Tag Archives: Heaven

Spiritual Isolation

treesI have always been very confident that there is a greater reality that underlies the reality in which our every day life takes place. I suppose this is what the terms “heaven” and “the Kingdom of God” attempt to describe in Christian terminology.

I once had a dream where I experienced this greater reality directly. In my dream I was in a green room lit from some unknown source. There was a low humming sound in the background like a florescent light bulb. What was distinctive about this experience was that it felt “more real” than my every day experience. Along with this feeling of “real” there was also the feeling of recognition or gnosis. It seemed very familiar but not in the deja vu way where I am aware that something is familiar but cannot connect all the dots. In this experience the feeling was simply a timelessness and I felt like I knew with absolute certainty that what I was experiencing was the reality that underlay reality. When I woke up I felt an extreme sense of disappointment and a longing to get back to that ultimate reality. I had the feeling that that place was home and where the important action was happening. It pointed out the fact that in my waking life was an exile hidden by the illusion of normalcy. I had the sense that I was being left out of something that I should be a part of.

Similarly, I remember feeling left out in elementary school when I was not in the smart kid group but felt I should have been.  I was always picked last for kick ball.  I could never get the girls to like me.  People treated me like a loser.  Anytime I put myself out there and tried something new I was humiliated. To defend myself I isolated myself.  This provided some measure of protection but now I know it was me who was leaving myself out.  Because it hurt less than being actively left out by others I kept at it.  But as a result I never got good at those things I isolated myself from.  In a sense I perpetuated my sense of being left out by preventing myself from mastering those skills I would have gained had I put myself out there despite the fear of humiliation. Regretfully, I never had that moment of recognition and struggle to set things right. Now in many ways I am an adult struggling to catch up with everyone else.

I always felt the saddest part of A Christmas Carol was the scene where Ebenezer Scrooge finally shows up to the dinner party hosted by his nephew Fred.  Fred had been inviting him for years to come to dinner on Christmas Day but Scrooge always declined.  When Scrooge finally knocked on the door I imagine he half expected to be rejected but he took a chance and knocked on that door anyway.  I have cried many times watching this scene late at night and perhaps a bit buzzed. There is something about seeing Fred welcome Scrooge with non-judgmental acceptance and genuine happiness that elicits this emotion in me.

There is a connection between these three anecdotes. I am aware that I have been separated from my true self or home. Whether this means my soul, heaven, my true calling in life or all of these things I am not entirely certain. Along with this separation is attached the emotions of longing and sadness. When I see this separation depicted allegorically through literature I experience an emotional release. Emotions (particularly uncontrollable emotions) are always true. That is, they are always there for a reason. Their existence is a clue or a piece of evidence pointing towards a greater truth that what I suspect most people normally experience in their everyday life.

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Faith is Letting Go

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The fifth  item on the list reads:

Faith is letting go.

Faith is not holding on to a dogma, a promise, a future in heaven. Faith is letting go and letting in the ever-unfolding experience of life as it flows presently.

I am not entirely sure about this one. The author seems to be talking about a faith in the present moment in opposition to a faith in the future. I was always taught to think of faith as a placeholder where there is no evidence to support a belief. Faith was always faith in something I cannot see (like God) or faith in some future outcome (like heaven). But the author of this article seems to be advocating for a faith that is centered in the present. It is a faith that what is happening right now is just as it should be and that I am completely whole and sufficient in the present moment. She seems to be arguing that in order to have faith in the present I must first let go of faith in a future outcome.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding her point. But if I am accurately stating her point I guess the question I would ask is are these two types of faith incompatible? Is it possible to have faith in the moment and faith in the future outcome at the same time? I suppose in one respect the two types of faith are incompatible in that when I fixate on the future I am not rooted in the present. On the other hand I think I can still hold both faiths at the same time. In other words, not being rooted in the present does not preclude me from having faith in the present moment. It just means that I am not presently in the flow of the present moment. Faith in the present moment and experiencing the present moment are two separate things. Unless she is arguing that in order to fully experience the present moment I must first have faith in the present moment.

Perhaps I am over thinking this. Perhaps having faith in the present moment is simpler than what I am trying to articulate. It feels like that should be the case anyway. That said, I will continue with my train of thought.

I suppose faith in a future outcome can get in the way of having faith in the present moment and letting go if they conflict in someway. Perhaps the author advocates for the faith that letting go of dogmas will allow the present to unfold in a beneficial way. But she seems to also be saying that faith is the act of letting go itself which seems a little different than my conceptualization of faith. Then again, perhaps she means in order to let go I must first have faith that letting go is a good thing.

Again, I am probably over thinking this one. Certainly cultivating the faith that the present moment is unfolding just as it should be is a grounded state of mind and a powerful spiritual practice. Perhaps I should just leave it at that.

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All Things Must Pass

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The third item on the list reads:

All things must pass.

My first bout of depression in my early 20s was the worst, because I seriously believed it would never end. I thought, Okay, this terrible, listless, sad, anxious state is adulthood… Of course, I turned out to be wrong. The depression lifted (and came back and lifted again, over and over).

My dear friend Liz has a tattoo that reminds her, “This too shall pass.” Depression will pass, but so will joyous times. Our beloved pets and friends and family will pass, and so will we. Rather than hiding from this morbid truth, I now embrace it and live my life more fully because of it.

I am mortal and I will die someday but I still want to achieve things in this life. How do I square these two seemingly opposing notions? I don’t really. I recognize that they are in opposition but I don’t really take the next step (whatever that may be). I ask myself what meaning or value these achievements could possibly have if they are fleeting? The achievements will pass as surely as I will. I want to achieve and be successful partly out of the fear that if I fail to achieve or succeed I will have wasted my life or perhaps I will have lost this game called life. This outcome will be humiliating in a permanent sense and will not pass (that is the fear anyway).

Because there is the hope for things that do not pass such as God and the soul. The notions of a failed life and an un-passing humiliation seems like the concept of hell. The notions of a successful life and an un-passing triumph seems like the concept of heaven. There is something unsettling about looking at heaven and hell in this context however. It seems like the realm of heaven and hell (if they exist at all) are the more important sphere and should not be dependent on the less important earthly sphere.

So maybe it is better if all things truly do pass including myself, my achievements and my humiliations. Perhaps the concept of forgiveness exists in this space. Perhaps without the passing of things there can be no forgiveness.

And ultimately I cannot know if there are things which do not pass until I experience them first hand. In the same respect I cannot be certain that all things truly do pass because I have not experienced everything. All things appear to pass in this material world but do all things truly pass in an ultimate sense? Does it really matter? Is the problem not so much that all things must pass but rather that I cling to things that do pass? If I stand in opposition to the true nature of reality I will always be disappointed. But does it automatically follow that if I embrace reality’s true nature and accept that all things must pass that I will then live my life more fully? Perhaps. At this point I cannot be sure.

 

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Shame and Homeownership

When I graduated college a fraternity brother of mine bought a house.  He said it made more financial sense than renting.  At the time I had no financial means to buy a house but the thought sort of stuck with me. I envied him because he had the financial means to buy a house and I did not.

When my wife and I rented our first apartment in New Orleans the carpet bothered me.  I got the management to put in new carpeting and they raised my rent.  I did not have a vacuum so I bought a cheap one that did not work.  This stressed me out.  I rented steam machines from the grocery store but it never really did a good job.  We bought a couch to replace the futon. With each purchase motivated by shame I felt good at first but when they produced bad results I felt ashamed with my failures.

When we moved to Scranton I felt ashamed and annoyed to live with her father. I felt embarrassed that we were not living on our own as people of our age should be doing.

So we moved to an apartment.  We could not get the couch into the living room.  I felt frustrated that the couch was in the dining room and my wife did not put on the legs.  I felt ashamed when my parents came to visit because they would judge me as a failure.

When we moved to Philadelphia we lived in a high-rise.  I did not like that only bathroom was accessible by going through the bedroom.  When we had guests over I felt ashamed that they had to walk through our bedroom to get to the bathroom.

So we moved to another apartment with two bathrooms.

We were about to have a kid so we bought a row house.  At first it felt good.  Then I felt ashamed because our bathrooms were outdated so we had them redone but the workers ruined the carpet on the stairs going back and forth.  I could not get it clean and there was no room for guests so we bought a bigger house with a bigger mortgage at the height of the housing bubble.  My father helped me out with the down payment.  At first I felt good because I had a house that I was not ashamed of.  But then my wife lost her job  and I lost my job and we could no longer afford to send our kids to the private school they were attending.  Since the schools in our neighborhood were not that great we moved in with my parents where the schools were good.  We tried to sell our house but no one was buying.  So we rented it for four years.  When we finally sold it we sold it at a substantial loss.  I felt ashamed that I had lost all the money we put into that house.

The grass is always greener.  When I get to the other side it feels good for a time but then my shame ego convinces me that where I am is not good anymore. My shame ego will never be satisfied for long and will always try to convince me that what am doing and where I am living is wrong.

Sometimes I think that heaven (God’s House) is the ultimate version of the grass is always greener on the other side.

If the shame ego dies with the physical body then the grass will indeed be greener.

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