Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘personal’

How Do You Deal With Fear?

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 27, 2011

Fear‘s been a part of my life recently.

Actually, it comes and goes regularly but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really noticed it and named it for what it is. “I won’t get a good mark in my studies” [fear]. “I better turn those lights off, we are spending too much money.” [fear]. “I won’t be able to sustain being a good father and partner.” [fear] “If I don’t blog/tweet/facebook people will forget about me” [fear]

Here’s a few snippets from “Effortless Mastery”, a book aimed at musicians by Kenny Werner.

Stephen Nachmanovich, in his book Free Play, writes of five fears that the Buddhists speak of that block our liberation: fear of loss of life, fear of loss of livelihood; fear of loss of reputation; fear of unusual states of mind; and fear of speaking before an assembly. He points out that fear of speaking before an assembly may seem light compared with the others, but we may take that to mean speaking up, or performing. Our fear of performing is “profoundly related to fear of foolishness, which has two parts: fear of being thought a fool (loss of reputation) and fear of actually being a fool (fear of unusual states of mind).”

continued…

fear

Then he says: “Let’s add fear of ghosts.” I would take that to mean the implant of fear by authority figures no longer present in our lives, but the echo of whose voice remains to control us (teachers, parents and so forth).

Werner goes on to say that fear originates in our “little mind”, which can be called the ego. He goes on to say that the goal of Indian music is the dissolution of the ego and union with the divine. So I guess that’s one approach to losing fear. (He says much more, the book is a must for any performer.)

Whenever I think of fear it reminds me of the classic novel Dune. “Fear is the mind killer”. As I recall, through superhuman (supernatural?) and drug assisted control of his own mind, the hero is able to conquer fear. Very much like the “cognitive behavioural” approach I’ve come across through my therapy. Essentially, you have to retrain your mind to tell it positive thoughts instead of negative. It seems like a long and hard journey at times.

So, how do you deal with fear?

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Posted in Buddhism, life, personal | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Who Am I to Tell You Anything?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 20, 2010

Are there some journeys that should never be started? There are people who know me in real life who might sneer on hearing I’m seeking higher reality again. These are people I’ve hurt, lied to, or (think they) know my failings. I’m far from perfect. Even when I turned my back on a religious path, I’ve been a hypocrite in my new path. I’ve criticised other views on this very blog, it’s only fair I turn the lens on myself.

I Was Wrong

I started this journey not wanting to share much about me. Spritzophrenia was supposed to be about the ideas and conclusions, not my self. I’m not that interesting, I’m not that worthy. But the stories are inseparable, and I’m really not proud of some chapters. I feel distress at my own ethical off-the-wagon times. Oh there’s been plenty of failure, moral turpitude, poverty, despair and general crapness in my life: Hear my confession.

I hurt people. I cut off contact with my parents and one of my sisters for a year when they annoyed me and let me down. I’ve lied, and lied again about important things. I’ve broken promises. I’ve stolen. I owe good people money, and don’t know when I will repay it. I may be on a slippery slope to alcoholism. I was once so angry and frustrated I attacked my girlfriend’s car with a chair, smashing a light.

Others question my motives, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. I once overheard a conversation about me getting on my “high horse”. I’d always thought I came across as fairly humble? I wrote earlier about how hard this is for me.

While I think one should be measured by one’s own conscience, it doesn’t really matter which moral code you measure me against. I’ve broken most of the ten commandments. I don’t walk in the eightfold path, I’m deeply attached. Insofar as the golden rule suffices for Secular Humanism, I ain’t been golden. Insofar as the “Love God and love other people” of Jesus, nope. Even Augustine’s “Love god and do what you want” leaves me wanting.

Though I can point to reasons, philosophies and religious paths that enticed me, I make no excuses. My atheism, nihilism and Satanism were nascent anyway, the labels became convenient excuses. I might have been bad even if I embraced Hasidism. Sometimes I thought my actions and thoughts were ‘right’ at the time, only to be confounded by them, sometimes years later. I take responsibility for what I’ve done and I’m reaping what I’ve sowed.

I Walk The Line Between Good and Evil

I recommend listening to Alien Sex Fiend’s I walk the Line.

more below

This apple’s rotten to the core

Get up, off your knees

Get down on the floor

You wouldn’t listen [to me], and I don’t blame ya

I’m already in the gutter, next stop is the drain

[Full lyrics.] I note one can still make nice cider from rotten apples.

Are We Moral?

Some will no doubt point to my christian past and infer an over-inflated sense of guilt. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much guilt when I was a Christian— it gave me a sense of freedom from guilt.

I think we have an inflated idea of how good people are. A piece in the NZ Listener some years back indicated just how common white collar crime is; good moral people just like us are cheating on their taxes and their spouses. I’m not worried about whether lying is equivalent to murder, it’s the general point I’m driving at. What does it take to be a moral person? To always do good? Do good most of the time? What percentage of good makes us a good person? Is there such a thing as one’s “character”? “We’re good people. We just do bad things.” (Larry Norman)

The idea that the christian g0d wants to help us escape our tendency to damage, looks on the money. (If she exists.) The phrase so often quoted by evangelists “All have sinned, and fallen short” seems to ring rather more true than we might like to admit. Christians— the ones who know their theology at least— don’t claim we are as bad as we possibly can be. Only that we are distorted. Like a drop of ink in a glass of water discolours the whole thing.

“If I believed in God, if I believed in sin, this is the place I’d be sucked straight to hell.” (~ Dexter, Season 2 Episode 2) Some think believers parade triumphantly into heaven. I think many of us will crawl there, relieved and surprised.

Only those who are broken can accept being whole.

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Have you ever hurt someone by following your beliefs, or in spite of them?

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Posted in Christianity, ethics, hardship, personal, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments »

Celebrating The Weeds

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 4, 2010

In the comments last week someone characterised my project as “sorting out the weeds”. I like that. Weeds can be beautiful as well as inconvenient in my opinion. Here’s a scattershot bouquet to admire or throw away.

Chickweed

I’ve been getting some balance back into my life. I pushed myself too hard writing critically and intended to get away from the computer. Instead I spent a large part of the weekend coaching my 12 year-old through his science project. So much for getting away from the computer.

I’ve also been thinking about balance in terms of spiritual paths. Reading the last week or two’s posts you could get the impression that only atheism or some kind of christianity count here. I don’t claim that all religions are the same. I do want to be open to insights. Have a random Bhagavad Gita quote:

“There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”

Dandelion in the sun

Dandelion

I do believe serious thinking needs to be done as part of my spiritual journey. There’s still gonna be some intellectual heavy lifting here, it’s part of who I am and I can’t escape that. But I don’t want to neglect the rest of life or get stuck down the rabbit hole of endless philosophy, obscure science or irrelevant theology. Let me know if I’m doing that, won’t ya? Sometimes I’m unable to back up everything I ponder with academic research, which disappoints the ego in me, but that’s life. I want to let go my attachment to being right.

We’re allowed to change our opinions. Some days I will be logical to the point of inanity. Some days I will be fluffy and mystical. Some days I will appear to favour one path, others another. It’s all part of my journey, and I reserve the right to change my mind as I learn. This is Spritzophrenia, after all.

This is not to say I think all is one, or there are no answers, merely that the path is sometimes unclear and may require backtracking.

Henbit

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
– Helen Keller, quoted in Who Knew.

I’m valuing the experience of friendship, and the discussions of late. I think there is so much we can agree on, even if we can’t agree on everything. I value you. You don’t have to be an intellectual or spiritual giant to belong here. I’m not. Besides, giants can scare away the little people. I’m sometimes amazed and delighted at the connections people make with what I write. When I see your comments I find myself thinking, “I really love you maaaan”. No, I haven’t been drinking 😉

I thought you might enjoy the hilarious “Internet verses real life” sketches, particularly the final section on what internet discussions can be like. (Some language may offend.)

Wood sorrel

I’m valuing life experience in spirituality, and remembering the path contains joy as well as hardship. (Read “personal development” for spirituality if you prefer.) After a brain-draining and exhausting weekend I spent time on Sunday sitting in a pub reading, drinking cider and eating hot bread. The good things in life are indeed good. I like the Celtic christian way of talking about deity as “The good God”, who brings good things to our life. Hopefully a genuine spiritual path involves celebrating this life, extreme asceticism has never appealed to me. Judaism often has an earthiness and a real-world focus which is warming, as I understand it.

I think I’ve finally worked out who I’m writing for. Me, of course. But also other seekers, people who haven’t got a fixed, firm and final perspective on everything and who are looking to grow, to learn and to share. Do you know anyone like that who might enjoy reading this blog?

So there you are, a few weeds to either keep or throw. Which did you react to or resonate with? Have a great day.

Posted in agnostic, god, Hinduism, humor, humour, life, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

This Is Hard

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 19, 2010

My twitter friend Anne complimented me recently saying “It takes guts to blog about personal spirituality”. I took a great deal of comfort from that, because she’s right. It’s hard.

The post-Enlightenment West is unusual among many world cultures because we regard talking about religion as a private matter. I read of somewhere – was it Bali? – where a typical meeting of strangers includes “How are you? “, “How is your family?” , “Are you married?”, and “What religion are you?”. I assume not all in the same sentence!

I firmly believe that not talking about the inner life diminishes us, yet fighting your own culture ain’t easy. In the words of the song, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Many people simply do not want to engage with this stuff. I’d probably be a millionaire by now if I switched to blogging Oprah-esque personal development.

Writing about what I do is difficult because it’s personal. It affects me. I don’t talk about spirituality, agnosticism, atheism out of mere academic interest. It’s apatheism, a portmanteau of apathy and theism/atheism which says, “I don’t know and I don’t care that I don‘t know.” I care that I don’t know. The question of whether or not there is some higher reality to be found affects my life, my emotions, my fears and my frustrations.

Not having a firm position feels rather like rowing a solitary boat through a rolling sea. Up, down, no safe haven in which to anchor, and no fellow passengers to share the oars.

“Doing” spirituality is hard and I’ve never been fond of spiritual “work”. If one is going to include spiritual practices as part of one’s search, such as meditation or even just listening openly to a friend of a different faith, that takes time and effort. I can’t honestly say I’ve spent a lot of energy on this yet. It’s ambitious to think I could experience enough in one lifetime anyway. Books are safer.

The search is also hard in an intellectual sense. I’ve spent time reading very obtuse philosophy debates in online forums. “Before we debate God,” says one, “let’s decide if ‘god’ is a coherent concept.” Phew. At the end of this, often my head hurts and I feel stupid. I do value good reasoning, after all, half my undergrad degree was in philosophy. But at the end of the day, there will always be a better argument around the corner and I simply don’t have time to understand them all.

I’m also bruised by the times when someone who likes to be seen to be intellectual wades in and wins the battle, while simultaneously killing her friends. I’ve been one of those people, and I’d rather lose the ego. It’s a weakness of intellectuals; some of us learned to feel self-worth because we knew more big words than someone else. When others do have better arguments, it’s humbling.

Writing about a spiritual search also exposes me on a whole different level. See, there’s a funny thing: When it comes to religion people not only judge what you think, they also judge your character. Online friend Kimh asked if my writing will be abstract study, or more of a memoir. I think it has to be at least partly personal because otherwise it‘ll be dull as iron. But I don’t want it to be about me. I want to hide behind argument and erudition. I don’t want to have my life up for scrutiny as well. Frankly, sometimes I’m not a nice person at all. Apparently we all have secrets, and it’s OK to keep some of them hidden– at least that was the theme of Dexter season three. But he’s an imaginary serial killer.

Writer Matthew Paul Turner recently wrote of the difficulty of being truly honest in a Christian context where you’re not supposed to talk about some things. I think it’s hard being honest full stop, regardless of one’s persuasion. What if I’m making some obvious mistake and people laugh at me? What if my friends disown me? What if I offend people who don‘t share my (non)beliefs? It would be much easier to merely present ideas. Ideas are external to me, I‘m safe. However, in the case of spirituality, ideas are carried within a life.

Right now, the sun is shining through my window, and warms my chest. With support from friends, much of the time I’m happy. I remind myself this is a path I’ve chosen and I can step off it any time. The adventure remains, and also a hell of a challenge.

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PS: Go check out Anne’s very cool blog if you’re interested in innovative small business.
How do you feel talking about your personal beliefs with other people?

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Posted in agnostic, hardship, life, personal, personal development, Philosophy, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »