Monday, November 14, 2016

A Prayer to overcome adversity

Thank you for rejecting me, it has taught me to believe in myself.
Thank you for not doing as you told me you'd do.  It reminds me to be more self reliant.
Thank you for lashing out at me.  It helps me to not take things personally.
Thank you for betraying me.  It's a lesson that I should not be dependent on others.
Other people may not treat me very well, but I will not despair.  It is an opportunity to take the high road.  It shows me that I can do what is right regardless if others do not.

Thank you God for the wisdom to know what is right;
the courage to do what is right;
and the strength to keep doing it when it seems hard to do what is right.

Following a Righteous Path

Using the word "Righteous" often evokes images of religious people's defending their efforts to make others obey the rules and ways of things as they see it.  These aren't always pretty pictures and the association of the concept of righteousness has been misplaced or hijacked, depending on the point of view by zealotry.

Facts are facts though my friends and one doesn't need to be a zealot in order to live a righteous life.  Bear in mind though that a righteous lifestyle is often an idealistic, difficult and lonely lifestyle.

It's idealistic because you are living according to values and ideas that may not always materialize instant results or provide immediate gratification.  Many surmise that the concept of the heavens was concocted in order to give the followers of religions who encouraged righteous living something to see and look forward to.  However, for those religions that began to put an "If-Then" clause on moving from this plane of existence to the spirit world as a reward or punishment for how well they followed said righteous lifestyle, things became even more convoluted.  As the saying goes, When first we practise to deceive, what a tangled web we weave."  Another applicable saying here is that "Good intentions pave the road to Hell"  ("Hell" in my usage essentially meaning the worst possible end results.)

However, idealism is important.  We shouldn't get lost in idealism so much so that we set ourselves up to fail by trying to achieve the in-achievable or the impractical.  Always keep in mind that living a righteous lifestyle is a practise, not an end result.  Ideals are things we base hopes, dreams, goals and motivations on.  Being people we are imperfect and we will fail from time to time.  We are made to fail because from failure we can examine where we went wrong, and perhaps find a better or different way to accomplish or get closer to the ideal.  Failure is a good thing if we use it as a way to learn and improve.

A  righteous lifestyle is also a difficult lifestyle because when we choose a righteous lifestyle, we are essentially "shooting for the moon".  No easy task at all.  We are saying to ourselves that being "good enough" is not always good enough.  We are accepting nothing short of what is "right".  Again, never get lost in the actual accomplishment of the goal.  Achieving the goal once or twice is fine but it doesn't end at that.  Living a righteous path means that every day is about the effort to achieve the same thing.  Every day also brings us new challenges and obstacles that may interrupt or prevent us from that pursuit.

Back to the point about failure.  It's OK to fail.  We are not perfect and life is not "perfect" because it is in constant flux.  The course we set for ourselves is a hard road to go.  Sometimes we will experience weakness in ourselves.  Sometimes we will find the road blocked or even impassable.  We need to find another way to get back on track.  Yes, it is difficult and a constant challenge that will make us weary and weak many times.  Get back up anyway.  Keep trying regardless.  Make the effort knowing you won't get far but how far you get isn't as important as the fact that you haven't given up.  Little or slow progress is still progress and is infinitely better than quitting or going backwards.

A righteous lifestyle is known as taking the high road because it's an uphill climb the whole way.  Sometimes the grade is steep, sometimes not steep at all.  Quitting or choosing to go downhill is taking the low road and leads to taking the path of least resistance.  You are never challenged.  You are not growing an building yourself.  You are just coasting through life, compromising any values you had just to make the path easier.

No my friends, a righteous lifestyle is not for the timid or the weak willed.  Know that, accept that and keep climbing.

Finally, a righteous lifestyle is a lonely life.  First of all, We know that we are sent into this existence alone.  No one can live our life for us and neither should we try to dictate or otherwise live someones life for them.  This is one thing that often goes awry when large collective religions try to push people into a righteous lifestyle.  They ago from informing, motivating and supporting people living a righteous lifestyle to trying to dictate the terms of that righteousness.

The way of the Indigenous Earth is knowing that each of us walks our own path and are responsible for no one but ourselves ultimately.  In this world, we share the resources and the world itself with others also on their own path and part of our life lessons are too learn to collaborate, work together to accomplish greater things. To give of ourselves, to share, to learn from others and to teach or be an example for others.

Yet for all of our interaction and sharing of this life with so many others around us, living a righteous lifestyle often keeps our focus on what we are doing, what our own goals and efforts should be and are.  We look around at others and see them not doing or living the same way that we are.  We seek companionship.  We seek validation.  We seek immediate gratification in the form of approval from our friends, family and those in the world around us.  When we don't think or fell we are getting those things because our chosen path has us doing something different from those we can see, we get lonesome.

When we see few to no others doing the same thing, it's all too easy to second guess ourselves and to question if we are doing the right thing.  It's natural to think and feel those things.  Those are part of the built in challenges of living in this plane, this Material world.

Don't despair, though at times we will.  We will feel sorry for ourselves and we will feel a terrible burden of loneliness.  We think there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that the grass is greener with those following a different path.  These are the times to  fight hardest for each step.  These are the times to look to the Creator and ask for strength, determination and courage.

Prayer helps.  Prayer does a few things for us.  It gives us a "person to person" communication to God and it helps us to find solace and comfort in the words themselves. Prayer also helps because it is often helpful to hear ourselves verbalize what it is that we are trying to accomplish.   Meditation helps.  By concentrating on an image or specific words or concepts we "re-set" our frame of mind.

May I suggest trying this process the next time you are feeling low, unmotivated, weak or lonesome?

First pray.  It doesn't matter where you are, what day it is or what time it is.  Spill your guts to God.  first tell him what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing.  Then think of the ideals you are working to live up to.  With those in mind, ask God not give you those things or to do them for you.  Ask instead for help in getting a grasp on getting yourself back into a place to do it yourself. Remember that God helps those who help themselves.  If you are looking for the resources to solve your problems yourself, you will find more often than not that you will have the things you need to be successful.

Finding the words and the important things to focus on through prayer then sets you up to meditate.  Find a space that you can focus on what you are trying to accomplish.  Relax and spend some time just thinking about the goal in general.  Think about what achieving those goals will feel like and where it will put you on your path.

The form of meditation doesn't have to be the Buddhist chanting or similar examples that often come to mind first.  It could be sitting in your favorite quiet place, listening to the sounds of the world or listening to songs that focus on those goals and values you are pursuing.  It could be playing a game of solitaire or even doing a crossword puzzle and other similar things which help you to "zone out" of the multitude of white noise in the world and helps you to be calm, relaxed and focused.

Doing these things can often help us to realize that many of the things we think are "problems" with the people around us are actually our own problems manifesting themselves as envy, jealousy, selfishness and a host of other things that we experience as stumbling blocks.

The path of a righteous lifestyle is often frustrating and confusing.  We need to take breaks along the way to check our spiritual compass so to speak.  We may find that were getting lost or off-track even when we thought the path was right in front of us.  It happens more than we think and that's OK too.

Remember, it's the effort as much as the goal that is important.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Judgement Days

No, I'm not talking about "the end of the world".  In the IE here, we already know there is no such thing.  I am talking about how we judge others and are judgmental.

First of all, it's important to note that making judgments about the people and things we interact with in the world around us is not only natural, it benefits us.

We judge that which we deem has potential to cause us harm in some way.  We learn to identify that which we have judged to be harmful or potentially harmful then we learn more about what it is so that we can better understand the level of threat it actually poses and what to do about it.

That is the purpose of making judgments.  To protect ourselves.  It's an act of self-defense in the preventative.

Having said that, much of that which we judge as "possibly harmful" very often triggers an emotional reaction of fear and uncertainty within us.  This is also normal because physically speaking, feeling fear heightens our senses and prepares us to fight or flee.  Feeling emotions is a good thing.

What is not helpful to us is to let those emotions be in control of our decision making.  We should not allow our emotions to control our thinking.  Unfortunately, that happens far too often and the consequences can usually just make things worse.

It is by using our judgment that we find our behaviors and intellectual responses influenced.  Fear makes us wary.  Fear makes us unsure and unconfident.  Anger makes us intolerant and aggressive.

These are relatively common "knee-jerk" reactions most people have to our emotions.  Our thinking becomes clouded and colored by our emotions and irrational thoughts.  It's all part and parcel of being a physical being and living in a material world.  We rely on limited physical senses to interact and communicate with the world around us and are skeptical if not in outright denial of the non-physical senses we have.

By allowing our emotions to be our controlling response and influence when it comes to making judgments about the people and things in the world around us, we do ourselves and others a great dis-service.

When I judge you as a person, I am not judging your value as a person and your place in the world.  that is not my place.  What I am judging is what kind of influence and effect you will have on me.  How will being involved with you in any way help me, harm me, have little to no impact at all?

I judge you based on how you will affect me as an individual or those I am responsible and care for.  Keeping that in mind, I don't really care about your politics, your religion, your taste in movies or books or sports teams, etc...  If I personally find those "Silly" or unimportant and you bring much attention to those things, I will likely judge you as being equally silly and not likely to be much of a positive or beneficial factor in my life thus avoid you and disassociate myself from you.  That's OK too.

I don't have to be mean or aggressive to you because I don't want to associate with you though.  I do not feel the need to coerce you into behaving like me or conforming to what I like and think of as "Right" or "Good".  I'll pretty much just ignore you and leave you alone.

Every person in the world has issues they are not perfect about.  I admit to being pretty impatient and intolerant of some people myself.  It's not something I am proud of or want others to emulate.  At the same time, I am an imperfect person and as such a creature of habit.  Some of them bad habits.  Habits like jumping to conclusions before I should and dismissing someone because I am not patient enough or tolerant enough to see the person beyond whatever it was they showed me causing me to judge them as willfully ignorant, statist or conformist.

Sometimes in my impatience and intolerance, I fly off the handle with my temper, sarcasm and unfortunately, arrogant dismissal,   I know I am likely to do that.  I try very hard to be willing to admit when I am wrong and do something about it.  I try very hard to try to catch myself before I get to the point of "flying off the handle" and making an ass of myself.  I'm getting better, but I still have a ways to go.

When I judge you or you judge me, it best behooves us to adopt a "three strike" rule because first impressions can often be very wrong and under the least favorable conditions.

It also is in our best interests to forgive.  Forgive ourselves for taking our judgment and allowing the associated emotions and irrational reactions to take us off course of being rational and reasonable people.  I have to forgive myself so that I can move on and try to do better.  If I don't forgive myself then I leave no room to do better because of wallowing in shame, self-pity and the false pride of denial.

I have to forgive you as well because if I don't, I am no longer giving you the chance to show me, if you were so interested in doing so, that you do not mean me harm or ill effect.  I have to forgive you so that I can free you, from my perspective, to be a better person as well.  Otherwise, I will only ever "see" you as that person who did what I never forgave you for.

Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting.  Only a fool doesn't learn from the past.  But learning from the experience allows us to maybe come back  to the situation from another angle.  One in which, being wary, we are more cautious and protective of our best interests.  That's a good way to come back to the table.  For you see, you are still allowing yourself to come back and try it again instead of allowing the one experience to permanently freeze that person and circumstances entirely.

I only become a better person by allowing myself to forgive and come back to the table and try again.  I cannot stop judging others in the world around me and I shouldn't.  What I do about it though is something else entirely.  Just because I judge doesn't mean I automatically have to be jury and executioner at the same time.

Friday, November 4, 2016

People around the world, party of one

The Buddhists have a concept they call "Intellectual Materialism".  They use the term to describe the state of mind of people who absolutely MUST be right.  They MUST win any and every argument. They don't amass wealth or material possessions.  They live to chalk up the wins and "creds" for being "right".  It is a goal for them to make converts of others to their "side".

The prime example they use is when a number of years a ago, in the news was a story about a prison guard who supposedly flushed a "Holy Book" of a Muslim inmate down a toilet.  The world was agog.  Not only did it briefly unite people across religions to condemn such an act, it was seen as just being "Not Right".

Another recent example is that of the "Sad Puppies" campaign in the literary world.  A group of authors having more conservative leanings rallied against what they perceived as a liberal slant to literary awards for books that ignored unfairly those of conservative political views.  That was "Wrong".  What the "Sad Puppies" were condemning as "Wrong" was not liberalism or that the panel of judges and supposedly the voting system were politically biased.  Their declaration of "Wrong" was that there should be no prejudice in literary awards based on an authors political views.

The response by the leadership of the organization holding the awards was to condemn the "Sad Puppies" as being undeserving of recognition because their opinions and ideologies were, according to the organizers, "Wrong".  They engage in "wrong think" and those people who buy their books were "wrong fans".  If the Sad Puppies were going to think and hold the political views they purported to hold or were believed to hole by the leadership, then they did not deserve credit or recognition.

That is "Intellectual Materialism".

Buddhists and those of us who follow the IE path share the understanding that there is very little to be "right" or "wrong" about.

For IE, it ALWAYS goes back to the knowledge that each person is their own person having Free Will inherently within each of us.  The fact of existing is itself confirmation of the Creator of All Things giving us Free Will and having the Natural Rights which are resultant of that Free Will.

To put it into the context of this discussion about Intellectual Materialism, There is no such thing as a collective "right" or "wrong" because we as people do not exist as a collective.  We exist as individuals.  What is right or wrong for me is not necessarily the same for the next person.

Intellectual Materialism also loses sight of the truth of things.  It focus so heavily and emphatically on having facts and evidence that can be used as ammunition to win argument points or be stacked up as "evidence to support their "right-ness" that it completely misses the point of things.

People will so vehemently create situations designed to be polarizing, they go about forcing others to pick sides or to think that if they do not walk in lock-step agreement, they are automatically caste into the role of opponents and enemies.

The truth is that they are arguing about the extraneous and are losing complete sight of what is inside.  It's like hating a book because of the title, the color, the author photo, the language and so on but not actually discussing or judging the book based on it's content.  What it is actually about.

Going back to the first example, if someone were to flush or otherwise destroy a "holy scroll" to us in IE, what would our response be?  I would say to you that if I had been truly paying attention to what the book was about, what it was saying and what it's context was, then losing the book itself while unfortunate, isn't that big of a deal.  Certainly not something to argue about or start an argument over.

Arguing is for those who do not believe.  Those whose Claimed faith and piety is weak.  They need to be convinced themselves and the best way to do that is to show how well they can defend it.  To defend requires seeing anything that isn't in full agreement as an offense.  In other words, they go looking to start arguments and fights in order to defend their sense of being "Right" in order to prove to themselves, if not anyone actually paying attention, that they are faithful and pious.

We do well to recall that God does not care what everyone thinks.  God knows what he/it is and does not require the adoration and recognition of people to exist.  He exists regardless.  Whether people believe, agree, have faith or not.  He does not need to be convinced of his existence, he does not need others to be convinced of his existence in order to exist.  Thus we do not need to defend him, to defend what we have come to understand about him and nature and the ways of life and the world.

All that matters is that we individually believe and have have faith and are true to him and his ways (being pious).  If we have faith and believe then we do not need others to agree to make it more "real", more believable.  Thus, there is no need to defend, argue and convince others of what we think of as right or wrong about things.  It truly doesn't matter what others think, believe or concur with.

Building consensus does not guarantee that something is right or wrong.  It just signifies if something is popular or not.  Millions of people bought pet rocks.  Because they were so vastly popular, does that mean that it is "wrong" not to have gotten one?  Of course not.

Let them toss the books and tear down the statues and monuments to our ideals.  The representation of the ideal is not what is important.  The ideal itself is what's important.  More books can be made, more statues and monuments can be built.

Let us not argue about what is universally "right" or "wrong".  Ultimately, it doesn't matter how many people agree or disagree.  It ALWAYS come down to each one of us, as individuals born with and having Free Will to decide what is right or wrong in our own lives.

Will that coincide with other peoples views?  yes, and that's fine.  It's a wonderful gift to know we share the same ideals, faith and understanding of the world as others.  We feel that we are not alone in the world then.  It's just fine.  However, it isn't necessary for that which we believe in, have faith in and have come to understand to be any more or less than what they are.

Arguing about it, trying to convince or convert others to seeing our way as the "Right" way does not change what it is.  It is a waste of time, effort and energy that would be better spend on increasing the understanding and faith we already have and by practicing those things we know are the things we should be doing in our own lives.

God gave your your own mind and the courage and conviction to live your own life.  Conformity with others is nether desired or required.