Monday, April 20, 2009

How To Live Happily - More or Less

I was never a huge 'Seinfeld' fan, altthough I recognize a certain existentialism that at times was appealing, and once in a while, a true teaching. For instance, those who ARE fans will certainly remember the episode in which George decides to do the opposite of whatever his initial tendencies are. Sitting with Jerry in the cafe, he sees a pretty girl and wants to approach her, but then remembers that basically everything he tries fails. (If you're a real die-hard fan, forgive me if I don't have it exactly right and just follow along.) Jerry suggests that whatever he thinks he should do or tell her, that George should do exactly the opposite. So instead of feeding her some line of bullcrap, how about just telling her the truth. George decides that might just work, and so going to the young woman says, "Hi, I'm George. I'm totally unmotivated, am unemployed and live with my parents." And, of course, the woman immediately turns to him, smiles, and with obvious interest, replies, "Really?!"

Essentially, any unhappiness is caused by not getting what we think we want. What we think we want is a product of our ego or our sense of individualized and separated "I". The mind and intellect (manas and buddhi in Sanskrit) decipher what are the objects of awareness, (not a problem), but then the label them as desirable or undesireable. The sense of "I" wants what it deems as desireable and rejects what it sees as undesireable. Thus causing the unhappiness.Nisargadatta said something to the effect of... "You are unhappy because you want what you don't have and don't want what you do have. Just turn that around - Want what you have, and don't want what you don't have." The simplicity of it is overwhelming, however, the practice is often another thing. We are trained, especially by our present day culture, that we should be able to have whatever we want. Our entire culture is geared around the fact that we should have exactly what we want, when we want it. We deserve it. We are entitled to it. Forget what anyone else wants, or what impact our wanting has on anyone or anything else. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.

One of my semi-surrogate grand-daughters was over the other day with her 14 month old baby girl, and she mentioned that her new favorite word is, "MINE". She'll pick something up, anything, and boastfully proclaim, "MINE!" Is this not what everyone is trying to do?When I was around 11, my parents signed me up for piano lessons with the local piano teacher, Mrs. Merciel, an older widow who lived at the end of the block, and I think had been teaching piano since it was the harpsichord. I remember almost nothing of what she taught me (and still can't play piano worth beans), but one thing has stuck with me over the nearly half century. Nearly everyone has heard this, but it was the first time I had heard it, I have noo remembrance of the context of why she said it, but it was...

"The more you know, the less you know."

While an obvious Truism, it is also a teaching.

So, another way of looking at Nisargadatta's statement is switch 'more' for 'less'......

The less you know, the more you know.

Want more Money? Try wanting less money
Think you are more special? Recognize you are less special.
Think you should do more? Try doing less? (Or try Be-ing more)
Want more people to like you? Try wanting less people to like you. (or Want to like others more)Think you deserve more. Consider that you deserve less. (or be grateful for the more you have).
Think you need more knowledge? Trying needing less knowledge.

I think you get the picture. Simply see when some sort of unhappiness or resistance or desire arises which says you want more (or less) of something, and try turning it around. What would it be like to have or want the opposite in some way. Recognize who or what it is that is desiring that, and inquire into the very reality of that "I" which is desiring. Recognize that when there is no desiring, but rather a satisfaction with what is, then there is peace, and from peace comes happiness.

So, how to live happily, more or less? Try the opposite. It just might work.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Rebirth

Yesterday, my wife says to me, "Tomorrow is Easter" and my response is something like, "And...?", as if that is supposed to mean something to me. (Generally, I like to get a new bonnet, but don't let anyone know.) The truth is, I wasn't born Christian, I never practiced Christianity, and of course, neither do most of the people that enjoy Easter. Easter really has very little to do with Christianity - it's about Rebirth, and Rebirth is something that all of us are continuously experiencing.

Our Easter, much as we know it, is said to be stolen from the elusive group called the Pagans, as if they were some kind of specific group that weren't there, then were, and now aren't again. Most think that that the word Pagan relates to those anti-Christian types, but many believe that originally the word, coming from the Latin Paganus, actually just meant a forest or country dweller, a hick, a 'country bumpkin' so to speak, rather than a civilized type. But in any case, the idea of Easter, Christian or otherwise, is really about death and rebirth.

Death and rebirth is all around us. We are death and rebirth. We live on a planet that is continuously dying and being reborn - our days, our seasons, the plants. Everything is in this ongoing cycle of dying and being reborn. Many believe that we, too, die and are reborn through reincarnation. But, this is not about that right now. Right now, I want to simply talk about this life.

In the Christian perspective, Easter is about Christ dying on the cross and rising, reborn, on Easter, when he is spotted by some of the disciples, and later shows up for them in a locked room. It is about the Arisen Christ. Each of us, has the opportunity, in EVERY moment, to be Reborn, to expand our Arising Christ-ness. However, for that to happen, we also MUST DIE.

Being reborn is dependent on dying. You can't have the one without the other, and therein lies the rub. No one wants to die. Everyone wants to hold on to the old AND have the new. It is what is traditionally called, "having the cake and eating it too", which again, I will point out if people said it the other way around (i.e. eating the cake and still having it too). Christ's death and rebirth was said to be on a physical level - the body died on the cross and was miraculously reborn in the sepulchre. And our bodies (cells, etc.) die and are reborn constantly. More importantly than this, however, is the death and rebirth of our mind, intellect, our beliefs, our faith.

Right now, for instance, I feel and believe, as do many others, that our entire planet is going through a death and rebirth process, which is why it feels so strange. Dying isn't necessarily pleasant or unpleasant, but is generally seen as such if we feel a need to hang on to the old. If people try to continue their old ways and lifestyles, it's gonna hurt. That's resistance to what is. However, if we all simply let go of the old and allow for the new, it's relatively painless.

Nearly every tradition has some sort of initiatiatory process - a Christian baptism, the Vedic diksha, the Jewish Bar Mitzvah, the Native American vision quest. Some are more symbolic, and others are much more experiential. Truly, we are going through a death and rebirth process every time we actually have a very deep insight or real-ization into the way things are. Myself, I can count many rebirths through this life, two of the most prominent being when I was ordained as a monk and Priest in the Vedic tradition, and far more so, when I REAL-ized the Self or awoke to pure consciousness in 1990. But that is/was not the end. There are ever more and more awakenings and rebirths, and although we like to focus on what was 'gained' we have to recognize that nearly always, something was 'lost' or rather given up or, perhaps, even better, outgrown.

If you want to cross the lake on a boat, you have to leave the one shore to get to the other. You can't expect to hold onto the old ways of thinking and being and expect to make much progress. This is much like Einstein's quote, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." We have to give up the old thoughts and ideas. Intiations, in many traditions often include a name change (I became Aja - the Unborn One). Very often, I see people taking a new name, and then going back to the old one. Perhaps better would be to take a new NEW name - moving forward instead of backwards. But I digress.

Our opportunity is contiuous dying and rebirthing - an unfoldment into a deeper and more expansive Presence. But concomitant with that is the dying. We mustn't forget that. So recognize what you are holding onto now and willingly and lovingly give it up to expand into a greater place. Be willing to 'die daily' and be 'reborn' as a new you. And then you can be...

In your Easter Bonnet
With all the frills upon it
You'll be the grandest lady
In the Easter Parade

So...Happy Easter....
Happy Dying
Happy Rebirthing!