Remembering How to Thrive

Of the many questions raised by the film “Thrive” is “why are we as humans not thriving?” Whether you agree with the film’s answers or not, the questions remains a valid one. Many of us take for granted that our “dream jobs” are unattainable, but what this really means, to me, is that we’ve given up on the idea of spending our lives thriving, and that we’ve settled, instead, for merely surviving.

Indeed, millions are so disadvantaged as to be born into extreme poverty to the point that survival is such an all-encompassing goal that they feel that without assistance, they may never move beyond it into thriving. Many of them may be right. But what about the rest of us, who despite being born into first-world countries and places of relative privilege, still have given up on thriving? What’s our excuse for settling short?

The reason, as far as I can figure, is that we’ve forgotten how to thrive. First-world culture tells us that thriving means making money and being able to buy things. Not so. Thriving, as I see it, means doing those things we feel we were born to do, doing those things which make us feel truly fulfilled and productive inside, those things that produce a feeling of peace and accomplishment, even if we never finish.

Think of the times in your life (if you’ve had any – I imagine most of us have had at least moments) where you’ve felt that sense of thriving. What were you doing? For me there are several answers – making music, writing fun stories (and this blog), planting vegetables, teaching the functions of grammar and logic, cooking a challenging meal, nurturing a relationship with a loved one, even playing a rally good game of chess. While remembering this list a couple nights ago, I decided “I am going to thrive tomorrow.” In the morning I made a list of specific things to thrive while doing. I only did half or so of them, but I still had a much better day than I otherwise would have.

What are you doing when you thrive? Why aren’t you doing it every day? Make the time. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted in civilization, Joy, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Cultivating a Constant “State of Love.”

Usually we think of love as always having an object. “I love this, or that, or the other thing.” But does it really require an object? Why not simply, “I love,” in the same way we might say, “I think”? If we treat love not as an action which is done to something or someone outside of ourselves, bur rather as a state of mind and state of heart, then no particular object is necessary. Here’s a way this works in practice:

Begin with the exercise from the previous post. There’s only a subtle shift needed to move from “loving everything perfectly” to simply “loving.” In the latter, objects of said love enter and exit the mind as they may, and your “state of love” is present regardless. What does it feel like to love without an object? It feels like a state of pure benevolence – to hold intentions for the highest good of whatever and whomever may enter your mind.

Ever since writing the previous post, I’ve been trying to enter this “state of love” every morning. It fades, of course, often very quickly. But the goal would be to continue cultivating it until the state never goes away, until loving is constant. Is that possible? Who can tell? Why does it matter if it’s possible? If I can be in a state of pure love for anything and everything I encounter for at least a part of every day, I’ve made progress toward being the most loving person I can be. If that someday grows into “most of the time, every day,” I can’t even imagine how my life will be transformed for the better.

Posted in Healing, Love, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Using Your Imagination

This is an imagination exercise that I found myself performing during a Quaker meeting this morning. The imagination can be a powerful tool.

Forget for a second that you are human. Let go of the limitations you imagine yourself to have, and instead imagine, as vividly as you can, the feeling of loving unconditionally. Imagine that you are made, composed, of pure, unending, universal, unconditional love. How does it feel, physically, to love everything, everyone, everywhere? If you need a visual element, imagine that you are made entirely of light, radiating pure, perfect light. Imagine that this light and your perfect love are one and the same, and it knows no differences between people, plants, animals, rocks, rivers, anything – all is worthy of love. Feel it flowing out from you in every direction. Feel the joy that comes from sending out your pure acceptance and good intentions without exclusion. You have an infinite supply of this love and light, and you give it to anything and everything that crosses your mind. How does it feel to love purely and perfectly? How does it feel to be made of light?

Posted in Joy, Love | 1 Comment

Why I No Longer Believe in Hell

So my theology has gone through a multitude of changes over the years, mostly because the experiences of my life have led me to a single conclusion which many standard notions of God don’t actually allow for: God is love.

It says this in the Bible, sure, but it also says lots of things about Hell in the Bible, too. Do an all-loving God and Hell mix? Sure, say theologians, God is a just God, he punishes the unjust for eternity and all who go to Hell deserve it.

But here’s the thing: No one deserves to go to Hell. Nobody. Not mass murderers, not rapists, not child abusers, not anyone. There is no crime which deserves an eternity of punishment, and no human being so totally devoid of all worth that their time in eternity would be best spent in ceaseless agony/fire/loneliness/separation/darkness/whatever Hell is supposed to be. Exactly why would a crime within a relative nanosecond of the universe’s lifespan warrant horrific punishment for longer than the life of the universe itself?

And even, somehow, if there was a crime that warranted such a punishment, love would forgive it. Love forgives everything. If harm is done lazily, because it knows it will be forgiven, love waits patiently for the harmer to come around.

But wait, say the theologians – you need to accept the forgiveness for it to be valid. If you choose not to accept the forgiveness, it will be your own choice to be thrown into Hell.

Not so. Love doesn’t care whether its forgiveness is acknowledged – and it doesn’t punish people for not accepting forgiveness – what kind of forgiveness, accepted or not, involves punishment? Not the kind of sincere forgiveness which I describe. Not accepting forgiveness, and choosing to live on in guilt or shame or ignorance or power-hunger, is its own punishment, for it brings only unhappiness to its perpetrator. Harm attracts its own consequences. No additional punishment is necessary. The results of declining to accept forgiveness last only as long as the refusal itself. No longer.

Keeping in mind that I’ve come to this as a result of experiences in my own life, I’ll use the premise that God is Love to make one more point: A god who forgives all and loves all and condemns no one to Hell is infinitely more loving that any god who would condemn someone to Hell. And seeing as I believe that I could become, with decades of practice, the type of person who, given the choice, would condemn no person to eternal punishment, that pretty much means that I could become more loving than any supposed god who would abandon and torment anyone. And if I, a human, full of many negative unloving things, could achieve this (and I do believe it is possible), than how much more love and forgiveness could a being of pure goodwill and compassion be capable of producing?

A hell of a lot more. Or should I say a heaven?

Posted in Compassion, Love, Philosophy, Religion | 8 Comments

A Film for the Future

If everyone in the world decided, today, to be more compassionate, the entire planet would be transformed overnight. In the interest of convincing more people to make that decision, I urge that you watch this film all the way to the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdGi6Q3N9tY&feature=youtu.be

EDIT: Film has been removed by user.

Posted in civilization, Compassion | 1 Comment

Why Your Mantra Should Not Be “I Am Made of Cheese”

Perception is malleable. We can choose to think of ourselves as being made of atoms, or a soul, or cheese. Going around repeating to oneself, “I am made of cheese” is likely to have very odd effects on daily life – because affirming certain perceptions about oneself can indeed cause change. Does that mean affirmations could cause a person to actually become cheese? Well, I kind of doubt it. But a person could become convinced that such a transformation had occurred.

Which is my first main point here: We can convince ourselves of anything. If your mantra is “I am made of hate,” you’ll likely start seeing a turn for the negative in your mind, and it can spread like an oil spill into other areas, such as how you treat other people and how much you respect yourself. Same with mantras like “love doesn’t exist,” or “love is an illusion.” Convincing yourself of these things builds up a mental wall between you and the world around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong – such mantras can prevent you from being able to experience love. Denying love’s existence is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Conversely, convincing yourself that you are made of love will make you a more loving person. And regardless of whether you currently believe love doesn’t exist, convincing yourself that you are love will cause love to manifest in your mind. And then it can spread and permeate just as much as fear or hate or any negative emotion.

Before you ask, no, you won’t have a rude awakening down the line where you realize it’s all made up, because you’re not creating a fantasy world in your mind and pretending to be someone else – you’re creating real love  in yourself and actually changing yourself into a more loving person.

The difficulty here comes in persistence and habit – our minds can have (sometimes misguided) patterns we need to work around. For example, if your definition of love includes negative connotations such as “love means having to give up whatever makes me happy” or other such subtly–but often–repeated untruths, you may have some mental work to do to get to the realization that pure, unconditional love asks no questions and requests no changes – it accepts you. Not just anyone, you, exactly how you are in this moment, with everything you dislike about yourself. Pure, unconditional love means accepting that you are, in fact, beautiful.

You are.

Posted in Anger, Love | 1 Comment

The Opposite of Love is Not Hate

The opposite of love is fear.

Love dissolves artificial self/other boundaries. Fear builds those boundaries up. Love leads, ultimately, to the realization that all life is one, that all life is valuable, that all life is worthy. Fear leads to the paranoia of complete separateness, to the hidden, lonely places where the walls are so thick we can’t let anyone in, because everyone is someone else, everyone is out to hurt us. Fear bends us out of shape and holds everything inside, compacting us like the garbage we believe ourselves to be. Love recognizes the light inside us. Love takes that light and sends it out to those who hurt, to those who fear, to those who need. Love builds connections between us and everyone, everything, everywhere. Love erases fear.

Many people fear that the world may end soon, or that the world is already irreversibly damaged, or that people will always live by way of greed and separateness until everyone in the world is suffering. While it’s true that for sure, life as we know it is going to change in one way or another, approaching these changes with an attitude of fear solves nothing. The attitude of fear prevents us from doing the better work of loving. Whatever it is you fear – the destruction of ecosystems, the end of a relationship, the paying of debts, the greed of humanity – stop fearing.

There’s nothing to fear.

Love.

Posted in fear, Love | 4 Comments