By M.K. Styllinski
Courtesy of Zahir Zag | http://www.rep.appscase.com/
Reading time: 8-10 mins
After this series on why a sense of meaning, purpose and happiness is absent for so many of our younger (and older) generations, we come to some practical solutions to this malaise. The following 31 suggestions are from my experience and intimately tied to various stages of my life. That is not to say I’ve mastered them all. Not by a long way. Let’s call it work in progress. I’m therefore not seeking to set myself up as anyone other than a fellow climber struggling toward that mountain peak.
As you’ll no doubt see, these principles and qualities of character are as old as the hills. They will not magically lead us to a Holy Grail of happiness, but if we persist we might be led to a state of being that transcends the interminable duality of “like, not like”, “happiness, unhappiness” etc. The simple truth is that we human beings have a psychology that is fundamentally no different to how we were thousands of years ago: we are still looking for that elusive Grail in the material world and through the nature of our genetic biology that pushes us to act on impulse and instinct, offering gratification and fleeting relief. That’s normal of course, our evolutionary nature is powerful and our consumerist culture equally so. But we can strive to regulate and overcome those sometimes addictive drives and desires. This is where applied knowledge comes in. With discipline, persistence and constancy, you can change your life for the better. Without practical application however, knowledge is merely words floating in the ether or ideas on paper that offer only food for the hungry intellect.
That said, we all have different experiences and there is no “one-size-fits-all”. All we can do is sift the wheat from the chaff and cast a discerning eye over the historical and experiential consensus. Maybe there are some definitive nuggets of psycho-spiritual gold out there which offer a means to walk a coherent and ordered path. If we can tread carefully, step by step, we might create a higher form of happiness not bound by material acquisition or emotional possession.
There are recurring themes and principles which haven’t changed much, be they sourced from the Bible or the Koran, the Chinese I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead or the writings of Marcus Aurelius. Over and over we see the same guiding beacons teaching us about the nature of the human condition and how to live a more harmonious life. Now, in this synthetic age and despite a deluge of mediocrity, the internet has allowed the sharing of ancient and modern wisdom to reach millions of people, possibly in a way that’s never happened before. So, there is much promise and potential in the free-flow variations of perennial wisdom.
Sometimes these are Western philosophical discoveries on the nature of reason, truth and being, while more eastern roots encourage us to be in the here and now and let go of desire. Some treatises, texts and modern re-workings of ancient wisdom offer emphasis on self-observation and the reduction of negative thought patterns; still more metaphysical knowledge purports to offer training to the aspirant whereby s/he may create the conditions which “re-calibrate” the centres/chakras; adust the reading instruments of the mind and reconnect to the soul and Higher Self.
Most occult knowledge is now out in the open and mixing freely with the advances in psychology and neuroscience. This re-discovered information is married to wisdom from Christian orthodoxy, Greek stoicism, the gnostic traditions, Taoist philosophy, modern psychotherapy and many more. As the Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus mentioned all those centuries ago:
“Truly it has been said that there is nothing new under the sun, is for knowledge is revealed and is submerged again, even as a nation rises and falls.
Here is a system, tested throughout the ages, but lost again and again by ignorance or prejudice, in the same way that great nations have risen and fallen and been lost to history beneath the desert sands and in the ocean depths.”
Needless to say, it’s a lifetime’s work, but the changes you make will define your present and thus your future. The possibility that you will not only change but transform will depend upon a) a group or network of like minds doing the same b) You have sufficient discipline and persistence and c) how you choose to respond to the kind of change you set in motion. To stress again: the decision to grow your life toward soul qualities is extremely ambitious. But this is the only reason for existence as far as I’m concerned: to learn and thereby grow.
As writer and philosopher Jack De Korne explains:
“The Work is a slow, organic process of transforming unconscious forces, which demands almost superhuman levels of discipline to accomplish. One can make a great deal of progress in one lifetime, but the Work can not be said to be complete until physical death “completes” it — at that point, assuming the ego has acquired enough strength of will, perhaps one can facilitate a “permanent” synthesis of the forces one has spent a lifetime in training. Death is the doorway back to our Source, and if we enter that doorway consciously and correctly we can consolidate a great deal of power which will serve us well in the next cycle, in whatever dimension that cycle may take place.”
Although he is describing “The Work” or “The Way” from gnostic esotericism and related “ageless wisdom” teachings, the principle is the same. It’s a tough road to walk but one to which we are naturally drawn when the time is right. We can regard the above list as forming the outer ring of a deeper endeavour, toward a “path of access” – should that be your direction.
Regardless of whether you are battling depression or a range of neuroses, what these developmental tools might do is to create a psychic “space” for a natural process of balance to arrive and help to create a more constructive self-concept. We might then be in the position to allow a formula of differentiation and integration of these unconscious psychic “little I’s” leading to a synthesis. It’s a bit like an army that is lost in the desert, parched and directionless. A general turns up and begins to organise his soldiers, in turn, the sergeants, corporals, and lieutentants to discipline and re-organise the platoons under their command. The overall army is alerted to a plan, thus purpose and meaning. In time, they re-orient themselves as one unit and walk out of the desert wilderness discovering the odd oasis and munition supplies along the way. As they get stronger, each soldier (each “I”) that was lost and forgetful, remembers his particular role having been nourished on the right quality of energy and marching to the same tune as his comrades. With a suitable moral compass they come back to civilisation to defend their outposts when called for.
These unconscious forces, an autonomous complex of instinctive, emotional and mental “I”s of both negative and positive polarities slowly begin to work together through an imposed structure and strong leadership. They begin to know exactly where they are and what they are doing. They are no longer fragmented and antagonistic but serve the larger plan of the mind and body.
With patience and will power this could lead to the starting line of a deeper transformation, which is why “heal the past” is the first on the list. Nothing can be done if we do not first attend to those emotions that are locked away, which was initially for the ego and the utility of the mind-body consciousness to survive. As natural fallout from our immersion in matter and Official Culture – it happens all the time. But if we wish to grow, those dark places need to be gently opened for the light to pour in. Sure, you can be shocked awake through “snapshots” or “mirrors” of your impressions from those whom you love and trust, or within the context of a metaphysical training school, but those will not feature as a primary influence in most people’s lives. Regardless, we must make a command decision ourselves and see where it may lead. Once that decision is made you’ll find the support you need along the way.
Similarly, without a modicum of discipline and voluntarily imposed (or recognised) limitations, nothing much can be accomplished. For instance, without a moderate regulation of our sensual appetites they become addictive and a drain on our creativity and perspicacity. The inner army becomes dissolute and degenerate, lost in the Siren’s sea or the barren wastelands of an exclusive intellect. We really are masters or slaves in this regard. For any kind of interior evolution, at some point on our destination we must face physical desire and regulate it accordingly. No deeper work can take place without that attention.
A lack of control can be expressed in a myriad of ways, not just through our instinctual or emotional needs. An excess of control exerted over mind and body through insecurity and perfectionism is equally damaging. Undue ascetism and micro-management of oneself and other’s lives are symptoms of hyper-control expressed as an antitode to either an unconscious recognition of conditioned impotency or the subconscious fear of the unknown. That’s not an unreasonable fear. Such a reaction in the face of a very real truth, needs wise management before it begins to gum up the whole system. The root source cannot be banished – nor should it – but we can sooth that savage beast before it does too much harm and/or repair the damage done by years of neglect and lack of attention. We do this by introducing an incremental order upon our mind-body system that has coped and reacted as best it can against sometimes intolerable circumstances.
(But you’re still here right?)
Most of these suggestions have formed the basis of classic literature, awe-inspiring paintings and sculpture; films and theatre, music and poetry, as well as countless philosophical conversations down through the centuries. They are the qualities of the hero that masters self-control and unlocks creative power, facing the unknown with impeccable courage. There is a reason such knowledge keeps coming back again and again: with constancy and comittment they release potential and produce results. We can liken this process to a foundational construction upon which we build a new house. If the foundation is sound and erected on firm ground then we’ll be in a good place to start choosing the right materials and the most efficient design for our dwelling.
A different quality of happiness is possible for all of us if we set about cultivating these qualities in the correct way. When we approach the end of our lives and our minds wander over its meandering course, we may justifiably say that our existence had meaning and that we strived to BE, despite the many obsctacles which at times, seemed insurmountable. With any tangible growth comes a proportional reaction from forces that thrive on keeping you asleep. Resisting those forces means consiously sending the signal to be awake and fully alive. These apparent obstacles to progress are as much a part of this quest as the good times. Indeed, without them we would never learn.
So, a big part of building self-awareness and conscience is to know that shit will always happen and that we will have no control over many of the things which will drop into our lives. And we don’t need to. Our job is to develop a state of being that allows us to be constant, stable and creative in any situation we find ourselves; to face the unpredictable nature of our existence with courage, humour and perspective. It’s then we begin to more than just an island. The increase in self-awareness proceeds through a decentralisation of our own self-interest. By looking within, correctly balanced, it increases our focus to look without and how best we can apply the knowledge gained in the lives of others.
“Our lives are but specks of dust falling through the fingers of time. Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Socrates was right. We have so little time, yet, all the time we ever need if we contemplate the possibility that consciousness behind the manifestion of an individual never really ceases to be – it just changes its “suit” and its time/space focus. Birth as in death is merely the change of a cosmic dial to one state of consciousness to another; part of one fractal cycle within a greater cycle of of mind-body coalesence.
We are here. We will be gone soon enough. What will we do meantime? Tread water until we can barely keep our heads afloat? Or pound the brick wall just one more time in the hope we break through? To transcend the whole loop is to build a bridge between what is and what could be; to take command of your destiny and do what needs to be done.
I hope to devote a post to each of these 31 suggestions over the next few months. This will comprise an overview of what each of these qualities really mean and a brief idea as to how we might incorporate them into our lives. Its emphasis will be on the why of these qualities which will naturally lead you in the direction of how. If you have any more to add to this list, feel free to contribute in the comments section.
I sincerely hope this list will prove as useful to you, as it was for me.