Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Life Pursuit, and this is not about Belle and Sebastian

(but sometimes I pick up lyrics or song and want to say them a lot, but in such a way that people know that i'm referencing something. Like "everything in its right place." or "I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm trying!")

Okay, I've been posting angsty stuff about "aah my life's purpose" etc. Here's the deal. I want to progress spiritually. How to do so? Well, if you want to learn math, you take a math class, read a math book, do math problems. I want to learn spirit, grand truths, eternal oneness, how to avoid suffering, my own buddha-nature, how to follow god perfectly, and the non-duality of all things. That leaves me with three questions:
1. What's the path? (what's the book, and where do I take a class?)
2. How do I practice it? (what are the "math problems"?)
3. Do I have to go sit on a mountain for 12 years?

As for #1, well, I'm on A path right now, whether or not it's The Best. I would like to know that it's a pretty good path, because what if I'm trying to get 100% there but at this rate I'll only achieve 2% per decade? (numbers are ridiculous, but bear with me; some paths are slower than others and will not result in reasonable change in my lifetime, so it's worth considering...) #2 is perhaps the most immediately interesting. (And #3, well, hopefully not. I guess #1 and #2 will determine that.)

So about #2. A practice! Doing something every day will change your life more than doing a big thing once. But what to do? Some people do prayer, some do mindfulness meditation, compassion meditation, chanting, yoga, weeding the garden, whatever. Any of these would probably be fine. But I want the essential kernel of the practice, not the husk of accumulated baggage. I want Christian mysticism without all the creeds and bible verses and catechism and stuff, Buddhism without the six this and twelve that and ten something else. (not that those are useless, just that I don't want to spend my daily ritual praying to saints for intervention with angry God or other paradigms I don't believe in.)

For example, maybe I'd do some meditation. And it's been shown that saying positive things about yourself out loud has a positive mental effect, so why not also do a few repetitions of a few key sentences? Furthermore, the dual n-back task helps your mind as well, increases your working memory, etc. Why not include that as part of the daily practice? It's all part of the same package: improving your mind, improving your life.

(for those who say that I'm confusing "mind" and "soul", I offer willpower as an example. Here is a thing that can be improved by mental practice, that most of us would consider in the domain of "soul". Maybe mind and soul are not so different. But this is a debate for another day.)

Anyway, what am I forgetting? Any suggestions to help me evolve my basic practice? I'm sort of brainstorming right now, but who knows, maybe I'll make up my own little daily religious/mental thing. What do you do daily that improves your life?

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