Thursday, September 4, 2014

Installing A New Program

Over the next twelve months I will be reporting through this blog on a self-imposed, intentional, semi-structured spiritual journey:  my attempt to carve out meaning and purpose for my shortening life as it unfolds within this universe of fundamental uncertainty.

Maybe that sounds a bit highbrow. In my mind it seems simpler, more like this: over the next year I'm going take this tangled knot of life experiences I've been given and try to make some sense out of it. I'm going to do it putting myself through the paces of physical and spiritual discipline.

There will be lots of unlearning going on, for sure. But honestly, I'm not starting from scratch. (Is anything ever really from scratch?) I'm taking the lessons I've learned through education, indoctrination, lived experience, inspiration and intuition, and trying to lay them out in a comprehensible way, thus creating a map of sorts of how I got from there to here, and maybe, just maybe, catch a glimpse where this path is heading next.

There are a lot of books, myths, stories, religions, icons, all people or organizations who claim to have it figured out. But here's the thing: I don't trust any of them. Not completely. That's not because they're not trustworthy, but rather because they're human, just like me. They're looking through this same glass darkly. As previously stated, I don't anticipate finding "The Way," or the One True Church, or to be blinded by sudden revelation of all truth. I don't think it works that way. I'm searching for a deeper understanding, a motivating paradigm, an inner peace. That would be more than enough. Is it possible? Can I trust anyone? That's what I'm trying to figure out.

One important point here:  "spiritual," as I'm going to use it, does not mean "religious." Not at all. My current sense of spirituality is this: the conscious cultivation of mindfulness, integrity, tolerance, humility, courage, compassion and creativity. Put more simply: soul power, baby.

Here's what Albert has to say about it: 

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
 -- Albert Einstein

That's pretty cool stuff, so I think I will come back to this quote as a reference point for my progress.

Now here's the evolving outline of my self-imposed program:

Starting Assumptions and Motivating Hypotheses
(These may or may not be true, but they're a start . . .)
  • "It's all one thing." Separation is an illusion. Everything is connected. 
  • It's all energy, and energy never dies.
  • God is a metaphor for love.
  • We, along with the universe, are in constant evolution.
  • Now is forever, and forever is now.
The Welcome to Uncertainty Program
Physical Goals
  • Regular vigorous exercise.  
  • Challenging outdoor adventures and competitions to keep me motivated. (First order of business:  run a marathon in October.)
  • Maintain muscle tone and upper body strength.  (Working with a trainer to achieve this.)
  • Yoga twice weekly to maintain core strength and balance.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich is fresh fruits and veggies. Limit fast food and junk food.
  • Maintain healthy sleep habits.
  • Regular rest days to allow recovery.
  • Desired outcome: I will be in the best physical shape of my life after turning 40.
Mental Goals
  • Read, study, review and reflect upon twelve to twenty books of spiritual significance, such as the Baghavad Gita, the New Testament, and a variety of New Age philosophy, Secular Humanism, and Psychology, as well as some fiction. (I think I will probably re-read the Book of Mormon as part of this line-up. Right now I am finishing The Demon Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, and just read The Giver by Lois Lowry which I read for fun so that I could see the movie with my son. The book was okay, but the movie was profound.)  This list is still being compiled, and I will share it soon.
  • Meditation:  maintain a daily, weekly, and monthly meditation schedule.  (First order of business:  take a weekend meditation retreat at the Shambalah Center in Boulder, Colorado.)
  • Desired outcome:  I will become more informed about the great spiritual traditions and distill them into pratical applications to further my own progress.
Emotional Goals
  • Meditation program as above.
  • Stress reduction through meditation, exercise, healthy eating, etc.
  • Avoid emotional toxins. 
  • Maintain balance and positive energy.
  • I have never worked with a licensed counselor or therapist, but I am considering doing so for the experience of it, to assist me on all of the above.  To be determined . . .
  • Desired outcome:   I will develop increased tolerance, patience, and empathy. I will learn to let go of pain, anger and suffering. I will develop greater awareness of my surroundings and of others. I will become more emotionally available to my wife and children. I will strike a more comfortable balance between ambition and acceptance. 
Social Goals
  • Explore different congregations and gatherings, including secular humanism, Unitarian Universalism, and Buddhism.
  • Nurture my marriage, my relationships with my children, and my friendships by consciously creating time, space, and emotional availability on a daily and weekly basis.
  • Semi-structured weekly coffee chats / spiritual discussions with a select group of friends and mentors. This is a major part of my plan. More to come on this soon.
  • Engaging with various post-mormon support groups and email exchanges with others who are following a similar path.
  • Communicating my experiences with the others.through social media and this blog.
  • Desired outcome:  I will consciously and consistently communicate with others to strengthen my sense of connection in this vast universe, to broaden my perspective, and to help others successfully navigate their journey through life.
Service Goals

  • Conscious effort to perform random acts of kindness daily.
  • Weekly and monthly service projects and donations of my time to schools, churches, and community organizations.
  • Financially supporting organizations that are meaningful to me.
  • Desired outcome:  I will get out of my own head, forget my first world problems, and get to work serving others.  Jesus said it best: Lose yourself to find yourself. And Mother Theresa said it this way: "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you."
Reality Check:
  • I have bills to pay, a family to raise, a job to perform, patients to care for, responsibilities in the community and schools. I don't have the luxury of extra time or money to spend doing all of these things at the expense of my "real life." I feel pretty overwhelmed as it is. But this is kind of the point: striking this balance in a sustainable way. Merging the ideal with the real. Fortunately, I've already incorporated many of these things into the basic structure of my life: exercise, yoga, family time, Sunday church exploration, coffee chats, reading, healthy eating, service opportunities, etc. I will definitely have to trim some fat elsewhere to get the rest of it done. What I've listed above seems formidable but not insurmountable. I'm going to hold myself accountable for these things, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't get it all done. I'm just going to do the best I can day by day, with the bigger picture in mind.
But I guess that gets to three related points:
  • First: Whatever grand truths I may discover on this journey will be pointless if not ultimately practical. I think of the old Buddhist proverb: "Before enlightenment?  Chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water." Man, we are in the thick of it! All the time! We can prepare for and enjoy brief reprieves, but still gonna have to go to work the next day. So gotta keep it simple, practical, sustainable.
  • Second: I am aware that this process can seem somewhat selfish, or at least self-centered. I suppose by its very nature it is. I'm trying to emphasize for myself the importance of service, outreach, and family and social connection. This whole process does me no good if I become snooty, intolerant, and/or isolated from friends and family. But it's my theory that if I increase my spirituality as described, that I will become a much better husband, father, friend, brother, son, neighbor, doctor and citizen of the world. "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  Gonna try, Mr. Gandhi. Gonna try.
  • Last:  After all of this searching/seeking/questing/questioning, I may well return to most the basic truth of all:  look inside to find my truth. Once again our friend the historical Jesus said it best: "The kingdom of God is within you." Amen, brother.

Creating order out of chaos

"In the deepest within, the most infinite beyond.  In ever-present awareness, your soul expands to embrace the entire Kosmos, so that Spirit alone remains, as the simple world of what is.   The rain no longer falls on you, but within you; the sun shines from inside your heart and radiates out into the world, blessing it with grace; supernovas swirl in your consciousness, the thunder is the sound of your own exhilarated heart; the oceans and rivers are nothing but your blood pulsing to the rhythm of your soul.  Infinitely ascended worlds of light dance in the interior your brain; infinitely descended worlds of night cascade around your feet; the clouds crawl across the sky of your own unfettered mind, while the wind blows through the empty space where your self once used to be.  The sound of the rain falling on the roof is the only self you can find, here in the obvious world, where inner and outer are silly fictions and self and other are obscene lies, and ever-present simplicity is the sound of one hand clapping madly for all eternity.  In the greatest depth, the simplest what is, and the journey ends, as it always does, exactly where it began.”

--Ken Wilbur,
 from "Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy"

No comments:

Post a Comment