Monthly Archives: November 2018

The power of presence

(Originally posted 08/15/13 at Trojan Horse Productions.  Reblogged 05/21/14.)

[Note, 08/15/13: Releasing this now as I will have another post on similar topics in the very near future.]

Wednesday afternoon 07/03/13 I stepped into the shower and said, “OK, what will I think about?” The answer came, “Think about nothing. Give yourself completely to this activity, this experience.”

And at once, for the first time in weeks, I felt the boost that comes from conserving one’s energies, when they are no longer being drained by attention to things distant from here and now and what I myself can do.

This is the power of presence.

[Notes to follow up on in the future:
– Scott Morrison
– Brother Lawrence: silence; feelings
– Forgive us our trespasses
– Take no thought
– The needle’s eye
– Just for today
– Serenity prayer
———
– Be here now
– Wherever you go, there you are
Conspiracy Theorists: America’s Lost Sheep?
Was There a Jesus? If So, What Was He Like?]

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The left hand and the right

Crux: black magic works.  Evil or not, it works.  That tells us something about God.

#AleisterCrowley maintained two altars in his home, one for white magic, one for black.

Continue reading The left hand and the right

Pious frauds

A magic book that fell from the sky

One will not understand this without first reading “Disembodied speech.”

Some years ago, I became convinced that every major world religion has some sort of pious fraud at its core.

Each one also has its martyrs for the cause, and far be it from me to disrespect martyrdom for any cause.

Continue reading Pious frauds

Strange vibes

Doing research for “Pious frauds” (forthcoming 11/24/18), I had to review information about various occult groups and figures.

Reading the Wikipedia article about #DionFortune, I was overcome by positive feelings toward her, as if I would really like her if we were to meet in real life.

A polar opposite is #AleisterCrowley.  Historically, and again this time around, whenever I read anything about him, I get these feelings as if I really, really dislike him.  Now, he did, in fact, do many things I strongly disapprove of.  But should I be catching feelings behind that?  He’s DEAD!!!

Then there’s #AmbroseWorrall.  It has always been the case that, whenever I read anything he’s said, I am instantly predisposed to trust and believe anything he may say.  And he says some things sometimes that can be hard to believe.

Bottom line:  I suspect something’s going on here, more than meets the eye.

Disembodied speech

Dogma: You are to believe this without question.

My housemate attended Empowerment Temple, and idolized its pastor, Jamal Harrison Bryant.  He told me this exchange he heard in the reception line after a service.

Jamal Harrison Bryant told this man, “God told me to tell you [thus-and-so].”  The man said, “I don’t believe that.”  Bryant answered, “If you don’t believe that, then you don’t believe God.”

Hearing this, I was incensed.  This epitomized what we call “disembodied speech.”

Continue reading Disembodied speech

Strategies

Strategies pertain to long-range goals, or a basic posture one means to maintain over a long period of time.  Tactics are plans of what to do from moment to moment.  In this chapter and the next I set forth the strategies and tactics known to me, that I personally use.

Other may know others; others may know better. In my work in therapy, I have been astonished how much is known to psychologists that is not common knowledge — probably because the media would rather keep people at each others’ throats than help them improve their own lives. (Compare, for example, at this writing, the recent spasms of abuse by Senators Feinstein and Grassley in the Brett Kavanaugh matter.)

Seek peace

“Seek and you will find.”

There’s no end of irony in that I write this now not based on what I have accomplished, but based on what I have yet to accomplish.  I myself do not yet do these things.

Seek peace, and you will find it — or create it.  Seek turmoil, and you will find it — or create it.  The Way of Peace entails seeking peace.

One may face dozens of decisions each day, between a path that will maintain or enhance one’s peace of mind, and a path that would destroy it.  It can be as simple as choosing a self-affirming, self-loving act over a self-destructive one.  It can be a choice of attitude towards a project or a relationship that may occupy one’s attention for hours or days.

In “the rooms” of the Twelve Step movement, we speak of changing “people, places and things.”  People, places and things that were associated with one’s former life of addiction, may need to be sacrificed in order to maintain one’s recovery — one’s newfound peace of mind.  Don’t go back to the corners you used to hang on, let alone the bars you used to hang in.  Give up activities that used to accompany your drinking or drugging; find new ones.  Old friends who used to egg you into self-destructive activities, aren’t likely to be friends to your chosen, new and better course in life.

A change of spouse may be necessary.  This is not at all unusual in the recovery movement.  The tantrums and turmoil one used to create, while in one’s active addiction, may have left the spouse so emotionally (and/or physically and/or financially) scarred, she or he cannot cooperate with the new self one seeks to be.  Given something like PTSD, the spouse may be unwilling or unable to forgive, but instead keep reminding the recovering person of her or his past offenses and behavior patterns.  To maintain peace of mind, one may need to get away.  Permanently.

There are influences and thought systems to which I will not voluntarily expose myself; for the sake of maintaining peace of mind:

  • Noir film or literature:  Scenes of torture, betrayal, and evil schemes I would never have thought of on my own, are not consistent with the way I want to think about people.
  • WERQ:  The only radio station one heard anywhere in Barclay, it was everywhere, spewing forth material produced by and for gangsta wannabes.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates:  Currently the darling of the American intelligentsia, he seems to champion exactly that values system most prone to keep the black man bankrupt and in jail.  That’s not what I want for the black man.
  • Critical theory, including critical race theory and critical gender theory:  As I am more oriented towards feelings than ideas, these systems seem to me to be all about deconstructing others’ hopes.  I want to create hope, not deconstruct it.

Choose happiness

Many times, one can simply choose to be happy — just wish it, and one will be there.

More often, one faces choices among different courses of action or ways to look at things — some of which are more likely than others to let one feel happy, or to bring happy results.  It is wise to choose the course of action, or the point of view, most likely to leave you feeling happy.  Even in very little things, in minor things, it matters.

Circa 1985, Frank Minirth and Paul Meier produced the landmark Happiness is a Choice.

It is chock full of strategies and tactics, and even exercises, to help one learn to consistently choose happiness.  I never read it myself, because it’s written from a perspective of Biblical inerrancy, which was sure to offend me again and again.  But it is revolutionary.

Look on the bright side

Look at opportunities, not obstacles.

Stumbling blocks can become stepping stones.

Almost every cloud has a silver lining somewhere.

The novel Pollyanna told the story of a relentlessly optimistic girl.  Years ago, I was fearful of becoming “pollyanna” — relentlessly optimistic — because I supposed it involved denying that the cloud exists, denying that bad things ever happen.  In fact, it involves instead a radical acceptance that bad things do happen, and a choice to move through, rather than dwell in, the grief and get on with life.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.
— Winston Churchill

Opportunities for grief are and always will be available.  There will always be a reason to feel sad or angry.  The question is how often, how much and how long one will choose to feel that way.

Related: Life in the outer darkness

Look on the bright side.

Rodgers and Hammerstein are about the last place I’d look for wisdom.  The song, “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music, is very wise:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
* * *
When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

It works.  And in almost any situation, replacing bad feelings with good ones is a good thin in itself.  It’s worth it.  It leaves one in a better position to deal with the grief one can’t help but feel, and to move on, making positive decisions for oneself and one’s neighbors.

Related: I will not be disappointed.

Sublimate

In Silentium Altum, Amrose Worrall states:

Thought control starts with selective thinking.  If there is a thought that should be avoided, do not entertain it.  Some have tried to destroy thoughts by fighting them.  This is not a success­ful method.  The way to overcome unwanted thought is to think its opposite.  In this way hope replaces despair, confidence re­places fear, success takes the place of failure and faith takes the place of doubt.

What is an opposite thought?

Worrall was an engineer by trade, and so oriented more towards thoughts and ideas than I am.  I am more oriented towards emotions and feelings.  Note that the changes speaks of — hope replaces despair, confidence replaces fear, faith replaces doubt — are actually changes of feelings, not thoughts.

Sublimation is the change of one feeling into another, and we each have the right and ability to change one’s own feelings any way one likes.  Here is an example of what I actually call “incineration;” from the post, “Some prayer exercises:”

In silence, the normal way to deal with a negative thought or feeling is to just let it leave your experience, like a stray piece of paper on the sidewalk that is blown away from you by the wind.

From time to time, however, some mass of bad feelings may come that seems like it just won’t go away, no matter what you do.  A visualization like this one can be useful in such a situation.

Visualize a pile of firewood.  As a child colors in the spaces in a coloring book, fill up this firewood with all the bad feelings.  Pour the bad feelings into it.  Add more firewood to the pile until you have enough.  Let the images become as vivid as you can make them.  Feel the weight of new logs in your arms as you carry them toward the pile.  Pick up some of the pieces, feel how hard they are, how heavy they are.  Tap one piece against another, and hear the thunk, thunk as you do so.

Then set the thing on fire.

Watch it burn.  All the bad feelings that you poured into it are now there, rather than in you; and the fire is changing all that material into light, warmth, and heat — which you can choose to be positive feelings, optimism, comfort, love and joy.

Watch it until the firewood is all consumed.  Then the bad feelings will be gone.

One can use whatever before-and-after images one likes, “from” whatever ugly image may symbolize one’s ugly feelings, “to” whatever lovely image may correspond to one’s desires; with the substance involved changing — substantially — as one makes the change.

One who practices Presence becomes able to do all this without having to enter silence and without having to imagine.

Tactics

Take things in stride

From a previous post:

A runner’s “stride” has two factors.  First is the distance between steps — from where the toe of one foot hits the ground on one step, to where the toe of the other foot hits the ground on the next step.  The second factor is the number of steps she or he takes per minute.  Ideally, both factors are constant, so that the runner maintains a steady speed.

Sometimes an obstacle or interruption may come up in the runner’s path, that he or she will step in or on unless some adjustments are made.  Could be a hole in the ground or a pile of doo-doo.  In this case, the runner may shorten or lengthen one step in order to avoid stepping on the thing, and correspondingly lengthen or shorten the next step, so that overall her or his speed doesn’t change.  This is “taking things in stride.”  One can do the same with the obstacles or interruptions of life.

The afternoon of Tuesday, June 12, became a comedy of “What else can possibly go wrong?”

My Medicaid had got cut off because they required proof of income, and the only proofs I thought I had weren’t acceptable.  I dreaded accessing their website because it’s impossible to navigate and never gives me enough information.  I dreaded phoning them, because the person’s voice is always so faint on the other end of the line, I can’t hear the person.  I found out that various centers are available where one can get in-person help.  I found one nearby.  They operate by appointment only.

So, to make that phone call, I went in the big plastic grocery bag where I keep about half my things, to the place where I normally keep my phone (off, to save battery).  It wasn’t there.

I had carelessly left it on top of the table earlier in the day, and a specific passerby took it.

So I had to go replace it, in order to make that phone call.

Online I found a T-Mobile store at Lombard and Light Streets, and in due course I went there.  They had a $75 phone on display, but the clerk told me it wasn’t in stock; that one was for display only.  He said the other store, at Harborplace, had it in stock.

Half a mile distant.  So I went there.  The manager said the $75 phone wasn’t in stock, but she could give me a special deal on a different one for $100.  So I took that.

By the time she finished what she had to do, it had become pretty urgent that I get back to the shelter, if I was to get a bottom bunk (preferred) or any bunk whatsoever — and not get turned away and have to shell out for a hotel room for the night.

Something else suddenly became more urgent, however:  I needed to sit down in the bathroom.

So I finished at the store, asked where was the nearest men’s room, go did the necessary there (very messy), and set my sights on a fast trip to the shelter.

When the strap on my plastic bag broke.

Fortunately, I had an identical bag rolled up in my backpack, and was able to put all my things into that.

And, as it happens, wound up getting a bottom bunk.

Hours later, though physically worn out, I found myself in high spirits — because I had taken things in stride.

Related:  Previous post, same title:  Take things in stride

Keep the thought, change the feeling

One may find one’s mind focused on an idea, person or situation, and one’s feelings toward that focus untoward.  The practical needs of the moment may mean one can’t just “get your mind off it,” but one can possibly choose more desirable feelings.

One possible option sometimes is “flipping.”  If I find I’ve just cursed someone, I can begin thinking and feeling the exact opposite, thinking, “God bless him,” and sending the person love, light and prayers.  Thus usually entails a lot of chagrin for the sin I committed to start with.

Other times, the change — sublimation — may take more time and effort.

Keep the feeling, change the thought

Feelings one may find objectionable — may not necessarily have to be so.  It is hard for me to discuss or name some of the feelings involved, since for most of my life I never voluntarily let myself feel them, and I have only lately become willing to manage these limbs of my soul.

Feeling mean, being mean; being or wanting to be “hard;” “getting your game face on;” being aggressive: these are some of the feelings in question.  To me, determination feels a lot like anger.  But these feelings have their God-given uses, when one faces hard physical exertion or has to overcome obstacles.  One like me, who wants to rise out of poverty, faces a ton of hard work and many obstacles to overcome.  So I’m coming to accept, even welcome such feelings — and when they come, set my mind on situations where they may be useful.  One example is to see myself climbing the ladder, up out from the pit of poverty, to the level ground of the social mainstream.  It’s hard, and it’s OK to feel hard.

A very common situation: untoward sexual lusts.  If one is in a presumptively exclusive relationship, lusts directed towards another need not be denied, repressed or sublimated, but instead merely redirected towards one’s partner.  For single women and men, attraction to an inappropriate person can be redirected towards one or more appropriate persons — even if the object of one’s fantasy can only be purely imaginary.

Soul farts

It took me years to accept that these do, in fact, occur, and that they are what they are.

Unpleasant feelings may come out of nowhere, not in response to any event, and hang on for minutes or hours, unable to be sublimated.

Just as the physical body produces various wastes, including gaseous farts; it stands to reason that the soul also produces spiritual (emotional) wastes, including farts of its own.

One handles a soul fart the same as a bodily fart: just let it go, though the “smell” may inescapably abide for a while.

In the midst of a soul fart, it’s essential to know that this has no rational basis and is not in response to any event.  One needs to step back from one’s feelings — put in the clutch, so to speak — and determine not to take anything too seriously, anything anyone says, anything that may happen.  Hold off on any major decisions until after the gas passes, when one will have better judgment.

The Itch

The most troublesome soul fart for me has been what I call “the Itch:” the desire for turmoil, the desire to find (or create) trouble, to be angry, even to possibly hurt others, and so on.  I am coming more and more to accept it as a soul fart, and to stop beating myself up just because it happens.  The chapter “About organized religion” will deal at length with a man who has an especially bad case of it; the possible karmic bases; and what he must do to be free.

 

 

An examination of the Sermon on the Mount

In the beginning, I claimed that all Jesus’ teachings have the goal of enabling a person to attain and maintain a state I said he called “the Kingdom,” which I call peace of mind; and that the principal means thereto is the practice of presence, keeping one’s attention on the here and now and on what one, oneself, can do.

The time has come to test that thesis. Continue reading An examination of the Sermon on the Mount

Two (or more) views of the Kingdom

The term “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” meant different things to different people in New Testament times.  What it meant to Jesus appears to me to be different from what it meant to the early church, the Gospel writers, and even the Twelve.

On the one hand, I will set forth below what it meant to everyone but Jesus.  On the other hand, if the reader is content to accept what I just said without proof, the reader may be happiest to skip the rest of this chapter, and the next, and instead go straight to “Jesus’ words about ‘the Kingdom‘”.  Some of this stuff gets really technical.

Continue reading Two (or more) views of the Kingdom