380 Relax and Succeed - Happiness is the absence of striving

I like your blog but I don’t really have any ‘problems.’ Is there still something I can do that will help me grow spiritually?

signed,
Problem-Free

Dear Free,

Hey, good for you! Problem-free! But did you notice your assumption? By asking “is there still…?” you’re operating from a headspace that is presuming that spiritual growth is about dealing with problems.

It’s common to see spiritual growth as a salve and not a dance, where we are taught to see ‘challenges’ as ladders, and ‘growth’ as gaining altitude. Without anyone meaning to, we’ve been taught a very linear, rising-toward-God / Enlightenment set of narratives.

If we imagine Enlightenment as the end of a road, then it is an achievement, and our objective is to stop suffering. But that’s a misunderstanding, and that’s also why we can all definitely still grow, even without ‘problems.’

Our spirituality is not something we achieve. It’s not an answer. Nothing ends there. Mental and spiritual health is not something we work toward and get.

Mental and spiritual health happens any time we realize that we are at One with everything around us. Including the things we might otherwise be tempted to describe as ‘problems.’ We don’t rise above problems; we come to have peace about suffering.

Don’t think I’m some kind of voodoo guy who makes my problems evaporate. I’m just a guy who doesn’t use his consciousness to argue much with what is. I’ll do it a little bit —but that’s helpful because the pain I feel is what tells me to change my mind.

If there’s four dogs on the walk to work and only one of them bites us when we try to pet it, then that dog is essentially telling us to pet the other three instead. It’s very nice of him to be so clear –if we’re awake and listening.

But egos are bad listeners. Rather than using their pain to figure out which dog to leave alone, our egos get mad at the owner for not training the dog better, or worse they blame the dog itself.

Can you see that when people do this they are imagining a right way that the world should be and in that world no one should suffer? But this is impossible. We can’t even have heroes without disasters. Suffering is inextricably linked to being. That isn’t a problem, it’s simply where we live.

380 Relax and Succeed - To live an enlightened life

Each moment is each moment. Native Fijians are correct: 100% of your life is lived in the Present Moment. No moment dictates another moment. Each one contains freedom.

We can want the moments to fit into a pattern that we call ‘legal’ or ‘right,’ or ‘moral’ or ‘ethical,’ but those are thought-constructs and that’s the very illusion that the Buddha was attempting to dispel. Those patterns exist only in our minds. In fact, all a society is, is a collective agreement on what those patterns are.

So we can tell ourselves ego stories —narratives that suggest how future moments should be. But in truth they will unfold as they unfold, regardless of our wishing.

We don’t fix our lives by getting everything lined up perfectly. Instead we understand that our lives are stunning gifts, and we do that by ignoring our stories of want in favour of appreciating what is.

Healthy people don’t ask the outside world to line up with our beliefs, we accept what is happening and we choose to look for the rewards within that reality. And rewards can come in many strange forms. Remember, we’ve all likely paid money to see horrors, suspense films and tragedies.

It’s not like those aren’t interesting and intense experiences, but we’re only okay with them when we feel that we’ve chosen them, as we do in a movie. But the theater’s just a construct. We can do that anywhere. We can feel like we chose things outside the theater too.

Our spiritual and mental health comes from us being okay with things. From not us getting to be God, where we have control and predictability over future moments. Health comes from allowing things to Be. Remember what Shakespeare said: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”

So how do we grow spiritually without overcoming problems? We need to get rid of the linear-ness we imagine and instead see life as one big flat space where we move from spot to spot. Not in a good or bad direction —there isn’t even such a thing as a direction in a healthy headspace.

380 Relax and Succeed - Hard times require furious dancing

Just choose a direction, and then you don’t argue with what you find there. That’s the key to your larger question:

If you’re not wasting your life arguing with what is, then you’re free to use that same life-energy to do something else. I would suggest going to the old standbys to start with:

Singing, dancing, hugging, making love, laughing, playing, spending time in nature, cuddling, or creating. That’s how we can realize our spirituality.

We don’t achieve it, we realize it in whatever moment we’re in. So we don’t become a spiritual person, we enact spirituality by making friends with what is.

If you succeed in this type of surrender, you will be amazed at how much energy you have wasted on pushing against the Is-ness of the world. Seriously. It’s 80% of  an ego’s energy. Imagine how much dancing we could do with that.

Don’t be attached to ending suffering. Be focused on joy instead. We won’t always find it, but by keeping our awareness on that and not our arguments with reality, we will find so much joy that people will call us happy, or grateful, or maybe even spiritual.

A few friends of mine are friends with Wade Davis, the former National Geographic Explorer. He’s a very cool ethno-botanist who lives with tribes the way you’d imagine Indiana Jones might.

I’m paraphrasing from hearing this a long time ago, but essentially a Native in the jungle once asked him about Western religious worship. After having it described to him the Shaman said to Wade, “You go to a place to celebrate God, we dance and become God.”

That guy gets it. So that’s a pretty good metaphor to answer your question. How can you be meaningfully spiritual? It’s easy. Just spend less of your time trying to figure life out, and more of your time dancing your way through it.

Have fun!

peace. s