Judgement (or How to Be Human)

It is our task in this life to judge. It is what we are built to do. To judge, discern, and examine self, and this world we chose to be in, is our most noble task.

One of the greatest misconceptions about the spiritual journey is that we live in judgement. This notion of a great book filled with our wrongs is simply a human misconception. Since we judge, we assume that any higher being would judge. I submit that any higher being would have no need for this trait of humanity.

Spirituality is not about living up to a list of principles carved in stone, rather it is a journey to examine the mystery of why we are certainly more than we appear to be. It is a quest for inner peace, to gain profound knowledge, and to maximize our delivery of the most precious thing we can give to others: love.

The Patterns of Life

The universe has an uncanny and universal pattern of repeated themes at all levels of its existence.

At the largest level the patterns of galaxies resemble living tissue under a microscope:

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The roads, cities, rivers, and suburbs have a strikingly similar pattern:

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From our view of the night sky, the lines between stars (the constellations) draw many distinct and beautifully random patterns.

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This pattern is again repeated in cells and tissues in plants and mammals:

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And each level of the universe, both natural and man-made objects exhibit the same pattern. While this is an astonishing thought, consider that this pattern of correspondence covers even time itself.

The day and night cycles of Earth, the light half and the dark half of the day, are mirrored by the light half (spring and summer) and dark half (fall and winter) of the year. The year, like the day, repeats, and following this cycle plants, animals, and all other life on Earth are born, mature, grow old, and die. If you are inclined to believe in reincarnation, this pattern is repeated again just like the days and years on the calendar.

To enjoy this level of consistent coincidence throughout our existence doesn’t require any sort of belief. You can imagine the entire universe is the daydream of some supernatural creator, intelligent design, or even a cosmic accident. The beauty in what we see, and the patterns sprinkled throughout, is undeniable.

 

 

Channeling the Creative Spirit

I consider myself a decent writer. I can usually express myself in a coherent and even sometimes entertaining fashion, and dive deep into analytics when the situation demands. And yet after all of these years of writing and pouring nearly half a million words onto paper in my books, I still cannot tell you precisely how I do it.

I’m sure you have driven to work and not even realized that you actually made the trip until you arrived at your destination. The process was conditioned and automatic. It was simply one of life’s mundane chores. Excluding the help from my editors and the final tweaking during revisions, writing my books and some of my more lengthy pieces has been much the same experience – an automatic process.

Unlike the oblivious car trip, the process was not mundane – rather it was creative. I had general control over the characters, the plot, and the universe, but beyond that I allowed the story to go where it wanted. Sometimes I was eager to write a chapter if for nothing else to find out how the narrative would progress.

When I allowed this channeling of my muse to occur, I eagerly wrote several thousand words in one sitting with the greatest of delight and ease. But not all writing days were like that – sadly there were just as many days where I could barely eek out a few paragraphs. The crushing self doubt that comes from these moments is almost unbearable.

I had always assumed that these creative, flowing moments were something that “just happened” and I should make the most of it when it occurred.  Recently, however, I have come to realize that writing, like any art form, is a channeled art. By removing my analytical mind, I allowed this process to run its course without direct intervention. My writing time during these wildly successful stints became spiritual in nature.

I’m not claiming that the people and events in my fiction works actually existed at some point in history – perhaps in an alternate universe. But I can’t deny that possibility, either. Were they using me to tell their story?

I have come to the conclusion that becoming more spiritually and philosophically aware is an integral part of becoming a better writer. Even if you aren’t of the spiritual persuasion, I would still recommend fitting some mindfulness meditation into your schedule. Clearing the clutter from your mind, at least for a few minutes a day, will help tremendously with this.

I have been very blessed to be able to tell the story of some interesting and brave characters. I will freely admit that sometimes I even entertain the fantasy that they were (or are) possibly real people, perhaps in an alternate universe, and during these creative moments I bring a bit of their life into our universe. Regardless, I know that many more tales that await in the supernatural realm accessed through epic late-night writing marathons and lazy afternoons under my favorite tree with my laptop.

If you have ever had the motivation to write, I would urge to to start. There is no time like the present. You need surprisingly little to get started. If you get stuck, take a step back and allow the ideas to flow instead of forcing them through your analytical mind. Let your muse skip the cultural filters we all have and directly inspire you. Give permission to those characters that you have communed with in your daydreams to share their story through you.

Allow them, and you, to shine.

 

The Canvas of Life

Life is an art project that insists to be drawn. It will happily take no input from the artist. People and circumstances will cheerfully doodle and sketch as they will upon its blank, white surface.

If you have the courage to stand in front of the easel, you have a choice. The first, and easiest, is to watch a completely adequate, and, if you’re lucky, possibly great image be painted in front of your eyes

Alternatively, you can pick up the brush and create your own masterpiece. Create your own pallet and design whatever your heart desires.

The canvas will wait for you.  How soon do you begin to imagine your own portrait of reality?

Artificial Culture

I saw an interesting quote on Facebook today about the state of pop music. It was attributed to David Grohl, but I cannot 100% verify that he said it. Either way, I found it incredibly accurate.

16665212_1436130973110710_8209107490979029911_oWhile I would disagree that most of it is fun to listen to, he makes a very valid point – it is devoid of meaning.

I understand that every generation thinks that the younger generation’s music is crap. That is to be expected. But we have not had a case in recent history where the emotion and meaning has been so horribly stripped out of the musical scene.

We are now left with a musical landscape that is devoid of most deeper content and has been reduced to repeating I’m a stupid hoe over and over until its driven deep into the psyche of young, impressionable minds.

Artificial culture is created in a lab, much like processed food. It may have actual elements of culture (i.e. “music”, art, etc.), but it is all created in specific quantities for specific purposes. If there isn’t a particular agenda behind it, then it simply caters to the largest audience possible in order to have the most financial success. From a business point of view there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is generally devoid of meaning outside of monetary gain.

Authentic human culture is created organically and spontaneously. It can be commercial, even have wide appeal or consumption, but it generally has its roots in everyday human life. From jam sessions in garages, to impromptu bar and coffee shop performances, to music artfully written with the goal of being more than the sum of its components, real music, and thus real culture, is grown like a seed in the ground, not from a test tube in a think tank laboratory.

 

 

Don’t Be Offended

You do not have the right to be free from offense.

There are many times where things you see, hear, or watch, will offend you. These things can strike deeply into your heart, sometimes creating a wound that will keep you occupied for quite some time.  This is normal, and it will pass – if you let it.

When you feel offense, you can ignore it, react to it, or grow from it. You can actually do several of these things at once, but your actions will likely fall into these core categories.

If the statement or thought that offends you has no relation to your life can be ignored. They generally come in the form of insults, and giving them any space in your mind is playing right into the hands of the person spewing the venom.

If you react to the statement that offends you, then it is almost always a losing proposition. You are giving your attacker a foothold into your mental space. By not ignoring it, you let them successfully land a blow to your psyche. The actions that spring from this will probably have little to no growth path.

The best course of action, other than ignoring it, is to grow from the experience. Sometimes criticisms leveled at us are fairly applied, sometimes they are not. Either way, only you alone have the power to determine how this will affect your life.

Being able to process an offensive statement and make a decisive decision as to how to handle it is a very powerful tool in your mental arsenal. Once you’ve mastered it, people’s offensive words will no longer be able to bother you, and you’ll be able to take the bits that are reasonably critical and use them to grow as a human.

Next time you see someone spewing something that you don’t like, remember that it is their right. You can disempower them, and strengthen your own resolve, by not allowing it any quarter in your mind.

Sandboxing People

That sounds rough, doesn’t it?  It’s not quite what you think, is it?  Allow me to explain.

In computers, the term sandboxing means to take a program and run it in a protected environment where it can’t hurt or alter the rest of your system. It is commonly done by developers who are testing out beta software, or even system administrators who are concerned about an old, buggy, or malicious piece of code.

When you sandbox, or virtualize a program, as it is more often called, the system provides a pretend set of hardware on which the program runs. Instead of directly letting it access drives, video cards, or even the internet, it passes those commands through a filter. Sometimes it performs the desired actions, but other times it modifies these commands to make them safer or more compatible. The system can even lie to the sandboxed program and tell it that it has less memory than the physical system actually has.

To the sandboxed program, it thinks it is running on actual hardware, but in reality it is operating in a safe space that cannot harm anything else if it misbehaves. The program doesn’t need to be changed – it can simply carry on as is. Instead, the reaction of the system to its commands is altered.

Sandboxing seems like a sensible precaution in the IT world, but is it really an appropriate thing to do with people? It most certainly can be.

If someone is abusive or causes you harm, excluding them from your life is a good thing. But sometimes good people, people that are worth keeping in your life, can exhibit behaviors that might be challenging, difficult, or problematic for you to deal with, or that might cause problems in other relationships. By sandboxing them, you can maintain the relationship without it damaging other parts of your life.

Sandboxing a person can be done simply by putting them, and your interactions with them, in a separate mental space that is isolated from the rest of your mind. I do not mean keep their friendship a secret, but rather keeping it out of the sensitive areas of your life – areas that affect your happiness, livelihood, and even safety.

For an example of this, consider a person who frequently talks negatively about others. You can be certain that just as often as they are talking to you about someone else, they will talk to others about you. It is just how these people tend to operate. If you discuss you or other people in a negative light, that information will probably be passed around and eventually get back to you. These people are not councilors, they are dumpers. They live in the past and are stuck in a loop of relaying what happened to others.

To handle this person, I suggest never discussing other people with them, at least never in a negative light. Any information you provide them about yourself or your own circumstances must be carefully considered as it might be divulged. Don’t share anything you aren’t comfortable with everyone (and their proverbial brother) knowing about you.

In doing so, you will isolate yourself from the negative effects of being in a close relationship with this person, yet still reap the benefits of being in contact. The gifts that contact with others brings to us, and our understanding of the universe, are not always obvious. Keeping as many opportunities of communication and understanding open is a positive course of action.

I am not suggesting to be dishonest with people. While sandboxing does require some effort, and often a distinct lack of engagement at critical times, it should not require one to lie. If you are finding that keeping someone in a safe position in your life requires you to be dishonest, it is probably worth evaluating the communication you are engaging in with them, or perhaps not engaging with them at all.

Now this technique requires, in some cases, with some people, more trouble than it may be worth. And since I’m not a psychologist I can’t really say that this comes from professional or educational experience. But I have noticed that some people are worth keeping around. There is a genuine connection there. It seems silly to throw that out the window without some serious due consideration. And since every situation, and person, is unique, the technique of sandboxing someone may be a better course of action.