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Worthy or Unworthy?

Worthy or Unworthy?

Whether I’m working with clients coming to me for psychological help, spiritual help or both, I notice a consistent pattern: everyone feels and believes themselves to be essentially unworthy.  On an ego level this is usually because they’ve started to notice themselves and feel inferior in comparison to others, or because someone in authority over them keeps telling them they’re bad or wrong or awful or ugly or stupid or immoral or _______________________________  (fill in the blank with almost any negative quality).

Since I often work with people who’ve been severely traumatized (due to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and/or some type of neglect), the emotional and verbal degradation is often accompanied by actual injury to the body.  When injury is added to insult, the client feels especially unworthy, often to the point of wanting to die by suicide.

On a psychological level, I work with such clients by demonstrating that it is the abuser who is primarily and essentially bad, and wrong, not the abused.  I also help them to accurately assess their attributes during therapy, to notice their strengths, strengthen areas in which they need improvement, and learn from their mistakes.

However, if people are stable enough to go deeper, we look at what is considered the spiritual dimension. In that dimension, my observation is that this prevalent feeling of unworthiness is because everyone knows that their ‘individual self’ is made up of the chattering thoughts in their heads and the emotions that those thoughts produce.  Somewhere within our body-mind we are aware that there is no substance to this ‘individual self’ since it ceases to exist whenever we stop thinking (or when others stop talking or writing about us or to us).  Therefore, we ‘know’ it’s insubstantial nature, and so are always feeling it’s unworthiness as a smokescreen for the real problem:  the ‘individual self’ doesn’t exist as anything but a mirage.  If that is so, we don’t KNOW what we are without further inquiry, but we know we’re not the ‘individual self.’

Even if people can psychologically understand that they are essentially neither worthy nor unworthy, just existing (I AM) as a neutral entity that can think, say, or do ‘good’ or ‘bad’ things, there is still an underlying question.  Is there a ‘self’ that needs to be seen as ‘worthy’ or ‘neutral’ or ‘unworthy?’  Or, is it truer to say there is no individual self at all?  This question “what is the ‘me’?” is the essential question in self-inquiry.

May all beings who read this awaken in this lifetime: it is possible!

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Believe NOTHING: Validate Everything for Yourself by Your Own Experience

Walking the dog this morning, I was remembering a conversation I had with a client this week about belief and faith.  Awakening or Enlightenment is NOT a faith-based activity.  You do not have to believe the arcane religious dogmas or doctrines of any faith in order to wake up.

In fact, quite the opposite.  You have to test everything for yourself to determine if it’s actually true or not.  If, in an earlier article this week, I tell you that you can awaken with three essential practices: meditation, practicing presence, and thought-busting….why would you believe my word?  You need to test out what I, or anyone says, to see if it’s actually true or false.

Many of the world’s current religions are closed systems that are self-referential.  In other words, they tell you to believe what they tell you because they say it’s true!  You’re not allowed to question the basis for that truth.  You’re just told that you ‘haven’t believed strongly enough’  if you’re having doubts.  You’re also told to ignore the obvious inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and blatant contradictions in the sources of the faith or its followers.  Your rational mind isn’t allowed to question the sources of doctrine or dogma, it’s only allowed to ask for clarification on the content of the doctrine or dogma.

You don’t have a rational mind so that you can ignore it.  You have it because if you allow your mind to ask the single question ‘is this really true?’ it will free you from the oppression of everyone else trying to control you with their interpretations of reality.  Usually they want you to give them attention or money or both.  While it might be helpful to have a guide to help you awaken, the role of guide is not permanent: you must eventually be your own guide.

Our experience of being Awake, may be guided by a history of others who were able to awaken from delusion.  However, it doesn’t need to be guided by their rituals, or their preferred way of doing things.  We also don’t have to believe their books, just because they tell us they are holy books.  Awakening will happen when we go deeper than thought, even religious thought; not when we get inundated or lost in thought.  Our experience of The Absolute/The Divine/God or even if we call it Emptiness, is not mediated by words, it is a direct experience.  Aren’t your most peaceful moments of communion with whatever you call The Absolute actually wordless?

But, don’t believe me: test it out for yourself!

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Enlightenment Now: I Don’t Know

One of my favorite personal expressions is “I don’t know.”  If someone asks me ‘is that really true?’ about almost anything, I will say ‘I don’t know.’

There is wisdom in ‘not knowing.’  In reality, what humans consider ‘knowledge’ is usually expressed in words.  Words are a poor approximation of reality.

If I ask myself what someone is saying, thinking or doing right now, I have to answer ‘truthfully, I don’t know, unless they are with me in the same shared space, and they are telling me what they’re saying or thinking, or I’m watching what they’re doing.’  I might have some idea of what someone might be doing but, I don’t actually know.

If I read yet another speculative opinion piece in the information/entertainment (infotainment) industry about the future, I can be deluded into thinking the person who’s writing knows what’s going to happen.  The real answer is ‘they don’t know, and neither do I.’  No one is able to accurately predict the future because of literally quadrillions of factors that go into creating every moment.  Attempting future prediction is futile.

Even if I ask myself ‘is this true about me?’ I am likely to have to inquire deeply to find out.  Do I have this quality (for instance sloth or laziness) and not its opposite (energy or industry)?  Do I look the same as I did yesterday?  Do I think, speak and act the same way I did 40 years ago?  Is there actually any continuity to the ‘ego self?’  No, there isn’t.  So, anything I can even say about myself may likely be false.

Religion used to speak only in certainties: this is true and this is false.  However, it’s easy to question the foundations of any religion and find direct contradictions in doctrines and practice.  Science speaks in certainties now, as if it were the New Religion of the world; however, it’s theories are theories and change as new discoveries are made.  Is the anthropological record true? No, it is only an approximation of what might have happened.  Is the archeological record true? No, again it is only an approximation.  While scientists can be quite as close-minded and theory-bound as religious conformists, neither group is really speaking Absolute Truth.  100 years from now, all such truths will have changed again, sometimes many times.  (If you doubt this, look at the science of nutrition and diets!)

There are as many arguments about what’s true in religion as there are about what’s true in science.  We go to war, literally, over what’s true in religion.  We go to war, figuratively, over what’s true in science.  Other than an exercise in ego-supremacy, there is no purpose to these arguments.  Even inventions can be created without claiming the ‘supreme truth’ of the theory behind the invention.

Finally, when it comes down to the realms of knowledge, all I can really say is ‘I don’t know what’s true.’  I can talk as if I do but, I’m lying to myself and others.  Thus far, the only truths that I’ve been able to really know are ‘I Am’ and ‘perceiving happens.’