I keep trying to feel good, and I try to see the good in my life, the things that I am grateful for, and the beauty all around me.
I don’t think I have a problem with this, as long as it doesn’t include trying to see the good in my government (Trudeau in Canada) or the good in the government of my country of origin (the United States—of which I am still very much a citizen).
I just can’t do that. There is very little positive there.
I understand, however, that this “looking for things to be grateful for” isn’t only about “things”—whether it be possessions (“I am grateful I have a roof over my head”) or concepts (“I am grateful I love my wife, and/or my children, and grateful for the love they give me”). It is also being grateful for opportunities and potentialities. This is when you can broadly state, “I am grateful for the goodness in people which will eventually prevail over evil.”
I think I do all that as well, although, as with most things, I could do it more. What I cannot do is ignore the things in my life that I believe should be corrected. I cannot go into full denial and see the injustice, the hate, the oppression, just as an “appearance” that I need not worry myself with. According to spiritual metaphysics these things I “see” are illusions, and the only truth are things that reflect the truth of God and love.
I believe this. But I have another way to interpret some of these spiritual tenets. These “other ways” may in fact be the interpretations that are actually intended. But from my experience it does not seem that many people are in alignment with them.
I do hear people these days getting rather testy with the spiritual types who are constantly touting positive thinking and criticizing those who say we must only look at the good things, hold love as reigning supreme and live life as if there is nothing ugly going on. These folks who are testy are typically materialists and “doers” and when they see a fire they do whatever they can to put it out. It angers them to see people seemingly sitting by the wayside contemplating their navel in meditation, or smelling the flowers on their morning nature walk, appearing to do nothing at all.
These star gazers are not the sheep who are blind, but are actually shrew-types who have chosen to look beyond the appearance of trouble in the world, which they believe is illusory, and look instead to the spiritual truth: peace, love, God—Christ Consciousness. I have no problem with these people.
Realistically, however, I believe there are actually very few of them who are actually doing what they claim. I will not pass judgment on them individually and make a conscious assessment, but as a group I think it is highly unlikely a large percentage can engage in this sort of spiritual discipline.
That being said, I do know a few who are. And I believe they are very important in this battle. They hold truth, like monks do in a monastery, through ceaseless prayer. They have no time for anything else but to constantly hold love in their hearts, and I am happy they are there doing just that.
I get a bit perturbed though when the folks who claim they are holding God’s truth start pointing the finger at me belching out ugly condemnations such as, “why are you always so disagreeable? Why do you create this evil world with your negative thoughts? You call yourself spiritual, but you insist on bringing manifestation to this dark world you think about, therefore create?”
I can always tell the authentic spiritually enlightened from the “wanna be” when I hear this. The authentic ones would see me as an illusion as well and wouldn’t give me a second thought. The wanna be sees my negative, Dr. Doom, self as a threat. There are no real “threats.” A threat is a fear, and people who have done real spiritual inner work fear little or nothing.
That is what I am getting at here: fear is the operative word. Jesus walked through the material world. He did not turn away from it claiming it was an illusion (although he knew it was) but instead he engaged in it. He faced it. He experienced it. And most importantly he tried to do something about it. What made him different in how he approached the illusion of suffering, hate, and death? He felt no fear.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” This is probably one of the most important verses in the Bible, or at least one of the most important for our current times or during any time of despair (Psalm 23). You may not be the religious type. You may even be an atheist, so then the first part would be the only part appropriate for you. It is still a wise and truthful statement. Fear no evil. Fear nothing.
What is fear?
Fear is the belief that the pain you contemplate feeling in your physical and/or emotional body is overwhelming. That’s about it. You may say, “no, I fear for my children’s safety, I fear job security, I fear a lot more than that.” Ok, sure, but when you reduce it down, no matter how sophisticated you get, the fear always boils down to believing you will be overcome with pain.
But what is that? What is pain?
That question would take a book to answer, and the answer may still be lacking. Suffice it to say that pain, from a spiritual perspective, is illusory as well. A brave person is often said to face pain with the resolve that it will not take them down. We could all be a little braver.
Personally, I find facing the challenge of reducing fear of emotional pain in my life to be my primary challenge. I lost my first wife to cancer 20 years ago and I never imagined such despair. I still fear that sort of pain, but the other fears I do feel I have a bit of a handle on.
It is interesting that nearly every other shrew I have spoken to about such things does not fear death. I also do not fear death, easier said than done! But I still go through my life being careful to stay alive and not get seriously hurt, but I do not limit my life due to fear.
I think basically humans are built this way, but external sources are constantly telling us we need to fear disease and death—who do you think the pharmaceutical companies stay in business. These external forces weaken this natural belief that we are essentially “ok” to live a full and complete life.
Our Western culture has steadily been losing religion for the past 200 years. I think as a result, we have lost much of our ability to face challenges without a debilitating fear.
People who believe in God for the most part believe they are somewhat protected from an arbitrary and pointless death or arbitrary and pointless suffering. “For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Of course the church, over millennia, has done a good job instilling fear into believers, particularly the fear of the devil. Eternal damnation is a bit worse than just an earthly death.
Needless to say this forum is not the place to discuss the mistakes of organized religion. And although I do recognize those mistakes and the horrendous consequences of them, I still come out on the other end believing that what God represents to me is far greater than what the organized religions throughout history have portrayed His power to be.
So that is all a part of this “positive thinking” argument. And maybe I went too far into the weedy swampland with the position God takes in it, and the importance of a belief in the tenet, “there is more to this than material life, death, and suffering,” but I think it is important to bring it into the conversation.
Simply because I write, talk, and think about the crumbling of a material world structure (which includes humankind itself) doesn’t mean I believe that is the end. Far from it. All must die before rebirth. And I think, for me, and possibly many of you reading this, that my calling is to be engaged physically in this transformation (read my article “Hail the Dirt Warrior.”)
I believe that if God allows me to see a material reality that has already been made manifest, and it is evil, or ugly, or destructive, then my calling is to do whatever I can to bring it into a greater alignment with God: As above, so below.
Another calling for another person may be to hold truth passively—to keep love in their heart, and honour righteous materialization. This is my calling and that is theirs. I say this only because I wonder if some people reading this have had the same experience I have with people close to them calling them negative.
Keep in mind all callings must be exercised as free from fear as possible. You still must act in faith, and in a knowing that love will prevail. If you are a warrior, you still must go into battle fearless.
Yes, evil is an illusion presenting itself in the material world, but the defeat of evil is a human pastime that has enormous positive consequences. Our training ground (and proving ground) occurs in the manifest world.
That is at least what I believe, and the illusion this manifest world represents is only an illusion when placed beside the truth of God. To us while in our material form, it represents a physical distinction between good and evil. We are here on earth, in this material form, to reconcile that distinction.
Todd Hayen is a registered psychotherapist practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He holds a PhD in depth psychotherapy and an MA in Consciousness Studies. He specializes in Jungian, archetypal, psychology. Todd also writes for his own substack, which you can read here
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