The Modern Necessity of Faith

Hi,

We live in a world revolving around the things we know, where science, measurements, and materialism have taken the highest position in the pyramid of things we believe in. Everything has to be exact, everything has to be quantifiable, everything has to be picked apart and understood so that we can integrate it within our lives without a doubt.

Especially our school system is very reluctant at allowing any kind of space for doubt, since we are “supposed” to know, from a tender age, the path we will want to walk on for our whole lives. What’s more, the holders of faiths, i.e. the current religious institutions, have made a business out of telling people how to live, claiming they found the answers to the mysteries of life, like the most ethical way to live or what happens when we die. All of this combined leads us to where we are now, gaining knowledge through empirical conviction, claiming it for truth, and dismissing anything requiring an ounce of unknown, for it is not a factor we can take into our calculations.

Even in our everyday lives we do this, constantly trying to explain why we chose this option and not the other, why we act a certain way, why we feel like this; our need for understanding is omnipresent, and so is the necessity of self-justification (which are basically the same). We need the answers, and we need them now. This is not to say that we can’t possess knowledge or an understanding of certain situations and the processes behind our action patterns, or at least possess them insofar as we take into account the perceptions we hold and have access to. The truth is, the data we use to build our understanding and our comprehensions is limited by the sensors we have to take and process those streams of data. Example:

I feel hungry and crave chocolate.

I believe I must eat something to satisfy my hunger.

I prepare myself some food, for example chocolate-cookies.

I eat those cookies.

Craving gone, and I don’t feel hungry.

 

Now, in this example, we received data-inputs, that is, hunger and a craving for chocolate. We then associated a way to deal with that data, which we acquired partly innately (eating to satisfy hunger), and partly through our experiences (I discovered chocolate). So we come up with a solution to this situation by answering the information we received and executing the pattern that we learned (hungry –> eat –> not hungry), and satisfied our craving in the mean time. Easy, simple, clear, we understand and we apply, no questions asked. 

This get interesting when we start to question why we had this craving for chocolate in the first place, and even hunger. Hunger can be easily justified by claiming that it is a biological necessity that our bodies have to nourish themselves in order to generate energy so that they can keep on keeping on. But then, what would be the biological imperative behind the chocolate craving?

One possible explanation is that, since cacao is a heart-warming psychoactive substance, we needed something to warm our hearts, possibly due to some lack of emotional nourishment, or perhaps as an add-on to the state we already feel.

So those are still reasons why we felt a certain way, and the justifications of why we acted the way we did following those feelings. If those explanations satisfy us (adding a certain mental well-being to the picture), we repeat those actions when we encounter the same data-input (hungry/craving for chocolate), and so we start building patterns that we understand and which can then become mindless, hence, no need for questioning or doubt. Just like that, the pattern imprints.

Or so we’d like to think. Expanding our understanding a bit, reasons and rationalization can take us beyond this simple execution pattern by filling it up with questions:

Should I really eat chocolate? Or cookies? What about the sugar? What about the cacao? Is it fair trade? What was the environmental cost of the packaging if I simply buy pre-made cookies? Are they filled with potentially unhealthy chemicals? Are they actually good for me? Should I fight the craving or go with it? Am I bad if I still feel cravings? Am I bad if I eat the whole box? Is it the right thing to do if I know that my craving comes from a place on emotional emptiness?

All of these are legitimate questions which can make the simple act of enjoying cookies quite the mental endeavor and so we try to answer them to calm our inner turmoils using the knowledge we possess and the understanding of the situation we can apply.

So, how does that relate to faith?

In the current example, faith comes in after the fact of us going through an entire box of cookies and feeling culpable about it, or right after receiving the sensory input that we are hungry and craving chocolate. In a nutshell, faith allows us to be okay with the actions we do, and the feelings we feel, even if we don’t understand them.

“I’ve been trying to avoid and change this certain pattern of mine which I believe to be unhealthy but have been failing miserably at it, I must be weak”. No, those associations are your brain tripping out, trying to make sense of the actions you took now. Were you really in control of your actions? Or were you reacting on an impulse triggered by an unpleasant sensation?

My aim here is not to get into a debate about free-will or to justify the satisfaction of all our cravings, but rather an invitation to cut ourselves some slack.

I have repeated this unhealthy pattern again. It is okay. I believe I can change that pattern. I have faith in my evolution despite apparent setbacks.

The truth is, there is a myriad of factors which guide our lives and choices every single instant, our will being a part of it, yes, but it is but a part of the whole. Our conditioning to associate chocolate with emotional well-being is one factor guiding the above choice, the belief that we must always satisfy our hunger is another one, I have been feeling sad lately and need a pick-me up can be part of it, I’m hungry and walking through the grocery store and see all those sugar-filled chocolate cookies which trigger a chemical craving for the high of it since society associated sugar and pleasure together and got us all hooked is another factor guiding my choices.

It doesn’t matter what we believe in, the details of how we try to explain the things we can’t understand, we all have our own way of processing the data we receive. We can find communion in faith though, as a notion that things are going the way they’re going because that’s how it is for now, and that it doesn’t necessarily always have to be the case, because I cannot know what comes next. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be paying attention to the actions we chose to execute, but rather to not lose ourselves in questioning our every choices despite conflicting beliefs and data clashing in our heads. Facing the unknown in a shared human (or any conscious being’s) experience, and trusting that things are going to be fine the way they are is faith. This is not to say that bad things won’t happen (the environment is still going to change, I’m still going to feel nauseous if I eat the whole box of cookies, and we’ll feel hurt if we break up), but rather that we can remain hopeful despite of them happening.

I feel it relevant now more than ever given the current state of the world as a whole and human society within it. There are so many dangers, so many things going wrong, so many ways we have to be, it’s quite easy to get lost in all of it and not knowing what to do or where to go, filling us with hopelessness. Faith has also gotten somewhat of a bad rep being associated with the current religious institutions and although it does strongly relate to religious sentiments (facing the unknown mysteries of our existence), it does not have to involve a specific deity in order to be applicable.

And so this is a simple invitation:

Have faith. In yourself, in others, in the world.

Everything’s going to be all right.

Warmly,

Luca

The Place Beyond

Happiness and Balance

We all seek different things in life and use different tools to try to acquire those things. Whether professionally, materially, physically, or emotionally, we all have different goals. Yet, even throughout our differences, there is one that comes up quite frequently, and that is happiness. Happiness is presented to us as an unwavering state of ecstatic delight over all aspects of our lives, a high that never ends. We must always stay radiant and smiling, thinking positive thoughts and have the most wonderful of experiences regardless of the situation. If ever a low is hit, it must be remedied as quickly as possible, through consumption of some thing or another. It is necessary for us to remain in the exuberantly joyful state, for how else could we be happy? We couldn’t, we would only be pretending to be, and quite badly at that. So we better get whatever will make us happy for a moment again, and indulge while it lasts. Though we wouldn’t have to worry, for once this high subsides again, it is a simple matter of moving on to the next object that will give us a boost, to maintain that state for as long as we can. That is happiness.

                Or not.

There are many words to describe that state; ecstasy, euphoria, elation. Yet it also carries with it the qualities of fearful and escapist. It is so because it portrays a fear of feeling “bad”, or unpleasant sensations, seeking to always feel “good” or pleasurable stimulations, and thus escaping the reality that is. It is wholly unbalanced, for it’s denial of a vital aspect of the truth at hand, always seeking to attain a state which we believe should be the case; and this is up to each and everyone one of us to engage with or not, for that is our freedom of choice. So try, live it, attempt, observe, and feel. Did it bring you what you desired? Did it last? How do you truly feel?

If the answer to any of the questions above brings about a negative response, then perhaps another solution is required to attain what we so desire through our quest for happiness. This is when balance comes into play.

This is another concept that is portrayed as a permanent state, a goal we should seek until we have reached it, and look up to the people who have it all together, who have this perfectly balanced life. Job, family, relations, friends, school, sport, pleasure, self-care; those are just a few of the elements that make up our lives, and which we must find a way to balance, to put together in a neat fashion so that we get the most out of all of them. Preferably in a clean calendar, so that we can be proud of how balanced and well put-together we are. Though, it is also important to not be too strict, and incorporate an element of flexibility and spontaneity to be properly balanced, so that must be included in the calendar as well, without it being too restricted. Once we manage all that, congratulations, we are balanced. Or are we?

This state of balance shares one major resemblance with our quest for happiness, and that is that they are both based on clearly defined ideas of what is good and what is bad, of what is wrong and what is right, of what we should do, and what we should not. It is obvious to us that we must always seek the good and avoid the bad, since bad unbalances and makes us unhappy. That’s the way it is. Or so we like to believe. The truth is otherwise though.

One Step Back

In order to have a better view at what balance is composed off, we must first take a step back from those concepts of good and bad, looking at them on a spectrum, with a small line as our current state. Some things feel good, and bring our little bar closer to the “happy” end of the spectrum, while other things feel bad and bring us closer to the “sad” end of the spectrum. It is important to acknowledge that the spectrum reaches far beyond sad and happy, but for simplicity’s sake, those will be used for example.

Someone gives us a gift, we feel happy, our state moves more towards “happy”. We break something valuable to us, our state moves towards “sad”. Those are truths, in the sense that we cannot deny that we feel different things. A gentle caress feels pleasant, a broken bone feels painful. Thus, it might be natural for us to seek what feels pleasant, and avoid what feels painful; and we would be right in doing so, our survival might depend on it.

At the same time, we cannot simply avoid everything that feels “bad”, for things always happen. There are an infinite number of causes which could lead our state to fluctuate towards one side or the other, many of which we have no control over. Hence, many would say it is foolish to attach a goal of such high importance as happiness to a bar in constant movement. I agree with them; and now is the time for the cheesy line we have all heard before: “we wouldn’t appreciate the sun if it wasn’t for the rain”.

In a way, that line is true. Opposites make us appreciate on another, for they bring each other into existence. It is also true that both can be enjoyable, just as they could not. This is where I suggest taking a step back and looking at the whole spectrum. We are conscious that we cannot always feel happy, and that we can sometimes be sad. It is also true that even if we feel pain frequently, there are always times when we don’t.

That’s the beauty of it.

We are able to experience both sides and the plethora of sensations they bring, regardless of whether we judge them as pleasant or not. Because our judgement doesn’t really matter. They are there anyways, due to our lack of control over them. Hence, judging them one way or another only makes them heavier, adding unnecessary weight to energy that just wants to move. Emotions. E-Motions. Energy in motion. If we hold on to them by putting pressure on yourself for feeling them, the movement stops, and that energy stagnates within us. So we keep feeling that way, plus our pressure; an example of this is when we feel jealous, and then convince ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way, so we feel bad for being jealous, making us feel frustrated, while at the bottom of it all, there was a feeling that was simply not expressed properly. Thus, by simply acknowledging our jealousy, asking ourselves what could have caused it, and accepting it as being legitimate, we allow it to move on, and ourselves in the process. Everything is impermanent. Equanimity is the key.

Unifying the Separate

This is not to say that we should not the thrilled about living something that makes us feel joyful, or that we shouldn’t feel angry for a certain reason, but simply accepting that that’s how we feel at the moment, and letting ourselves feel it. This place of self-observation is where the can see the full spectrum of our personal experience. The real beauty of it lies in the fact that even though our emotions are always fluctuating, that the world outside is always transforming, and that we ourselves are constantly changing, there is a place of calm. In all the chaos, there is a place of serenity, of peace.

Observation is the way to bring opposites together. Not a disconnected passive observation, through filters and insecurities, but an authentic open presence, to ourselves. This presence is what allows us to simply be. With anything that is there with us. Pain can be pleasant in more ways than one, pleasure can carry this painful quality with it, and one of the most beautiful experiences we can live is a heartbreak, because it shows us the value and depth of what we lived. Yes, it is painful, but it wouldn’t be as beautiful if it weren’t. Sensitivity is a wonderful ability, for it allows us to feel everything, and sensory input is our mainframe when interacting with ourselves, our bodies, and the world around us.

Simple observation brings peace with it, so we are always aware of where our bar is situated on the spectrum of feeling good and feeling bad, and so we can act in consequence of the states we desire to live in that moment. Active observation allows us to choose our actions with more clarity, to get what we truly desire. Balance in our lives is not something external, but an inner state of constant awareness and acceptance, standing strongly on our feet so we can let all the feelings and emotions flow trough us. Standing solid so we don’t fall over. And if we do, enjoy the pain from it, dive into it, and use it as a catalyst to stand back up again, wiser than before. Standing strong doesn’t mean being stiff, but entering the dance grounded and aware, allowing us to follow our flow and the motions that arise. It is from this place of solidity that we can fully choose our next movement, the direction we want to dance in, and the way we move our bodies there. We are in control of ourselves throughout the movement all around us.

Once we dance, not afraid of where the music will bring us, that’s when we can be deeply happy. In the place beyond judgement, where things just are, we can appreciate both pain and pleasure, happiness and sadness, movement, and stillness. The funny part is that, even if that place doesn’t exist per se it is always within us, so we always have access to it, even if we can’t physically enter it. It is the source of our conscious experience after all, the source of our being here.

In the end, the best way to remain happy and balanced is to simply not doing anything but release our own judgements and giving ourselves the permission to simply be as we are. Only then can we reach the source of happiness, letting it flow freely through us. I do truly believe that happiness is our base state, not the joyful ecstasy, but the peaceful serenity with what is. This being so, the secret to reaching that place is simply not blocking ourselves from it, but allowing ourselves to be present to what is. This state will never disappear, is always accessible, we must simply choose to pay attention to it. The rest is the dance to keep it interesting.

So flow free, and let yourself be, we will see each other in the place beyond.

Being Body

The body is an exquisite way to encounter the world around us. It takes us away from the pure field of energy which permeates the universe and allows us to receive different stimuli independently. This leads us to the senses, most being able to distinguish between what we see, what we hear, what we feel, and what we smell. The truth is, we cannot phantom existence without the senses we currently possess to translate all the informational input we gather from everything around us, and what’s more, we even use those senses to understand what is happening within us. More specifically, we feel what is happening within our bodies to various degrees, and by this I do not only refer to bodily reactions like our heart beat or cramps, but also our feelings, which are aptly named as such since they do have a tangible physical impact beyond their mental and psychological effects.

Before proceeding any further, I invite you to take a moment to close your eyes, briefly observe your breath, and do a complete body scan, being open to feeling what sensations happen where. Without judgement as to how you should feel, accepting both pleasant and unpleasant sensations, however they may arise. Once you’re done, deeply breath in and slowly breath out. You can repeat this exercise at will, wherever and whenever you so desire.

Observing the sensations that are constantly stimulating our bodies to various degrees allow us to be present to the changes which happen within us, whatever they may be. Having to urinate or being hungry are some of the most forceful sensations our bodies feel regularly, for they serve as warnings signs signaling us that there is some physical maintenance which is required to keep our biological envelop running comfortably. Beyond those, there is a plethora of more subtle sensations which cover a vast immensity of possibilities, from emotions, to energetic circulation, leading to tantrism and depth of conscious awareness. Those sensations can be vibratory feelings, pain, heat, tension, release, shortness of breath, heavy/light presence, and more. The more subtle our perception, the more when can expand that range to which we have access. The most flagrant example of this is food, specifically the refinement of taste that we can acquire, as in the case with wine. At first it might be unpleasant, then an appreciation is developed as we come to appreciate the intensity of taste it brings. Slowly, the tastes become more distinct, we become aware of the different tones present within this same initial intensity. Throughout that, some tastes and sensations we will prefer, some we will dislike, and that is our power of choice about the sensations we desire and those we feel averse to. I would rather buy a bottle of wine I really enjoy than one I didn’t really like.

To introduce one possibility of what an increase subtle awareness can bring us, I will share a piece of wisdom the Buddha taught through his Vipassana meditation. Everything that happens within our unconscious is perceptible by the body. Given that we are constantly taking in stimuli, or information, through our sensors, i.e. our senses, we have access to everything that happens in and around us. Everything that happens within us has a physical impact, and everything that happens around us has a physical impact on us as well. All our patterns are imprinted paths within our neural networks and muscles, all our emotions can be felt at certain physical spots, and all energetic transmissions can be receives through our own energetic field. To support that last point, in Matter to Mind to Consciousness, T. Lee Baumann, M.D. develops one the findings of electrical impulses coursing through our nervous system to communicate the stimuli they get. Our nervous system is composed of the nerves we possess, connected to our spinal cord, and thus our brain. The paths are neural networks of connectivity which are actually open to the outside. This means that we are not like computers, which only exchange information within themselves as a closed system (unless connected to the internet), but that in fact, we are more similar to antennas which constantly exchange electromagnetic vibrations with the world around them as open systems of communication.

Before we move into the implications of this idea, I want to offer another exercise to perceive our physical reactions in conjunction with our mental happenings. Take a moment to breath, come back into your physical awareness, how your body feels, and connect yourself to your inner world. Then think “No”, with all your will, and feel how your body feels to it. Once you have a clear (or as clear as you can get) sensation, then get out of it by breathing a bit, maybe opening your eyes, maybe moving a bit. Then go back in, and think “Yes” with all your will. Notice the differences in sensations that occur. Now, whenever you are unclear about if you want something or not, just tune into yourself and ask yourself the question. It is a constant process of increasing the subtlety of our awareness, and differentiating the various sensations which play simultaneously to decipher what is it is our body really tells us. So worry not if it takes some practice before the responses become crystal clear.

To come back to the idea of our nervous systems serving as antennas, the implications this piece of knowledge have are immense, especially for all that encompasses our conscious and spiritual aspects. One example of those implications is the possibility of telepathic communication. We emit sensations, and vibrations from our bodies towards the external world, and so another body in this external world can receive those same vibrations we emitted and interpret them in their own system. Which explains the contagious quality that our emotions possess. The truth is, we are always in a flow of telepathic exchange with our surroundings, but more often than not, these sensations are too subtle for us to constantly process, or we simply don’t pay attention. Nonetheless, they are received in our bodies, and compose our unconscious, subconscious, and conscious minds. The same is true from the sensations and feelings arising within us, generated by us, since we are an independent part of the larger system of informational exchange.

 

Being connected to this larger field of electro-magnetic information allows us to tune into it and receive information, while also being able to influence it through our own electro-magnetic fields. The individual direct effects may not be enormous, but through the butterfly effect, the possibilities can reach unfathomable heights. In other words; magic. It might not be as easy as chanting “one, two, three”, nor may the results be directly observable right after the fact, but what we emit resonates with our surrounding nonetheless. Tuning into this reality is both empowering and humbling, for we are but a small drop in an ocean of electro-magnetic information and movement, though a drop is all it takes to have a vase overflow and change the course of the currents.

Entering into this way of life requires a great deal of openness and vulnerability because it can only be done by accepting to feel all there is at the present moment, regardless of whether it’s considered as a “good” or “bad” sensation. It also takes courage, since the most efficient way to let the current course through us unhindered is by authentically expressing what is happening within us, thus releasing the blockages we may build to protect ourselves from our perceived fears of certain movements. Yet, just like any other ability, those are aspects we can work on and which get easier the more we practice them, leading to a wonderful outcome of liberation and connectedness within ourselves and with the universe at large. What comes next is still up to us to discover…

Twirly-swirly Confusion…

Hello 🙂

Life, eh…quite the confusing this, is it not?? What are we supposed to do, what should we not do, what path should we take, should we kiss her/him or not, what should we eat for supper…so many choices to make all the time, and so little guidelines to follow. School doesn’t really teach us anything about life itself, being to focused to burning some facts into our brains which may or may not be useful, but rarely are we forced to look life in the eyes, and really face the reality of it.

And what may that reality be?? Well, for that, we have to go back to the basics, i.e. we are conscious beings living a physical life. Why do I claim this is the basic state we live in?? Simply because if we stop eating, drinking or sleeping, we’ll end up ranging somewhere between crazy and dead, for our biological machine needs fuel and rest to keep on going, just like any other machine out there. But those are simply our requirements to keep on living, though they are to be examined more in depth, because nutrition is vital for the proper functioning of our bodies, and it also has variable effects on the environment, which are not to be overlooked.

Though, for now, the focus will come back to our lives, more than our bodies. The next step that comes with our reality as conscious physical beings is that we can feel. We can feel pain and pleasure, cold and warm, we can feel emotions, and we can feel a soft blanket or a hug. We can feel the wind blowing through our hair, and we can feel the stress of overworking and the pressure of responsibilities. We feel the confusion that comes with living, the distress at not having any answers, and the lack of fulfilment at having to fit in a preset box. I see feelings as physical perceptions, because even when it comes to emotions, our body feels them just as much as our mind. Our body reacts to something external, and thus, we feel that something.

Perhaps this is the way we should live our lives. In accordance with what we feel, for we are bodies, but this is hard to apply, or even to phantom, for what would a society look like where everybody only did like they felt like?? Surely it would be chaos, madness, anarchy…but how bad would that really be?? I suppose this would come down to the education every person received, and I do not mean school eduction, but rather knowledge about life, cohesion, harmony, and peace. I believe very few people are inherently bad, for everyone prefers to feel good when they can choose between that or pain.

The best way to feel good about ourselves and our lives is perhaps to live it in accordance with what we truly desire, with what we believe in. How to do this?? Get to know yourself. We always hear about people running away trying to find themselves, facing a mid-life crisis because they have been doing what they should, and not what they want, trying to fit in a mould which is comfortable, but not satisfying. Perhaps that is what life is really about…getting to know oneself as a conscious physical being, and trying to feel everything to the fullest…

Until next time,
Luca

Swirly Credit: http://catbeluxe.deviantart.com/art/swirl-texture-84431981

Everything, but Nothing…

Hello 🙂

Today’s topic is very simple, while nonetheless being unbelievably intricate. It is all we ever have, all we ever will have, and the only thing which will sift through our hands the moment we think we can grasp onto it. Fleeting as the seconds on a clock, yet ever present as long as we are there to live it. We are often told to live within in, not to lose ourselves within the abstractions of times we cannot change, to focus only on what we have in front of us. All of this represents the one and only moment that truly matters: the Now.

It is everything we ever have because no matter how long we live or remain conscious we will be present in it, without possibility of escape. Yet very often, despite being right now, we dream about the future, or obsess with the past, both of which bring us deeply within the world in our heads, taking us away from the moment we live in. This is not to say that we should never plan ahead, or delve within our fondest memories to relive some joys long past, but simply that they should perhaps not become the sole focus in our lives, for then we forget what truly matters. It is not called the present without a reason, for it is where our presence may remain, in fact, it is the only place it ever could. It is also the exclusive realm of time on which we can have any kind of influence, since what we already lived is long gone, and what is yet to come cannot be reached, until it joins us in the Now.

Though the moment we believe we have finally made it to the future by living it in the present, it is already too late, for it has already become a part of our past. Therein lies the absurdity of the Now, and the reason why it is Nothing, and thus does not really matter after all. Once again, this is not to say that one should not care about it at all, just not drag along regrets, sadness, fear, or shame for all it takes is a little time, and they will be long gone, forever out of the nexus of causality which we may influence. Anything we choose to keep within us after it has past is nothing more than that, something we choose, though admittedly it is not easy to let go. The future is frightening as well, for we may never know what will happen, but why worry about something which is not around yet?? It sounds like a whole lot of trouble for something which we cannot run away from anyways.

All this to say that whether Lucy dispenses her wisdom from the diamond sky, or by falling off a tree and having to walk up straight, she will still only truly possess the most fleeting thing of all, the present moment. And the only thing we can do with that is enjoy the right now, keep a beautiful attitude, and not lose ourselves within the confines of the infinite time, which will forever remain all around us, despite being a universe away.

Until next time,

Luca