Friday, November 24, 2023

What is Trustworthy?

    "Einstein was asked what he thought the most important question was that a human being needed to answer. His reply was, ‘Is the universe a friendly place or not?
    Our answer to that question is the cornerstone on which many of our values & beliefs inevitably rest. If we believe that the universe is unfriendly & that our very souls are in danger, peace will be elusive at best."
    Joan Borysenko. “Fire in the Soul. A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism.” Warner Books, 1993.

    Many years later, one of the world's foremost PTSD experts expanded on the same topic:
    If you feel safe & loved, your brain (is) specialized in exploration, play, & cooperation; if you are frightened & unwanted, it (is) specialized in managing feelings of fear & abandonment.
    Bessel Van Der Kolk. “The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Penguin Books, 2015.

    "The Great Way is not difficult
     for those who have no preferences..."

    We all have many, perfectly harmless preferences, like enjoying one flavor of ice cream more than another.
    But why does not getting what we want so powerfully grab our attention? Perhaps it's because many of us live under the (mostly subconscious) assumption that survival & safety depends entirely on our ability to control our environment. We live in fear that failing this, will quickly bring chaos, sickness, starvation & death.
No wonder we're triggered every time life appears indifferent to our personal preferences.
    Yet realistically, how often does our every wish (preference) come true? Rarely, & then only briefly. So most of us spend our lives striving mightily against 
reason & reality by trying to capture & sustain personal preferences. We cling to our preferences like drowning people cling to bits of wood floating by. This is how we create most of our suffering, and it's completely unnecessary!

    Life rarely unfolds exactly as we want it to. And if we stop and think about it, that makes perfect sense. The scope of life is universal, and the fact that we are not actually in control of life’s events should be self-evident. The universe has been around for 13.8 billion years, and the processes that determine the flow of life around us did not begin when we were born, nor will they end when we die. What manifests in front of us at any given moment is actually something truly extraordinary – it is the end result of all the forces that have been interacting together for billions of years. We are not responsible for even the tiniest fraction of what is manifesting around us. Nonetheless, we walk around constantly trying to control and determine what will happen in our lives. No wonder there’s so much tension, anxiety & fear. Each of us actually believes that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation.
    Every day, we give precedence to our mind’s thoughts over the reality unfolding before us. We regularly say things like, ‘It better not rain today because I’m going camping’ or ‘I better get that raise because I really need the money.’ Notice that these bold claims about what should and shouldn’t be happening are not based on scientific evidence; they’re based solely on personal preferences made up in our minds. Without realizing it, we do this with everything in our lives – it’s as though we actually believe that the world around us is supposed to manifest in accordance to our own likes & dislikes. If it doesn’t, surely something is very wrong. This is an extremely difficult way to live, and it is the reason we feel that we are always struggling with life.
    The question is, does it have to be this way? There is so much evidence that life does quite well on its own. The planets stay in orbit, tiny seeds grow into giant trees, weather patterns have kept forests across the globe watered for millions of years, and a single fertilized cell grows into a beautiful baby. We are not doing any of these things as conscious acts of will; they are all being done by the incomprehensible perfection of life itself. All these amazing events, and countless more, are being carried out by forces of life that have been around for billions of years – the very same forces of life that we are consciously pitting our will against on a daily basis. If natural unfolding of the process of life can create and take care of the entire universe, is it really reasonable for us to assume that nothing good will happen unless we force it to?
    There must be another, more sane way to approach life. For example, what would happen if we respected the flow of life and used our free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it?

    Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.

    A few more insights from Singer - a meditator & businessman, who maintained a very deep meditation & yoga practice WHILE creating & running highly successful companies:

    “the personal mind (with it’s neurotic chatter) always returned once I got up (from sitting Zen meditation) and became active. … one day in a flash of realization it dawned on me that perhaps I’d been going about this in the wrong way. Instead of trying to free myself by constantly quieting the mind, perhaps I should be asking why the mind is so active. What is the motivation behind all the mental chatter? If the motivation were to be removed, the struggle would be over.
    This realization opened the door for an entirely new & exciting dimension to my practices. As I explored it inwardly, the first thing I noticed was that most of the mental activity revolved around my likes & dislikes. If my mind had a preference toward or against something, it actively talked about it. … it was these mental preferences that were creating much of the ongoing dialogue about how to control everything in my life. In a bold attempt to free myself from all that, I decided to just stop listening to all the chatter about my personal preferences, and instead, start the willful practice of accepting what the flow of life was presenting me.
    I would let go of my preferences and let life be in charge. … If life brought events in front of me, I would treat them as if they came to take me beyond myself. If my personal self complained, I would use each opportunity to simply let him go and surrender to what life was presenting me. This was the birth of what I came to call ‘the surrender experiment.’
    Surrender – what an amazingly powerful word. It often engenders the thought of weakness & cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown."

     Singer's experiment was very successful. His suggestion?

    “Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart & soul without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itselfbecause it was.”
    Michael A. Singer “The Surrender Experiment. My Journey into Life’s Perfection,” Harmony, 2015.

    It's understandable, especially if we've had a rough childhood & a harsh life in general, for us to be flailing frantically for control. And yes, it's almost impossible to teach more effective swimming techniques to someone WHILE they're drowning. Nevertheless, there ARE MUCH wiser ways of being in the world than remaining trapped, identified with our neuroses.



  1. God grant me the serenity to accept things I can’t change

    1. Yes, and the serenity prayer, like spirituality in general, has many levels of understanding ...

  2. This is a fertile track on which to reflect. While I agree that the universe has done perfectly well without me/us/the age of humanity, I think we human beings have greatly influenced the world (the centre of the universe as we conceive it). Will something good happen in the world unless we work to make it happen? Something, yes, but not all things good or needed. Our preservation of this centre (Earth) as the home of humanity (and so much of life) within the universe depends on us quite markedly. One person may not be very significant in Earth's future, but's a different story.

    1. There's an aspect of co-creation between human beings who are can progressively let go of their small self (ego / neuroses) and thus increasingly "dance with the Universal Flow." Michael Singer worked very, very hard for many years doing exactly this, as described in his book, "The Surrender Experiment." Many, however, live unexamined lives "rushing madly in all directions" and just add chaos to our world. "Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living" General Omar N. Bradley, US Army. This terrible imbalance needs to be corrected ASAP.