Category Archives: Opinions

What is Truth

Today, on the long commute home from work, I started pondering the core reasons I first became interested in spirituality. Why did I dive down this rabbit hole? What was my goal?

And I came up with two:

  1. As a means of coping with the mental health challenges
  2. In the pursuit of truth

Given that as my mental health challenges subsided I still continued on this quest, I will focus on the second reason as the constant. Pursuit of truth.

As I continued the first thought that came to me was a common piece of spiritual advice that I had heard on many occasions, and in many forms. It was to stop believing your thoughts. To stop thinking that whatever your mind says is automatically true. So if I am earnest in my pursuit of truth, and I heed this advice, I should cease to continually pour so much energy into the obsessive examination of my own thoughts.

As an experiment I convince myself momentarily that my mind has nothing to offer in this spiritual quest. As this paradigm takes hold I find myself retreating from my familiar home in my head and my focus diverts to my immediate surroundings. My environment starts to feel fuller and sense of calm begins to develop. Simple items near me start to gain depth. I postulate the following idea: what if the most obscure item in my car provided a more profound gateway to the truth than my mind could ever conjure. Unfortunately, but predictably, this feeling doesn’t last. There is far too much momentum in my habitual thinking.

But why do I even want to know the truth? Why bust my ass to find something so elusive?

My initial answer is to enable a life well lived. I had thought that in knowing the truth I could then make the right decisions to shape my life in the most desirable way possible. But if the greatest spiritual teachers tell me that my mind is not a source of truth, my idea of ‘knowing the truth’ does not make sense. It reduces something as divine as truth to just more ego stuff.

Perhaps truth, and a life well lived, are actually one in the same.

If access to the truth is found in the present moment, and living life in the present moment is the object of the spiritual quest then they are in fact inseparable. I can’t use the truth to find my purpose, truth is my purpose.

 

Image Courtesy of ‘Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock.com’

Knowing Yourself is the Key to Knowing Others

It has been a while since I posted anything on this particular blog but after a lengthy phone discussion with an old friend I have been inspired to reignite the examination of this side of myself. Perhaps the truth of the matter was that I never stopped on my journey.

Challenge

My biggest challenge in life, as it has always been, is figuring out exactly how to interact with the world. I possess strong opinions and a desire to engage, but I always feel inadequate when expressing myself. And the ideas that I am trying to unleash remain trapped within my brain.

Additionally I feel a simmering urgency to get involved as it is incredibly frustrating witnessing how people interact with each other on social media. It is absurd that so many people hold on to their ideas with such a unwavering certainty when even a cursory examination of spiritual principles could cast enormous doubt upon any perspective.

Fear

However, I believe there is an underlying shadow of doubt that is feeding the divisive world that we find ourselves in. People are subconsciously realizing that the paradigm upon which they base their value system is dissolving beneath their feet. And with the desperation of a drowning swimmer they cling to the familiar, no matter the evidence laid before them.

If I claimed 2+2 = 5 no one would react so strongly in denying that untruth. One would simply know it’s wrong and move on. But when foundational ideas about the very way you live your life are challenged…. you get loud, you get angry, and you certainly don’t go down without a fight. There are examples everyday of people experiencing this huge identity crisis. 

In no place is this more apparent than in the social media trend called ‘Cancel Culture’. This draconian and unforgiving practice reeks of fear. It requires a person to completely disregard their own flaws, while highlighting, as paramount, the perceived failings of another and ultimately punishing them harshly for it. And all of this based on a minimal amount of information.

Temptation

The temptation I feel is to respond equally as harshly to those promoting cancel culture as a useful approach to improving the world. But the unfortunate irony is that in doing so I am becoming the very thing I am most passionately opposed to. The upside is that perhaps in understanding more deeply what I need to transcend this anger I gain an understanding of what others need. And I believe this element is at the core of my spiritual journey.

Understanding the essence of who I am, in turn means I understand others. And within this understanding is the gift of truly being able to make a difference in this world.

 

Photo Courtesy of: De Visu/Shutterstock.com

 

Gnōthi Seauton (Know Thyself)

In all honesty, my spiritual journey has brought me further away from knowing my true self than I ever could have possibly imagined. Since discovering that this incredible dimension exists I have adapted so many more labels that simply hamper the entire process. Labels like:

I should be non-reactive

I should be calm

I should just be

I should be forgiving of everyone

I should be wise

I should not be superficial

I should not judge others

I should be accepting

I should allow others to be as they are

I should be deep

I should not be anxious

So when any feeling should arise that was on contrast to the “rules” above I would use spiritual techniques to try and defeat that feeling. I would struggle to be transparent to negativity, to ignore those anxious feelings and be present, to always look beneath the surface of the person who was annoying the shit out of me, and to be uncaring that my favourite sports team got eliminated from the playoffs.

The experience of being spiritual became another prison. I went all-in on a way of life that was supposed to lead to freedom but I was sadly mistaken.

I have found that any behaviour, or thought, that denies my true nature is as harmful as an act of hatred. It is a poison that seeps into every corner of my body. It is this image of the spiritual person that is the problem. Sitting cross legged, with their hands resting on their knees, holding a steady mood no matter what comes their way, repeating some mantra meant to clear the mind.

I want to foster a new attitude. An attitude that accepts everything about me. An attitude that says that I don’t ever need to change. Truthfully, the spiritual person is every person. As they are. It is not about denying your form. It is about knowing it, and honouring it.

Pay attention. Be aware. Get to know yourself.

But don’t you dare apply any self-knowledge as another means to create change! As if you need to improve? Upon whose authority will you deny the billions of years of evolution that led to who, and where, you are right now. The real spiritual life, as I see it, is to carry-on fully engaged in this world of form, but with an added intense awareness of the mind-body form.

The mind-body has likes, desires, skills, a sense of humour, fears, emotions, faults, loves. Really it has the entire spectrum of what it means to be alive.

In spiritual circles they often speak of transcendence. Transcendence is not the achievement of an enlightened state where this roller coaster of experience doesn’t happen anymore.

It is surrendering to the ride.

Love with all of your heart. Acknowledge your fears. Use your skills. Have a good laugh. Let this form run the show, because really you’re not in charge anyways.

The Contextual Nature of Religion

Not believing in God because of religion is like not believing in freedom because of politics. I don’t know how the entire discussion about the existence of God got monopolized by the world’s religious institutions. For sure, there is no doubt that many of the teachings within Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam can offer powerful […]

via The Contextual Nature of Religion — The Passionate Why

This is a post from my other blog, but it is probably more pertinent to this one. Read and let me know what you think!

What would I do if I knew for 100% certain that I could never improve my life?

If I knew that I would never be given the opportunity to chase my dreams, that I would never make more money than I do now, that I would never experience any more success, that my relationship would never change, that I would always live in the same house, that I would never make any more friends, and that I would always drive the same car, how would that impact me?

I suppose for anyone that finds any of those aspects utterly intolerable they may contemplate suicide. However, the impact of really placing myself within this scenario was surprising. All of these things act as temptations, luring me away from the simple experience of being within myself. These are all things requiring chasing, and built upon the assumption that I am not good enough as I am. That I am not worthy.

Worthiness is concept that I have been paying special attention to lately. For the longest time, and for reasons I don’t yet completely understand, I have been living under the presumption that I am not worthy. It is this exact feeling that prevents me from simply resting within who I am, or what I am. The more unworthy I feel, the more I get in my head trying to figure out how to become worthy.

The antidote for this feeling was almost as equally surprising. It may be mistaken for selfishness but I prefer to label it as self-attention. I simply say to myself “There is nothing more important in the entire universe than what is happening inside of me right now.” This statement gives me permission right now to focus entirely on myself even as the entire external world is demanding that I establish my worthiness first.

This seems to be in contrast to one of the great ideals of most spiritual communities, of living a life in service to others. How can I be spiritual and then say that what is happening within me is the most important thing in the entire universe? Easy, because EVERYTHING is happening within me! I can know of no other universe than my internal universe.

I believe that a life of service is noble but it must be given with complete freedom and void of any sense of resentment, not matter how minuscule. I believe that to persuade someone into a life of service before they are ready can actually do more harm than good. Either outcome of such a scenario (1. I agree to help even though I don’t want to so I feel resentment; or 2. I decline to help but now feel guilty) both cause an increase in feelings of unworthiness. And this becomes an obstacle to their own realization.

A person’s first duty in life is self-inquiry. Look deep inside yourself for as long you need until you establish a deep and lasting peace with your own existence. Let nothing external tell you what you should be doing, let no judgment control your actions, and let no expectations guide your steps. Place yourself in the highest importance and rest there.

The similarity between my Facebook news feed and the endless random thoughts of my mind is almost frightening.

The similarity between my Facebook news feed and the endless random thoughts of my mind is almost frightening.

  • You can scroll forever and ever…
  • Some produce intense emotional reactions and some just float by.
  • You tend to interact more with the ones that produce a reaction.
  • Facebook/Your Mind takes note and gives you more posts/thoughts like that!
  • Both are training your mind to always look for the next post/thought.
  • Reading posts makes you want to post, thoughts make you want to think.

Maybe giving up one is the key to giving up the other…

Self Expression And The Purpose of Social Media

Is there any fundamental difference in expressing yourself through an opinion or through an art form? Both are gateways which allows someone else to get to know you on a more personal level. Everyone loves to argue with your opinion but people rarely argue with a painting or poem. Perhaps the only difference lies in the eyes of the beholder.

A piece of art may be much more abstract and difficult to place boundaries around so you don’t know what it is or what it isn’t. That is why it is more likely to induce quiet observation rather than any type of polarizing commentary.

When I throw an opinion out there I actually have no desire to argue about it. There’s not a single part of me that wants to engage in a battle of wits, or be forced into any kind of defensive posture. My mind may change in the future but only my own terms. I do love hearing other’s peoples thoughts or perspective, but that is quite different than an argument, or being forced to respond to an attack on my point of view.

Could we shift the way we approach opinions by instead looking at it like we look at art, as another form of self expression?

The next time someone updates their status on Facebook with a strong opinion on some topic make the conscious decision to look deeper. Take the perspective that they are simply fulfilling that fundamental human need to express themselves to the world. Our purpose then transforms from closely examining the surface level facts that were presented and preparing a well worded rebuttal, to simply allowing  their expression. And maybe, just maybe, getting to know them on a deeper level.

This is why arguments get so intense on social media. You think you are disagreeing with someone’s opinion but what you are actually doing is telling them that they are not allowed to be who they are. That they are not allowed to exist.

No one is going to change their mind in these circumstances. I am convinced that the culture of online debating that occurs on Facebook, Twitter, or even in the comment section on YouTube or news articles are a plague on society. They aren’t helping anyone and are likely causing much harm to everyone involved.

People want to find out who they are, and then express it to the world. We want to express ourselves because then it helps us find people who are just like us. Then by interacting with those like minded individuals we can dive deeper into the experience of who we are. We don’t express ourselves in these mediums to be told that we are full of shit.

Social media is phenomenal in it’s reach, but it is totally misunderstood in it’s true purpose.

Your Soul is in a Constant State of Silent Listening

Listening not only with your ears, but with all of your senses. The dialect of the present moment comes in infinite forms. It is the sound of the trees as they are thrust wildly about by the wind. Its your first sip of coffee as the darkness of the night fades. It’s the warmth of the sun across your face and the smell of bacon as it pops in the frying pan. It’s the feeling of the morning and a brand new day. It’s even in hustle and bustle of rush hour traffic with the symphonic hum of the tires hitting the pavement.

The soul is listening simply because it knows the universe is talking. You could say it has a yearning to learn about every detail of the now moment but without ever reaching the state of “knowing”. To express what you know you must repeat what you have learned and in that action you are bound to leave the present. Knowing is the treasure of the mind, and of the ego.

Forgiveness in the News

Two stories in the Canadian news have touched on the theme of forgiveness lately. The first one is about a very well known, and well liked, local priest named Joe Leclair who was secretly stealing money from his church. He was scheduled to marry me and my wife until this scandal was exposed. He has now served time in jail, was released on good behavior, and given another job with the church in New Brunswick. Check out the story here.

The second story is about those Dalhousie Dentistry students who created a facebook page and made misogynistic comments about their classmates. According to the news stories the students are very remorseful for their actions. The 6 women who were the target of their comments said they didn’t want they offenders segregated from their class and added that they feel safe with the 12 offenders back in the class as they undergo a restorative process. As a result the suspension of these 12 students was lifted and they were re-integrated with their class. Check out that story here.

We forgive because we all do things that need forgiving. There is no perfect human that has not negatively impacted another human in some way. We have all been in the wrong about something. The extent of our mistakes is often linked to a life situation that we have little control over. We did not choose our parents, we did not choose the values they taught us, we did not choose the struggles we may have, we did not choose our genetic characteristics, and we did not choose who are neighbors are.

Saying this is not meant to absolve these instances of unconscious action but to open the door to forgiveness. We all must suffer the consequences of such action. But when you forgive someone you are telling them that they are still worthy of the light that shines within.

Where Do Opinions Come From?

Have you ever had a very strong opinion about something even before finding the exact right words to express it?

It is an odd sensation. You have this very firm stance but no way to explain it. Not to anyone else, and not even to yourself. If someone else around you were to express an opinion on the same subject you would know right away whether or not you agreed with it, but still you can’t verbalize what your own view is. So my primary questions is this:

Where is this unexpressed opinion?

How does it exist at all without the words, or even the thoughts, to back it up? It is just this feeling you have. And there’s almost this yearning for it to be manifested. The longer you go without finding the words the more frustrated you become. You don’t even know what it is and your entire focus is on figuring out how to express it and share it with the world.

And as that opinion remains in existence only as a feeling, where did that feeling itself come from? It could be a reaction to some current event, but without a clear thought to guide the reaction, why did I react at all?

Ultimately, we usually find a way to express ourselves to our satisfaction. And oh, what a wonderful feeling it is! To be released from that burden of our unexpressed view of the world. Finally we can carry-on with our day to day lives. But the one lingering question that remains is:

Why do I cherish my opinions?

I must identify myself to some extent with the quality of my opinion. But in the same breath I must not be satisfied with my own judgment of its worth. Instead, I need to express it and receive that validation externally. That almost sums up a great deal of the blogging world. How much would I really blog if I received zero likes on every post?

It is one of the most persistent flaws in my character that I sometimes place the worthiness of my existence in the hands of others. But it is not so powerful now as I am obviously aware of it … to a certain degree.

Is there a place for opinion in the spiritual journey?

There is a zen saying “Do not seek the truth, just cease to cherish opinions.” It does not say to stop having opinions. Almost every spiritual teacher or guru that I have come across appears to have opinions about various things in the world. The one exception may be the great sage Ramana Maharshi who spent years in absolute silence during which time he produced no opinion of any sort.

However, I do think that while we dwell in this physical realm we need to gather as many opinions as possible and use them as guidance in our journey. There are obviously those whose opinion speaks more directly to our soul and we must listen to them intently. We must trust our feelings. Even that intense feeling that ultimately morphs into a verbalized opinion.

So I must tell myself that my opinion is not who I am, it is where I am. It is where I am mentally, spiritually, and physically. And it must be acknowledged and honored in order to move onto the next phase of my journey.