Tag Archives: Soul

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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Am I Responsible for my Thoughts?

You have heard it said … “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  But I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matt 5:27-28

At first glance it would seem that what Jesus is saying in this famous passage is that a man is responsible for the thought of lust that passes through his head at the sight of a beautiful woman.  Presumably this man is responsible for all his other thoughts as well and with this responsibility comes shame and guilt if the thoughts are wrong.  That is certainly the way I understood the passage growing up.  This is a very shame-based way of viewing the mind and places a heavy and unnecessary burden on impressionable minds.

This is true because the mind is constantly churning forth thoughts.  Anyone who has meditated quickly figures this out.  This is especially true for someone who is new to meditation.  Sitting still with closed eyes, trying to concentrate on a mantra or trying to clear the mind is a very difficult task.  Seemingly random thoughts will sneak in here and there and you will follow them until you remember that you were supposed to be meditating.  This will happen over and over again.  Performing this exercise will reveal how difficult and how much effort it takes not to identify with these thoughts.

Meditation will also reveal the several layers or parts to the mind.  There are at least three.  The first is the part that churns forth ideas without morals.  This is sometimes called the id or the ego or monkey-mind.  Sometimes this is associated with the limbic system or the primitive, reptile brain that seeks pleasure and tries to avoid pain.  This part of the mind lives in the moment and does not think ahead.  The second,  is the part of the mind that chastises the self for the lust, envy, anger that the first part thinks about.  This part is sometimes called the super-ego or conscience.  This is probably associated with the prefrontal cortex or modern brain that can think ahead and moralizes and judges.  Finally, there is the part of the mind that observes the other two parts.  This is sometimes called the true-self, the atman or perhaps the soul.  Most of the time the observer is asleep or identifies itself with one of the other two parts.  Meditation, is a way to keep the observer awake but that is a topic for another blog post.

In the shame-based universe, a person is responsible for their thoughts.  But how can a person bear the responsibility for something he has no control over?  Would it not make more sense to say that a man is not responsible for the initial thought but is responsible for how he reacts to that thought.  After all, it is possible to reject a thought or not act on a thought.  When this happens, this is the observer part of the mind not identifying with the thought churning part of the mind.  Adopting this way of looking at one’s thoughts takes practice in order to believe the truth of it but it does alleviate a great deal of unnecessary guilt and shame.

 

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Filed under Psychology, Shame