“Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts.”
It’s an interesting statement but is it accurate?
If you think about human nature we all have a tendency to gravitate towards inflating our sense of self, and avoiding situations that devalue it.
Evidence of this is all around us in everyday life. Arguments are engaged in to uphold ones sense of self. For instance, think about the reasons why you last argued, were you protecting something important to you? Something you’d invested yourself in. When you prefix “my…” to anything, such as“my idea”, “my thoughts”, “my opinion”, “my possessions”, “my kids” you make it part of your self-worth.
The mind believes, the more you HAVE the more you ARE, but the flip side of having more and being more, is that you also have more to lose.
When individuals gain more money, more power, more stature, it becomes more difficult to face loosing it, and so self interest and self preservation become even more important.
Those in power have more to lose by rocking the boat, by fighting again the very system they are benefiting from, so what do they do, they fight to preserve the status quo, because it serves them and after all, we are all designed to protect ourselves, it’s our survival instinct doing it’s job.
If you understand this trait of human nature, you come to realise that anyone in power is open to corruption, and is not going to drive through change that could potentially put them at risk.
You can’t defy human nature, we are what we are, but you can manage it, so that society is better for it, and so that those in power, serve society rather than themselves.
So how do we, the ordinary people, deal with the fact that people are self serving and power only increases this instinct?
Well, we start to actually hold politicians, businesses and powerful individuals to account, we make sure they deliver on the promises they benefited on the back of, and if they don’t they should know they have a great deal to lose.
I was recently talking to someone who was struggling to come to terms with a friend of hers leaving to join the army. The back story is that her best friend of 17 years had been living with an ex for 6 months due to financial constraints, and as a way out had decided to join the army and leave for 4 years with possible deployment oversees.
Apparently she would never have done this if she wasn’t stuck in this bad living situation, but has now become excited at the prospect of new beginnings.
The person I was talking to, let’s call her Elaine for the purposes of this post, was feeling angry and sad about her friend leaving, especially because she’d be leaving to potentially be part of a conflict and could find herself in great danger.
Although Elaine was being outwardly supportive of her friend, she was dreading her departure, and the thought of potentially losing their close friendship and had a lot of anger which was directed at her friends ex for putting her in this situation.
Elaine had a couple serious “are you sure?” conversations with her friend who had indicated that she was sure of her decision, and it being what she wanted.
If Elaine’s friend stays she will continue to work at her solid full time job, and will only have to keep living with her ex for another two months.
I told her the bottom line was she should let go of her attachment to their friendship and accept the situation as is, which involves both letting go, and surrendering to the present reality.
She shouldn’t resist the feelings she has. Instead examine her fear of loss by looking into it.
Bringing awareness to her story telling, by asking how much of it is speculation driven by fear, which is all of it, in reality. I told Elaine to be aware of this, and the fact that none of these thoughts are real, they are story telling embellishments out of control.
The truth is her friend is happy to go, so she should be happy for her. None of us know what the future holds, her friend could stay and get hit by a bus, and then Elaine would be thinking she should have let her friend go into the army after all, instead of talking her out of it. You can make stories up to either back her friends departure or for staying.
I advised Elaine to let go of the fear that is telling her that her friend is safer here rather than there. It’s her friends journey and she needs to go where she needs to go. We all have our own journey to travel.
We are all protective of those we love, we want them to be safe and secure, and when they are not with us we believe the danger is greater or that we may be left without them. This is of course a possibility, but we can drive ourselves crazy by running with these stories.
Loss is indeed part of life, all things are transient. Change is continuous and wishing for it not to be, does little to change the reality.
We should be grateful for the blessings we have, as they are happening, for the relationships, the places and the things we get to experience, in the moment we experience them. Instead of being completely absorbed by wanting, and chasing after more or better in the future, which many of us do, and are preoccupied with doing, only to realising what we had, but didn’t truly appreciate when we had them to enjoy. Nothing lasts forever, everything has it’s time and is subject to change, continually.
Accept the fact that change is part of life, be grateful for your blessings right now, and get used to the idea that the future is uncertain, but focus much more on the opportunities it can present, rather than the danger, and risk that it may or may not pose.
The best solution is not to over think, but instead feel life in the moment it unfolds, in the present moment. Thinking is imagination, speculation, with no foundation in reality. It’s the creative story teller inside you, driven by fear. Love is now, fear is focused in the future. Appreciate all you have now. It’s fine to work towards a future goal, but prioritise NOW, and all that is in your now, because it might not be there tomorrow.
ENLIGHTENMENT comes from separation of AWARENESS and I INVESTED THOUGHT, particularly rigid thought forms such as BELIEFS. This realisation brings space to all situations, a gap to observe thought, but not be inside and part of thought.
It is impossible to go back fully to old thought habits once this shift takes place.
Thereafter the difficulty is dealiing with a society that is largely blind to this perspective and that continues to struggle along unconsciously, WANTING, ATTACHING and SEPARATING from it’s environment, seemingly insanely fighting over scarce resources, and desperately trying to be something different, better or somewhere else.
But that feeling too gets easier when you let go of EXPECTATIONS which after all are just thoughts.
It’s easy to forget, or fall asleep in some lazy moments and you risk becoming once again reactionary to your thinking, this is where some discipline and effort may be required.
It’s also tempting to try to over complicate enlightenment, because it seems too easy a process, to remove pain and suffering, but it is this easy if you remove your sense of self from your thoughts.
See the importance of the moments as they unfold, keep from wishing for the next moment to come or dwelling on your past.
Feel connected to and one with life itself.
Allow joy to flow into what you do, or at least accept the things you can’t enjoy as you do them.
Enthuse with all that is, right and wrong, front and back, up and down, black and white, for everything has it’s place, in the rich tapestry of life.
LIFE is about experiencing the good and bad moments, riding them like a wave, rather than fighting with all your might against them, being in those moments as experiencing energy, and following your bliss, wherever it takes you.
We all love interesting stories, it seems to be built into our DNA, our ancestors told them through the use of fables and parables. I particularly like parables, designed to teach us something morally or spiritually. I like the story of the $20, which is modern setting for a timeless lesson. Hope you enjoy the story of the $20 bill…
I recently came across a question in a discussion group, which went..
“Attachments and expectations are the main reason for suffering and disappointment, It’s easy to say let go of attachments but how in ‘real’ life can we be without attachments and emotions, I mean not everybody can leave our loved ones in the midnight and go to a forest and just meditate under a tree, come on lets be practical, so my question is how to be like Buddha in this modern age?”
This is an interesting question, and one I’ve contemplated myself many times. The question misses something though. There is another element that is required for suffering to take place. As well as EXPECTATIONS and ATTACHMENTS you need PERCEPTION OF REALITY. These are all elements of what is known in spirituality circles as “THE PAIN GAP”, otherwise known as the EQUATION OF EMOTIONS. If we can change our perceptions, which are conditioned into us by the society we grow up in, we can break the pain gap. Our perceptions come from our beliefs and values, which are built on assumptions and inferences rather than facts and evidence. If you don’t believe me, question yourself about your own beliefs and values, where are they from, what are they based on?
As well as dealing with our perceptions of reality, we can work on reducing or removing our EXPECTATIONS for any given situation, whilst reducing or removing our ATTACHMENTS.
Rather than holding any EXPECTATIONS, we should instead embrace a sense of appreciation. Nothing in life is promised, so being grateful is a much healthy psychological position to take.
ATTACHMENTS are, by their very nature, impermanent. The life that you live, the house that you live in, the car that you drive, the relationships that you share, are all destined to end one day. Accepting this fact, while enjoying them while they last is much more pain free than refusing to accept the reality of the situation. Surrendering to WHAT IS, is the sensible thing to do.
If any one of these elements is resolved, PERCEPTION OF REALITY, EXPECTATIONS, or ATTACHMENTS, we can reduce or remove the pain gap (otherwise known as the equation of emotion), which will reduce or remove suffering from our lives.
However ultimately we should aim to do as Thrangu Rinpoche advises in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya.
“We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, “I will not suffer.” We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, “I will not be attached to anything,” nor eliminate aggression by saying, “I will never become angry.” Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.
The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realize this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that self will disappear. Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection.”
In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to get swept along with the emotion of circumstance. Sometimes there may be good days, other times, bad. Debts might be piling up in one corner of life, relationship problems in another, an upcoming holiday to look forward to elsewhere, which gives us a sense of hope.
We might feel we are finally getting somewhere, only to find the next moment pulls us back a dozen steps, like a frustrating game of snakes and ladders.
Society has conditioned us to be restless, we have been taught to strive for more if we want to be more. We are shown what could be, if we work hard enough and do what needs to be done, particularly in the accumulation of wealth and status.
If we’re lucky to climb a few rungs towards success, we might feel some sense of achievement, at least for a short while, but underneath it all there is usually a sense of “is this it?”
Well the pursuit of achievement is a fools errand, if you’re looking for fulfilment. You see achievement is conditional, it depends on something outside of yourself happening. Fulfilment is not at the end of this road, you will never find it beyond achievement or success, it’s somewhere else entirely, it’s inside you.
Jim Carrey, wearing his philosophy hat said “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
Something I discovered a while ago was to learn to look at life through fresh eyes, to strip away all the BS, and focus on the really important things, the things that matter, and what are they you may ask? Well a truly enlightened person would say, there isn’t anything that really matters, because everything you can engage or interact with is part of “form” which is by it’s very nature, fleeting and impermanent.
The house you live in, might be legally owned by you, but in reality, it’s not yours, it will pass to someone else at some point in the future, whether you like it or not. Same with the car in the driveway, and all of your possessions.
Even the relationships you currently enjoy, will pass over one day.
You can accumulate all the wealth in the world, a billion dollars if you like, but one day, that too will be gone from your possession, you can’t take it from this life. You can’t take any form beyond death.
In reality, you own nothing of form, and that shouldn’t really be a troubling thought, because, form doesn’t matter, in the great scheme of things, it just isn’t important. It’s within the realms of achievement.
So if achievement and the pursuit of form is a fools errand, what should we be focused on, what should we spend our attention on, where will we find fulfilment?
Well, EVERYTHING ELSE, is the answer, and what is everything else, when you take away FORM, which is the physical world? Eckhart Tolle would answer… THE FORMLESS. The formless that allows form to be, after all, without space, the planets could not orbit, without the observer of form, form could not be.
Space, the formless is not something you can see or touch, that is the problem for many, they only believe what they can see, touch and prove, everything else is seen as fantasy.
At the same time, we are happy to be completely controlled, directed and driven by THOUGHT, we “think” more than we do anything else. We incessantly talk to ourselves in our heads, reliving past glories, re-running past arguments, projecting future scenarios, telling ourselves stories of this and that. We use thoughts to work things out, to make sense of things, and to find answers. Yet thoughts can’t be touched or seen in the material world, yet they exist without doubt. But thought are not formless in the sense that, we should be focusing our attention on them, in fact, we should be spending less time than we do in thought, particularly emotionally driven thought that we invest in, with our sense of self.
We should use thought, and not be used by it. It’s a kind of form focused formless ability that we have, but it’s not who we are. Thought is in fact a barrier to finding who or what we really are. Take BELIEFS, which are really just rigid thought patterns; we hold onto them, defend them, fight for them, even kill for them. They are our beliefs and they matter to us. In reality most beliefs are built on assumptions and inferences, rather than evidence and fact. Go through your beliefs, write them down, then ask yourself where they come from, what are they based on? Show me the evidence of your convictions.
Beyond THOUGHT and beyond FORM is where we should be focusing attention, it’s the space and formless that flows through us, and everything else in the world, this is where fulfilment can be found, it’s in us, everyone of us. We are connected by the space between objects, between planets. It weaves its way through and around all form, allowing all form to be, we are that space, we exist in it, we are part of it, we experience it through CONSCIOUSNESS, which is attention in the moment. You can find it when you rise above thought and above form or at least the thought of form.
From consciousness, you can enjoy form, play with form, appreciate form, but are not burdened by being tethered to it.
From consciousness you can use thought to navigate the world of form, but are not used by it. There is a big difference.
In the realm of consciousness, fear does not exist, because fear is part of thought, and part of form. If the real you is formless, what have you got to fear?
So in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to get swept along with the emotion of circumstance. Sometimes there may be good days, other times, bad. Debts might be piling up in one corner of life, relationship problems in another, an upcoming holiday to look forward to elsewhere, which gives us a sense of hope. But none of that really matters does it?
AWARENESS comes from the separation of THOUGHT and SENSE-OF-SELF and the realisation you are not your thoughts. Awareness helps break the identification and the investment of self in thought.
ENLIGHTENMENT is a step beyond awareness and can only come from acceptance of the Ego and its madness in other people. This is often more challenging, because other people are outside your control or influence. You might find yourself trying to help sufferers discover the path to enlightenment so as to enrich their own lives, but this can easily become Ego servicing for you if you’re not careful.
Ego-madness comes from strongly held beliefs and opinions (all of which are THOUGHTS) regarding religious, political, and social inclinations, particularly taken from the Ego’s view that it (you) are in sole possession of THE FACTS, THE TRUTH. Sufferers may find themselves thinking and saying “I am right, you are wrong”, “you’re being fooled”, “you’re foolish”, “you just don’t get it”,” you’re not as educated/intelligent as me” or things to that effect.
The Egoic mind is clever, it attempts to find points of difference to forge SEPARATION between “me” and the “other”, or collectively, “us” versus “them”, in its effort to raise the SELF above, or lower the OTHER below, both designed to increase your SENSE OF SELF.
On the flip side, the Ego also ATTACHES to people, possessions, ideas, thoughts, beliefs and values, bringing them into your sense of self. “The more I have the more I am” is its core belief. So the “I” easily becomes the “us”, and the dysfunction in the “us” can be much more destructive when the collective-self forges separation with the collective-other.
To see proof the Ego’s compulsion for separation and attachment, just look at the countless wars that have ever existed, a “us” versus “them” narrative is carried in all of them.
So Enlightenment becomes your SPIRITUAL PRACTICE, acceptance that the Ego is as it is in the world. The moment you become fearful or upset with other people’s Ego; their lack of clarity, lack of understanding, stubbornness, or whatever the issue is, you know your own Ego is at work.
You can only point to the truth, and hope those that are ready to see it do so.
I recently came across a post on Facebook that read..
“If you want to feed the homeless than feed the homeless. But the moment you post it on social media you’re also feeding the Ego.”
To be honest it’s one of several with similarly framed messages, that I’ve seen recently and judging by the comments it can easily be taken as a message of criticism towards individuals that broadcast their activities of goodness.
Let’s just check we’re on the same page of what is meant by the Ego. The Ego is the unobserved mind, it’s the illusion that our thoughts are who we are, they are us. I describe this as an illusion, because thoughts are just thoughts, they are not us. They are fearful, irrational and conditioned, they are based largely on assumptions and inferences and while they can be used as a very effective tool, they are very destructive masters, if we blindly follow them. For more about the Ego check out our spirituality guide.
Now back to the post, I prefer to believe it’s a reminder, a double check to make sure the Ego is not taking over the intentions of such individuals. It’s an opportunity to bring AWARENESS to the situation, rather that blindly feeding the Ego’s sense of self, which isn’t particularly healthy.
Spreading positive vibes is a good thing, I’d like to see more of it. We are bombarded through the media with negative events, after all we’re genetically wired to be interested in bad news to ensure our own survival if we ever find ourselves in similar circumstances in the future.
Also seeing people doing good deeds can act to inspire others to do the same, and that’s no bad thing. Goodwill can be contagious, it reminds us that giving, and helping are spiritually good for us.
Feeding the Ego, by doing good deeds, isn’t bad in itself either, we can use the Ego to provide motivation for us to do THE RIGHT THING. In such circumstances we can use the Ego as a motivational tool, rather than allowing it to inflate itself without us knowing that it’s actually doing so.
Bringing AWARENESS to the situation gives us space to observe the Ego inflating our sense of self. If you realise this is why you’re doing it, if it feels good and your sense of self feels better for it, you’re using the Ego, rather than being used by it, there’s a world of difference in that space between observer and intention. This becomes an opportunity for spiritual practice while at the same time helping others, and what can be bad about that. I say, long may it continue.
Strongly held BELIEFS and the OPINIONS that come from them, are often considered a good thing, but they are in fact the worst thing for the individual and for society at large, let me explain why..
It is amazing how people are able to convince themselves something is true or false, even in the face of contradictory evidence. They grab onto something, will often defend it with their very lives, and only pay attention to data that confirms their beliefs. Whether it be a religious, political, cultural belief or ideology, they have an unwavering conviction to their cause.
You can fool yourself into believing just about anything, if you set your mind to it, even without definitive proof or evidence to support your belief. Many beliefs and the opinions that come from them, are built on nothing more than assumptions and inferences rather than hard facts, and are ultimately motivated by fear.
History is littered with examples of opinions that have resulted in horrific consequences, such as Hitler’s conviction to rid the world of Jews, Bush and Blair’s conviction to fix Iraq to make the region and the world a safer place, both stem from beliefs built on assumption and inference driven by fear, and little to do with fact.
These are extreme examples, but we are all guilty of holding onto a belief far too tightly, and dismissing or ignoring anything that counters it, for recent examples of issues that have divided opinion think of Brexit here in the UK or Trump in the US.
In the case of Brexit, whether you’re a remainer or leaver, you hold onto a mentally constructed position with unwavering determination. Those that oppose your view, are considered ignorant, racists, cowards, undemocratic, or uneducated, depending on which side of the fence you find yourself on.
Have you ever wondered why you feel such affiliation to your position?
Eckhart Tolle is a revered spiritual teacher, his books talk about escaping the control of THE EGO. The Ego is the unobserved mind, it is identification with thought. It is the illusion that your thoughts are who you are. He recommends bringing awareness to the process of thinking, and by observing thought, you remove yourself from it. The moment you start to observe it, you remove yourself from within it, and from this perspective you can take control back.
His explanation for why people hold mental positions and the emotional responses they inevitable experience when challenged goes like this….
“Two or more people express their opinions and those opinions differ. Each person is so identified with the thoughts that make up their opinion, that those thoughts harden into mental positions that are invested with a sense of self. In other words, identity and thought merge. Once this has happened, when I defend my opinions, thoughts, I feel and act as if I were defending my very self. Unconsciously I feel and act as if I were fighting for my very survival, and so my emotions will reflect this unconscious belief, they become turbulent. I am upset, angry, defensive, aggressive, I need to win at all cost, lest I become annihilated, that’s the illusion. The Ego doesn’t know the mind and mental positions have nothing to do with WHO YOU ARE, because the Ego is the unobserved mind itself.”
So, if you do find yourself holding very rigid mental positions, bring awareness to them, observe them, question their underlying purpose. What are they doing for you? If you feel a negative emotion, next time you are challenged, step back from the emotion and observe it, and bring yourself out of the control of your Ego, step out of the emotion. You will feel better for it and mankind will only benefit in the long term. Emotional reactions don’t serve anyone.
Also question the accuracy of such beliefs and opinions, how much is built on assumption and inference driven by fear, compared to hard facts you know to be true, not from the testimony of authority figures and so called experts but from your own experience. After all, authority figures might be telling you only what they want you to believe, for their own gain, rather than in your best interests. Question everything you are being told, and be more flexible with regards to your beliefs. Science takes the approach of trying to disprove rather than prove hypotheses and this is a more effective approach to uncovering THE TRUTH.
Did you know we wear masks, and hide behind the social roles we play; we might be a parent, a brother/sister, a son/daughter, we might be a boss, an employee, a friend. We might be Bill the marketing guy, or Jenny the supplies manager. You might be a son, a dad, a brother, a boss to some, a subordinate to others, and Bill the marketing guy within a single day.
We play roles and wear masks because we’re conditioned by society to, after all, everyone is doing the same.
We might even get some comfort from this fact, we feel less vulnerable hiding behind a persona.
As a result, we don’t connect genuinely with others. We interact Ego to Ego, rather than soul to soul. My mask is communicating with your mask, and we’re not getting close to the real people below the surface.
Relationships are fearful, fraught, fragile, self serving and dysfunctional, because when we act from within our roles, from behind our masks, we know intuitively we are not being true to ourselves, we are pretending and we know this deep down, even if we don’t want to admit it.
So, be authentic, drop the mask, come from behind your social roles, and let your inner light shine through. If you fear rejection or the feeling of vulnerability, realise this is only the Ego (the part of you that mistakes your thoughts to be who you are) struggling to hold on to power. When you genuinely let yourself go, you can’t be hurt, particular if you fear you will fall, because outside the Ego there is no floor to hit, metaphorically speaking.