Mind Wrestle-Mania!

So, admittedly, I had been a bit blue for a couple days before I wrote my last post. It has been unbearably hot outside and I work from home, so sometimes I fall into a rut where I do not leave my house for a while. I know that staying cooped up inside for days at a time negatively affects my psyche, but sometimes I just cannot muster the strength to go anywhere. Working all day and then caring for my two-year-old take up so much time and mental energy that I am generally on the level of comatose by early evening.

Yet, after reading more of Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, it occurred to me how much the “I’m too exhausted or too depressed to _______” narrative dominates my life. I realized that I spend all day anticipating the tiredness that will surely come as I finish my work day. I also just assume that sadness will accompany this exhaustion. In fact, I would say this mental hurdle is one of the biggest I’ve wrestled with in my life.

So what if I flip the narrative and refuse to entertain the notion that I need to sleep, or wallow,  instead of thrust myself headlong into life experiences?

On Saturday night some friends of ours were having a wedding reception, and basically everyone we knew and loved was to be in attendance. I had been looking forward to this event all week, but as the day wore on, the lethargy and sadness I had been feeling became overwhelming. I actually thought maybe I’d sit the reception out-how was I to converse with people when all I wanted to do was crawl under my covers and play Candy Crush until I passed out?

But because I am dedicated to the work I do here, I decided it was the perfect time to commit to using Joseph Murphy’s autosuggestion technique.

I believed this would mostly involve thinking things like, “I have energy” and “I am happy”. But, what was astonishing was the number of tiny, seemingly insignificant negative thoughts I had that I’d never noticed before. It was not just the biggies like “God. I’m so depressed” that I wrestled with. I also consistently thought things like, “I shouldn’t drink this juice because it might give me heartburn” or “ My daughter’s diaper looks a bit off-kilter. It’s probably going to leak”.

So, being the good student that I am, I turned every single negative thought on its head, and concentrated on its opposite. This resulted in a steady stream of positivity flowing through my mind at all times. I only entertained delicious thoughts, from, “My hair is going to look smashing” to “This juice is going to make me feel awesome” to “Man, I have so much energy. I can’t wait to get to that party and see my friends”.

And you know what? It really, really worked. I mentally strong-armed my exhaustion and depression into submission. I wrestled all the negativity to the ground!  And then I had a fantastic night, and things have been peachy ever since. Thanks, self-help literature!

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Flip It And Reverse It

“Is it worth it? Let me work it. I put my thing down flip it and reverse it” -Missy Elliott

I know that I have slowed down considerably with my posts. I am not sure why, but the inspiration to write is not hitting me with the same regularity as it did last month. Perhaps this is normal in the blogging world-a bit of a blogging slump after the initial push.

However, I have started another “energy experiment”, and it is getting me jazzed to write again.  Only this time I am using Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind instead of Pam Grout’s work. In it he utilizes the notion of dualism between the conscious and subconscious minds to explain how one might take control of her circumstances and, in effect, manifest the well-being that she desires. Here he claims that the conscious, rational mind is the “captain of the ship” as it were. The subconscious mind, on the other hand, is not rational and is deeply impressionable. Whatever the conscious mind suggests, the subconscious will take as truth and thus manifest it into reality.

For this reason, Murphy claims we should utilize “autosuggestion” where we consciously, and with confidence and authority, suggest to our subconscious minds positivity, health and well-being. In doing so, we will train our subconsciouses to habitually believe in the truth of our autosuggestion, and our reality will begin to reflect this truth.

One way of doing this is to reverse all negative talk or thoughts throughout the day. This is not a mechanism that means to block out negativity, or refuses to acknowledge its existence. Instead, it recognizes the negative thought and then actively reverses it.

Man, I am such a sucker for these kinds of techniques-they are the reason I keep buying and reading this kind of literature. While I recognize that much of the path to spiritual enlightenment is paved with ambiguity, I can’t help but love the concrete nature of practices such as this one.

So, starting right now, I am going to consciously reverse any negative thoughts I have and record my experiences with this technique here.  In fact, as I have just thought to myself, “well this is a crappy post-clearly no one is going to read it”, I now have the perfect opportunity to practice my new trick.  I shall wave my my magic wand of positivity and Voila!

This post rocks and everyone in the whole world will read it and love it.  It’s so fantastic that it will go viral. It may even break WordPress with its intense awesomeness. It will contribute to world peace, solve the hunger crisis, reverse climate change… (Is it possible to go overboard with this positivity stuff?)

 

What Does It Mean To Perform an Act of Faith?

I have begun reading Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, which seems to be a precursor of sorts to the Law of Attraction literature. I went into this book with very little background knowledge, believing it was in the wheelhouse of positive psychology, not in the more “woo woo” vein of LOA. I am hesitant to venture down the LOA road again, because I would like to try something new. Regardless, I was immediately struck by a quotation that seems to encapsulate the topic of my last post quite well. I would like to share it here. Murphy writes:

The Buddhist, the Christian, the Moslem, and the Jew may all get answers to their prayers, in spite of the enormous differences among their stated beliefs. How can this be? The answer is that it is not because of the particular creed, religion, affiliation, ritual, ceremony, formula, liturgy, incantation, sacrifices, or offerings, but solely because of belief or mental acceptance and receptivity about that for which they pray.

Here, Murphy seems to suggest that the “trick” to praying is in expecting that your prayers will be answered. And, of course, the more one’s prayers are answered, the more confident one may become that she has in fact got it right. So when one experiences the evidence that her faith is the correct one, she begins to have more faith, and the cycle continues.

As a reminder, in my last post I question how it can be that people operating under very different worldviews can do so with equal amounts of devotion and sincerity. It seems as though it would be difficult to have faith that one tradition is correct, and the others false, while knowing that other people also wholeheartedly believe that their particular faith works to provide them with answers to their prayers.

If Murphy is correct, then the common thread between the varying religious and spiritual doctrines is not contained in the beliefs themselves, but in the sincerity of their adherents. In other words, it is the faith that holds the power, regardless of the contents of the religious or spiritual creed.

While I think there might be something to this, I want to point out a major reservation that I have with this idea. It seems kind of condescending to argue that a person’s religion or tradition holds very little value in and of itself. In other words, it might suggest that the contents of one’s religion, and the actual acts of worship, are merely ornamental. They hold no importance outside of the confidence they lend to a person that she is acting in accordance with her faith. It technically means we can skip all the worshipping, rituals and ceremonies, even though these are often some of the elements that make a person’s faith extremely meaningful to her.

Maybe it is true that all of the traditional acts of faith that people perform are just pointless pomp and circumstance. But I am hesitant to believe this, because it seems to disrespect those who care so deeply about the ways in which they choose to worship. After all, our spiritual beliefs are not just facts about us, like our hair colors or our decisions to live in one city rather than another. Instead, our understandings of God or The Universe often help define who we are on a more fundamental level. For this reason particular religious doctrines, and their corresponding acts of faith, seem to hold a deep significance in our lives, beyond their power to make our prayers come true.

The Wonderful Weirdos and their Infinite Rightness

I was born in the Bible Belt, but went to high school in San Francisco, and college in New York City. I have been surrounded with people of different faiths, and different levels of devotion throughout my life. I did not go to church too often as a child, but my family was vaguely Christian, and all of our ceremonious occasions still had a religious bent to them.

My best friends in high school were all Jewish, and my boyfriends were all atheists. About 10 years ago my father began doing yoga and meditating for hours every morning after some nudist (yikes!) spiritual retreat that greatly altered his perception. (Note: I think the nudist element was unintended. He says it was, anyway, and I would like to continue believing this…) I also just recently discovered that my ultra buttoned up, conservative aunt and uncle can see dead people and follow a spiritual guru who has a penchant for embodying his pet dog.

Truth be told, if you start looking hard enough you will find that there are wonderful weirdos everywhere, all interested in transcendence, or understanding, or unity with the cosmos. Even my atheist boyfriends had interesting ways of explaining the world around them, and a serious desire to connect with humanity.

But the thing I have always found troubling about this was the fact that people from very different backgrounds could believe wholeheartedly, and with unwavering faith, in their own traditions. How is it possible that this same level of sincerity exists within people who hold such different, and often contradictory, worldviews? No one seems to have the monopoly on spiritual enlightenment, but they can’t all be right…or can they?

Is it possible for us to wrap our puny little brains around the thought that everyone is right about their own deeply held metaphysical (or lack thereof) beliefs? And, could we ever accept the idea that these beliefs can be malleable and still be true? Obviously it is contrary to logic to simultaneously believe and not believe that my aunt and uncle’s spiritual guru hangs out in his dog’s body. It can’t be right that animal embodiment is both possible and not possible.

But what if somehow it is? What would the world look like if we were able to conceptualize the idea that there might be an infinite number of conflicting right answers?

(I think from here there are a lot of other interesting questions born from this notion. If we accept infinite rightness, how do we avoid moral relativity? How do we approach ideas that we find objectionable or reprehensible? For example, we might have trouble entertaining the idea that certain forms of extremism are “right”. And yet, if we determine that a belief is decidedly “wrong” do we have to concede to the idea that some beliefs are in fact the “right” ones?)

The Little Orange Dot

I have to admit, I am just not feeling connected to this blog today (or yesterday for that matter). I cannot explain the shift that has happened, but I know that I need to make a change.

Most things in our lives come with restrictions, or standards, or some other form of extrinsic motivator. Our jobs require us to get up and go even when we would rather stay home and binge watch Game of Thrones. Our children require us to be present and alert to their needs, even when we’ve had very little sleep and prefer to exist in a more comatose state. Our livelihoods require us to constantly refuel and exercise our bodies, pay our bills, go to the bathroom, take showers, clean our homes… all the things we must do to stay afloat and fight entropy.

But blogging is not like that, at least not when it’s a hobby. It is not subject to extrinsic motivators or constraints. It is entirely up to us how often we want to post and what our subject matter should be. It is wonderful if we reach people with our words, but ultimately, we do this work for ourselves.

And yet, if you are a WordPress blogger, you probably understand the power of the little orange dot: that small indicator that someone out there is paying attention.

Oh, and the stats page. That fickle bastard.

What?! No views in two hours?! Well I must post something, then. I mean, anything will do! If I don’t my blog will fall into a black hole of obscurity and all of my deep thoughts/hard work will be for naught.

Because that’s the point, right? To build a readership. To become recognized by others as a person with important things to say. To become a real writer. (Because real writers get read, right?)

It is time to call bullshit on myself and these ridiculous limiting beliefs.

All of this ranting and raving is to say that writing about A Course In Miracles is not working for me. I will continue to read it on my own, and may refer to it here, but I cannot muster the gusto I felt while I was doing Pam Grout’s energy experiments. It is just not as fun. And if I am not absolutely head over heels in love with what I am doing here, then what’s the point?

Disentangling Love From Fear

In conjunction with A Course in Miracles, I am reading Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Here she considers the claim in ACIM that “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all encompassing can have no opposite”. From this, Williamson gleans that “only love is real” and that fear is, essentially, a hallucination (Williamson).

I read this bit just before falling asleep last night. Then, around 3:45am I woke up and checked my email to find a breaking news update about the 2-year-old boy missing in Orlando after he was attacked by an alligator. These circumstances are absolutely heart-wrenching, and my thoughts and prayers are with the family of this little boy.

I am not sure if this reaction is common amongst parents, but any time I hear of tragedy involving a small child, my thoughts immediately turn to my own 2-year-old daughter. From my experience, the love we have for our children is often accompanied by fear- fear of injury, sickness or loss. I think this stems from our biological instinct to protect them at all costs, which results in a kind of attachment unparalleled by any other relationship.

So last night, as I lay in bed feeling an intense love and fierce sense of protectiveness for my own child, I thought back to Williamson’s point. Was I able to feel pure love for my daughter in that moment without the element of worry? Or are the two emotions somehow opposite sides of the very same coin? How can we disentangle fear from love when the two seem so inextricably linked?

John Nash, the Nobel-Prize winning mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia, believed that he was receiving messages from alien life forms recruiting him to help save the world. Upon visiting Nash in the mental hospital, Harvard professor George Mackey asked him how he could possibly devote himself to the reason and logic involved with mathematics while also entertaining such hallucinations. Nash responds, “because…the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously” (Nasar, A Beautiful Mind).

Does it not often feel the same way with regard to love and fear? If fear is the alien hallucination and love is mathematics, it seems we are often faced with Nash’s very same predicament. Both fear and love seem to originate from the same source. They both seem natural. If Williamson’s reading of ACIM is correct, then we are all just, well, mental patients who cannot clearly differentiate between the two. One is madness and the other is sanity. But it seems so sane to worry about the health and safety of own children by virtue of our incredible, infinite all encompassing love for them!

This one throws me for a loop every time I try to deal with it, because, in some ways, I want to feel the fear. To worry about my child feels sort of instinctive and fulfilling. It makes me feel like a mother and a protector. In fact, I could even go so far as to say it enhances my love. So what gives, here? Is this something to combat or accept? Or, (the option that seems more likely to me) am I meant to reorient the way I perceive fear in a way that makes it less burdensome and more beautiful somehow?

Fraud

Within minutes of starting to read A Course In Miracles a question occurred to me. Thanks to The Ungodly Woman, I am reading an earlier version than the one published in 1976. In the preface of this version, the author questions the authenticity of Helen Schucman’s revelation because subsequent edits contained significant alterations. Why would the writers feel the need to change the original text if there wasn’t something fishy going on?

This got me wondering: Do we need to verify the authenticity of a spiritual teacher or message before we can accept its insights? Why are we so fearful of being duped? And can this fear sometimes interfere with our spiritual growth?

I wrote a more detailed post about this here. However, I want to get your perspective. How cautious should we be of fraud in spiritual teachings?