Saturday, January 23, 2016

How To Realize Resolutions, Part 2: Cultivating Confidence and Will

In Part 1, I shared some thoughts on the importance of burning Desire in Self-realization and manifestation of one's resolutions or goals.  As I mentioned, burning Desire is a necessary but not sufficient condition for manifestation.  One must also empower yourself with two other Virtues:  Confidence and Will.

Confidence

Pop self-help systems like The Secret  convey the impression that every one's words are magical if only repeated a sufficient number of times with enough emotion.  All you need to do is ask and you shall receive; just visualize whatever you want with sufficient emotional charge, and the cosmic UPS will deliver whatever you wish.  Abracadabra, alakazam, rub the genie's bottle and everything is delivered.

Be Careful What You Ask For!
Comic by Edmund Finney

According to traditional philosophies of Self-realization, this is just wishful thinking.  Your words or visions don't have the power to manifest in Reality unless you have sufficient personal power arising from alignment with Ultimate Reality accumulated through discipline.

According to Yoga philosophy, the demanding practice of truth is one of the most important disciplines for anyone who wants the Virtue required for Self-realization and manifestation of one's vision.  In B.K.S. Iyengar's translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Sutra II.36 states:

"When the sādhaka [seeker] is firmly established in the practice of truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to realization."

The practice of truth is the essential foundation for Confidence in one's ability to Self Realize.  You need to know that your words are law.  If your words or vision are frequently contradicted by Reality, you are a house divided against its Self.  Outer-inner contradictions weaken you.  Honesty grants you Virtue (remember, virtue means power) because it aligns your thoughts, words, and actions with Reality, the One Source of all power.

I have found that to become firmly established in truth is not an easy thing.  We have all been trained from birth to accept many lies about our selves, our world, and our potential.  Hence, to become firmly established in the truth, one must first discover it, which is different from knowing your beliefs, opinion or judgement, or the prevailing belief system of your culture or sub-culture.  Often we think we know something, but upon examination, we find that what we think we know, we really don't know, we just believe.  This even applies to many "facts" taught to us as "scientifically proven" in schools.
"To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge."  ~Confucius
Most importantly, you must distinguish between Reality and the opinions and fantasies foisted upon you by others, and clearly know Who/What you are.  If you want to empower your words, align them with the truth, and toss the opinions and fantasies in the bin.

Tao is obscured when men understand only one pair of opposites,
or concentrate only on a partial aspect of being.
Then clear expression also becomes muddled by mere wordplay,
affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest.
The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials converge.
He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point
from which all movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship...
Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct intuition.  
Chuang Tzu, Inner Chapters 2:3, Thomas Merton trans.


Many times people talk as if they Know, when they don't.  It seems most of us have been trained to do so; I know I was.  Consider this classic Taoist story:
Among the people who lived close to the border, there was a man who led a righteous life. Without reason, his horse escaped, and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said : "what makes you think this is not a good thing?"  
Several months later, his horse returned, accompanied by a superb barbarian stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But the old man said: "what makes you think this is cannot be a bad thing?" 
The family was richer from a good horse, his son enjoyed riding it. He fell and broke his hip. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said: "what makes you think this is not a good thing!" 
One year later, a large party of barbarians entered the border. All the valid men drew their bows and went to battle. From the people living around the border, nine out of ten died. But just because he was lame, the old man and his son were both spared.
The people thought they "knew" that the events were good or bad.  The righteous man didn't say either way, but questioned the others' opinions.  He remained neutral, aligned with the truth of what happened, not with the opinions about it.

Every time Reality contradicts your opinion, you lose self-Confidence.  The solution is simply to stop opining, which is easier said than done.  Most of us have minds trained to automatically spout opinions, most of which we inherited from other people who lacked alignment with the truth.  To become a free, realized being one must,  through meditation and contemplation, transcend this and train oneself to see the ego's opinions as meaningless babble unworthy of One's attention.  This is why the Tao Te Ching says that the Way of Virtue consists of getting rid of "knowledge" rather than collecting it.
In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 48 (Feng and English trans.)
Though beliefs and opinions are not truth, they influence one's experience, much as a film influences the projection of light onto a screen.  Any limitation you see happening in your experience is the logical result of your beliefs and opinions about yourself and the world which influenced your attention and perception and came to fruition through past decisions and actions.  To manifest your dreams it is necessary to drop false beliefs and opinions about yourself and the world.

Besides dropping the opinionated mind, the Creative Way involves allowing the Virtue of Tao to work in, through, and as one's life.  In other words, one does what one is called to do, not what one thinks of doing.  The Seeker aspires not for personal glory, but to allow the Virtue of the One Source to express through his or her unique gifts and talents.  Just as a surfer can only succeed if she rides with the tides, rather than against them, if your way goes against the Way, it will come to an early end; it might not even get started.

Just do what needs to be done.
Never take advantage of power.
Achieve results,
But never glory in them.
Achieve results,
But never boast.
Achieve results,
But never be proud.
Achieve results,
Because this is the natural way.
Achieve results,
But not through violence.
Force is followed by loss of strength.
This is not the way of Tao.
That which goes against the Tao comes to an early end.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 30 (Feng and English trans.)

Most of us identify with the finite mind or body, and see scarcity surrounding us.  In Reality every One of us is a unique expression of the Infinite, as a wave is an expression of the ocean.  Who observes the mind and body?  The Witness of shapes, colors, sounds, textures, odors, and tastes has no shape, color, sound, texture, odor, or taste.  That Witness, called Awareness, has no boundaries, is infinite.  It is the never changing back Ground that enables Humans the to envision and create circumstances different from those events in the ever-changing foreground.  Each of us can choose to identify with either finite, transient, and changeable phenomena (body, mind, personality, events), or the Unchanging, Infinite, Eternal, and Creative within us.  The former is false and hence weak, the latter truth and strength.

To become firmly established in the practice of truth, one needs to make one's word one's law.  Don't make promises to others or yourself unless you are prepared to do everything in your power to make them come true.  Every time you make a resolution or promise and fail to make progress toward or fulfill it, you confirm only that your words are empty and your Will weak.  The next time you make a resolution or goal your mind says "Yeah right, you never follow through."  You always know when you are blowing smoke.  How can you have Confidence in your self and your ability to manifest what you wish, if you keep proving yourself impotent?

If someone asks you to do something and you aren't willing to commit to it, say something like "I'm not sure, let me think about it and get back to you."  Don't commit unless you are going to follow through.

If you want to accumulate strength, speak only as necessary, and keep your words aligned with Reality.  If you have nothing True or Good to say, keep noble silence.

Will

If you want to escape from wishful thinking and weak words, you need to build up a Confidence in your ability to draw on Will.  You can start by setting yourself an intention to do something specific every day, preferably something you find a bit unpleasant.  Then, do it.  For example, agree to get up at 5 AM every day and cheerfully do something that's challenging or uncomfortable to the ego, like take a cold shower.  In this you assert your Will over your weak ego, which wants to sleep in and stay warm.

But don't go around bragging about your disciplines.  Boasting comes from a desire to impress other people, which comes from lack of Self-confidence.
He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. 
He who strides cannot maintain the pace. 
He who makes a show is not enlightened. 
He who is self-righteous is not respected. 
He who boasts achieves nothing. 
He who brags will not endure. 
According to followers of the Tao, "These are extra food and unnecessary luggage." 
They do not bring happiness. 
therefore followers of the Tao avoid them.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 24, Feng and English trans.

Strength exerted produces greater strength; weakness indulged produces greater weakness. Replace resolutions with Desire backed by Confidence and indomitable Will. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How To Realize Resolutions, Part 1: Burning Desire

The ongoing process of Self-realization may include converting inner ideas into outer appearances: realizing your dreams.  At the new year, many people make lists of "resolutions" that they say they wish to realize.  Yet many people get to the end of the year without making good on their words.

Unfortunately, every time one states a resolution or goal but fails to make the wish come true or at least make progress toward realization, one loses self-confidence.  Do this enough and eventually you would get to the point where you wouldn't believe in your own words.

Traditional guides to Seekers of Self-realization indicate that if you want to turn your dreams into Reality, you have to empower your resolutions and goals with Desire, Confidence, and Will.  Here are some thoughts on Desire; my next post will consist of thoughts on Confidence and Will.

Desire

If one expresses a desire to manifest something, but doesn't follow through, it may be time to check on the temperature of one's desire.  Sometimes people initially put on their lists of resolutions and goals items that aren't important to them at all, but were ideas from someone else.  The idea "sounds good" but if one is honest, the interest in realizing it isn't there.  Other times, one might find some interest in the goal, but not a burning Desire for it.

According to Yoga philosophy, the Seeker of Self-realization must have tapas: a burning Aspiration for Self-realization and freedom that enables one to cheerfully endure all manner of austerities in one's quest.  Without tapas, one will be derailed by the smallest hardship or delay.   In Thought Vibration, or The Law of Attraction in the Thought World,  William Walker Atkinson describes the degree of Desire one must have in order to manifest results:

"To succeed in anything you must want it very much - Desire must be in evidence in order to attract. The man of weak desires attracts very little to himself. The stronger the Desire the greater the force set into motion. You must want a thing hard enough before you can get it. You must want it more than you do the things around you, and you must be prepared to pay the price for it. The price is the throwing overboard of certain lesser desires that stand in the way of the accomplishment of the greater one. Comfort, ease, leisure, amusements, and many other things may have to go (not always, though). It all depends on what you want. As a rule, the greater the thing desired, the greater the price to be paid for it. Nature believes in adequate compensation. But if you really Desire a thing in earnest, you will pay the price without question; for the Desire will dwarf the importance of the other things. 
"You say that you want a thing very much, and are doing everything possible toward its attainment? Pshaw! You are only playing Desire. Do you want the thing as much as a prisoner wants freedom - as much as a dying man wants life? Look at the almost miraculous things accomplished by prisoners desiring freedom. Look how they work through steel plates and stone walls with a bit of stone. Is your desire as strong as that? Do you work for the desired thing as if your life depended upon it? Nonsense! You don't know what Desire is. I tell you if a man wants a thing as much as the prisoner wants freedom, or as much as a strongly vital man wants life, then that man will be able to sweep away obstacles and impediments apparently immovable. The key to attainment is Desire, Confidence, and Will. This key will open many doors."

These thoughts have led me to search myself honestly before putting anything on my list of resolutions or goals.  I want my list to only include things for which I am actually Willing to pay the price in action and sacrifice.  I ask myself "Do I want this as much as a drowning man wants a breath of air? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to Realize this?"   I find this test cuts crud off the list and helps me identify my burning Desire.  If the answer to both of those questions is NO, I just take the item off my list.

How can one identify one's most burning Desire?  Throughout Nature the foremost desire for every organism is Self-expression of native potential.  The acorn expresses its True Nature in an environment that allows it to unfold its potential to manifest an oak tree.

I believe that each individual has an innate Desire to unfold in Self-expression.  Every individual has talents, gifts, and interests that enable that individual to express and produce unique Goods that will raise the Quality of life for everyone.  The path of Self-realization involves discovering, cultivating, and expressing those Goods.

In some traditional philosophies, the word "desire" is used when one seeks ego-centered self-expression or material benefit, while "aspiration" is used when one seeks Self-expression through alignment with universal Goods such as truth, knowledge, benevolence, and beauty.  Aiming for ego gratification might result in lukewarm or fickle desire, like a child's brief interest in new toys.  So I ask myself:  What Aspiration will really sustain my Desire?

Its not always easy to discover one's burning Desire because it is often buried beneath the expectations put upon us by society.  Discovery of one's burning Desire may itself be a goal for a Seeker.

Self-expression requires Self-knowledge.  Every individual needs quiet time to listen to the inner voice of Self-expression.  Michael Bernard Beckwith suggests that one may uncover one's burning Desire by asking the right questions, such as: "What Good seeks to emerge in, through, and as my life?  What Good can I uniquely create and supply to raise the Quality of Life for Humanity?  What Service can I provide to enhance life?"  I have found these questions very useful.

Mechanical resolutions that aren't backed by passion and action can damage one's self-image.  When you make resolutions but don't follow through, you just weaken your word, your self-confidence and your integrity.  

Burning Desire is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Self-realization and manifestation of one's dreams.  One also needs to have Confidence and Will, which are topics of my next post.









Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thoughts on Envy

"Envy is a propensity to view the well-being of others with distress, even though it does not detract from one's own... [Envy] aims, at least in terms of one's wishes, at destroying others' good fortune." (Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals 6:459)

 Classically philosophers have considered envy to be one of the worst of vices, a mortal sin (mistake) because the envious covet or wish to destroy or confiscate the goods held by others, in order to raise themselves up. Envy leads to theft. But these days, whole political philosophies are based on envy, and those who embrace these philosophies consider their wish to take goods or fortune from others just and virtuous.

 Psychologically and spiritually, envy arises from judging oneself as lacking or insufficient in comparison to those who possess goods one does not have. In other words, it arises from unfavorable comparison of oneself with others. This is why it is a vice (weakness) rather than virtue (strength). Envy arises from ignorance of one's unique value, which is incomparable to any other. This ignorance enables a feeling of weakness, impotence, and inferiority to someone else. 

Virtue arises from self-knowledge, through which one realizes that every One is a unique, one of a kind, manifestation or expression of the Universe (Tao), and thus that one can be neither superior, inferior, or equal to any other being. One's strength (virtue) comes from honestly expressing One Self, which is the same as allowing the One Source (Universe, Tao, Nature) express uniquely through
your unique synthesis of gifts and talents.  Bruce Lee had a grasp of the virtue of this type of self-expression.



 He who follows the Tao
 Is at one with the Tao.
 He who is virtuous
 Experiences Virtue.
 He who loses the way
 Is lost.
 When you are at one with the Tao,
 The Tao welcomes you.
 When you are at one with Virtue,
 The Virtue is always there.

 Tao Te Ching Ch 23 (Feng & English translation)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Grace and Power: Shaolin Wushu

Just an awesome demonstration of Shaolin weapons form by Sifu Sal Redner.



Go Pro Test 2014: Martial Arts Weapons

Everyday is an opportunity to improve our abilities as extraordinary human beings. Whether we accept the challenge or succumb to defeat is a choice that ultimately each of us must make on our own. May we all develop absolute resolve and never allow our minds and bodies to become stagnant throughout life.

Posted by Sal Redner on Friday, April 25, 2014