Tag Archives: True Self

What Part of Me is Me?

FlowerWe start out thinking that all our actions and ideas are our own. Over time, however, this belief begins to erode under a mountain of evidence about which it becomes increasingly difficult to remain in a state of denial.

The best example I can give to illustrate this point is the remnants of shame a I feel on a daily basis. When I was young I thought this shame was a defective part of my personality. I had a low self esteem and this was essentially my fault because I felt that I am responsible for my thoughts and feelings. This belief is reinforced by the general attitudes of society and by the beliefs propagated by social institutions. This system seems to make sense on the surface but the more it is probed the less convincing it becomes. At a certain point in my life I came to realize that the reason I felt shame was because my parents felt that shame and I adopted on a very basic and unconscious level their energy. They in turn adopted this energy from their parents just as I have to some extent passed this energy down to my own children. But if this energy has been passed around from generation to generation I cannot very well say that this energy is me. The best I can say is that I am a vessel who is currently holding that energy. So then, if these feelings are not me (even though most of the time I feel like they are) what part of me is actually me?

Another connected example is addiction. When a person is addicted the addiction will think for the person who is addicted. The person believes or feels these thoughts to be his own but in reality it is the parasitic addiction generating these thoughts in order to feed itself. Like the energy of shame the pull of addiction is a foreign entity disguising itself to its host as the host himself. But despite the fact that at times the feeling that the addiction is the host can be very convincing, it is not the host.

I suppose it is reasonable to ask if there even is a me in the first place? In other words am “I” merely a vessel who thinks I am what other forces have poured into me? If true, then everyone else is also a vessel who thinks he or she is what other people (other vessels) poured into them. In other words most people in this world are walking around and interacting with each other under the illusion that they are something they are not.

But surely the vessel of self has some intrinsic qualities unto itself. For example, it has the ability to hold thoughts and feelings, it has the ability to think on its own to some extent, and it has the ability to believe certain things are true (whether or not they happen to be true). It then becomes a question of ratios. How much of me is composed of my intrinsic qualities and how much me is composed of these foreign elements which have been put into me? There is no way to measure this but it seems to me that the vast majority of what I consider to me is not really me.

One consequence of this realization is its twin realization that most of the crimes my shame accuses me of are not really my (i.e., my true self’s) fault. This is dangerous territory because it undermines our whole system of criminal justice and morality. Perhaps it is easier from a societal standpoint to continue on with the belief that all these alien, parasite thoughts are our own and our responsibility. The alternative seems highly susceptible to the malfeasance of bad actors.

The last thought on this subject I have is that meditation seems to be the means by which a person can get in touch with the real self. The simple technique of watching the thoughts swimming about in the mind and returning the mind to center when one realizes that he as identified with these thoughts brings about a separation from these thought. Whatever is left behind is the true self.

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The Meaning of Life and the Three Ways the Ego Folds in upon Itself

TreesWhat is the meaning of life?

It seems to me that this is a question the ego asks out of a desire to affix a label upon and categorize existence. This desire is rooted in the survival instinct. That is, in order to survive in the material world the ego must make sense of it. It makes sense of the world in part, by overlaying it with a complex system of labels and categories. In a sense the ego is putting creation in its place in order to tame it and survive within it. When the ego asks the question “what is the meaning of life?” it is categorizing life as something that must have a meaning. It then seeks for this illusive meaning with the goal of slaying the dragon by definitively labeling and categorizing life once and for all. This of course is probably an unattainable goal but this goes unrecognized by the ego.

The ego is obviously not comfortable with the notion that life might have no meaning. The fact that a meaning is not immediately forthcoming from life suggests that this is a possibility. But the ego is unwilling to consider this and so it wants put life in its place rather than letting life abide in the place it is already in. In truth, the ego has no power to put life in its place. All labels and categorizations are illusions in this sense. Because the ego is largely ignorant and unaware of its own motivations these labels are illusions it uses to trick itself. This is the first way in which the ego folds in upon itself.

I suspect that to ask the question “What is the meaning of life?” is really to ask “Am I meaningful?” By recognizing this I can see the desperate yearning of the ego to survive and reach immortality. I further suspect the ego (on some level) knows that it is mortal but does not want to admit this. The ego wants to survive above all things. Ultimately this is irrational because nothing of the material world survives in the material world forever. And the prospect of mortality brings with it the possibility of meaninglessness. But irrationality and dishonesty are the essence of the ego and so the ego goes on denying its own mortality and inventing meaning.

When I think about it I see two sides to the ego. There is the self-serving side and there is the judgmental side. When self-serving side acts through greed and indulgence it will inevitably feel shame. This is the work of the judgmental side of the ego. The judgmental side judges the self-serving side causing the feeling of shame. This shame must be then passed onto another person by judging them. In this way I can see that the ego and shame are intimately intertwined. This act of self-judgment is second way the ego folds in on itself.

The only way past the ego is through non-judgmental awareness. When one becomes aware of the ego he can observe it, separate from it and by doing so stop unconsciously doing its bidding. In this way when one feels the need to ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” he can be aware that it is really his ego who is asking this question. He can then separate from his ego and no longer require an answer to this question. In this sense when one stops looking for the meaning in life he becomes liberated because he is abiding in his true self or spirit which is intimately intertwined with God.

There is, however, a trap here. When one starts to become aware of the ego he may then praise himself for avoiding the ego or judge himself when acts unconsciously and does the ego’s bidding. Both this praise and judgment are also the work of the ego. It is ironic that it serves the ego’s purpose to punish the self for following the will of the ego. This is the third way in which the ego folds in on itself. It makes sense when viewed through the lens of survival. The ego wants to survive and be in control. It wants to steer the ship of self. One way it takes control is through shame. Shame is punishment and atonement for breaking the rules of life. These rules of life are created by the ego through all the labels and categories it affixes to life. In a sense they are the illusory meaning of life the ego has given to life and for which it unconsciously seeks.

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The Prodigal Son: A Tale of Ego and Spirit

prodigalIt seems very clear to me that one way to interpret the parable of the prodigal son is as an allegory about the ego and spirit. The parable itself is found in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 15 verses 11 to 32. In this blog post I will analyze the parable line by line within this context.

11 … A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

The assertion “Give me what is mine” is obviously very ego oriented. The younger son in this parable represents this aspect of the ego who is always interested in self-advancement, self-aggrandizement and its position or status relative to others. Notice how the father in the parable (who represents the spirit or the true self) readily gives the ego dominated son what he asks for without question. This is the nature of the spirit who acts with compassion, whole heartedly and without ulterior motives.

13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Another quality of the ego is that it seeks autonomy from the spirit. In verse 13 we see the ego as represented by the younger son setting out on his quest for autonomy by abandoning the spirit who is represented by his father in this parable. When the ego is free from the spirit it tends to engage in self-annihilating behavior be it addiction, over indulgence, recklessness and racism to name a few. This is what the son proceeds to do.

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

But when the ego is free to follow this path it always leads to a negative place because to follow the ego is to abandon the spirit which is the true self. Truth cannot be ignored indefinitely and reality will always catch up with the ego eventually. In verse 17 the parable talks about the prodigal son “[coming] to himself” which is to say he momentarily freed himself from his ego domination and returned to his spirit or true self which gave him a clarity of mind and brought him back to reality.

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

By “coming to himself” he recognizes the error of his ways, repents and then feels shame. As is often the case, the ego will attempt to reassert itself once a person tries to shake it off. It does this through its most powerful and effective weapon; shame. Seeing that the son can no longer sustain the life of riotous living the ego hijacks his plan to make amends with his father. We see this in the way the ego makes plans and schemes and anticipates how his father will react.

20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Notice how the son’s father (his spirit and true self) saw him from a far way off. The spirit is always watching because it is always there. This points out the fact that even though the ego can abandon the spirit, the spirit is not capable of abandoning the ego or the aspect of the self that has been misguided by the ego. Notice also how the son begins to recite his premeditated speech but his father cuts him off displaying how the spirit sees through the works of the ego and has no use for them. All that matters is that the once ego dominated persona is now reunited with its true self and this is a cause for celebration.

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

The elder son represents another aspect of the ego. This is the judgmental, self righteous aspect that takes pleasure in judging others and takes personal offense when the rules of the broader civilization are violated. This self righteous ego takes cover in these “rules of civilization” because they give it license to judge other people without shame. Notice also how the elder brother complains that he has “slaved” for his father. In other words he did not work for his father freely but did so under protest and begrudgingly. This once more demonstrates how the ego never acts whole heartedly but always with ulterior motives and under false pretense. It is fundamentally dishonest which makes sense because it is not aligned with the true self.

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

The ego creates a false world which may work for a time but always runs afoul of reality because it can only exist in reality because reality is all there is in which to exist. This is why the ego can abandon the spirit but the spirit can never abandon the ego. In actuality the abandonment of the spirit is a self-delusion of the ego. It has to be a delusion because it is not in accordance with reality. But as the father in the parable is ready to give and forgive so is the spirit and the true self. As in the parable when we come to ourselves and reunite with the father it is always a cause for celebration.

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Why I Blog

starRecently an angry “neighbor” accused me of blogging for “validation.” Implicit in this accusation (I think) is the idea that seeking validation from other people is somehow a bad quality. I am guessing this angry individual sees it as a form of weakness which is deserving of shame. As is the nature of my relationship with this angry person, his attacks are annoying at first but ultimately serve as a view into his mindset which is both unaware and shame based. This view then gives me material to write about in this blog.

All this interplay has raised the question, why do I blog in the first place? Inspired by the writings of James Altucher, I wrote down a list of ten reasons why I blog:

  1. I like to think that the first and most important reason why I blog is to exercise my writing muscle. That is, the more I write the better I get at writing much the same way that the more a body builder lifts weights the more muscle mass he will develop. From one perspective this motivation could be seen as ego based if the desire to improve is really a desire to look good in the eyes of others as opposed to a love of the craft. I think, however, awareness of this possibility is enough to counteract this ego based tendency for the most part.
  2. I must admit that my angry neighbor’s “validation” accusation is at least partly correct in that I blog because I do other enjoy people reading and reacting to my work. This is a form of validation and to an extent is a form of ego gratification. However, validation and ego gratification are not per se bad things. I do, however, think that they need to be kept in check through awareness and not be allowed to become the primary motivation because that becomes an impediment to spiritual growth.
  3. Practically speaking I blog because my blog can then be used as a resume when people want to see a sample of my writing. I have landed a few paid writing gigs using my blog and e-books as examples of my work.
  4. I blog because I simply enjoy the act of being creative. In my estimation, to enjoy doing something (with the exception of indulging in addictive behavior) for its own sake is an expression of the true self. By definition this is not the work of the ego.
  5. I blog because it has become a habit. I have a goal of writing one blog post every weekend. It has gotten to the point where I just naturally sit down at my keyboard on Saturday or Sunday mornings. At this point if I do not do this I feel like I have something important left undone.
  6. I blog because I feel I have something to say that I think would be helpful to other people who are experiencing situations similar to situations I have experienced. Readers of my blog will know that I write a lot about the topic of shame. In my life I have experienced and to some degree continue to experience an epic journey through this issue. I feel that I have accumulated some insight along the way and I find it meaningful to teach people what I have learned.
  7. I blog because a part of me enjoys baiting people. I am not particularly proud of this motivation. Obviously this part of me that enjoys baiting (i.e., making other people angry) is my ego. The last few months I have spent quite a bit of time writing blog posts at least partially intended to get a response out of my angry neighbor. Again, I am not proud of this motivation but it would be dishonest for me to deny its existence.
  8. By contrast, I blog also because I also enjoy honest and civil discussion with people where topics can be thoroughly explored and developed. I would say that the interactions with my angry neighbor although heated at times also served to explore why he believed the things he believed. I found that aspect of our interaction to be informative and interesting.
  9. I blog because I enjoy being a part of the community of bloggers that exists on the internet. Truthfully, I have not really gotten too deep into this world but I do find it interesting to explore it and to be involved in it from time to time.
  10. Finally, I blog because I experience a pleasant sense of accomplishment when I publish a completed piece of work. I suppose this is related to the “validation” my angry neighbor accused me of being motivated by. I would point out, however, that although some of this accomplishment is ego gratifying, much of it has to do with the fact that the work itself has become a new thing that did not exist before. True, I feel satisfaction that I had a role to play in this process. But I also feel satisfaction for the created thing itself. It is good to create as God himself acknowledged in Genesis.

That (in a nutshell) is why I blog.

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Looking Back on New Years Resolutions

NYEIt is interesting to see how much I can change in one year. Last year I wrote a piece about making New Years resolutions. It sort of makes me cringe to read it now. At the time I wrote it I was very interested in dissecting and deconstruction the emotion of shame in an effort to better understand it and by doing so, liberate myself from it. The fact that reading this post now makes me cringe (which is a physical reaction to shame) whereas I did not cringe (presumably) when I first wrote and published the piece suggests that I am indeed now in a different place psychologically. I am aware that imbedded in my cringe is a judgment of my former self. There is a sense that I am now better informed or that I have matured and am now in the position to look down upon this former me. On the other hand, I do not think that me judging my former self is any better than me judging another person. It is essentially criticism and comes from a negative and egocentric place that uses criticism of the other to make myself feel superior.

In that post, my former self began:

So you have decided to make a New Years Resolution and you feel ashamed for various reasons a good deal of the time. Here is what I recommend based upon my life experience dealing with shame issues.

Reading the phrase “[s]o you have decided to make a New Years Resolution…” makes me feel embarrassed. It has an amateurish quality to it. Perhaps this suggests that I have matured as a writer. The embarrassment comes in part from my current self judging my former self but it also comes from me assuming how other people reading this paragraph might have read it and thought that I was acting like a douchebag. This presumes these readers had the maturity then that I have now which may or may not be the case. On the other hand, I am aware that my writing last year comes from a place of compassion for other people who might be dealing with the same shame issues I had dealt with. The fact that I am now judging my former self in this way suggests that maybe I have regressed in terms of my relationship with shame. I am not sure about that because I feel pretty good about myself right now.

My former self continued:

First of all, do not make a New Years Resolution out of a sense of guilt. Only make New Years Resolutions for your own benefit. Of course, your shame ego will tell you this way of thinking is selfish and something to feel ashamed about. Remember that the shame ego is the same thing that will convince you that maintaining the resolution you made out of guilt is too difficult to keep up and then once you stop maintaining the resolution will then tell you that you are weak for giving it up. Of course this requires awareness of when your shame ego is sabotaging your efforts and looking for reasons to feel ashamed (but that is a topic for another blog post).

What I was referring to with the term “shame ego” is that negative, critical, internal voice that probably most people experience to one degree or another. I believe this voice is the result of bad programing and is passed down from generation to generation through the line of fathers. It results from the combination of shame and misplaced loyalty. A person is shamed by his parents. Because they are his parents he must internalize this feeling of shame or else he will be disloyal to them. Being disloyal in turn brings on more shame. When this person becomes a parent, if he remains unaware and has not achieved autonomy from this dynamic, he will shame his children in the same manner because it feels good to his ego which is really in charge. This dysfunctional ego is the source of shame, judgment, jealousy, racism and all the other sins.

Making a New Years resolution seems to me to be an attempt to strive towards some perfected version of the self. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what the motivation behind this striving is. If the striving comes from a whole hearted place, an honest and loving place then it is good. If it comes from an egocentric, shameful, judgmental place then it will always be dysfunctional and will end in harming the self and others. It is ultimately doomed to failure.

My former self continued:

I recommend your resolution should either be to stop performing some self-destructive behavior or to take up a behavior that improves yourself. It should be something you are capable of doing with your whole heart. That is, it should be something you want to do. People with well-developed shame egos have a hard time knowing what they truly want because they have bonded to the message that what they want is wrong.

I think this last point is important. I believe a person cannot be successful in life if he is incapable of articulating what he wants. If he believes what he truly wants is wrong he will sabotage his efforts to achieve this secret goal. If he pursues goals that are not in line with what he truly wants he will not be satisfied when he has achieved them. Shame teaches a person that his desires and needs are selfish and wrong and to the extent he is aware of his true desires he should feel shame. So he buries them and they remain unconscious. The only entity this dynamic serves is the ego which revels in this morass like a pig in its own excrement.

My former self continued:

A good way to tell if something is what you want is to pay attention to how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel good then it is (most likely) good and something you like doing. If it does not make you feel good then it is (most likely) not good and something you do not like doing. Be careful. Some things feel good in the short-term but are destructive in the long-term, like addictions. Addictions are another trap of the shame ego. At first addictions seem like an escape from the shame ego’s constant criticism. That of course feels good. But eventually the addiction becomes self-destructive and gives the shame ego another reason to criticize you.

I would imagine that this last paragraph might irk a person who self identifies as conservative. Perhaps I should clarify that feeling good is an indicator that one is acting in accordance with his true purpose or indeed God’s will. It has been my experience that true purpose is almost never in accordance with the ego and acting in accordance with the ego gives rise to anger, resentment, jealousy, racism and hate.

I believe most people make New Years resolutions because they find themselves lacking and they want to improve. A person’s motivation to improve, his plan to improve and his execution of that plan can always run afoul of the wants and needs of his true self. To right the course of the ship of self, I think it is always a good thing to increase awareness of the self and the ego’s attempts to undermine the self. Awareness of the ego brings about a separation from the ego. In a sense the self becomes autonomous from the ego thus allowing it to act more fully in accordance with its true purpose.

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Ego and Forgiveness

Your ego is the source of your pride and shame. All the shitty things you do that you regret later on is the fault of the ego. Your ego came into being because you encountered the pride and shame of others and internalized this energy under the misconception that internalizing these qualities would protect you and help you survive in a dangerous world. The world is dangerous because it is filled with people governed by the whims of their egos. So you adopted an ego too. With an ego you would fit in with everyone else. With an ego you could protect yourself by lashing out when threatened and always being on guard for threats that might materialize. Other people would encounter the energy of your ego and develop egos of their own. And so the over all system self-propagated like a virus infecting bodies and spreading to other bodies.

In a sense your ego is a blessing because you do not need to feel responsible for those crimes you committed while your ego drove the ship of self. It is your ego that is to blame and your ego is not yourself. It is something other than your true self. Therefore you may forgive yourself for these things you feel shitty about. More accurately, there is nothing to forgive. You had falsely accused yourself of these crimes your ego really committed. Your ego set you up.

But isn’t this argument just a convenient way to get yourself off the hook and avoid taking responsibility for your own actions? Recognize it is your ego who is asking this question. Your ego does not want you to recognize that your ego is not really part of your true self. When you do not recognize this separation your ego can take control and steer the ship. When you do not recognize this you take the blame for your ego’s actions and your ego gets off scott free. In a sense, your ego hides itself within yourself by convincing you it is yourself.

But what about the victims of the crimes committed by your ego? Are they to take comfort in the fact that it was not your true self who wronged them but rather it is your ego who is the true culprit? Of course not. You may differentiate between your ego and your true self but other people do not do this. To them you will always be the sum of all your actions. It is your responsibility to separate yourself from your ego. In that sense you are responsible for your ego’s actions. But you cannot separate yourself from your ego without first realizing your ego is in fact separate. You cannot be blamed for not knowing what you do not know.

Even the concept of blame and the concept that there must be someone who should be blamed is an ego invented concept. Your ego wants to blame others to shift the blame from itself. And so it blames others. And so it blames you and you feel shitty for the things you have done.

You may forgive yourself. It is not your fault.

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Playing Scales on Guitar as Meditation

I have been practicing scales on guitar as a meditation technique for the past few weeks. For twenty minutes a day I typically play one scale over and over up and down the neck of the guitar. My intention is to simply play the scale as best I can. Of course my ego pops in from time to time with thoughts of how my technique will improve if I keep doing this every day. I have, in fact noticed improvement in my technique and my ego is always quick to take the credit. Sometimes my ego dwells on the question of whether this practice ultimately benefits me in any way. My ego tells me I am bored and suggests new ways to liven things up, typically by encouraging me to play other scales or licks. My ego does not seem to want me to be free to do something pointless for twenty minutes a day. It seems my ego thinks everything I do must serve a purpose and create further improvement towards some future goal. My ego keeps checking the clock to see how much time remains and worries that I will not have the endurance to stick it out for the full twenty minutes. My ego judges me when I make a mistake and (illogically) becomes frustrated when I give in to my ego’s distractions. When there are outside distractions in the form of noises or people coming in and out of the room. My ego wants to become angry or irritated.

In a way, this practice is a trap I set for my ego to get it to come out from hiding so that I can observe it in action and maintain awareness of it. But I also intend to lose myself in the playing. This can only happen when my ego recedes into the background. I do not think my ego recedes through any effort on my part except to focus my attention on what I am doing. When this happens I feel I abide in my true self and there is a sense of peace and release. Perhaps my true self is allowed to emerge in this environment. Of course my ego tries to make the emergence of my true self a goal as well but when this happens I simply try to non judgmentally observe my ego in this effort. If distractions arise that is simply my experience of what is happening. I do not need the world to be a certain way. I can let it be what it is. That requires less (or no) effort. If distractions do not arise that is fine as well.

My ego wants me to think about the future consequences or comparisons with my past or future self. My ego wants me to evaluate my performance. Following my ego (although easy in the short term) ultimately drains my energy. In the face of this I simply try my best for twenty minutes and concentrate on playing the scale. There is no goal other than that.

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The Ego: Shame, Rinse, Repeat

I think of the ego as a special program that runs in the physical mind of the “reality spacesuit” our true self wears in order to live and make its way within material reality. This reality space suit consists of both the physical body and mind. This physical mind thinks for itself (analogous to a computer) independent of the true self. Unless practiced, the true self has difficulty distinguishing between its own thoughts and the thoughts of the physical mind. The ego (as I said) is a special program running in the computer-like physical mind and was originally a tool designed for self-protection. Unfortunately, like HAL in Clarke’s / Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the ego became a tool that superseded its usefulness.

There is a point in childhood when a person abandons his true self ceding control of the physical mind to the ego. The child does this strategizing that the ego will provide greater protection from the aggressive forces of physical reality. At some point the young adult realizes that the protection the ego offered was illusory or came with too high a price. Much of adult life then becomes an effort to reclaiming his true self back from the ego (perhaps analogous to the astronaut Dave shutting down HAL in 2001). This process always begins with the realization of the ego’s true nature. Along with this realization comes the awareness of how deceptive the ego can be, how it operates through shame (and pride), and how ultimately self-defeating its methods truly are. The most important realization in this process is that the ego’s thought are not the true self’s thoughts.

One stumbling block standing in the way of this realization is loyalty. Because the ego dominated / shame based mind feels the need to remain loyal to the forces that keep it imprisoned it takes a supreme amount of effort for it to cast this loyalty aside. To do so feels immoral, irresponsible, undisciplined, selfish and brings about more shame. This usually works to create and repeat a cycle of lashing out and then feeling remorseful. Within this cycle the physical mind does not progress past its egoic confines. The cycle itself is the prison the ego creates for the true self and is the mechanism by which the ego maintains control. This is not to say that loyalty is a bad quality, indeed I believe it is good. However, the ego uses loyalty as a means of control and manipulation of its host mind.

Finally, the ego is self replicating. It performs this function through shame. By being shamed, a person feels the need to protect himself and thus creates his own ego (or perhaps cedes control of his physical mind to the ego). Then, having been shamed himself, the ego convinces him that the only way to feel better about himself is to seek out other people to shame. Once he does this new egos are then spawned in the shaming victims’ physical minds and the process repeats itself over and over.

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Where do ideas come from?

I have recently committed myself to following James Altucher’s Daily Practice. One aspect of the Daily Practice as Altucher describes it is to write down ten ideas a day. The idea behind this mental practice is that when I “exercise my idea muscle” (to coin a term employed by Altucher) I become better at generating ideas. Altucher opines that being able to come up with good ideas is a key to success. If you have not already I highly recommend listening to Altucher’s podcast or reading his book “Choose Yourself” where he discusses this concept in greater detail.

When I sit down to write my ten ideas I find that with any given topic six ideas come to me relatively easily but the last four require effort. It is at this moment that the brain begins to sweat (to coin another term employed by Altucher). When the brain sweats I imagine this is the point at which it is developing new neural pathways. I further imagine that these new neural pathways in turn allow the brain to become more receptive to ideas.

As far as I can tell the ideas themselves seem to generate spontaneously. This gives rise to the question where do ideas come from.  It seems reasonable that much of idea generation comes from memories that are linked to present experience and trains of thought. But there definitely appears to be a large chunk of ideas that are truly inspired. These truly inspired ideas are generated either internally from some subconscious location or externally from some source of which I am not aware.

My true self (as opposed to my ego) seems to play a role. As far as I can tell my true self is generally capable of two actions; observation and intention. It is intention that seems to play a role in the actual generation of ideas. That is, my true self can intend to be more receptive to ideas. I imagine that this intent through neuroplasticity alters the neural pathways such that the brain becomes more receptive to idea generation. Wherever the ideas come from, intending to be more receptive to ideas seems to allow the ideas to arrive into consciousness with greater efficiency.

I suppose it is possible that ideas come from my true self in such a way that escapes the awareness of my conscious mind. But the ideas seem to appear out of no where. Despite this, I seem to want to take credit for the ideas I generate. I think this applies to most people as there is a whole field of law (intellectual property) developed to protect people’s right to possess the ideas they come up with. Perhaps what people are actually taking credit for is their brains’ receptiveness to idea generation. This is a valuable skill in itself as James Altucher frequently attests.

Where do ideas actually come from? This question seeks to define one of those things where I don’t know how it works but it really doesn’t matter because I can get it to work without knowing how it works. I suppose I should affix a label on that concept.

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In meditation you can’t always get what you want.

Sometimes when I meditate and I do not achieve the levels of peace and centeredness that I desire. I expect to not get what I want all the time in waking life. I want to more interesting job. I want more money. I want to do more interesting things in my free time. But I meditate (at least I think this is in part why I think I meditate) so that I can take refuge from the disappointment of waking life. When I do not find this refuge there is the sense that I have failed or am wasting my time.

The obvious solution to this problem is to treat the desire and disappointment as just another thought or feeling and  that when they pop into my consciousness I observe them non-judgmentally and return my mind center. But returning my mind to center does not necessarily always bring me happiness or satisfaction the way I want it to.

I can treat this as a question of discipline. To maintain a meditative practice takes effort and sometimes it is difficult. Dissatisfaction can be seen as just another stumbling block. But there is the space within this where the question arises why am I doing this at all? If meditation does not bring satisfaction, why do it? What is the point of abiding in the present moment if it does not bring me peace? Of course this sense of pointlessness can also be viewed as another stumbling block. Just bring the mind back to center again in the face of it.

Because it is the mind and ego that wants a point to all this. It is the mind and the ego that feels disappointed when it does not get what it wants. The true self is whole and complete already. Or so I have been told. I cannot know that for certain. But I can be certain that thoughts and feelings are temporary. They change so quickly and easily and for reasons that do not seem to entirely warrant them changing. They elude rationality. To hang my identity on thoughts and feelings seems a little like playing the lottery and even if I win the lottery the next moment is another spin of the wheel.

In this context, bringing the mind center seems to be a rock in the midst of a stormy sea. It is not defiance because that is ego. It is not putting myself above the stormy sea because that is ego. All labels are ego. All judgment and comparison are ego. And there is nothing wrong with ego. Judging ego is also ego. Bringing my mind back to center and abiding in the present is akin to coming home to myself or simply being myself and not being tossed about by thoughts and emotions. It is choosing not to play the lottery. If I do not feel at peace or centered when I do this I can take refuge in the knowledge that it is a temporary situation.

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