Wanna hear something really scary?

This won’t be a popular post.

Oh, man, I have to admit it…I hate the law of attraction. I hate optimism. I don’t do ((hugs)) and I don’t know how you can do them either. Everyone seems to be on a positive thinking binge. Everywhere I go on the web I hear people congratulating each other for their warmth and support, their optimism. It’s almost unacceptable now to disagree with someone in their comments. You may do it, of course, if you do it politely and with deference and end your comment with the statement, “if you would so be so gracious as to let me state my real opinion, though not frankly, I promise not to fracture the groovy lovefest that you have succeeded in creating here in this optimistic nest.”

Okay, so has everyone left the room?

On the TV show “The Closer” last night, Kyra Sedgwick’s character, Brenda, says to her new husband, “I love you with all my heart. But sometimes I think my heart is only THIS big,” pinching her fingers about an inch apart. I can SO relate to this character.

I
am
not
an
optimistic
person!

I have a wicked sense of humor, but otherwise I am a cynical, traumatized survivor who is still PISSED at so many avenues of my life I cannot move. I’m mostly pissed that it’s so much more acceptable to be depressed (you’ll find many, many people will rally around if you are down and out) than it is to just be mad as Hell!

I awoke this morning thinking about two (strangely different) movie clips. The first was the classic line from Twilight Zone: The Movie. Dan Aykroyd is saying, “Hey… you wanna see something really scary?” You know what happens next. That’s how I feel about revealing my real thoughts, my unloving, pessimistic, scathingly honest reaction to the world right here, right now.

Next came a song in my head, “If I Loved You” from “Carousel“. I love “Carousel.” This song makes me cry. Only, in my head the words changed to “If You Knew Me.” I think this is for my S.O.

If you knew me,
Time and again you would want to hear
All I’d want you to know.

If you knew me,
Words would’ve come in an easier way,
Round in circles we go!

Longing to tell you,
but afraid and shy,
“You’ll let our golden chances pass us by!”

Soon you’d leave me,
Off you would go in the midst of my ire,
Never, never to know…
How I miss love,
When I had love.

In “Carousel”, Billy is love-sick. I am life-sick. A misfit in the world I grew up in, I chose to rebel. By being a non-conformist, and a non-believer (I don’t believe a lot of things) I am an outsider. I don’t belong here, in 2009. Part of me swung around and the 60s were over, our bright future extinguished. Peace and love are cliche. And I don’t even know where the damned “e with accent mark” is on the keyboard.

To top it off, now the latest optimistic crap surfacing on TV and the web is “Don’t Blame the Economy”, “It’s Not the Economy, Stupid,” etc. Yeah, it’s our fault, we omniscient beings. Let’s put the onus squarely on US for the collapse of housing, the job market, and credit. Wow, success or failure is now MINE, all MINE! What is this? Is Ronnie Reagan alive? The bootstraps mentality has resurfaced, bringing with it all the miserable myths that keep normal people feeling even madder at themselves for not being in control. All you have to do is hire the right consultant, find the right branding strategy, find the few people still spending. They’ll still buy your product or service (all you have to do is find the one thing people will still pay you to do in a down economy—and I can’t legally say that in print). If you are failing, “It’s your own fault!” Bull. The only people who seem to be making money in this down economy are people selling advice for how to make it in a down economy. Is hope all we have left to sell?

Unemployment in my area is over 12%. Mom and Pop businesses have laid off all their employees and are washing their own windows at the gas station by my house. Where did the three senior citizens that used to work there go after the first of the year? Are they OK? Do they have financial advisors? LOL. Investments? No. This is mostly a blue collar town. If they are lucky, they have social security (a pittance). But then, that’s their fault. They could have all been lawyers, right? The universe is waiting to give you everything you need. All you have to do is spread the word. By the way, lawyers are being laid off too. Must have “attracted” the wrong profession, huh?

See, the law of attraction says that you attract what you put out. Explain to me how that works when innocents die, when children are left motherless, mothers left childless. This is just a sick variation of karma. At least karma gives you the end you deserve based on a past life you aren’t even responsible for! But yeah, toss the buck here. I’ll hold it. That way you can maintain your denial that we are not in control, have never been in control, and never will be in control of some things.

Maybe now that Obama is here, it’s bad form to be cranky. I guess it’s my fault for reading Ray Bradbury (Zen in the Art of Writing) when I’m feeling moody, but he is able to transform his angst into those wonderful stories and I was hoping to get some guidance there. I’ll leave you with his words…

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.
After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.
Now it’s your turn. Jump!”

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74 thoughts on “Wanna hear something really scary?

  1. Ok after tweeting you a “why” I get it. It’s hard to think that when bad things happen to good people they’ve somehow attracted it. But the law of attraction (at least in my understanding) isn’t about being optimistic and having warm fuzzy feelings and fat bank accounts. It’s about our lives reflecting what we are in sync with.

    If you look at what caused the economic situation we’re in right now, it wasn’t the stock market or financial markets or any other markets for that matter. It was people losing confidence in prosperity which lead them to take actions that ultimately led to the economic downturn. And it will be people regaining that confidence and acting accordingly that will turn it around.

    What humans are trying to learn now is how to use that for their own gain. But changing ingrained beliefs isn’t as easy as the gurus make it out to be (and certainly isn’t purchasable in 3 easy payments of 39.95 or a monthly membership).

    It takes time and commitment to master something that is such an ingrained and transparent part of us. I suspect it will take a few generations before the majority of people are saying, “well duh, everyone knows that.”

  2. Thank you Diana, you have really found your voice and there is not an inauthentic word in it! I have been called a New Ager and a woo woo kind of person. But I think there can be a misperception about a person being able to realize and hope for the optimum evolving of the human race and knowing what the heck is really going on by those who have clamped onto the power in the last few centuries!

    I like to think of myself as a realist with a positive bent. Maybe we realists should take over the world for a few days and see if we can take care of these landmines. Lets get some of that economic stimulus money and really make em see what can be done with an ounce or two of creativity and inventiveness!

    Lets start with education, go back to emphasizing Liberal Arts and teach people to think for themselves.That No Child Left Behind stuff does just the opposite. Teaching to the test just helps people to be unthinking zombies working for the man, for corpocracy! What ever happened to that cry: Power to the People! ? We had a glimpse of empowerment back in the 60’s and I think those of us around then know that its still in us.
    I think the majority of the educated middle class in the US know there is something wrong and that it is up to us to say there are landmines everywhere and what are we going to do about it?

    How about that State Sovereignty movement going on? I think we are starting to wise up to too much federal power.

    Thank you for encouraging me to rant. It feeeels so good!

  3. No doubt the reason we are in the situation we are in is complex and involves every aspect of our culture, us as individuals included. I do not like so-called grave-robbers whose only intent is to make money off of disadvantage and catastrophe!

    I’m trying to understand exactly what you mean about “the law.” I have a really hard time believing in “summoning” or attracting prosperity through sheer will. That’s not what you meant is it?

    I do believe in synchronicity, totally. Have experienced it myself. You see what you look for, even unconsciously. Do you think that’s what they meant in the law of attraction? If so, then some others have taken it in an entirely new, almost supernatural direction that has turned me off the subject. What do you think?

  4. Ok let me try and communicate my thoughts clearly here.

    I don’t think that the law of attraction is about summoning or attracting prosperity through sheer will or through some set of exercises or practices. And I totally agree with you that some people have turned it into some mysterious and secret thing. Why? Because that allows them to capitalize on it and make a lot of money. If you can convince enough people that you know some big secret that has made you very prosperous (at least on the surface) then you have a product you can sell….and sell a lot of!

    Having said that, what is the law of attraction about? I think it’s a universal principal that describes one facet of how our reality works. Many times people compare it to the law of gravity and I think that’s a good analogy. Gravity was always there working but we didn’t know about it until the Newton/apple incident.

    So until Newton defined it in scientific terms, people knew you hit pavement if you jumped off a building but they really didn’t understand the principles behind that. And once those principles became known then a few smart people figured out how to “defy gravity” and today it’s taken for granted that we can just hop a plane and get anywhere on the planet in a relatively short period of time. (I bet if that happened today there’d be all sorts of courses and gurus promising to teach us the “secret of harnessing the law of gravity to improve our lives”).

    I suspect the law of attraction is similar to this. We have all experienced synchronicity and things that seem to be more than coincidence. And we know about the reticular activating system in our brain which is responsible for bringing to our attention things that we are focusing on. And more recently people have defined this phenomenon as the “law of attraction.” So in this sense we are beyond the Newtonian phase and into the Wright Brother phase. We’ve put a name to our experience and now a few smart people are figuring out how we as humans can use it to our advantage. And I’d guess a few years down the road this will be common knowledge to the masses.

    Does this make sense at all?

  5. @Maria Yes, you make perfect sense. If you are saying that the law of attraction is really what we’ve known all along as synchronicity and selective hearing, attention etc. Then I completely understand the idea.

    I was at an art opening the other night when a woman said that as she approached her rental unit (having been away awhile) she was worried about its condition. She said she decided to “believe” it was just fine and then as she approached she saw a rainbow and that was a sign that it was fine, blah blah. You get the idea.

    People are saying that you can get the universe to give you what you need if you do it right (by wishing!) I just don’t believe that. I do believe that the power of intention is strong and so focusing attention might bring you what you seek. But nothing supernatural about that. Are we somewhere near agreement?

  6. @Karen I like your ideas. “a realist with a positive bent” is a good thing to be. I guess I’m a realist with a negative bent right now. I can’t seem to push past this transition in my life and I am impatient. I have had too many transitions and been patient too long. As I get older, I want change NOW.

    The Liberal Arts are essential. They keep civilization “alive.” What a world it would be without the poets.

    You can come and rant here any time… I won’t mind.

  7. Yeah I think we’re in agreement. And I have a little more to add.

    I believe that your belief can and does affect your experience. With the rental unit I probably would have agreed with that woman in believing it was just fine. It wouldn’t change the reality of the condition of the unit, but it would change my expectations and probably my experience of that reality.

    For instance, lets say one thing in the unit had been damaged. With a negative expectation I might blow that up into something awful. With a positive expectation I’d likely blow it off as no big deal.

    I totally understand having a negative bent. I was mired in that for a long time and still feel the pull to go back there sometimes. What I do is remind myself that my present feeling is just one of many possibilities and that I can choose something different if I want to. I never beat myself up about feeling negative anymore as I realize it’s just part of life and as humans we are emotional creatures and yes…we’re going to be negative at times.

    Another thing to consider is that negativity may be an ok place to be. I have a friend who likes to say “I ain’t happy unless I’m unhappy,” and I believe him. It’s only a problem if you don’t like where you are, right?

    But if you’re not happy there then it’s time to decide what you’d like instead and begin to take steps toward that end. I’m happy to support you in any way I can 🙂

  8. Thank you Maria, for continuing our conversation. We are at odds just a little. I still am holding fast to my refusal (LOL) of the power of positive thinking. I don’t believe I can decide to think something is ok that is not feeling ok for me. I do understand that we must put things into perspective, face reality, be grateful for what we do have, expect that better things are to come, and all the things we do to make ourselves feel better when we feel bad.

    “With a negative expectation I might blow that up into something awful. With a positive expectation I’d likely blow it off as no big deal.” Good point!

    But I still need to stay in this place for awhile, and I’m ok with that. I also respect your philosophy.

    I am examining the nature of discontent, and happily enjoying my right to be there right now.

  9. I completely respect your right and desire to examine the nature of discontent. In fact I applaud you because most people don’t have the courage to do that.

    What you said here is key and I’d like to use it in a future post in my own blog if that’s ok:

    “I don’t believe I can decide to think something is ok that is not feeling ok for me.”

    Trying to decide (and then make yourself believe) something is ok when in fact it isn’t feeling ok for you is akin to lying to yourself. Which isn’t at all what it’s about.

    There are different degrees of “okness” and that’s often what deciding about something comes down to.

    Going back to our rental unit example, if someone believed that disaster had struck then it probably wouldn’t feel ok to just keep saying “everything is perfect in the rental unit and it’s all sunshine.” That would be dishonoring your true feelings. But that same person may be ok with choosing to believe in a smaller disaster rather than a catastrophic one, or may be ok with deciding to withhold judgment at all until she actually gets there and sees what shape the unit is in.

    The point is that at a very basic level we do have the ability to choose to some extent what we believe.

    And that is one of the true “secrets” of the Law of Attraction. Not pasting on a smiley face but having the awareness that whatever our thoughts and feelings are, we can keep them or choose differently – “if” we want to.

    Again I thank you for the opportunity to talk on this. It has really helped clarify my own understanding of the things help people with 🙂

  10. @Maria. Yes, you may use my comment. I’d appreciate your attributing it to me here. Please forward my blog url if you would (need lots and lots of readers!) http://www.mosaicmoods.com.

    I get what you are saying. I dealt with “Choice” in an art piece I did recently. I believe that even when we choose, we are not fully in control of our choice. Subconscious influences guide even our most autonomous actions.

    I have a mosaic beading called “The Choice.” You can find it and its description on this site under Beaded Mosaics. I will paraphrase here…

    “As a result of circumstances at the time
    Because I had to go on
    Although it wasn’t what I wanted, and
    Despite all evidence to the contrary

    I chose. Or did I?”

  11. That is a beautiful art piece and the words are very touching.

    Sometimes it seems life forces things on us that we have no control over. I can think of many examples of that in my own life, and I’m sure others can too.

    Perhaps on some esoteric level we do indeed choose everything. There are those who say we plan our entire lives before birth, including the not so great stuff.

    But where does that leave us on a practical level. Telling yourself “I chose this” when your heart is breaking certainly isn’t very comforting, and can even lead to overwhelming guilt about something that really isn’t your fault.

    In a very practical sense, choosing and focusing on what you want does improve the odds of it becoming your reality – at least that’s been my experience. But it’s not a given. There are no magic wands and as you pointed out there are subconscious forces at play that are far more powerful than our conscious declarations.

    Perhaps as humanity evolves more it will be more common to get that “instant gratification” the gurus promise. For now it is definitely a steep learning curve.

  12. @Maria Thanks for looking at the art. 🙂 It helps to understand where I’m coming from.

    You make a strong case and remind me of my youthful philosophies, but alas, as much as I wish it were, I have to agree it’s not a given (free will). But I respect your views. Since none of us can see beyond the horizon, my view of reality is no better than yours.

    And Shirley McClain aside (she’s great isn’t she? I love her.), I don’t usually entertain ideas of reincarnation or karma. GURUs, LOL! Sigh, I left them behind with my incense and flower child dreams.

    And now we arrive at my agnosticism. Why we are here? I will never know, but the question is enough to fill a lifetime.

  13. I swear we are kindred sisters. I so agree with you on the depression thing. When I was bleating my soul out every day, I had a legion of “friends” around me all the time. Now that I’ve worked my ASS off, and gone through hell and back getting the right medications, even buying them before food … where the hell is everyone. Yes there is a small group who is still with me and I am grateful for all of you/them. But it is obvious to me that since I am no longer a car wreck for folks to “have to look at”, I am nothing in their eyes.

    As for the fools who speak of the economy in glib terms, they need to face it. Living in this country has sucked for a while, and more recently has sucked to the point where it made me livid. I’m counting on Obama … I cried when he mentioned Medicare and social security last night. There are people in this country who are DYING for lack of medications and necessary medical care, ala Medicare. It is disgusting.

    I watched the Closer too, and when she said that about her itty bitty heart it struck a strong chord with me. I wonder if lately my heart is getting smaller because I have it wrapped so tightly in protection. That’s what happens when people would rather watch a good train wreck than have a good friend. Their loss.

  14. @Darlene
    I agree and am sorry about what you describe first

    I agree with what you describe secondly, and I also am counting on Obama.

    That’s really interesting that you felt the same thing I did with The Closer. I bet there are many who did. It was a good piece of writing about human nature. But sad.

    Thank you for being so honest in your reaction to my post. I really, really need that. I need for people to tell me when they agree. I need for people to tell me when they disagree. I need to hear people TALK. I need to TALK.

  15. I can relate, cause I hate fakey niceness too. But I think there is a difference between “fake/inauthentic” and “positive”. I often disagree with people in their comments, but I firmly believe in the law of attraction, and karma (same thing really). But to me that is about freedom and liberation, not about avoiding disagreement or controlling things.

    I don’t think disagreement or anger is “negative’. But I understand why people do – a lot of people associate anger with violence and so they feel nervous and uncomfortable or scared when people are angry. Sometimes they go so far as to make it seem “unacceptable” i.e. they judge it, but I think at the root they are afraid, and I can understand that, even if personally I find it annoying.

    I don’t like the whole rallying-around-depression thing – I’ve worked through a lot of depression stuff and my goal was always to get better, not to make an identity out of it. I think pain is part of life, but sometimes people have a shared pity party and that seems like a way to prolong the agony rather than get well.

    Regarding the discussion between you and Maria, I don’t think that we always feel we have a choice, subjectively. But we always have some choice in some way. For instance I really only got a choice over my moods after I started taking medication. Before that, I would go straight into depression, my brain was just wired that way. And yet, I did make the choice to take medication. But I didn’t right away – for a long time I was caught in a distorted thought loop where I was telling myself I didn’t need the medication. But – it was still my choice to look at my thoughts very closely and try to find a way out, and my choice to go to therapy to get help with the process. So in this example I’m trying to illustrate that at each stage, while I didn’t have 100% choice about my experience, I always had a choice in some way, to go towards trying to get better or to give up and declare that I was a victim of my brain wiring and would never get better. And choice after choice I doggedly went toward trying to heal and get better, and eventually I did.

    I think the law of attraction, and karma, is the same way. I do believe in past lives (it’s the only way any of this makes any sense to me), and I think we often come into this life with a whole lotta baggage. And we can’t just “choose” to chuck it and be happy overnight. But we can make small and large choices every day to go *in that direction*, and in that way we are getting closer to happiness and freedom.

    On a personal note, I was angry at God/the Universe/whatever for a long time and I agree with Maria that it’s courageous to own it. Our culture is afraid of anger and so often people don’t get in touch with their own. I think ultimately there are more expanded/liberated places than anger or cynicism, but these stages *allow* for anger, they don’t preclude it or judge it.

  16. This is another good quote: “Since none of us can see beyond the horizon, my view of reality is no better than yours.”

    When life is uncertain to me I often say “I can’t see around the corner” which is similar. Our views of reality though, while different are not better or worse than anyone else’s. They just are.

    I like what Emma added about always having “some” choices. I agree with that. I also know that hindsight reveals a lot of choices we could have made but didn’t at the time because we couldn’t see them.

    And what of choice anyway? Truth is we really don’t know the outcome of making a different choice…we can only speculate.

    The way I see it there are different kinds of choices. When a situation is forced upon us (accident, illness, someone we care about leaving us, etc.) then our choices tend to be reactive and center around dealing with the situation. When we make a proactive choice on the other hand it is about a deliberate decision to do something (go to school, apply for a specific job, get married, buy a house, etc.).

  17. ok so now this post is out there on the web being attributed to some other person. How do I fight this? There is no way to contact them, comment back or anything. It’s on WordPress.org I assume because I can’t log in.

    I think it’s just a spam site! crap…

  18. @Emma McCreary Hmm, I guess I’d like to respond to a few things you point out. The difference between fake/inauthentic and positive for example… My post wasn’t arguing that people are being fake when the comments section becomes a fan base with little disagreement. Obviously, those who write in with positive comments are in agreement. But who isn’t writing in? My point is that there seems to be a general pushing aside of discussion (except on the thinnest level) and an emphasis on nurturing, supportive circles. I don’t blame the blogger or the audience for this, I think it is a phenomenon, and maybe it’s useful for some. But it makes reading on the web something of a tea party rather than a serious discussion of issues, doesn’t it?

    I do think you have a point about anger and the threat of violence being connected in people’s minds and so it scares people away, something I am aware of and ready to risk. I’m not a violent person, but I get quite reactive sometimes because of my own background. When someone is angry, people should listen to them! They are telling you something important about themselves.

    The “shared pity party…” I’ve seen them, of course, but I don’t think they are always the work of (or the desire of) the depressed, but rather the depressed person’s audience. People seem to cluster around those in pain and can hinder their progress by labeling them the one “in need.” We are all “in need” at some point and everyone has their own way of working it through. This is not to say that intervention isn’t warranted, because sometimes it is imperative! But intervening when someone seems to be drowning, and offering sympathy are two different things. There should always, always, be empathy. You should be able to relate to another’s suffering. But you should also expect that the person can and will work it through at their own pace, in their own time. And at some point, more sympathy isn’t helpful. Better to acknowledge the situation, and that it will not be spontaneously resolved, and help the person find their other voices, even while depressed (which believe me, you cannot fix!) One of those other voices might be anger, when the depression lifts. Your supporters must remain with you even then.

    Lastly, I thought about your saying that we “always have some choice in some way.” What it reminded me, is that even when we think we are making a choice, there are myriad forces that unconsciously shape it! Think of it… your education, your health, your constitution, your opportunities, your upbringing, and your current situation all affect your choices. That you made the positive choice to take medication shows that all these things conspired in you to make this particular decision. For someone else, with a different set of circumstances, opportunities, education etc, the outcome might be different. We are the product of our nature and our nurture, until death. We can’t claim all the credit for our positive or negative outcomes, that’s what I’m saying. I still think part of it is luck. It’s ironic that I don’t believe in karma or reincarnation but I believe in a “mild sort of” fatalism. Not totally! Just a subtle, seldom untangled version that goes something like… “it is what it is, I am what I am, LOL.”

    I like what you said about there being more “expanded/liberated places than anger or cynicism” and I agree. After almost 30 years of analysis, I’m living somewhere in that neighborhood. But I’ve learned that after being browbeaten as a child, unable to express anger and emotions freely, that I have to let it have its say now, or I feel extinguished. So catharsis is my goal here.

  19. @Maria I like what you’re saying about different kinds of choices, reactive ones and proactive ones, a nice differentiation.

    “Truth is we really don’t know the outcome of making a different choice…we can only speculate.” how true… I’ve had a few surprises in that area.

    So, we can agree that we disagree on many things but still discuss them. I am not easily dissuaded at my age (55), nor do I need to persuade you to believe me. It’s more a process of clarification for me when discussing things. Must have been that debate class in high school.

  20. @mosaicmoods

    Re: agreement/disagreement, there are a lot of cultural and subcultural values and rules around how to do conflict. Most people, especially on the West coast, are not going to disagree on a public forum. I used to find this annoying too, but for some reason less than I used to…not sure why. I think what I was wanting was a certain honesty and authenticity in communication, and I think I must have gotten those needs met somewhere along the line so it didn’t matter so much when some blog discussions didn’t meet them. Mostly I don’t bother with blogs full of fan comments though, they are boring.

    re: choice, we’re talking about Locus of Control, are you familiar with the concept?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control

    Regardless of what is “really” happening, it’s been proven that if you *think* of yourself as responsible for your positive achievements, rather than “luck”, you feel a lot better about your life and do better. What you believe about how much choice you have becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    This is expressed in lay psychology as “victim” vs “empowered”.

    re: depressed people. When I was depressed, there was no way I would let people hang out around me and label me “in need”. I would get angry if someone even hinted that I was in some way broken. Empathy is healing, but I don’t think sympathy is *ever* helpful – it’s disempowering. But people have a choice (IMO!) about who they hang out with – do they go towards people who play into an idea of them being a victim of their problems, or who treat them like anyone else, with compassion but not with pity/sympathy/labels/etc. Who you choose to hang out with is a good indicator of your commitment to actually getting well. There will always be people who offer sympathy, it’s up to the person who they seek out.

  21. @Emma McCreary Yes, very familiar with Locus of Control. Mine is still a bit too external, learned helplessness and all that. Granted, if you have an internal Locus of Control you will “feel” empowered, and in many ways you will “be” empowered to get what you need. One’s ability to change whether they have an internal or external Locus of Control is limited by circumstance, in my opinion.

    But if you want to get a little more existential with me and talk about angst, you’ll see that there is only so far you can go in thinking positive before you hit a wall. The wall is reality, and reality “is,” it’s not just how you perceive it. There are things in our imagination to fear needlessly and then there is “the wall” of existential angst. That can’t be dealt with, it has to be accepted as a given.

    Some people have early experiences that cause them to face “the wall” too early and it never leaves them.

  22. “One’s ability to change whether they have an internal or external Locus of Control is limited by circumstance, in my opinion. ”

    Sounds like an excuse to not take personal responsibility. As a child one may be forced to accept circumstances but as an adult we do have choices. There is simply too much information out there and too many resources to cry victimhood.

    There are too many stories of people raised in poverty who subsequently became very successful (Oprah comes to mind) to believe that circumstances control us. The only thing controlling us is “US.”

  23. @Maria, thank you for your take on this. I can see you feel strongly about it.

    “There are too many stories of people raised in poverty who subsequently became very successful” True there are those stories, but they are the minority, I believe. That’s why it’s called the bootstraps mentality. You’re supposed to be able to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. If you don’t, you supposedly have no one to blame but yourself. I don’t buy it.

    I also think it’s a myth concocted to support the capitalist myth you can be anything you want to be in this country. Not true! You can TRY, but success is not guaranteed and if you fail, it is NOT all your fault. This is not victimhood, it’s reality, born out by statistics.

    “Sounds like an excuse to not take personal responsibility.” Isn’t that an unfair statement to make without knowing the circumstances each person faces? But it’s a popular statement in this country, probably believed by most. It’s human nature to want to believe we are in control.

  24. “One’s ability to change whether they have an internal or external Locus of Control is limited by circumstance, in my opinion. ” – LOL – that’s exactly what someone with an external locus of control would say though, right?

    I have had plenty of truly painful existential angst in my life. And what I eventually noticed was this: when I am unhappy, i.e. not getting my needs met and depressed – than all my pain seems existential and angsty. But when I am getting my needs met – having enough positive interactions where I feel understood and cared about, enough sleep, meaning and inspiration, empathy, clarity, etc – and feel OK – then all the existential angst seems like this internal melodrama without any substance. So I determined that “the wall” or “the void” wasn’t real at all, it is just a mental place I can go when I’m overstressed and under-nurtured. I stopped taking it seriously. Now I see it as an indicator of my system needing self-care. Depression and chronic unmet needs produce distorted thinking. And angst is a reflection of the state of my (distorted) thoughts, not a reflection of the nature of reality.

    I think the wall that you really hit when thinking positively is how much you identify with your own pain. Is it who you are? Or are you something much larger experiencing pain in this moment, but it doesn’t define your actual being-ness. If you believe you can be fundamentally altered by a painful experience, then you aren’t in touch with an even more fundamental reality, which is the part of you that is bigger than any pain that you can experience on this plane of existence.

    Re: personal responsibility
    There is a difference between responsibility and blame. A huge difference.

    Blame says “It’s your fault that bad things happened, and it means something about you, it means you are wrong or broken or bad in some way and you should have been able to prevent this.”.

    Responsibility says “Bad things happened, and it sucks. It doesn’t really matter if you could or couldn’t have prevented it, because it happened and that’s just true. It doesn’t mean anything about you either way, it’s just what is. And, what you do next matters.”

    Blame is about the past. Responsibility is about the present.
    Blame diminishes. Responsibility empowers.

    Louise Hay says “The point of power is in the present moment”. That is what responsibility is. It’s saying: right now, in this moment, you are at choice. What are you going to do with the choices you have? Yes, you are in circumstances. And what matters is what you do with those circumstances.

    I think though that “success” or “failure”, doesn’t ultimately matter. Our soul isn’t here to make money or become famous or any of that. It’s hear to make choices. To live. And if you own your life and you do that, you will have succeeded at being fully alive, no matter what things you accomplish or whatever. Because whatever happens, you’ll respond and choose at that point. If you decide life is for learning and growing, all experiences become your teacher and you can’t ever fail.

  25. @Emma And this is why I’ve been reading your posts. You have a terrific way of saying exactly what you mean in a very accessible way. I truly, truly get what you are saying. Truly.

    My instinct is to still argue that my point is slightly different from what you describe. And I’m tempted to react now but instead, let me read this again tomorrow and give you a fresh response. Thank you for the depth of your comments.

  26. Well, I’m glad it comes across as clear, often I feel like my thoughts are a big jumble and I can’t possibly be explaining it well. =)

    I will be interested to hear your thoughts because I also have issues with some of the discourse around the Law of Attraction etc.

    One thing I want to say is that I don’t want to diminish the painfulness of suffering or the frustration and difficulty there is in being human, in trying to figure out a system that often makes no sense, in living in a world that isn’t fair, in often not getting our needs met. It really does suck and that pain isn’t light or trivial or easily reconciled with the idea of free will and/or karma, etc.

    Anyway, I wonder if you have read my post here:
    http://www.joyninja.com/2008/what-the-law-of-attraction-is-missing/

    It is somewhat relevant and goes into more depth on my misgivings about the LoA, or at least the way people use the ideas sometimes.

  27. Pingback: MosaicMoods
  28. @EmmaM Just have to say quickly, I’ve never been to this blog before. Must only have caught you guest blogging at the Tao? But if I had read this post before we got started talking, this would have been a different conversation altogether. I’ll be back.

  29. Yeah, I thought that was maybe true.

    Guest blogging? No, Taoofprosperity.com is all me. =)

    I have three other blogs besides Tao of P:

    I have cheekyboots.com, my first blog which is more personal/random.

    joyninja.com which I have been semi-hiatus on, not sure but haven’t felt inspired to write there for a while

    and wordlush.com which is kinda also on semi-hiatus and is more for writing exercises or word-spewage than regular blogging

  30. Wow, I read this post straight after it went up, decided I needed to think about it for a while, and then came back today to see all these comments!

    I feel like I’ve arrived at the end of a conference.

    All I wanted to say in the end is that I think it’s great that you wrote this. There are so many optimistic, positive people that write the blogs I read, it’s refreshing to see a different point of view.

    I have been in a dark place this week, and had lost all of my optimism, but I am coming out of it now. I don’t know if I am an optimistic person or not as it is so dependent on my mood. I was wondering if you still feel the same way as you describe in this post when the art is flowing? My artistic output is directly related to my depressive moods which are directly related to my perception of how possible good things in my life are. Is it the same for you?

    Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that lots of people in your town are unemployed, I just wonder if your hope for the town’s recovery increases when you are being actively creative.

  31. @EmmaNewman Hi Emma. Thank you, I hear you. It isn’t easy to host a blog that offers no solutions, only angst (sometimes joy). That’s how I live. Up and down. I’m sorry to hear you have been in a dark place. I see that you, like me, come out of them on your own. The loss of optimism is kind of a surprise for me, each time it returns.

    I have an analyst, so I use these periods to look at the events that brought me there—my reactions to loved ones, and my current, almost intolerable situation. I am in a holding pattern right now, waiting for when a change in that situation will be possible. That’s why I’m always so angry. I am impatient and cranky. I have done everything imaginable over the years to make it more tolerable here, but it’s useless.

    “I was wondering if you still feel the same way as you describe in this post when the art is flowing?”

    Oh no! When I am in my studio, I have transformed my depression into joy or at least movement! I am in the flow, singing along to the stereo or listening again to Roger Waters dark, brooding criticism of war (I haven’t done that since Bush departed). I listen to whatever I feel like that day, sometimes Willie Nelson romantics, show tunes, sad songs, happy songs, it differs every time. But my work is a tonic, the only one I’ve found.

    The work is transcendent. Everything disappears when I work except the moment. Writing makes me feel similarly free of all but the moment. Time disappears. The thing about writing though, unlike my particular kind of art, is that once posted, I feel so exposed! I fear getting trounced. I never feel that way with my art, probably because my art is prettier than my angst, LOL.

    My work has always been dependent on my depressive moods. Ever since I was little it has been my private escape. It is also my secret, tiny hope. I am not just in this world when I work, but I am with all the people who ever worked—artists, craftsmen, writers and musicians. I feel a part of them all.

    I have this Star Trek fantasy I learned about in guided meditation. It’s similar to the fantasy some children have that “these are not my real parents. My real parents are wonderful and they love me.” In my guided fantasy, I am on my way to another galaxy, other worlds, where I know I will be understood and accepted. Advanced worlds. Sigh.. if only!

    No, my hope for the town will never increase. I hate this place. I have been here 53 years, long enough to see it turned into something so far from its beginnings that it feels surreal. No, I’ve squeezed all the toothpaste out of this tube and need to move away desperately. I don’t want to be here even if the economy turns around. It’s not my kind of town. And there are ghosts around every corner! (shiver down the spine) No! I wouldn’t stay here for all the money in China. Yet here I am. And thus the problem.

  32. I hope you find a way to leave! I am the same, when in the creating moment, emotions that have weighed me down just evaporate. Aren’t we lucky to have that!

    The only thing that makes these depressive times easier for me is the knowledge that they will pass – it’s taken a long time to learn that lesson.

    And hey – this blog doesn’t only offer angst! It offers beautiful art too!

  33. @ EmmaMcCreary I’m new at blogging and after giving it some thought, I have decided I’m going about this all wrong. In feeling like a am being persuaded to “change my mind” I become reactive and resist. The purpose of my blog is to let people talk about moods and how they affect our lives and our art. I am not practicing this if I endlessly debate.

    I think it would be better if I can vent, you can vent, everyone can vent and I will try to understand how your beliefs help you with your mission in life and your ability to be creative in life. And I can also reflect on how my beliefs affect my life.

    So, I have a question… You said, “But when I am getting my needs met – having enough positive interactions where I feel understood and cared about, enough sleep, meaning and inspiration, empathy, clarity, etc – and feel OK – then all the existential angst seems like this internal melodrama without any substance.”

    Do you think that angst really is unrealistic worry at that point or that it’s real, but you don’t care when surrounded in the present by what you need? Because that’s a heady concept, that we can be provided with enough comfort and support that we can allow ourselves to not worry about what happens later (in death or unbidden solitude for example). By the way, I am agnostic or atheist depending on how I’m feeling that day.

    I seem to have lost interest in looking up LOA and am more interested in having you tell me what you think, that’s why I was reading your blog. I don’t restrict myself to reading only blogs that reflect what I believe in. That would be pretty boring! I read everything. But I wouldn’t blame you if you’re tired of this discussion. If so, I’ll just come visit you at Taoofprosperity.com.

    By the way, it’s been a very long time, if ever, that I’ve felt “understood and cared about, enough sleep, meaning and inspiration, empathy, clarity, etc .” Just some insight into why I come across the way I do (a little sharp-edged).

    I may be jaded, for life. Nah, can’t be because I just signed up for Naomi and Havi’s latest get together and you can’t be jaded and drawn to that dynamic duo at the same time.

  34. @MosaicMoods

    It’s not so much that I “allow myself to not worry about what happens later”. It’s that when my needs are met and I am happy, I feel connected to the Universe/God/Life/Love/Self. I feel OK. And so I am not afraid. I remember that – no matter what it seems like – I am actually connected to things, I am part of the world, and nothing can ever change that.

    I’m not an agnostic or atheist, because I can discern a huge difference between being in that “connected” space and being in the “disconnected” space. When I’m disconnected from – let’s call it Source – when I’m disconnected, when I’m identifying with the experience of being a single, solitary person, in essence trapped in one body and one mind, never able to truly connect with another consciousness, not sure if anyone else even truly exists, not sure if I am not fundamentally alone in the Universe…that’s how it feels, it feels like perhaps nobody will ever really understand me, etc – when I’m in that place, it’s awful.

    But when I’m connected, when I feel a part of the world, like I fit into a larger Universe that makes sense, that I’m not alone and could never be alone or isolated, because each molecule in my body has been in a thousand other bodies, and every breath I take connects me to every living thing on the planet, and I can feel and almost see the threads that connect us, and feel Source/God as a living energy in my body – I don’t need to know what happens in the future. Because I can feel the reality of that connectedness. And I know it cannot be destroyed. So I don’t fear the future like that, because I know that connectedness will be possible in that moment too. It’s there, in every moment. It is just a matter of accessing it.

    So this is why I define faith as different than a lot of people. The classic definition of faith is “belief in what can’t be proven”. You are asked to believe in something you have never experienced. I think that’s pointless. That kind of faith means you haven’t actually experienced God at all! You are just kind of hoping it’s true.

    But if you have felt the connectedness and know it is true, then I think of faith as being willing to suspend disbelief in the state of disconnection that we all get into at one time or another. Faith means remembering, even when you can’t feel it, that the connection is there, and the Earth will turn and you will feel it again eventually. It’s not about the supernatural, it’s just about remembering what the mind will often encourage us to forget.

    It’s the mind that thinks it is so small. This is what is sometimes called the “ego”, although I don’t especially like that term. It’s the part of us that is concerned just with the survival of our body, and will sometimes forget that we are not just this body.

    So how does getting needs met, like empathy and inspiration and meaning, fit into this?

    Since the mind is concerned with the survival of the body, when these needs aren’t met, it is more active. It is more able to take over and block out receptivity to the larger spiritual reality. It goes into emergency-survival mode and all it sees is itself and its fairly limited existence. It’s like tunnel vision.

    And it’s not just physical needs, like food and sleep. Some of the deepest felt needs are connection with others, meaning, joy. So people who are rich and have all their material needs met aren’t necessarily any better off in this respect.

    Needs are like – the living energy of life. Meeting them, or at least being present to them internally (the “shake hands with” meaning of “meet”), allows you to be in the flow of life. It’s that feeling of “Ok, life is happening, I can do this, it’s alright, it’s good to be alive.”

    I understand about not having your needs met for a long time. I grew up in a neglectful/abusive home, and I’ve had to learn how to meet my needs because I wasn’t really taught how to.

    But there is also something where, even when your needs are not met, you can *choose* to open up to experiences like transcendence and grace. You can choose to feel what is beyond your skin and mind. It’s a kind of surrender/letting go/inviting it in kind of thing.

    I also wanted to mention that, I am not actually that big on beliefs. (Because before I said something like “I believe in the LOA”).

    Like I said above, belief means you haven’t t experienced something. I don’t really “believe” in God, or “believe” in the LOA, it’s more like – of what I’ve experienced, these ideas come closest to making sense. Although I am always saying “Well, but I think of it like this, not the way most people do” or “I don’t mean the Christian God or whatever, at all”. But what I feel like is that there is truth in the essence of both – of God and of the LOA. God because I’ve felt that larger-than-myself field of energy, and the LOA because I’ve seen patterns again and again in my life where I’ve created what is in my consciousness, and how changing my consciousness has been the only thing that has let me change my exterior circumstances.

    I enjoy discussing these kinds of things so I am not bored at all.

    I hope I was not coming off too much like I was trying to convince you of something. I guess I do feel strongly about some things but I don’t want to do the “you should think this” kind of thing. I did grow up in a very debate-oriented family culture and sometimes it just seems like a default for me, but I’d rather not discuss things that way either. I sometimes don’t know how to stop if I care about something. I think ultimately it’s that I care about the truth, and I think a lot of these concepts get distorted or whatnot, and I want to explain them in the way they make sense to me, because I used to think all of this was BS but when I really understood it and experienced it, I realized it was because it had been explained to me by (I think) people who hadn’t really experienced it, or had a lot of dogma around it. So I am always like, “Wait, it’s not like that…it’s like this other thing. Really, it’s different than you think”. Which sounds like wanting to change your mind, but internally it’s more about truth and justice or something like that.

    Anyway. OK, bed time. Gnight. =)

  35. what happened to all the feelings and moods that we are suppose to feel? are we not allowed to feel depressed or sad when things are glum? everyone saying “cheer up it will be ok”. why can’t we accept that people have all types of emotions at different times. instead it should be “i know that sucks”. because things do suck and shit does happen. and sometimes things are good and you may be euphoric. sometimes you can be anxious or scared. let us have our feelings back! let us be HUMAN!

    what would the world be like if we were all SO positive? its not a world i want to live in….i want to see tears, heartbreak, laughter, pain, serenity, and joy. i want to see it all.

  36. Oh I wanted to add that I meant “truth and justice” in the “Enneagram 8” kind of way, not the “law and order” or “True Believer” kind of way.

    And also that I appreciate your clarity and curiosity and ability/willingness to shift out of debate energy. I am trying to learn that myself.

    I am curious to hear what my words might spark in you.

    Cheers,
    Emma

  37. @Emma McCreary Good explanation of your point of view! I totally get what you are saying. I see why you are insistent on making it clear as well. It does help clarify your thoughts when you have to defend them doesn’t it? Maybe that’s what this blog is good for. To let everyone have their thoughts and clarify them here by speaking them out loud. At first I think I was too defensive to help that happen. I’ll try to be more of a moderator in the future and less of a zealot, LOL. Maybe this will become “a forum.”

    Not that I don’t have my reactions! And not that you won’t hear them from me. But I will try not to let my defensiveness get in the way of listening to how others feel.

    “I did grow up in a very debate-oriented family culture and sometimes it just seems like a default for me” Me too! so maybe that’s why we’re still talking, LOL.

    Now, in response to your very explicit explanation, here is my point of view.
    The “connectedness” which you describe has a spiritual aspect to it that I don’t have. I have a more metaphysical connection to the world—atoms and moving particles and all that. And that does make me feel less “connected to” people, hmm, part of an overall impersonal universe I guess.

    As another set of atoms in a moving sea, the personal seems small. I feel small, and finite, yet my own source. For me, there is no afterlife and though I have been several times drawn (when younger) to Campbell and the dalai lama and even Edgar Cayce (know him?), I have by this point become a non-believer. It doesn’t bother me. Just the opposite. I feel free to explore behavior, mine and others, in an objective way. People will think of this as cold or unfeeling but it’s not. If I believe we are all adrift at sea, I am very concerned for us all, not just those who agree with me. See what I mean?

    So, when I hear you describe connectedness, I think of “attachment” at the infant level. The attachment some of us are able to achieve through good enough mothering or attachment to at least one other person, creates the ability to be attached in the purest sense of the word psychologically. This attachment gives an individual the ability to feel “at one with” the world and feel understood. I don’t have a very strong attachment ability, or rather, my ability is limited to what I can manage. I did get enough from a couple people besides my mother, and a little of my mother, to keep attachment alive but it’s not strong enough to feel like the world “gets me” or that the world is my oyster (a pearl awaits).

    transcendence… the only transcendence I believe is the ability of the human mind to view itself from outside itself. To view everything from the outside, as if we “were” outside. But I don’t believe we are, I believe it is a mind-effect. A construct, only human. Maybe a defense mechanism. So that’s my view of existence.

    I take solace in artists and philosophers, religious or not, because they make me feel less alone in trying to figure out where I am.

    This has turned out to be a more pleasant discussion than I expected (I can be VERY reactive). It’s just that when I do get into discussions about religion for example, many people cannot stay because their beliefs prevent it. (I may be evil).

    Thanks for continuing. I never get bored with it either. And I can be lengthy.
    I don’t know if I answered everything you said, but I have chicken waiting for dinner! But I wanted to clear my thoughts before I ate.

    And yay! Comments, I have comments!

  38. @lexa “what would the world be like if we were all SO positive? its not a world i want to live in….i want to see tears, heartbreak, laughter, pain, serenity, and joy. i want to see it all.”

    You know that’s what I want for you, and for me too. 🙂
    I think we’ve had it all. And I am happy despite the sorrow we’ve faced. It does make Dylan so much sweeter doesn’t it? Love you.

  39. @ Emma McC ““Enneagram 8″? Not familiar with that reference. And glad you’ve waited for my response. I have been working in my studio again!

    Cheers to you as well…

  40. @MosaicMoods

    I feel like I recognize a lot of the ideas you are mentioning but I have a different take on them. I also have had a childhood that makes it hard to form attachments normally to other people. My mother doesn’t really relate to others, she relates through a screen of paranoia and most of her interactions are manipulative, not genuine. I learned very early that I could not trust anyone around me. I understand what you mean about the “one other person”, because that’s common in the attachment literature. I didn’t have that “one other person” though.

    I have also wondered if it permanently damaged or destroyed my ability to feel “part of the world”. I’ve come to the conclusion that it didn’t, and I’m in the therapy process to repair that kind of stuff. Ultimately I think the idea of “Maybe I’m permanently damaged” is common to intelligent people with trauma histories. It’s also part of the ego’s function, to add meaning to pain and to decide we are unique or special.

    So I don’t take these ideas too seriously anymore. I used to go on and on inside my mind with the pain and the ennui of existence, but it no longer feels real the way it used to.

    I have also always felt like nobody “gets” me. So much so that sometimes I feel like I’m not from this planet, that I don’t belong here, and ended up here accidentally. But I also don’t think this thought is unique to me, and I don’t think that it can’t be healed.

    However, none of this is something I feel is all that related to my connection to Source. In fact when I say I feel “connected”, I would say that connection to and with humans is the hardest place for me to feel God. I can feel connected to the stars and the rain and even the city streets before feeling connected to other people. I kind of take it on faith that God is in people too because often I can’t feel it. I have to really work at it. I think that’s because my attachment stuff impairs my trust of people and makes it hard to access Source in them. (That doesn’t mean it isn’t there).

    The reason I don’t think it’s attachment related is that attachment problems happen in the body/mind. They don’t happen on the level of the soul. The soul doesn’t need attachment to survive; it’s eternal and deeper than this body. To the soul, not being able to attach very well is just another interesting experience. It’s the human part of us that is in pain.

    I also want to mention that I grew up as an atheist, and believed that all religion and spiritual ideas were psychological crutches against the inherent meaninglessness of existence. This is where I started from.

    It was experiences I had that changed my mind. Well, first my mind was opened the tiniest crack through a class I took in college on paranormal phenomena, and my roommate who I talked about faith with. Then I took a class on Wicca, which helped a lot because they said that all the names we have for God are just to helps us interface with something vast and unknowable. So that gave me the freedom to find my own way to it. It gave me permission to follow my own feelings to discover the sacred inside me, and to play with ideas of what God might be.

    And that all led me out into a field near my apartment, under a huge Oak tree, where I could feel the magic in the wind. I would go back there again and again, reinforcing my access to that.

    And ever since then, when I want to, I can dissolve into the experience of that – and then I’m not just this body or this mind – I’m part of everything.

    So I want to emphasize again that I’m not talking about a belief in transcendence. I’m talking about the experience of it. I don’t think talking about God will ever cause an experience of God to happen – even mentally believing in God won’t.

    Experiencing God, transcending the limits of our ego-body-mind container – it can only happen when you allow it with an open mind. It has nothing to do with beliefs. It has to do with a willingness to say “Maybe this is real…maybe there is something there. I will chance it.” It’s requires letting go of what we think we know. That’s the only way to experience something wholly new.

    This is when a mystical alchemy happens and you *feel* this experience. All belief is meaningless without that experience. And all talking about it is meaningless without the willingness to experience it. The Tao that can be named is not the Eternal Tao.

    I wrote a blog a few years ago which discusses more about the early stages of my journey which might be relevant: http://www.cheekyboots.com/?p=66

    The Enneagram is a personality system developed by the Sufis (the mystical branch of Islam): http://www.enneagraminstitute.com
    You get a number, I’m an 8 (with a 7 “wing”).

    I don’t really care that much about religion. I think religion is mostly a social institution. But there is always a mystical arm of every religion – Sufi’s to Islam, Zen to Buddhism, the Kaballah etc in Judaism. The mystics in each religion say the same thing: on a fundamental level, everything is connected, and there is an eternal unchanging reality underneath this plane of existence. On this plane, everything is made of dualities. Underneath, everything is united.

    I don’t know about the personal vs impersonal. I think people have gotten this idea of a personal God from Christianity, but this system doesn’t have to be personal to be real. In many ways I don’t think it is personal, most of the concepts like the LOA or Karma are not personal at all. They are more like physics.

    Christians sometimes say, “God wants you to love him” or “God will be disappointed in you if you don’t do XYZ”. That makes no sense to me.

    Does the ocean want you to swim in it? No…the ocean is the ocean no matter what you do. If you want to swim in it, jump in. You still need to learn how to swim if you don’t want to drown. The ocean will work as the ocean works. But if it felt like a transcendent, mystical experience – you’d want to swim. But for you, not for the ocean. The ocean will be there no matter what you do.

    So I don’t think God/the Divine Matrix/Source is personal. But I do think that when you experience that oneness, you *feel* love. It nourishes you. That doesn’t make it personal.

    If you make it personal you will probably disappoint yourself. It’s beautiful and healing to feel that connection. It doesn’t mean you’ll never feel pain again or that some supernatural force will take a personal interest in you. It doesn’t want anything from you. It’s you that wants. People want. And we live in this beautiful system where we can express all of that. That’s the point. But none of that changes God. It’s just an expression of it.

    God is not like a giant teddy bear in the sky, or a giant angry father in the sky. God is like water.

    Do you want to drink water? Yes. You’ll die if you don’t. Does water care if you drink it? No. But is water always there, and will it always nourish you? Absolutely. We can hold water as personally meaningful and sacred, but that’s for us, not for water. It helps us, it gives our lives meaning. We can celebrate and be grateful for its existence, as ours depends on it. That nourishes us too. But all of that is our thing. It has nothing really to do with water. Water just is.

    So that’s how I think of God.

    Well. Those are some thoughts anyway. I have a lot of them. =)

    Here are a few others that might relate to this conversation:
    http://www.joyninja.com/2008/god-is-bottom-up/

    Emma

  41. Wow, I have never heard anyone describe faith and optimism as well as you just did. “Does the ocean want you to swim in it?” Completely opposite of everything I have heard from most people about spirituality. (Well, sort of zen though, do you think? I do read the dalai lama’s books.) But you just sort of shook it loose—and out comes the idea of something supporting us in this existence. The ocean and the water—powerful metaphors.

    How wonderful it must feel to have this sense of something larger than yourself. Your “argument”, though not an argument at all, more of making the case, is quite powerful. Not that I expect to feel how you feel, but I will go read your links.

    Do you remember that old psych 101 class exercise where you have to let yourself fall backwards into the (supposedly) waiting arms of your classmate? It was about trust. What you are describing sounds like trust—in the universe, the nature of existence, and about its being benign? (or do I have that benign part wrong?) I was young and I had a very hard time with that exercise. To this day I have that kind of trust in a very few people and even that is tainted by the knowledge that they would always, always be there for me—but only if they are able (alive and well)! This must be what happens when you lose your mother at a young age and hadn’t yet achieved a sense of ego permanence. You are always preparing yourself for another catastrophic loss (the other shoe to drop).

    It’s late and I am tired, so I will read again tomorrow. Just wanted to give you my first reaction while I was in it.

  42. FYI, comments having more than 3 hypertext links are held in moderation in case they are spam 🙂

    That’s how I had it set. At least it didn’t delete it!

  43. @mosaicmoods

    Yes, I have done the falling excercise in a workshop once. I was about 24 and I cried and shook when it was my turn, but I did get through it.

    I helped out with running the workshop after I went through it and when it came to that part you could feel the palpable tension in the room. It’s hard for most people.

    I have come to this conclusion about trusting people: it makes sense to gauge who trustworthy someone is – what they can and can’t be relied upon for. This isn’t being untrusting, this is having healthy boundaries. If you determine that they are trustworthy and you STILL can’t trust them, then it’s a trust issue. But repeatedly putting trust in untrustworthy people is just as much of a problem.

    But faith is different. It’s not trusting that any particular outcome is going to happen – that’s not faith, that’s wishful thinking.

    It’s trusting that there is a part of you that will live through whatever happens, that is indestructible, and is connected to the larger indestructible-ness of that which is real, below and within everything visible in the world.

    It’s about being willing to let go of everything you have and know, and surrender it, knowing that *it* is not *you*. It’s about knowing that even if everyone you know dies, everything you have goes away, everything that you thought or hoped would happen doesn’t – that you are still connected to Source. Spiritual practice is about cultivating that connection and strengthening it.

    I do think there is a relationship between trusting God and trusting people: when you trust God, the betrayals of people don’t impact you quite as much because you are relying on something deeper. But they still hurt. And it’s still good to be careful and check things out.

    There are different levels of existence. On the God plane, our soul will always be there. Betrayal doesn’t touch it. But on the human level, it hurts a lot. And it makes sense to be sensible about who you trust. I think it’s important to honor our human incarnation and take care of it’s emotional needs. While realizing and resting in a deeper reality where we are still OK even when our needs aren’t met.

  44. @Emma MCreary
    Thanks for writing back.

    I understand your explanation of trust and faith, and the difference between faith and wishful thinking (good points).

    This one sentence affected me:

    “It’s about knowing that even if everyone you know dies, everything you have goes away, everything that you thought or hoped would happen doesn’t – that you are still connected to Source.”

    It made me wonder if you (or anyone who could defend the statement) have ever had these experiences actually happen to you (your mother and other family members dying when you are still young for example) or if you are speculating how you’d feel in that event? If one is speculating, then they can’t possibly “know” how they would feel if everyone they were attached to died and everything you hoped would happen doesn’t.

    There is also a difference in how an adult would respond to that situation rather than a child, right? And then there are other factors such as, were there other resources available at the time to mitigate such loss (not for me). Was it one loss or many (many)—multiple blows can weaken any feeling of safety or protection.

    In my case, when it did happen, there was no Source left to be connected to. It was a completely unhinging, life-raft-at-sea event. Everything that occurred after was “walking through a dream” for decades. We have “ground beneath us” because of early attachment. I still think faith (and religion) is grounded in early attachment theory. I see it as a projection of our relation to the “object”. (object relations reflected on the exterior world.) I know this puts us squarely at odds with each other’s beliefs.

    “…realizing and resting in a deeper reality where we are still OK even when our needs aren’t met.” No, I don’t believe this is true. I think one of the great tragedies of life is that some things can never be okay.

    I hear what you are saying about your belief in a different level of existence and how that gives you a safety net past what occurs “on the human level” (something or someone has your back), but I don’t have these beliefs. For me, I am alone in my existence, although connected to everyone else though DNA (which has its own “divine” properties), I am ultimately responsible for finding whatever connection I can to others that save me from existential angst—which I believe to be a fact, not a depressive state.

    The problem with my point of view is that I am not very good at finding those connections, or they are, in fact, rare. Not impossible, but scarce. The fact that I am even writing this shows that I have found at least one person (several over a lifetime) that make me feel sanely confident that I am not in this life raft alone. That is my saving grace.

    I know I am in the minority in this country with my beliefs. It’s taken me years to be open about them. They are not conventional and even frighten many people. Many assume that being without faith, I just need the right counseling or persuasion, or that I am depressed. Be assured I have spent a lifetime in conversation with this subject and have had expert guidance in helping me realize my beliefs, which are no more curious in their departure from yours than many other cultures’ beliefs.

  45. I haven’t posted in a while because I didn’t really feel like I had anything more to add.

    But reading this post sparked an idea in my mind…

    You are not without faith. You have a lot of faith in fact.

    Your faith is in being alone, not feeling connected, not having faith, and some things never being ok.

    And of course your life reflects this.

  46. @Mosaicmoods

    I only have a few minutes and want to respond more later, but I just wanted to write a short note.

    My connection to Source isn’t about belief or speculation. I didn’t grow up being taught to believe in anything. I developed that connection on my own. And working through my grief over my parents not being able to be adequate parents was part of what I had to struggle through to find it again.

    Source is there, whether we can feel it or not. It surrounds all of us all the time, it *is* us. But many experiences of pain will block our connection to it, and if we identify with the pain, (think that it somehow limits who we are), we will be completely blocked from feeling that connection.

    I developed a connection, and then I lost it, and was angry at God, in a fundamental way for a number of years, and then had another experience that helped me reconnect.

    What I’m hearing you say is that you don’t have these beliefs, but what I’m guessing is that you haven’t had these *experiences*. Beliefs usually change based on what we experience.

    However, there is an element of will involved. If you believe that these experiences aren’t possible (the experience of knowing you are OK even when nothing on the human level is OK), then that itself will block them from happening. That is why so many spiritual teachings emphasize surrender and willingness to believe as the prerequisite to experiencing grace. (Ask Jesus into your heart etc – this is the metaphysics of these teachings).

    It’s actually not the belief in God that is necessary, but a suspension of disbelief. That window of willingness to experience something new is absolutely required or the ego-beliefs in smallness will stop the greater awareness of Source to be experienced. And only that experience will truly ground someone’s faith. IMHO.

    For you, you’d have to be willing to believe that you might not be alone in your existence. You’d have to be willing to believe that there might be another level of experience, before you can experience it. And that experience is what I think matters. Everything else is just words on a page.

  47. @Emma
    Well, maybe it’s because of Maria’s snarky LOA comment but I’m starting to feel like I’m not being allowed to have my opinion here. So don’t take this personally, but…

    I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God or Jesus. I don’t believe in suspension of disbelief except in science fiction novels. Atheism is a valid philosophy. I have a lot of company in that, as well as a lot of company with other world belief systems besides Christianity.

    I am old enough to have been through the born-again phase in the U.S. It was quite a large movement. This new phase feels sort of non-inclusive as well. If I don’t join you, I am mislead?

    I think we have pretty much reached the end of any useful discussion and will only lower the conversation somewhere I don’t want to go if we continue. You’re entitled to your own beliefs and I’m entitled to mine. Thanks for the conversation.

  48. @Mosaicmoods

    Oh…ouch. Well, maybe you are just reacting to Maria’s comment. I wasn’t trying to change your mind or suggest you are mislead. Everyone gets to decide for themselves what they want to do re: God and the Universe.

    I am not sure what you mean by “phase”. I generally feel like I’m walking my own path…my experiences with Wicca…paranormal psychology? That’s not a mainstream avenue to God. I’d rather not be lumped in with a nebulous group that might not have the same experiences or point of view that I have. I was trying to communicate to you person to person about my experiences, not a dogma. I don’t know about other people, but I am just trying to figure this stuff out for myself and I was sharing my personal experiences and experiments with trying to have a felt connection with God/Source. I’m not the member of any church, religion, or philosophy and I’m not trying to convert anyone to anything.

    I’m sorry if it came across some other way. I really don’t like ending on this note though, it feels abrupt/harsh. =(

  49. @Emma
    I live in an almost all Christian environment in the suburbs. The Baptist movement here has gotten very large and very vocal and very snubbish. So I’m sorry if I perceived you as part of this new group in the U.S. who seem to be deliberately taking over my community. Argh.

    But what I was reacting to in your post was your seeming to say that if I would only allow myself to believe, I could. “you’d have to be willing to believe that you might not be alone in your existence. You’d have to be willing to believe that there might be another level of experience, before you can experience it.”

    That’s what I reacted to. It’s like saying you don’t have to be gay (which I’m not gay). But what if you said to a gay person, you’d have to believe you could be straight? Wouldn’t that be condescending? And wouldn’t that be taking away their right to be who they are? So I did feel like you were saying, I haven’t “let the spirit in”, like I have heard so many times before. Sorry if that’s not what you intended.

    edited to include: I guess what I’m saying is that at my age I’ve had plenty of time to decide what I believe. I’m not a young woman feeling about for herself.

  50. @Emma
    “If you believe that these experiences aren’t possible (the experience of knowing you are OK even when nothing on the human level is OK), then that itself will block them from happening.”

    Oh… this bothered me too. I’m sorry, I just can’t believe that at all. That’s kind of a reverse LOA, meaning, if you don’t believe it, it won’t come. I don’t believe that you would have to be “open” to something that important before it would show itself to you. I know you may be saying I’m not looking for it then. But that’s not how you put it. You actually said I’d be blocking “it” if I don’t believe. That’s circular reasoning, isn’t it?

  51. Hmm. I think maybe we are thinking of god differently. My experience of god is not one where there is any “it” to “show itself”. God isn’t a person or thing. It’s the underlying nature of existence, the harmony that runs through everything, the unified field underneath the apparant reality. It’s not personal–it doesn’t have a personality or a singular will. Those ideas are human projections.

    I’m talking here about your own internal experience of this unity. And how if internally you hold a belief that reality is a certain way it interferes with that internal experience.

    But I could be incorrect, it could not be a prerequisite. It seemed to be for me. I was very closed to the idea of god. And slowly I became open first to the idea and then to the experience and I gradually felt that connection.

    And then, I saw various teachings about “letting in the Spirit” or whatever in a different light. They made more sense.

  52. @Emma
    I’ll have to go back and see if I keep giving the word God a personality. Funny how words keep getting in the way here.

    Maybe we are far apart in what we each think of as the “unified field underneath the apparent reality,” which is a totally reasonable statement for me to believe too, in a scientific way (“we are patterns within the fabric”—I agree, but you call it God and I call it just unknowable fabric). I’d say it looks like order, or controlled chaos. But I don’t see it interacting with me in a way that affects my ability to thrive for example (or to cause me to die). It is impersonal, maybe accidental, I don’t know. For me, the universe has no ability to support or enable me to prosper. I don’t think of it as being good or bad, maybe not even benign in its impersonal nature. It could be unknowingly weighted towards disaster for all I know.

    You said, “if internally you hold a belief that reality is a certain way it interferes with that internal experience”

    Of course. But I think of it in reverse. My experience is necessarily defined by what I believe. That’s why someone in Asia experiences the world differently than I do. Nature, nurture. They are, at least initially, defining aspects for all of us. And like I said, I’ve had plenty of time to examine my beliefs or lack of them and how my own nature/nurture affects my beliefs. Plenty of time to have had an open mind, explore others’ beliefs. And this is where I’ve arrived. An agnostic that has finally declared herself an atheist. My atheism is not a defense. It is a conclusion reached by logical deduction and my own intuitive sense of things.

    If I were to experience something that felt like “support” or “connectedness” coming from the universe or unified field, or God, I would interpret it as something my mind had created, but not having come from outside my mind. I guess I’m saying it would be a benign attribution (an illusion or construct). That doesn’t mean that a smaller ego-need reigns over unseen larger truths. It just means that I am limited to the confines of my consciousness.

    Let me try to give an example like yours. If I eat an apple a day, I may believe I will be healthier, and I may in fact become healthier. I may come to believe that apples are “healing,” enriching, etc. So I take advantage of apples being available to me in this world so as to thrive. But I don’t believe apples are here to help me, or even here “for” me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have “wonder” about order, apples, and even my ability to think about them. I just think that, to the universe, we don’t matter. That means we matter more to each other. (Maybe wonder is about as close to I get to a belief system.)

    Where we are really parting ways is when you say (in the link you gave) “If we play nice as part of the web of life, it will treat us well.” What does playing nice mean? Something different to you than to me, and even more different to someone in another culture. Also, that’s attributing judgment to a universe, a God, whichever, that meets out justice to those who don’t play nice, or don’t believe, or “see”? So some unfortunate person would not be blessed with fortune or heaven or whatever because they had never had the right “experience,” and the ironic part for me has always been that every religion or belief system has a different experience that gets you the goodness of the universe.

    I guess I really am feeling today like it is going to be impossible to discuss this further once we come down to the essential contradiction. That’s why I said… I don’t believe in God of any sort, you do, and I don’t know if there’s any more we can cull from this discussion.

    But I didn’t have to say it when irritated about being accused of causing ill tidings to enter my life through some hoodoo voodoo. That doesn’t flatter religion when people get angry at non-believers and say they get what they deserve. That’s when religion and/or the LOA starts to alienate me and others like me. That’s what caused this post in the first place and I stand by my initial post, although I see there are more variations of belief in LOA than I previously knew about. Whew.

  53. Hmm. I think you are interpreting my “play nice” sentence a lot differently than I meant it. It’s not attached to any judgment, or to any cultural training. Nobody has to be trained to be connected to God. Mostly we have to be untrained.

    I also don’t think in terms of punishment or reward. When I said “treat us well”, I didn’t mean what I’m guessing you thought I meant. I am not coming from the Christian framework of “do good and you will be rewarded”.

    I am more coming from the idea of “follow the natural laws of things and your life will work according to the flow of the Universe”. I suppose people have used that idea and applied things like punishment and reward to it, but that’s not where I’m coming from with it.

    It’s kind of like this: if you are falling and you brace yourself, you can get hurt worse than if you soften your muscles and roll with it. That is the essence of what I am saying when I say “play nice and life will treat us well”. I don’t mean “do certain people’s definitions of good and you won’t be punished”. Certainly you won’t be rewarded by softening your muscles. You just won’t hurt as much. That’s not a reward, it’s just cause and effect. That’s all I was talking about there. I wasn’t talking about anyone meting out anything. The ground doesn’t “mete out punishment” when you land on it wrong. It just hurts. The idea that because it hurts you were punished is a kind of superstition.

    Even if I believed in the more traditional personal omnipotent God, I don’t think he/she/it would be petty. What would be the point for an omnipotent being to go around punishing people far less powerful than it? I don’t think that makes sense even within that framework, which isn’t even the framework I’m coming from anyway.

    If it helps, I think all expressions of Divinity are getting at some aspect of God. I don’t have a favorite religion. I don’t think that one culture is any better than any other culture. I think it’s all just one glorious expression of Divinity. There is no “there” to get to anyway – no heaven to reach or be rewarded by.

    I feel myself getting a little frustrated because it feels like I’ve explained over and over that I’m not coming from a framework anything like the stuff you are suggesting I believe. Do you think I am secretly a Christian because I’m using the word God? I’ve never been a Christian. Sorry, I am just a little frustrated here. I’m not at all Christian and I never said any culture is better than any other culture and I don’t believe in reward and punishment or heaven or hell or any of that stuff and I never have.

    I don’t think there is a personal God that is personally interested in our lives.

    But…and this is from my personal experience…when I get in touch with that feeling of unity, over and over, it *feels* beneficial. It feels like…love.

    And I know from reading that this is a common experience.

    So, that is all I can really say. I guess that’s why I started talking about experience, rather than theories. Because there is no metaphor or idea that can convey it adequately.

    I think theories and ideas matter because they can help us see a different perspective on our mental frameworks and maybe cause us to lay them down for a minute. But it’s what we experience after we lay them down that transforms us.

    You know it’s up to you what you believe. There’s nothing I can do about it and I am not in the business of converting people.

    But you’ve already said that your experience is defined by what you believe. If that is so, then why not try believing that you aren’t actually confined to a singular consciousness, and see what happens?

    That is just an idea. It really is not my business, but I only talk about this because…it makes such a difference in my day to day life. I can feel it, in the center of my belly, this feeling of sacred connection. I will start crying if I sit with it, it just feels like this overwhelming beauty. I can’t explain that in any other language. Physics and fabrics of space only go so far – I think that ultimately science can explain it like that, but it’s like falling in love – you can explain the neurons and the hormones, but nothing compares with the experience.

    I’m not a zealot – I’m not out to convert the world. What I would like to do though is offer a way of thinking about the things that a lot of mainstream religion has turned into judgment and punishment and reward and say no, it doesn’t have to be like that. God is not any of those things. Those are things people do to each other, and they are awful. That has nothing at all to do with what I’m talking about.

    I am not religious. I am not a member of any religion. All I’m talking about here is my own personal experience. I wonder if you can see how maybe you have a lot of ideas of what other people have said about religion and you are applying them to what I am saying. I feel like I’m fighting through layers of other people’s judgments, and I don’t have those judgments. I don’t think that way. I am not about those things. I don’t see people as “believers” and “non-believers”. AHHHH all of that crap makes me cringe. I just don’t think that way. I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about God.

    I hope you can forgive my frustration. I really don’t know how to explain this any better.

  54. @Mosaicmoods
    Just to offer some … perspective or something… I grew up as an atheist, in a small rural town. I was told repeatedly by my classmates that I was going to hell. And I also lost my connection with my mother when I was a baby. I worked hard to find my connection with life again, and I don’t think it’s an accident of biology or upbringing. I sought it out and kept seeking it until I understood it.

    And most Christians think I’m going to hell and my love is an abomination (I’m a lesbian). So I’m not coming to this from that kind of perspective. PLEASE stop assuming I am. I am getting tired of repeating “I’m not actually a judgmental asshole because I believe in God”.

  55. @Emma
    I do forgive your frustration as I also endure my own. I’m trying to express (and defend) myself too. “Do you think I am secretly a Christian because I’m using the word God?” No, I don’t believe that.

    I think you’ve explained yourself well. Sorry if at times I express my frustration with conventional religion, not you personally.

  56. @Emma
    I just got your second post after I posted mine. I am very sorry to hear you feeling such anger and frustration because of me. I am the ass here, not you. I can be so blind sometimes. I will learn, but must everything I learn be the hard way? Somewhere in my head my father is still yelling at me when I was 15, saying that I don’t know what I’m talking about, so I can get very defensive. All this time I thought you were judging me and all you wanted was for me to hear you and accept you. I hear you and accept you.

    Hear me say this… I am the LAST person who would judge you for being lesbian or for believing in God!

    I have always thought your blog was inspiring, helpful, and warm. Yours was one of the first blogs I subscribed to. It brought me comfort when I needed it. I was flattered to be having this conversation with someone of your stature and professionalism. But I was debating when I should have been listening. I’m sorry I missed how important this subject is to you and I hope you hear me saying that I have stayed with this conversation with you because of who you are, not in spite of it.

  57. I wasn’t trying to be smarty of sarcastic. Long before I knew about LOA I knew that our experience reflects our beliefs, not the other way around.

    So I stand by what I said….”Your life reflects what you believe.”

    I think I’m done now. You two have fun with this continuing conversation.

    Peace out!

    Maria

  58. @Mosaicmoods

    No…I didn’t think you were judging me for being lesbian. I was trying to prove my “street cred” in not being part of traditional religion. I was feeling frustrated that you keep seeing me as part of a power structure I have nothing to do with and has never done me any favors.

    I seem to have gotten caught in trying to prove my ideas are worthy or my experiences are valid while you dismiss them because you’ve already “seen it all”. Well…fine. You seem to really be attached to your cynicism. I am not enjoying battling it, and I don’t know how to shift the conversation, so I think I will bow out too.

  59. @Mosaicmoods

    Oh, I didn’t see the second post until you emailed me.

    Yeah, I can empathize…my ex had the same issue, and I seem to attract people with this issue (fathers who yell at them) and I seem to trigger it. I get frustrated because I don’t want to be seen that way. I just…I have a very direct way of talking and I don’t always couch it in terms that … I don’t know, I’m not very touchy-feely. It’s hard sometimes to talk without triggering people. And my dad was very cynical and I felt it was really damaging to grow up in that environment. I had to work hard to reclaim a sense of hope. So I tend to get into battles with people with cynicism where I try to get them to see the validity of hope. It doesn’t usually work.

    Anyway. I don’t really know where to go from here.

  60. I think where we go from here is to recognize that the internet can bring up all sorts of transference reactions, the sort of lock and key reactivity most people have to other people and vice versa. I know that’s not eloquent but it’s true. We push each other’s buttons. The reason I call it lock and key is that it takes takes two for it to continue (two to Tango). I wish I were better at recognizing when I’m having a transference, counter-transference or projecting, but I never am quick at it.

    I don’t like being coerced or forced. Others can’t stand my stubbornness (is that even a word?). I can come off sounding cold if you are not talking to me in person. The way I dress and the tone of my voice would show you another Diana.

    There is a very good article on the Psychology of Cyberspace by Kali Munro, M.Ed., Psychotherapist at http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/conflict.html. I’ve referred to it many times over the last few years when I didn’t understand why I was engaging in conflict. The article explains the dynamics very well if anyone is interested. Here is an excerpt from the article:

    “To take a look at your own projections or transference with people online, think back to the last time you felt angry at someone online. What was it about them or their email that made you so angry? What did you believe that they were doing to you or someone else? How did you react internally and externally? Was your reaction to this person (whether spoken or not) influenced by someone or something from your past? While it certainly happens that people are treated with disrespect and anger online, if there are any parallels between this experience and any of your past experiences, it?s likely that how you felt and responded was coloured by your past. When our past is involved, particularly when we are unaware of it happening, we invariably project and transfer old feelings onto the present situation.”

  61. @Maria
    Because I don’t believe you have good will towards me or my blog, your comments about avoiding personal responsibility are naive at best, and because those of us with chronic illness and/or severe misfortune get tired of hearing LOA people describe how we are responsible for our own illness/trauma, I have to say “Adios Maria”.

    I hope you never have to face severe hardship or illness alone, without resources. It may bring your house of cards down on yourself. Someone has to stand up for all the CFS/FM sufferers who hear this crap daily. And yes, my irritation at you is a transference reaction towards someone in my life who has always believed that I brought things on myself. Oh well, such is life on the internet…

  62. I don’t think the idea of responsibility has to be the same as blame. Saying you “brought this on yourself” contains the idea that the person is at fault…that they “should” have known better, that they don’t deserve compassion because of that.

    I don’t think that’s what the LOA is saying. Nobody attracts negative things on *purpose*. And everyone deserves compassion.

    I think there’s a difference between what the LOA actually states, and how certain people interpret it, or use it as a shield against facing pain, or how you are interpreting what they say, etc.

    All of that feels like noise to me. It’s not the point. It’s people’s pain and how they cope with pain. And it’s all understandable, but it’s not the point of studying the LOA. The LOA is about the power of our mind to create *new* realities.

    And those new realities can be more of the same, or, they can be different. And I do think that how we think about our life, how we hold it, how we deal with situations that come our way, how we react or choose to respond instead…that does attract a different outcome. That is what the LOA says. It seems like maybe you have had some bad experiences with some people around it, but I haven’t had those experiences. I don’t know that those experiences represent the most common usage of it. And they definitely don’t represent the most useful.

    The book “The Law of Attraction” by the Hicks certainly is not at all about blame or judgment.

    So, I understand that if people come to it with that interpretation it could trigger your buttons. And at the same time, I think if you could somehow put those interpretations aside as certain people’s mistaken ideas, and not what the LOA actually says, you might find value in the ideas. I just wanted to say that as a final note, because I often feel a sort of loss when certain interpretations of wisdom teachings color what I consider to be a clearer version of it that I wish people had access to.

    I see this issue a lot in all sorts of consciousness circles. People interpret teachings to the level of their own consciousness. And then they go on to teach them, but they can only teach them based on their own understanding. So sometimes they come out with the same judgments that the teacher hasn’t yet worked through and released. But that is because teachers are human, not because the teachings themselves are flawed. I don’t think, for instance, that Jesus’s words should be judged on the merits of the least conscious of his followers. I think the same applies to the LOA, and every other spiritual teaching.

    I think there is always the opportunity to get the most out of a teaching or see it’s flaws or the flaws of its followers or supporters. I think you get out of it what you put into it, you know? If you want to see flaws, it’s easy to do. But if you want to find the heart of truth in it, you can dig under there and I do think there is a lot there to learn. And I think that’s true of every spiritual tradition. That’s why I feel like, I’m just a constant student of these teachings, of all wisdom teachings really. The deeper I look at them the more I uncover. I read once that every spiritual text can be read on a number of different levels, and often the top layer is meant almost to obscure the real teachings so that only people with some awareness realize the power of them. Something like that – when I read things, I try to piece together what makes sense and what possibilities it opens up…exploring the ideas in them. It’s like…koans, if you are familiar with them, their purpose is to get beyond the mind. That’s what I was trying to say earlier about the ego/mind and getting beyond it. Koans are like little riddles that make you go into a place of not-knowing. That’s kind of what I was talking about earlier.

    Anyway. I am sorry if I came across as trying to get you to change your mind earlier. I do get like that sometimes. It’s just that sense of loss of the true value of the teaching, I get frustrated when I don’t feel like it’s being seen. It’s like, something really precious is being talked about in a way that doesn’t represent what it actually is, at least from my perspective. So then I get all wrapped up in explaining/defending it. And then the conversation isn’t so fun anymore. 🙂

    Emma

  63. @Emma, thanks for coming back and explaining your position further. I was reading William James and I found a clip that seems appropriate to share at this point. I think we may have been having more of a philosophical discussion than a religious one.

    “…[William] James explores the relations between temperaments and philosophical theorizing. Idealism, he holds, “will be chosen by a man of one emotional constitution, materialism by another.” Idealism offers a sense of intimacy with the universe, the feeling that ultimately I “am all.” But materialists… prefer to conceive of an uncertain, dangerous and wild universe that has “no respect for our ego.” Let “the tides flow,” the materialist thinks, “even though they flow over us”
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/james/#4

    “…an uncertain, dangerous and wild universe…Let “the tides flow,” the materialist thinks, “even though they flow over us”
    To me, that is a masterful explanation of my belief!

    And since it is a truism that one cannot resolve a discussion between two people who hold opposing core beliefs (the earth is flat, the earth is round), I suggest that we leave this conversation here for others to ponder. Thanks for the discussion 🙂

    edited to add: Here’s another quote from the James article and the article’s source I should have included…

    “Pragmatism:

    James’s dilemma is a familiar one: it is a form of the question of how we can reconcile the claims of science, on the one hand, with those of religion and morality on the other. James introduces it by observing that the history of philosophy is ‘to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments’, between the ‘tough minded’ and the ‘tender minded’. The tough minded have an empiricist commitment to experience and going by ‘the facts’, while the tender-minded have more of a taste for a priori principles which appeal to the mind. The tender minded tend to be idealistic, optimistic and religious, while the tough minded are normally materialist, pessimistic and irreligious. The tender-minded are ‘free-willist’ and dogmatic; the tough minded are ‘fatalistic’ and sceptical.”

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/

  64. Huh.

    A basic spiritual principle is that there is a layer of reality which is full of duality, which is essentially illusion.

    “Jame’s dillemma” seems like just another illusory duality to me. I am not dogmatic…and I’m not skeptical…both of those are signs of an immature mind IMHO. Religiousness and irreligiousness are also beside the point in a discussion of spirituality (which is not about religion at all). I see there being elements of both free will *and* determinism in the way the Universe is structured. I experience both wildness *and* intimacy in my relationship with God. These passages strike me like most philosophy does, as premature conclusions about things that are much more complex than can be summed up like this. Reality is an “and/also” proposition, not an “either/or” one.

    I’m not trying to keep the conversation going if you don’t want to. I am however not a fan of the “let’s find a definite point of disagreement” strategy. I don’t think we disagree; I think we aren’t understanding each other, or aren’t talking about the same thing. Those are different.

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