How to Get Off of Your Hamster-Wheel

hamster-wheel existence

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Meditation and the Hamster-Wheel

The only hope for humanity to get off the hamster-wheel of existence is for every person to take up the discipline of meditation.

It is the only pathway to move beyond human ego, constant want, and inability to see one’s self and one’s motives clearly. Without it, a person will always live half blind, no matter how well-intended their other spiritual pursuits may be.

Without it, there will always be only your side and my side. There will never be an end to the relentless back and forth we see modeled on a global scale between Israel and the Palestinians, and here at home between Republicans and Democrats, and more personally between spouses, partners, and friends.

Without it, there is no way to really fully forgive ego and intransigence in another person because without it you have not yet fully seen it in yourself. Through meditation, you come to see those qualities in yourself more and more clearly, and as this happens you learn to forgive it in yourself. As you see it more clearly in yourself, you see it more clearly in others, and find it easy to forgive it in them as well.

But every person must come individually to this conclusion.

It is deep and substantial work, and no one can or should force it on another. It must be taken up freely by every individual, as each person realizes they are their own worst enemy, and that the duplicity in themselves is perfectly reflected in the duplicity we see in politics and diplomacy at every level, and in all of our personal relationships.

That is the good news.

And that is the bad news.

It really is as simple as that.

But it is not easy at all.

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My Experience with Meditation

When I first started meditating, it nearly always made me angry. I felt such disgust and even self-hatred for how useless it seemed, that I couldn’t seem to ‘get it,’ that I couldn’t control my thoughts. Of course I realized that was exactly the reason I was doing it, and gradually that anger began to subside. In other words, I hesitated trying it because I feared it wouldn’t “work.” When I started trying it, I was angry and disappointed that it didn’t “work.” But the first thing meditation did in my life was pretty much put an end to that awful perfectionism and toxic anger and disappointment in myself and others. And it did it simply by being what it was – something I couldn’t control. I was forced to let myself be a beginner, to be out of my league and feel worthless at something that seemed so simple. I had to accept my limitations. As I did, meditation began producing a humility I had always wanted but frankly had always lacked.

Strangely enough, humility only comes when we learn how to stop trying to be humble. Trying is just more of our own efforts and therefore, of course, we’ll be immensely proud of our successes and immensely ashamed of our failures because we’re still living as if it all depends on us. That is ego. At least that’s Freud’s term. The Apostle Paul called it the flesh. Pink Floyd called it the wall. Billy Joel called it the stranger. The great mystics called it the shadow. Carl Jung called it the false self. It doesn’t matter what you call it, all that matters is knowing that if you spend your life living from that place, your whole life will feel, and be, false. Meditation, slowly and surely, leads us out of that place.

A great gift of meditation is learning the contemplative mind. When you start learning what that looks like, then your own emotions and reactions become cues to you when you are in your “natural” (i.e., “false”) mind and you just need to get alone and get quiet and let God bring his mind to you (“the mind of Christ” in Christianese). Then every moment of life becomes a school where we are learning obedience and humility, as we begin learning to literally surrender in every moment of life, to let it all go, to realize that our obsessive worrying, controlling, and fixing is the problem, even and especially when we apply that to our spiritual lives. It is in meditation, and only in meditation, that we learn to let go of ego/flesh/shadow/false self.

Question: Do you think meditation is weird, or only something super spiritual people do? Have you considered it but have never really seriously tried it? Do you find yourself fearing it a little bit, and if so, what are you afraid of?

For more info on meditation, download this packet of brief audio lessons.

Watch What You Eat (with your mind)

I came across this piece today on The Huffington Post, and I thought it was one of the best posts I had seen on how the mind works and the obvious fact that the untrained mind cannot be a peaceful mind. This comes from a Buddhist writer, but it applies equally to all people — any religion and no religion. Here, in a nutshell, is the reason every human being needs to meditate.

Seeing God

Courtesy of xerones, licensed under Creative Commons

Courtesy of xerones, licensed under Creative Commons

Seeing God is normally impossible

In an earlier post I wrote about the importance of seeing God in all the places where he (or she — I know that’s uncomfortable for some, but c’mon — you know God isn’t male or female!) is. In my last post I said one way to do that is to make the move from religion to spirituality. This is critical. Just as critical, is learning to be quiet. This cannot be overemphasized. Meditation is the way people have learned to be quiet for thousands of years, across cultures and across religions. Seeing God in the world only happens as you learn to see God in yourself. If you are not spending liberal amounts of time quiet and alone, seeing God is nearly impossible. As long as you are rushing about here and there, filled with urgency, thoughts darting through your mind at a thousand miles an hour, you will lack many things: peace, perspective, the ability to let go of thoughts before they carry your emotions away, and — most of all — the confidence that God is in you (and the world around you) and is growing in you daily.

Seeing God is rare, even among religious people

If you ask most Christians the last time they were confident that God did something amazing in their lives, they will tell you that it has been a while — a few days or weeks ago, a few months ago, several years ago, some will even say it has been a few decades since they were certain of God working in their lives (the theological word for which is simply “grace”). This despite the fact that most Christians are striving constantly to do good and be good, and beating themselves up considerably for falling short.  

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Embracing Powerlessness, prt. 2

In my previous post I tried to clearly show that the path to peace is to embrace powerlessness. I showed that we have very little power over most of the things we care most deeply about. The question is how do we actually embrace powerlessness? The answer is as common as it is profound: by acting powerless.

Gestalt Therapy uses a technique called “acting as if.” This is where the therapist tells the client to act as if he/she is already the person he/she wishes to be. If he struggles to speak to women, he should act for a while like men act who do not struggle to speak to women. If she struggles with confidence, she should act like women who have confidence. This is what is often called, “fake it ’til you make it.”

If what I wrote yesterday is true, and we actually are powerless over a great deal of our lives, then the sooner we embrace this the better. And the way we embrace powerlessness is by acting powerless.

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