Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Spirit, Life Introspections and Getting to Where We Are

For the first time since my teenage years and early twenties, I feel like I truly have an understanding and sense of satisfaction with my life. This sense of happiness is derived from a plethora of life experiences, relationships, travel, crisis, etc. Like mastering an instrument, though I've failed to do this as of yet, life takes practise. I have been blessed, for lack of a better word and not wanting to sound religious, by the things I have: a family, a home, a job as a teacher where I can assist other's growth, friends and so forth. I have been through my share of hell on both personal and professional levels, in addition to pushing myself through my own masochistic expectations, idealising others and so on. In spite of it all, here I am – not that I could be anywhere else in the esoteric sense.

Much of accepting ones self is a simple result of growing up. When we are young, though insightful and with knowledge, we are too consumed with our egos, self-esteem and desire to belong. Many compromise themselves to a great extent to facilitate this before letting it go and letting things be what they may, while others never forgo this compromise and continue in their later years to seek self-worth via materialism and false sense of belonging. As a youth, I was overweight, into reading too much and sprouted excessive body hair in my years immediately proceeding puberty. I didn't have my first real girlfriend until I was 19 or 20, despite being the singer of a punk band, doing readings of my own poetry at university and hosting my own college radio programme. It hurt to a large extent back then, but that is the adolescent years. Looking back now, I am grateful as I feel that it caused me to be the person who I have become, not caught up in vanity or adding notches to the proverbial bed post. To this day I remain absolutely clueless when it comes to women and, even in my latter bachelor days, literally relied on the woman to take the initiative and club me over the head (affectionately of course). I guess there are some signals we never learn to detect.

In any case, we are all products of our pasts, but also how we have synthesised our experiences into life. It's an interesting thing how experiences play on our development. Ultimately, no two people can ever share an exact experience as all things are filtered through our psyches and perceptions, thus making each of us unique – even if we are attempting to conform. That is the central realisation of simply being. This is also where conflict can arise, if we are not vigilant in remaining aware of others and their unique perspective. Sadly, more of us are not aware of this, leading to the world of conflict and skewed equilibrium that we see each day.

Those of you familiar with my writings will know that I read a lot on Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. "The Dhammapada" is one of my favourite books in this area, and the recent translation that I read by Eknath Easwaran is amazing. I have read a lot by the late Easwaran, including his interpretation on the "Bhagavad Gita", and he remains one of my favourite authorities pertaining to Eastern philosophy, right beside my other guru, Thich Nhat Hahn. If I could recommend that people read this one book on "The Dhammapada" and to think about it's message and guide to living, I feel that many would gain from it what took me years to realise. It's not a religious book, despite its spiritual cannon, but rather a logical guide to living. Easwaran is notorious for cross referencing his message from other religions, great thinkers such as Einstein and Ghandi, making it easily digestible by people of any religious denomination through to the atheists. I truly urge you all to give it a read.

I am often times, perhaps unfairly, critical of religion and our society as a whole. This is my experience. Religion today seems either a going through the motions of passed down traditions, to spiritual enterprise and fundamentalism. I have studied and experience much in a number of spiritual venues, most of which left me feeling nothing (and this includes Buddhist temples as well!). For my own spiritual divination, I have sought and found my own way. My views are a mosaic of things that cause me to ponder and make sense. I take my teachings from life, people I meet and books that I read. I revere what has been passed down through sages of the ages, but remain non-secular in my beliefs.

Take Yoga for example. I have been a Yoga practiconer since the 1990's, and feel that it is a useful tool for centering myself and creating an awareness throughout my body. This year, I had also planned on getting my Yoga teacher certification, but backed out, largely influenced by cost, but also by my own nagging introspections. To become a Yoga instructor, it would take a year and cost close to $3000. Two things bothered me about this: (1) to become a teacher of Yoga after only a year seems as ludicrous as those who earn a black belt in a martial art in a year or two. (2) how can we justify such an expense. Given Yogic philosophy, is it ethical to make a business out of teaching others to teach Yoga? I can understand a teacher charging for classes, though most of the Yogis would do so simply for alms, but when taking one as an apprentice to teach – can we truly put such a financial tag on such things. This, in my estimation, is the two edged sword of Yoga in the West: it is wonderful to introduce people to practice, but transferring Yoga into business has lead to its misrepresentation and potentially caused injury to a sacred art. What nature of karma does this all create? $16 drop in fees and all the fancy Lululemon attire is possibly essential to the business side of Yoga, but it begs the question: Art or Industry?

This take on Yoga may also be translated into views on religion. Many flock to their spiritual centres of their parents and community, and the community of a congregation, sangha or whatever is a good things. However, many of these communities have become spiritually benign and immersed themselves with the competitive side of religion and are often imbued with issues of money. Just as in running a Yoga studio, any church or temple requires an element of financing, but when does that financing forego the faith aspect? The gold gilded cathedrals around the world are a testament to this – especially where parishioners live in poverty. If you read the Bible, for a change of pace, look in Exodus 20, just after the Ten Commandments are listed and you will see the Old Testament's take on alters and whatnot. Paraphrasing, alters should be made of earth, for hewn stone worked with tools leads to a contaminated place of worship – chalk one up for the Pagans there!

The end result of this all, in my hypothesis, is that people have lost faith in religions, and understandably so, and thus put it into materialism. On the one hand, who can blame them as Fundamentalists argue that the dinosaurs were a hoax on that it is their way or damnation. But people are missing out in that there is a message beneath it all that makes sense, once you separate the crap, politics and opportunism. I think that finding this is largely why I feel inspired by where I find myself in life. Not everyone will get it – that is youthful idealism. But that does not matter. I don't know how much I really get or whether tomorrow my thoughts will be massively altered. This is the nature of things. All that matters is whether or not someone gets it. This is where we find joy and gain self-realisation. Quoting from Easwaran's "The Dhammapada":

We are what our deep, driving desire is.
As our deep, driving desire is, so is our will.
As is our will, so is our deed.
As our deed is, so is our destiny.
(Brihadaranyaka IV. 4.5)

Do our deeds not determine our destiny? Is it not as Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Life is perspective and a conscious act. How we view life will largely determine how we view life – the "half empty, half full" way of seeing things. Life is a choice between easy and difficult, but each yields its own strange fruit. I will close, contented as to where I find myself, quoting from the first two verses of "The Dhammapada":

All that we are is a result of what we have
thought: we are formed and moulded by our
thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfish
thoughts cause misery when they speak or act.
Sorrows roll over them as the wheels of a cart roll
over the tracks of the bullock that draws it.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
we are formed and moulded by our thoughts. Those
whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts
give joy whenever they speak or act. Joy follows
them like a shadow that never leaves them.


  • At 7:26 p.m. , Blogger K.Lawson Gilbert said...

    Hi - I wanted to stop by to say thanks for visiting Old Mossy Moon. I hope you will visit again.

    Your post is interesting - very reflective and retrospective. I am a teacher, too. Many of your thoughts - I echo. Teaching is rewarding, but also disheartening in some ways. The kids of today, I'm afraid, haven't the character of students of just a few years ago. I don't know why. I am still trying to figure it out. I have theories...

    I will stop back by to visit. :)

  • At 8:21 a.m. , Blogger Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

    Thank you for visiting and hope you come again soon!

    In teaching, we must remember the main thing - the students -and try not to let the rest haul us down. Keep the faith!


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