanting and not having it is a feeling of dissatisfaction, a tightness, a discomfiture. It is interesting to notice that even in this satisfaction of desire, gratification occurs not in the possession of the wanted object, but in the cessation of the painfulness of desire. In the possession of that thing, there is no inherent satisfaction. Much of our experience of pleasure is overcoming the discomfort of desire. When the wanting has ceased and the object is at hand, there then arises the pain of wanting to keep it, wanting nothing to mar it, to break it. (Steve Levine, "A Gradual Awakening")

The Spiritual Networks community I tend to hang out in shut down for a few days to upgrade their servers. Amazingly, I felt irritable during this period. Looks like I am hooked on having spiritual discussions just as all of us are running after some pleasure-seeking activity or another. Well, so what if true; it just confirms that I am as human as everyone. Still, there is something all of us can do when we observe these cravings in us, we can re-connect with the silence within. Meditation does this for us. Blessed are the 20 minutes each day when our mind in fact has a shot at becoming still.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Minding the Persistent Voice

Anyone who grew up in the US will not be surprised to hear that there is a machinery ranging from media, business, and entertainment all the way to the government that wants us to consume more and to work hard to generate the necessary income to keep the machinery going. Spirituality tries to step out of this treadmill, and sometimes we succeed, like in the hippie movement of the 60s and early 70s; but then, after some time, many of us seem to slip back into this subconscious trance of obeying this cultural super ego.

I grew up in Germany, a country with many spoken rules and implicit norms: you got to be educated, articulate well, be manly (in my case anyway), should know something about politics and foreign affairs, should master a couple of languages, and of course, should have a prestigious job that pays well too. Who knows where these norms come from, and while every culture has its own, but it seems pretty clear that the ruling class and intelligentsia over many centuries (kings, church, noblemen and aristocrats, university, etc.) had their agenda, and made their efforts to mold the super ego of the common (wo)men to their benefit.

Aboriginals, if these societies still exist, may have something to teach us about the balance of life: there is a time to work, a time to gather and prepare food, a time to play to be with others, a time to raise children and make love, and a time to be with nature and with GOD. It is the calling of the modern day spiritual traveler to find that balance. It is a hard mission given that overwriting subconscious processes takes a lot of effort and determination. There is no set road to break free from the conditioning. There is no fixed script either. We all have different soul requirement and aspirations and thus a different path to travel. 

It is time for a collective revolution. We are here for a purpose. Find it without being pinned down by the expectations of your parents, friends and society, yet, be guided by them at the same time for they are "you" as well. Let the SPIRIT talk through you and no ego or super-ego can touch you. Find your authentic journey, unaffected by ego and super ego demands, and see where it get you. With this awareness, the persistent voice in your head will finally quiet down.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On Disappointment

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. (Michael Jordan)

Disappointment means explosion in the future; the point in time when all the accumulated frustration bursts to the surface and finally gets channeled in a positive direction. A lesson learned means we make fewer mistake in the future. Earlier this year I had a professional call to make. It worked out well, but quite frankly, I never would have made it on my own. I simply followed the SIGNS and was played by the WAY like a marionette is swung around by the puppet master. It started when a portfolio manager "accidentally" kicked me under the table when I had the choice to make a comment. I never would would have made it without his "encouragement", but once I did there was no turning back. Back and forth the events went. There were many weeks when I looked like a complete fool but eventually the investment recommendation worked out just as I had predicted.

It doesn't really matter what happens. My investment call earlier this year worked out fine, but there are others that haven't. Who knows what ramifications these frustrations will have in the future. Likely these are the seeds for future lessons learned and surprisingly "positive" outcomes are bound to come of them, that is, as long as I still have the Jordanesque drive to see them through. The wheels of life are spinning and life eventually has a habit of creating beautiful outcomes come rain and shine. Disappointment is part of the process.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stationary Desires

The three traits, born of Nature -
sattva, rajas, and tamas -
bind to the mortal body,
the deathless embodied Self.

Of these three, sattva, untainted,
luminous, free from sorrow,
binds by means of attachment
to knowledge and joy, Arjuna.

Raja is marked by passion
born of craving and attachment;
it binds the SELF
to never-ending activity.

Tamas, ignorance born,
deludes all embodied beings;
it binds them, Arjuna, by means of
dullness, indolence, and sleep.
(Bhagavad Gita)

Some women get stationary diabetes during pregnancy. They have to be careful with their diet, and have to monitor their blood sugars, but once the baby is delivered, they often can go back to their normal diet as if nothing has happened. The same with the character traits. We all have our phases when we are sluggish and lazy (tamas), and times when we are passionate about things (rajas), as well as our moments of enlightenment (sattva) when we experience freedom from desires altogether.

I always felt judged when I read Chapter 14 of the Bhagavad Gita. So many of the raja descriptions like love of spicy food, need of constant activities, or restlessness applied to me. Well, at least I am not sluggish like the Tamas boys I would say to myself, but I aspired to be enlightened instead. Today I would say that we should understand these traits just as temporary phenomena, they come and they go. And when one traits has engulfed you, you have to accept and deal with it. Wishing it away doesn't make you enlightened.

I remember a time when for a short while I felt like the sexual desire had left me. It was a tremendous experience and I felt liberated.  But then we went on vacation in Los Angeles and I was sitting with my two year old son at the beach who was building sand castles. A young Chinese woman came by and build the castle with him. As they played together I suddenly realized that she was playing with me instead. It was as if GOD was telling me, "my friend, you are just fooling yourself with your imagined sexual abstinence."

The mind judges, GOD doesn't. GOD loves all of us and has special projects designed for each of us according to our special needs and desires. I have my moments of passion when I write for you; my moments of laziness when my wife wants me to check the boys' homework, and my moments of enlightenment when I watch the trees swaying in the wind and my mind becomes completely still, captured by the beauty of GOD's CREATION. Desires come and go like clouds drift in the wind. Don't repress them, don't fight them, just create the story of "you".

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Out of the Darkness into the Light (Continued)

I am unwritten,
can't read my mind.
I'm undefined,
I'm just beginning;
the pen's in my hand
ending unplanned
(Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten)

There are tensions inside of me that seem unbearable at times: the uncertainties surrounding my job as financial strategist are simply unacceptable for a mind that loves perfect foresight, and to be frequently wrong feels just like dying each time for someone like me who loves being right. I had an eye-opener about the miserable situation I am in when I read the astrological description for Leo/Snakes: "The Leo-Snake is always right, even when he is wrong!" Yup, I could not have picked a worse job since in my profession having a 55 percent success rate is just about as good as it gets. Sure, this tension gets me going to be the best at what I do, but it also generates dark energies inside that want to be released. There are other conflicts as well such as wanting to be admired while being shy at the same time. Over the years I realized that my job is somehow perfect in making me the person I aspire to be, but it also comes with a heavy price tag. Growing, changing and evolving is often hard.

I am certainly not alone when it comes to having a challenging profession. Dr. Gabor Mate, author of "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts", is a psychologist who treats heroine and other addictions in Canada and confessed in his book that he has a strange compulsive habit; he buys expansive classical CDs whenever he feels down. When he is on his shopping spree nothing can stop him. While only a strain to his finances and his mental serenity and not his life, he nevertheless felt as helpless and embarrassed about his compulsive habit as anyone. Reading his story I couldn't help drawing parallels to my own struggles. Who knows why we sign up for the missions in life we have chosen, and who knows what kind of conflicts and traumas result because of it. We are human, not robots. When Gabor Mate cares for the struggling and dying, buying expensive classical CDs might well the price to pay for a little artificial moment of peace and happiness. 

The other day Google dug up a note I wrote in 2012, that outlined my desire to quit a compulsive habit that had held me back in my spiritual development. When my spiritual path opened up to me I was forced to step away from participating in sexual chat rooms and watching porn. A battle of good and evil ensued in me that lasted many years.

When I struggled to get rid of these dark energies, I simply didn't know where they were coming from. Today I understand that these struggles simply had a message for me: to recognize the prevailing conflicts within me, and even if not completely able to put them all aside, then at least to accept them. Similarly, maybe Dr. Gabor Mate realized that his compulsive shopping spree was simply the price to pay for lifting others out of misery. Who knows, maybe his bewilderment over his behavior started a spiritual journey for him as well.

I continue to claim that spiritual travelers have no choice but to remove all dark energies from their lives, but today I would focus much more on the alternative lifestyle we can build for ourselves than just merely "winning" the battle of good and evil. A good example in this direction might be the story of Sherlock Holmes in the tv series "Elementary". The modern day detective lives in New York and is a recovering heroin addict. Yet he has built a life for himself that apparently allows him to beat his addiction. He lives and works with a woman he respects, and probably secretly loves, Dr. Watson played by Lucy Liu, and finds a mission that keeps his overactive mind occupied, solving crimes in New York. 

Isn't that what we all do? We find our idiosyncratic mission in life, and find a way to put our conflicts aside, or transcending them. I found my creative outlet in writing. Three years after I gave myself the homework to do, I put the battle of good and evil to rest, and wrote up my idiosyncratic story in the note below. However intricate our problems might be, eventually most of us stumble towards the finish line.

Today when the inner tension gets too much and the demons bubble to the surface, I get my iPad out, prepare a coffee, and start writing notes like this one. Honor the life story you are writing for yourself; be proud of your efforts, and find your contribution to make the journey a little easier for the next generation. Make your story a Hollywood ending. Natasha Bedingfield's pen is available for everyone. Complete the journey out of the darkness into the light.

Monday, August 22, 2016

It takes all the Colors to Draw a Rainbow

If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless. (James E. Faust)

If you have seen the superb movie "Inside Out", you probably remember that the girl in the movie was finally ready to get out of her slump when the emotion "Happy" realized that "Sad" also has an important role to play in the magnificence of life. Similarly, we spiritual travelers tend to cheer each other on to be happy, peaceful and loving, but we downplay the fact that all emotions are here for a reason, the pleasant as well as the not so pleasant ones: anger can be a great weak-up call that we are not this voice in our head. Fear and sadness have been given to us so that we realize when we have parted with the WAY. 

Our human condition is a jumping board on our journey HOME. Embrace all that bubbles to the surface and release it. Before you know it the SELF shines through.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Playing the Greatest Game

I have watched the Olymics every day like so many of us. What we tend to forget is how much support and motivation these amazing athletes receive from their coaches, friends and family over the years. The coach will push the athlete to the limit while the family, friends and life-partners will do their best to heal the tortured body and soul. It is the entire motivation and support system that should receive the medals as well.

This comparison came to mind when I reflected on the TAO. SHE knows exactly how much pain, encouragement, criticism and support I need and should get, every step of the WAY. Every smile, little psychological cut, ray of sun, storm cloud and synchronicity is pre-programmed to allow us to write out idiosyncratic life story. We receive the required energy to carry on, just as we are told when to change course. Spiritual travelers have the most magnificent life coach there is, and HER SERVICE is free of charge and always available.

It is the human design of the Olympic Games to have a few spectacular winners and many participation awards. In contrast, along the WAY everyone is a champ. Connecting with HER, you have the determination of a gold medalist, the aspirations of a visionary, and the endurance of an iron man. Just show up and let HER do the rest.