psycho-spiritual

Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (8)

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be
taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.”

– George Eliot

“I’m not asking anything” she said. “I’m merely passing on the advice of a succession of shrewd old birds…Start by becoming aware of what you think you are. It’ll help you to become aware of what you are in fact.”

— Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962


Reading time: 20-25 mins

We’ve looked at the importance of positive emotions (and its dark side); fantasy over creativity; as well as an overview of male and female brain differences in processing emotions. We’ve also explored how constructive emotions are overall, an essential part of moral, psycho-spiritual identity.

In this final post on constructive emotions we’ll have a closer look at how they operate within a specific metaphysical/esoteric tradition with particular attention to the theory of chakras or centres. These ideas are present in much of the occult traditions but also in “esoteric science”, or the old, custodian forms of Eastern and Western traditions behind many of our religions.

This might appear to be a bit abstract, so those averse to too much theory on that score, hang in there, even it’s just theory at this point, it’ll give you a working knowledge as to how your “subtle energy” might be working in your system. Similarly, if this is just an interesting curiosity, the mere awareness of new possibilities is useful since it gives you further information to process within your personal open feedback system. Information can always be turned into practical knowledge if you test it against the whetstone of reality.

That said, a word to the wise: the following theories of esoteric work isn’t something to flirt with – a point I’ve made at various junctures on this blog. Better to just have that awareness than fully engage with what esotericists call “The Tradition” or “The Work” than only half engage. That’s as dangerous as entering a dense jungle in flip-flops, with  a plastic water bottle as your only means of survival. A paucity of sincerity and mere intellectual curiosity is not a good combination. ( know well of what I speak!) Beyond a certain point, to turn back from that Work will create a chaos you can barely imagine. As the Buddha mentioned:  “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.”

Cautionary warning dispensed with – onwards!

Fourth Way /The Centres/Chakras

There are three major influences that determine the personality and its trajectory:

  • Genetics
  • sociocultural programming
  • spiritual/religious beliefs

Our spiritual beliefs – occult or esoteric/metaphysical – have been directly or indirectly influenced by the ancient idea of chakras or subtle energy centres.

The chakra systems as we know them today have been put through the new age and occult grinder so it’s no surprise that the theory behind their functioning bares little resemblance to their original sources, be it from the yoga-tantra traditions or from esoteric Christianity filtered into the West.

The particular system I’ll focus on I believe retains the original template of the “subtle energy centres” which is the system of teaching called The Fourth Way delivered to the West by George Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky and later Boris Mouravieff among others lesser known.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose VI: The Universe Doesn’t Negotiate Or “Welcome to the Matrix”

By M.K. Styllinski

Kazuakai Tanahashi | brushmind.com

“‘Soul-making’ needs to be re-imagined and reintegrated into our societies. We need not go back to animism or alchemy to find soul-making. We can find it here, in the everyday Now. …The interior life should be recognized as an inherent human need, and it should be socially acceptable and encouraged to direct part of our gaze in its direction. After all, if the outer sun rises but the inner sun does not, then nothing has been gained.”

~ Kingley L. Dennis


Reading time: 20-25 mins

This exploration of happiness seems to have morphed into that which underlies the seeking, namely what it really means to change ourselves and if there is something deeper to access. Change is about leaping into the unknown and battling with the dark recesses of our unconscious mind which have so far evaded detection yet continue to sabotage the promise of a life of meaning and purpose. Even if we have attained a semblance of peace and success in this world, depression and inner dissatisfaction continue to arise. This suggests something much deeper is going on and that exhortations to find happiness will only paper over the ever-widening cracks in our psyches.

Regardless of your beliefs discovering meaning and purpose is a spiritual quest. By “spiritual” I mean the will to obtain balance and creative flow with life, living in the Tao, or honouring the Divine in our thoughts and actions. The eventual result is more harmonious relationships and a constructive daily life. We create something unique in that exchange because we have made the effort to achieve it – it is our contribution borne from an accumulation of experience; a struggle that eventually bears fruit and from which everyone can be nourished. Happiness results, as a byproduct of observable results, namely, the effects we have on others. When that begins to occur, our state of Being radiates and effects whatever social unit we find ourselves embedded. But we have to cultivate resilience from a centre of calm within to let such dividends arrive. This process comes from simple understandings and life lessons which haven’t really changed much for thousands of years.

If you are skeptical that one person can change the world then we’d be in agreement. But one person who changes their inner world positively must logically cause ripples of change in the outer reality. We are wired to cooperate and to adapt to tumultuous circumstances. If your intent and consequent effort remains consistent you’ll connect with others doing the same. Being alone in daily life is not a good survival tactic as our ancient ancestors realised. This is the nature of real-life social networks: a contagion for good or for ill can spread in a non-linear bursts of transference, given enough key connectors. So, there is no reason we can’t transform ourselves, and by extension, our family life, the neighbourhood and local community, if we form or tap into the right kind of networks. As discussed throughout this series, applied knowledge/spirituality should be useful – useful to our own aims and to those of others, otherwise, what’s the point? As author Kurt Vonnegut, reminded us: “Find a way to be useful; if you aren’t useful you are useless.”

That doesn’t mean we seek global transformation because that very desire tends to run up against hubris and the consequent road blocks of ideology. Reality simply isn’t designed to be second guessed in that way. But we can start small and build seed-visions of quality that have tangible results in our lives. These seeds of change determine the quality of all that follows and sends a signal to the information field that we choose to join and augment the creative dynamics of reality, rather than enforcing our visions onto people and situations which, though well-intentioned, often add to the chaos commensurate with the law of unintended consequences. (Good intentions divorced from self-awareness and critical thinking – but satisfying for the emotions – always makes things worse).

The will to change from what is clearly not working to other more harmonious possibilities may not lead to spectacular revolutionary fireworks but then, constructive change seldom manifests this way. Usually, in terms of inner work, it’s just hard drudgery and a battle we must do alone even when surrounded by intense social interaction. (No one knows our weaknesses quite like we do). In the beginning, depending on the level of transformation you seek, sticking with it will eventually cause minor to major changes to your environment and the people with whom you associate some way down the line. In the short-term, you might have little to show for it, but when you keep going, step by step, day after day, month after month with incremental victories you suddenly realise that you are positively different and your life signals that change.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning And Purpose IV: Impression Management

By M.K. Styllinski

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters


Reading time: (10 mins)

Studies published on life satisfaction in 2016 by economist Hannes Schwandt were based not on future situations, but on how young people felt about where they would be in five years. The gap between the optimism of the early years and the disappointment at the end of those five years was extremely clear in the graphical data. As a result, by their thirties realism had kicked in and expectations had levelled off and conformed to the well-documented U-shape trajectory of happiness for their fifties. So, there is reason to be hopeful. Meantime, the curve downwards in twenties and thirties appears to be getting steeper and the parameters and focus by which happiness is defined appears very narrow. i.e. equated with material possessions and employment. As discussed before, while the latter is important, they are not reliable indicators of happiness, the very concept of which is highly ephemeral and quite different to core, creative joy. Jonathan Rauch wrote in The Happiness Curve (2015) about the nature of a natural, U-shaped curve, a mid-life transition rather than a dead-end crisis: “This transition has a direction: something you could even call a purpose…The upslope of the happiness curve has an emotional direction, which is toward positivity. But it also has a relational direction, which is toward community….This is a social story, although we rarely experience it that way.” [1]  Why is that? Perhaps because we are programmed to fabricate our own personal islands on a sea of perceived separation from our fellow humans. After all, it’s a dark world out there and society is designed to actively limit pragmatic and constructive cooperation outside the State.

In truth, the myth of the middle age crisis is just part of an overall crisis of meaning that reaches pressure points throughout our lives. Such crises appear to exist outside time and space. It may well be an archetypal/mythical narrative that demands to be heard and acted out so that creative energy can be released. If we don’t consciously address what is lacking then the adaptive unconscious will do it for us to survive. We might see this recognition as a form of recapitulation as described by Carlos Castaneda, whereby we go over our lives with a fine tooth-comb, remembering all we have met, places we have visited and situations we have experienced in order to glean insights and realisations. This focus may create a form of resonance and feedback from the past to aid us in the future. Personal responsibility in this regard and to social interaction in general, could determine how we handle the happiness-unhappiness seesaw and if we can transcend it; whether we become masters of our ship and gain satisfaction from the simplicity of life as much as the dramatic flourishes of success, as defined by our culture. This would explain the common period of discontent at various stages in later life from the late thirties and forties. Rather than a mid-life crisis of lost opportunities perhaps it is a realisation that all that creative energy is not being used as it should?

The emotional and relational drive toward meaning and purpose is intimately tied up with our natural social intelligence that can guide us to connect for the good of the whole and the health of the individual. The desperate ambition and self-oriented focus of youth, a natural egocentricity which has been inflated by our cultures can, through the crises that happen, become a redemptive process when tied to community initiatives. Abstractions and conceptualisations have the potential to become concrete and specific, grounded in real-world solutions and tailored toward our own local needs. Trying to save oneself is transposed to “saving” others. Trying to save the world is transposed to “saving” the community. These efforts outwards, reflect the work taken place inwards, and paradoxically away from self-absorption. This can foster greater authenticity and the slow shedding of the narcissistic traits that we have allowed culture to create for us.

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Official Culture Reprise VII: Moving Away From the Psychopath’s Dream (4)

“Perhaps the most important lesson of Ladakh has to do with happiness. Only after many years of peeling away layers of preconceptions did I begin to see the joy and laughter of the Ladakhis for what it really was: a genuine and unhindered appreciation of life itself. In Ladakh I have known a people who regard peace of mind and joie de vivre as their unquestioned birthright. I have seen that community and a close relationship to the land can enrich human life beyond all comparison with material wealth or technological sophistication.”

Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures


 Ladakh_panorama

Learning from Ladakh

One example of the social consequences of Official Culture meeting pathology-free communities is from the thousand year-old Buddhist people of Ladakh situated in the desert of the Western Himalayas known as : “little Tibet.” There is no romantic gilding here, theirs is a story of survival, endurance and physical hardship set against a harsh environment. The  essence and principles of their continued existence and the coming of Western “development” places in sharp relief the kind of values necessary to create a community and to see it function and thrive. Yet, the deep spiritual resource that the Ladakhis embodied and which pervaded every facet of their lives was a lesson in ancient humility and reverence for a sacredness that we have lost – to our absolute detriment. Simplicity, yes, raw nature, indeed. But the Ladakhis appeared to have a spiritual health that was far in advance of our own. Like many indigenous cultures, it is not so hard to see why. For all our intellectual feats of daring-do, our Western populations in particular, remain desperately unhappy and dangerously lost.

So, what does that mean?  That we all give up our i-pads and urban lifestyles and go and live in yurts and commune with nature?

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