I'm impressed by the knowledge and attitudes of many people posting here. I'm really not as knowledgeable as some of you, but I did read about non-dualism/advaita and buddhism. Also read some Ken Wilber and some of the atheist guys' books.
Quote:Either way, I've kind of gone of zen buddhism a bit. Not that Im against it. It makes perfect sense. But I guess, it was really attached to my teen years, a kind of experimental phase. I did find, especially on my second trip to the retreat, that there were elements of of the whole thing I really didn't like. Perhaps more to do with the people that went on these trips. I found the type of people almost too stereotypically 'new age' and happy clappy. It almost seems too much of a fad these days.
I didn't like many people into non-dualism either, including some of the "gurus". What you find a lot is that, even though you're supposed to poke through the illusions of the ego and become detached and enlightened and all that, people pretend to have done that (usually believing it themselves as well) to boost their egos!
Speaking of which, I had an experience once. This is probably going to sound really wishy washy new agey to most.
I used to have bad social anxiety. I was basically sitting inside all day, scared of everything. I read both eastern philosophy books and western psychology books. The western books said: "Everybody has social anxiety to some extent. You will never lose all of it. But you can improve your life a little bit so that you can be normal!" The eastern gurus said: "All fear is a result of ignorance. There is nothing to fear, for there is no self that can be harmed."
I digged the latter more.
At one point I got this conviction that a) my anxiety was based on ignorance/false beliefs, and b) that if I understood the false beliefs, then the anxiety would disappear. This was a motivational force that was quite strong. It didn't come from self-discipline but from a desire for truth. The quest for answers was satisfying in itself.
Gradually my desire to understand the core of my anxiety grew stronger. I started to think about it more and more. I would be aware of the thoughts and feelings I had while I was in a situation that made me socially anxious. I would do thought experiments to extract the beliefs that caused the feelings, then I would focus on those beliefs and disprove them if necessary. Whenever I solved questions about my anxiety, it was like I got one level deeper and there would be new questions popping up, which I could then solve, and go even deeper, and so on.
A lot of it was very logical. I would consider a problem and solve it from every possible angle, accounting for every possibility. When I thought about my social anxiety, I would need to account for any possible way I coud be potentially harmed by others' thoughts and judgements of me. For example, I spent quite a bit of time just solving the question "Can another person's negative thoughts of me affect me directly?" Of course I knew this was not true, because it would require psychic powers, but I noticed that on some unconscious level, I did believe this. So I would do thought experiments and think about it as long as it was necessary to be utterly convinced that other people's thoughts could not harm me. Sounds crazy probably, but it was necessary. Our feelings are often not rational at all. And again, this process was fulfilling in itself. I remember going to bed some nights in a row convinced that I would "solve" my anxiety the next day, and it was an awesome feeling.
After being consumed with this for some time, I got to a point where I was convinced, on an intellectual level, that all fear is, ultimately, irrational. This was inspired by those eastern philosophies. Fear makes sense from a certain perspective; it makes sense for your ego, basically. But there is nothing "absolutely scary". Nothing *is* scary. You can only imagine something to be scary. Yet, when you feel fear, you feel that there is something inherently scary about whatever you fear. As if the scariness is an attribute of that object or experience or whatever. I figured out for myself that this was an illusion.
So I was lying in my bed one night. It was very late but I was way too full of energy to sleep, thinking about this. I was convinced that all fear was irrational. I had straightened it all out in my mind; there were no more conflicting beliefs. Yet I still felt this anxiety in my body, a tight feeling in my throat. Even though I knew intellectually that nothing needed to be feared I still felt the fear in my body.
Then, suddenly, something happened. I "saw" how my thoughts detached from the feeling in my throat. Suddenly, the "anxiety" transformed into a simple sensation in my body. The conceptual part of the anxiety were reduced to mere thoughts, powerless without their attachment to my body.
I felt reaaaally strange then. I had a really warm sensation flowing through my whole body. I felt confused. I knew my search was over. I even wondered if this was what it felt like to be "enlightened". Over the next few days, I couldn't feel anxiety. Whenever I was in a situation that used to give me that feeling of anxiety in my throat, now it would come and leave an instant later, like a ball bouncing on the ground. It wouldn't stick.
All fear is an illusion. Our minds trick us. It's almost obvious if you think about it.
But then what happened? Well, I was an insecure, inexperienced, scared little teenage boy, green as grass. After a few days my fears crept back in. I was left only with a memory of all this, not with the effects. But his experience is part of the reason that I believe that those eastern philosophies that are about reaching enlightenment/realization/nirvana/destroying the ego have truth to them.
I stopped reading about spirituality for the most part because I believe I first have to LIVE and sort through my own emotional BS and mature, and maybe in 40 years I can go back to spirituality, when I'm ripe for it. Here I mean striving to understand the self and even striving to reach "enlightenment" with spirituality. Spirituality still plays a part in my life in a broader sense.