A talk at Divine Science Center, San Jose CA, July 4, 2010
"Life's a bitch and then you die." "Life's a beach" and then you fly!
Do I practice what I preach? Rev. Christine says, we preach what we practice, but practice means we are learning. So I'm talking about what I'm learning!
Today I want to observe Independence Day by celebrating many of the ways we can be free. And it would be out of character for me if I didn't say something about politics on the 4th of July; even for a minute. But don't worry, I won't mention any candidates, or parties; just a couple of theories. Sometimes people go to extremes here in the United States, as if they were setting off verbal firecrackers. Fact is, we need to be free from some of these theories. One of them is called free-market economics. It purports to give us "freedom." Now, free markets are liberating up to a point. But when business is allowed to do whatever it wants, under the guise of good-ol' American "freedom," then the environment is polluted, customers are ripped off and workers are exploited. Right now all those oil-soaked birds and fishermen in the Gulf are not feeling so free thanks to the free market.
True, the opposite extreme could be dangerous too, as when we want the government to do everything for us, but we don't want to pay for it. We may feel freer for a while that way, until we or our children get the bill.
But all this talk about the free market and politics brings up the question, just WHAT IS "freedom?" It obviously isn't the ability to do whatever we want, regardless of consequences. It isn't to get everything we want, because that's not how the game of life works. We need the right balance, which might not lie at the middle of the current political spectrum. We want and admire independence and freedom, but we also benefit when other people help and appreciate us. And we want to help others too, and we benefit ourselves when we do.
If everyone were spiritually free, we'd probably still need politics. But I suspect that if I am free, I can contribute to greater freedom in the world. I won't liberate it by demanding that it do things my way, as much as I would like it to. So the first step in my quest for freedom seems to be, to respect others and allow them to be free. One of the things we dearly want is the freedom to make others do what we want, just like many people in politics do. But we end up slaves to our desire. Sometimes we get more of what we give, and this seems to apply to freedom as well. It is liberating to let go of our desire to demand things from others.
My high school class president once said that his secret of success was an attitude of superiority. It seemed to work for him, but I could never quite accept that approach. Besides being a lie, it seemed like putting others down. But recently I got another idea. I can think of myself as a leader. I am a trend-setter, after all; I have good ideas, I can inspire people about what I enjoy, not just pester them to solve my problems. And a good leader doesn't always have to lead, but can also be a good student and a good listener. And there's always room for other leaders; everyone is a leader in something, and we all have access to the divine source of power. So an attitude of leadership might be what my high school class leader was really getting at. At least it's better than my frequent habit of placating people, or thinking that I need to impress them to get their approval. If I'M a leader, then maybe they need to impress me! And then, like James Redfield said, I don't need to try to get my life energy from others, like a vampire, since I can find it in myself. That liberates me from others, and from my own frustration.
One of my missions as a writer is to liberate myself and others from spiritual and religious language that confuses and even enslaves us. Words have many different meanings, depending on the context. So finding the words that are the least confusing, can be liberating for us. I have spent a lot of time being misled and handicapped by the wrong words. For example, surrender is a good thing, and judgement is a bad thing. But sometimes surrender is bad and judgement is good, depending on the context and meaning of those words. We might use good judgement to discern what is good, right and beautiful, or we may be judgmental and use these terms as labels in order to manipulate and punish people. Negative thinking, selfishness, hatred, false and limiting beliefs, complaining, doubt, holding grudges; these are among the many different words to which our problems and bad behavior are often attributed.
But I would attribute them all instead to just one word: slavery. That is the real meaning of all these words. We all agree that freedom is a good thing. Slavery is the opposite of freedom, and to be free is to be enlightened. Anytime we feel compelled to do something, or feel we have to do it, then we are not free. My proposal is that liberation is the solution to all our spiritual and personal problems. If we are what's called negative, selfish, judgemental, petulant, deceived, resistant, emotional, pushy, etc, what we really are is in the grip of something, possessed of something. There are many words for this enslavement: for example, addiction, indulgence, worry, fear, clinging, arrogance, reacting. The solution is to recover our freedom, our will, our awareness, our own authentic self. It is written that knowing the truth will make you free. That is a great saying, but it is also true that regaining your freedom will give you the truth. Truth is freedom, and freedom is truth. And truth is the divine presence, our own true being.
I am not alone in my assertion that slavery is the one single cause of all problems. The Buddha called this his second noble truth. He didn't elicit many causes for suffering, but just one: craving, or attachment. When we crave something, we can't help ourselves; we are a slave to it. Marshall Rosenberg says we don't know how to communicate very well because we have been taught the language of domination and slavery. Don Ruiz calls it the parasite; Thomas Moore calls it demonic. But this devil is not a separate power. We have allowed some other being, or society, or some small part of ourselves, to take us over, sap our will and deplete our consciousness. It is not easy, but we just need to take our freedom back. The great Christian philosopher Dionysus called it the negative way; Divine Science calls it creative denial. We have a positive or affirmative way too, when we call upon the true mind of God within us to bring something new into the world.
The devil is not a separate power, but neither are we. As Americans we celebrate independence and individuality. We are individualized expressions of God. The divine always appears as individuals. There is no one without many; no meaning and fulfillment except for individuals. But nothing could be clearer to me than that we are not separate. Just try to breathe or eat all by yourself. We can't even be concious without something to be conscious of. Our skin joins as well as divides us. Our real identity is also the One that is all. Everything that I am comes from God, and is God. Alan Watts told of the monk who asked his master to pacify his mind. The master asked him to bring his mind out to show him and he would pacify it for him. But the monk said, when I look for my own mind, I can't find it. There, the master said, it is pacified! We feel separate because our instinct to survive makes us cling to ourselves. But clinging is really beside the point. If we are immortal souls, there's no need to cling to them, and if not, there's nothing to cling to. We need to cling less to our own needs so we can also see the needs of others, and that liberates us too.
We can free ourselves if we can perceive more clearly what we are enslaved and addicted to. Many people use typing systems such as astrology, the enneagram, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to do this. Types can also bind us, if we use them as rigid categories. But I think of them as parts of a continuum. Each of us is moving around within the circle of types, and we might be more developed or stuck in certain places. The authorities of these type systems say that the goal is greater balance, by taking advantage of your strengths and developing your weaker areas.
Finding out your type can be liberating, and fun too! So I have devised a brief questionnaire to determine your Myers-Briggs type. It's no substitute for the full test, of course. Your type consists of 4 letters. For each pair of letters, write down on your paper the one that fits best.
The first pair of letters is E and I, extravert or introvert.
If you are E , you recharge your energy by being involved in the world of things and other people.
If you are I , you prefer being involved in the inner world of ideas and self-awareness. If you are around people for too long, you might feel drained and need to get away by yourself in order to "recharge."
Decide which one fits best and write down E or I on your paper.
The second pair of letters is S and N, sensation or intuition.
If you are S , you know about the world primarily from what your 5 senses and common sense tell you. You don't look for hidden meanings beneath the surface; you enjoy the world as it is, and revel in its pleasures.
If you are N , you follow your hunches and your intimations that there is "more here than meets the eye." You love to explore abstract concepts and theories to see how things are connected, and how they could be better than they are.
The third pair of letters is T or F, thinking or feeling.
If you are T , you rely on logic, facts and principles to make sense of reality. You look for causes of events, and the sequence of how one thing follows from another. You are the voice of reason, cool and dispassionate. You like to be brief and businesslike.
If you are F , you rely on your sensitivity and caring to connect with reality. You are compassionate, able to put yourself in another's shoes. You take a more personal approach to people and situations, as if each one is uniquely valuable.
The fourth pair of letters is J or P, judging or perceiving.
If you are J , you like your life to be structured and your days well-planned. You are conscientious and not easily distracted.
If you are P, you like to be open to new things and adapt to life as it unfolds.You prefer to "go with the flow" and do what you feel like doing at the moment.
Anyone want to share your type?
Now, see which letter you are most addicted to. We'll focus on the 2 middle letters in your type, called the 4 functions. Give yourself a score of 1 to 10 for each one. If this works out, then your top-scoring addiction should be one of the letters in your type.
If you are an S, you could be addicted to sensation. You might get hooked on substances or activities that stimulate your senses and give you pleasure. You cling to how things are, the comfortable and familiar. You don't often ask how things might be changed or done differently. You are too blind to impermanence, and too bereft of imagination.
If you are an N, you may be addicted to intuition. You may spin castles in the air and live in your dreams, even to the point of confusing your ideals with reality, in which case you don't deal with it too well. Without much research, you might claim that your own fond hopes and opinions are eternal truths. You may even cling to fixed and rigid ideas that you claim are the best for everybody.
If you are a T, you might be addicted to thinking. Your runaway thoughts dominate you. You confuse symbols with reality, and have to have words for everything. You're so busy thinking about regrets or plans that you lose awareness of yourself and the world.
If you are an F, you might be addicted to feeling. You might react too emotionally to situations, without checking on the facts. Your fears are running your life too much. You might be too sensitive to the feelings of others and let them overwhelm or dominate you.
Just being aware of your addictions, is the major step to liberation. May we all be free!
BACK to Homepage for E. Alan Meece
My take on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with questionnaire and links
The Enneagram IS astrology with links
The Philosophy Wheel
More of my ideas on ethical issues
The scam of free-market economics