Common Sense

According to the dictionary common sense is practical wisdom.  Practical wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to a situation in order to gain a favorable result.  Courtesy is a form of common sense, like saying please and thank you, eating with utensils instead of fingers (unless that is cultural), or acknowledging greetings from other.  Sometimes there isn’t a lot of agreement on what is common sense.  However, let’s explore some ideas about common sense in spirituality.

The-sacred-lifeThe dharma of Amaraji Maha Marai is based on the belief that each individual is a spark of divine light, that all beings arise from One Source, that humans have been gifted with the ability to imagine and analyze situations in order to respond to them.  Humans, therefore, are blessed with the inner need to express love, joy, peace, light, and life.  These are qualities not emotions.  The path of spirituality arises when an individual seeks to expand, understand, and share these divine qualities in whatever way is possible under current circumstances.  This drive to embrace our divine nature constitutes souls’ imperative to seek union with a Higher Power.

 Let’s look at some common sense objectives for a spiritual seeker. When we are attempting to find something it helps to have a general idea of where to look and where to not get bogged down.  That’s the idea on the spiritual path.  The first thing to do when taking a journey is to create an inventory of what you have and what will be needed then we acquire things along the road.

  1. We know our personal ethical code and adhere to it even when it’s inconvenient and we are tempted to do otherwise.
  2. Take inventory of one’s benefactor qualities and do an honest assessment of one’s harmful and detrimental behaviors. Then accept that both these things are true about the self and while modifications can occur we will never really be rid of either of these things.  In other words accept all of what we are as a human being.
  3. Accept that there is no utopia and never will be. Life is not fair.  There is no way to create a perfect life, a perfect relationship, work with the perfect teacher, or belong to a perfect community.  Instead, we grow, evolve, forgive, and try again many times.bigstock-Child-sitting-on-a-rooftop-and-12160391-300x209
  4. Find a reliable teacher to assist in expanding your promise, your gifts, as a soul. But don’t expect the teacher to be perfect…if you’re lucky the teacher will be a full human being who has learned from his/her mistakes and wants to help you learn from yours.
  5. Ash-E-Tah needs to be a daily practice. Ash-E-Tah means accepting what is and looking for the sweetness that is also available even in the midst of horrible events.  We all live life between one challenge and the next upsetting event…however, there is usually quite a lot of time (hours if not days/weeks/months) between difficulties.  Our life can be lived by focusing on the space between the tiger and the dragon.
  6. The human brain is hardwired to problem solve. When we perceive a challenge the brain kicks in to figure out how to survive, even if it isn’t our direct problem.  Over exposure to tragic, horrible, disastrous, emotionally draining events that we can do nothing about is detrimental to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Common sense dictates that we limit our exposure to bad news and focus on helping where we are actually able to make a difference. This keeps us strong in difficult and dangerous times instead of depressed and burned-out.
  7. It is common sense to accept that we are not indispensable. We may be important in the lives of many people but they got along somehow in the world before they met us and they will get along somehow if we are no longer available.  It’s ego to never take a regular time out for rest, play, and sanctuary because others “need” us to be there for them.  As Gandalf said, you are just a little fellow in a very large world after all.  We have been chosen to offer our gift…but so has everyone else.  Our job is to do what we can and let others take care of the rest of the problems.tumblr_mlipahaKVj1qhmhdfo1_500
  8. Because we seek enlightenment we are bound to acquire some sooner or later. Most enlightenment is about our behavior, habituated choices, cultural conditioning, and coming face-to-face with personal entitlement.  This is why true enlightenment often results in our saying- Oh, shit!  The common sense of discovery is to see or recognize what was and make a plan to free/liberate ourselves from that suffering.  So, retroactive guilt, guilt that comes from feeling bad because we were ignorant and did harmful things is not useful.  If, however, we continue the behavior after we know better guilt could assist in making positive change.  By and large, however, guilt is not helpful.  Shame is not helpful.  Deciding to make a new plan, a new life, a new attempt to do better- that’s helpful!

This is a short list of a common sense approaches to spirituality.  There are undoubtedly many other items you could add to this list.  Perhaps the most important advice of all is- ask questions, try things out for yourself to see if they work for you, and remember this is your journey to the ultimate union with the Higher Power.  Others have left a trail, a path, even a road…make sure their way is the best way for you

Decisions in Wisdom

Life is an experience. There is no way to avoid the experiences life presents. We are affected by the weather, by what we eat or don’t eat, by having a home or being homeless, by the quality of the air, the water, and the thoughts in our minds. We are affected by the news, social media, movies, books, the games we play, the conversations we have, and the communities to which we belong. Interdependence is a truth and there is nothing we can do about it other than develop skillful discernment.

GalaticAlignEyeSometimes we get the impression that being wise means being perfect or not making any mistakes. Striving for perfection is considered a sound business goal, a necessity in education, and a religious ideal, but that striving in and of itself is unwise. Many times, it seems we have only two choices- be 100% right or guilty and a failure for being wrong. Neither of these choices are particularly logical.

Everything changes. What was wonderful and beautiful one day might be on the compost heap another day, like the flowers from a birthday or anniversary. Wisdom comes from the ability to respond to life and adjust our response when the results require it. Life has cycles. Sometimes we have lots of energy- physically, mentally, or emotionally- and sometimes we are unmotivated and just plain tired. Wise decisions come from seeing what is needed where we are.

Of course, the modern world of work and family, doesn’t allow for cycles. If we enter a time of low energy we are expected to find a way to bring that energy up to the level we are being paid to uphold. If we enter a time of quiet or contemplative thought people are asking us what’s wrong. When someone is experiencing grief, there is an expectation that it can only last for so long and then it needs to be gone. And if old memory upsets arise we are told the past is past and needs to be forgotten. No wonder so many modern people end up with a drug or alcohol problem.Wisdom-Quote-10

So, what can a spiritual person do? The first possibility is noticing if we are responding to life or reacting to life. When shit happens we probably have an internal reaction to that shit. This is called an emotional arising. If we act on that emotion it is often a mistake. To respond, we must develop a pause. Whatever emotions we experience, even the most desirable and wonderful kind, like love or joy, require a pause before a decision is made. The pause can be three minutes, three hours, three days, or three weeks. It needs to be long enough that we can emotionally move out of arising into contemplation. We enter contemplation to ask questions. How does this opportunity fit into my overall life goals? What will I need to change to engage this energy, and will those changes be beneficial over the long haul? Sometimes, we might ask what does this (thing, idea, emotion) have to do with peace? How will this create more love for everyone? We can even ask- What would Jesus do? Or Buddha? Or any Great Being that we admire. Or perhaps use my personal favorite- Will this matter after I’m dead?

wiseAn excellent way to determine wisdom in decision making is a simple statement- Results Matter! If we don’t like the results we need a better plan. If a better plan doesn’t do it we need to drop it. We can have the best of intentions and then discover that the results have created suffering for ourselves or others. That means we made a mistake. Most mistakes are not fatal. Life is about learning by trying and doing and making lots of mistakes along the way. When we truly understand this, we can begin to be with what is. This is wisdom on the spiritual path.

I vow to be with what is:
if there’s a cost, I choose to pay it.
If there’s a need, I choose to give.
If there’s pain, I choose to feel.
If there’s sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning, I choose heat.
When calm, I choose peace.
When starving, I choose hunger.
When happy, I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it’s my birth, I choose to live.
When it’s my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is, I respond to what is.

Wisdom is often confused with knowledge. We are taught that if we know facts and lots of them we will be happier and wiser. Knowledge that is not practical and that doesn’t help us to be better human beings doesn’t lead to wisdom. Sometimes, it’s even unnecessary information. Maybe it’s information that we are unable to do anything about like the suffering of people in war zones around the world. Constant knowledge of those facts can lead to emotional suffering or the callousness to feel nothing. How much news or social media we chose to expose ourselves to on any given day requires a decision in wisdom.

Sometimes facts are irrelevant. Let’s take the example of a Hindu yogi who lived most of his life in a small forest monastery and was much sought after for his holiness and spiritual wisdom, but didn’t understand that the Earth was round. “It’s always looked flat to me,” was his response when told this fact and he was uninterested in changing his mind.

blessed_620Often the wisest person is the one who has a simple formula for life. We can adopt one of these for ourselves or create our own statement that keeps us steady on the Path of Wisdom.
“Even the smallest person has a contribution to make.”
“Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart and your own mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
“Give to others only what you are willing to receive yourself”
“Today, I will do what I can.”
“My actions are my only possession. I am the heir to my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.”
“The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.”

Story-Mind

STORY-MIND

In my faith community story-mind consciousness is called the Parai mind.  Parai is a word meaning final in Sanskrit.  This is because once this portion of our consciousness has decided how to interpret an event, how it will be recorded in our memory, and what we will choose in future circumstances, or contexts that are similar…that decision is Final!  We know that our story is true!  We might even say, “This is my truth, the way it really happened.”

lucy-advice-boothStory-mind wants to do its job and its job is to observe, compare, interpret, discern, and recommend a course of action about everything!  The only time this inner helper might be silent is during meditation.  But even then it is only waiting eagerly to spring into action, at a moment’s notice, assisting us to assess our progress, equate this meditation sit to others we’ve experienced, and to offer an opinion on how well we’re doing compared to others around us.

Why do we need story-mind?  Because it can observe, interpret, discern, compare, remember, and make recommendations.  Without a fully functional story-mind we would be operating like an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.  In fact these two unfortunate disabilities cause a disruption in the proper functioning of story-mind so that the sufferer can’t remember where they live, who their family members are, or how to perform even the simple tasks they learned as a child.  We need story-mind; however it’s important to understand its limitations and even its handicaps on the spiritual path.

When the Story-mind has been tamed it is a useful assistant helping us remember skillful means, creating a true observation of events (what could a camera capture), developing and carrying out plans for transformation and change. 9781444755732 It can remember the words to songs, remind us of happy events from our past, and assist us to find gratitude in the now.  Story-mind knows how to read, write, and develop compassionate forms of communication, and assist in explaining dharma teachings to ourselves and others.

When Story-mind is untamed, tempestuous, untidy, and undisciplined it holds us prisoner to our past experiences, both real and imaginary.  An undisciplined story-mind is constantly saying, “what if?” and giving us vivid and detailed conjurings of sorrowful, upsetting, and wildly dramatic possibilities- each accompanied by an appropriate emotional response.

 scoldingOur story-mind might just torture us with endless, cruel, nasty, and judgmental voices from our childhood.  These are called “hate voices” and they pretend to want to help us, but in reality they just want to keep us fearful, trapped, and helpless.

Can’t you do anything right?
You knew this would happen if you weren’t careful…
How many times are you going to let this happen before you do something about yourself?
You just had to open your big mouth, didn’t you?
What’s wrong with you…you big baby…buck up buttercup!
See, no one really likes you anyway…why even try?
With a nose like yours you should be in the circus!
Quiet!  If you don’t talk- you can’t get into trouble.
Stop being so needy…what’s wrong with you anyway?
If you had a brain, you’d be dangerous!

And on, and on, and on, and on…

Story-mind does not want to be tamed.  It is important to keep this in our awareness.  It has had free rein for as many years as we’ve been here and it doesn’t want to relinquish control at this stage of the game.  However, story-mind is only one part of us.  It is the “little self” or “ego self” the front man/woman for our fragmented goodness nature.

Taming-The-Mind-Through-Meditation-214x300But there is a Greater Being inside of each of us.  A boundlessly compassionate, abundantly forgiving, immensely powerful Great Self at the core of our Consciousness. 

Story-mind, body-mind, striving-mind, desire-mind, and habituated-mind are all in cahoots to keep us from learning about this Truth.  Every time we come close to believing, touching, or experiencing this Truth- the five minds gang up on us and try to make us afraid.  They tell us that without them to set us straight we would be awful, selfish, terrible Sinners- destined for hell…make no doubt about it!

But wait a minute!  Isn’t the hell we experience because of what those five minds keep insisting is the truth?  And isn’t story-mind the biggest tell-tale of all?  So what have we got to lose if we make the attempt to saddle, bridle, and tame this part of our consciousness? When it is tamed story-mind gives us information, but doesn’t dominate and control what we decide about that information, or belittle us when we become hesitant or confused.

freedom

The following exercises will help begin the domestication process of story-mind.

  1. Ask yourself what are the things you’ve always wanted someone to say to you, but no one ever has?
  2. Make a recording of these things, include anything your inner child needs to hear in order to feel loved and appreciated.  Listen to the recording every day.  Add to it when you think of something else you want to hear.
  3. Think of at least one compassionate thing to do for yourself each day and do it.
  4. Create a set of mantras that go something like this:

When I make a mistake it doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it means I made a mistake.

When I feel sad it doesn’t mean I’m a cry baby or weak, it means I feel sad.

When I make sacrifices for others it does mean I’m a good person, it means I am a person who makes sacrifices.

When I am generous it doesn’t mean I’m a special person, it means I am choosing to be generous.

When I’m not generous it doesn’t mean I’m selfish, it means I chose not to give something away right now.

You get the idea.  We can tame the story-mind by stopping its interpretation of each thought, action, or non-action.  What happened is simply what happened it doesn’t have a meaning, some implication about us, nor is it a significant indication of our worth either good or bad it just is what it is.