Choosing perspective over external conditions part 2
Continuing from last weeks post, I will describe what it is I am suggesting to do. What this process will do for you is bring your deepest values into your conscious knowledge. You will learn what it is you value the most through your own experiences and gradually teach yourself how to live it using only logic and living your life. To determine what it is you value is simple but takes practice to make it a part of your life. A value must be something you can experience internally that is not a physical sensation. In other words it must be an emotion, a state of mind, something you feel deep within, a way of being. These are all synonyms for what a person values. These are also called virtues in some contexts, for this article I will use the term value. This is something that you experience firsthand within yourself. You don’t have to think about it to know what it is because you can feel it. Call the feeling whatever you choose. This feeling is the ultimate reason for your actions. It is a chosen state, it is not changed very much by external conditions.Your deepest values will never be something external from you. It cannot be a person, a group, or an accomplishment. For example many people value power. But what does this mean?
In our society to have power means you can control your external circumstances. So to have power means that your most valued posession is something outside of you that you must control. This is not an inner state at all. The closest feeling to this would be the feeling of safety. To feel safe and secure is not something you can build your whole life on and live well, although many believe this is the case. This results in extremely wealthy and powerful people who never have enough. Why don’t they have enough? Because they feel insecure. When a person has a negative feeling the brain will automatically begin generating possible solutions that will resolve the feeling. These arise as compulsive thoughts. This works fine for people if there is actually something to be worried about, if there is no real problem the person will think and do insane things. The feeling drives their thinking, their thinking drives their behavior, and no matter how powerful they become in the world it does not change their feeling. For these people their feelings control them and the external conditions control their feelings. They are controlled entirely by the external world. The goal for everyone is always the inner state, no matter who you are or what you have.
All people will state that their actions are rational and logical. This is true for them regardless of how insane it may appear to anyone else. It appears insane because the person does not know that the inner feeling they get is the end goal. They will do things and use methods that appear insane to others because that person does not know any better. They will see any situation and make claims about it that are irrational because they do not know that the inners state is what they are actually trying to achieve. Thus when they do evil they believe it is the only way, or at least the best way, to achieve their desired inner state. Talk to anyone who has committed a serious evil and they all have one thing in common: All of them will argue that what they did was the only choice.
Historically the most evil people have always stated this. However the truth is that external circumstances do not need to control your inner feelings. Your perspective can do this just as well. This doesn’t mean accepting or even tolerating evil. It simply means you are not internally disturbed by it because you know that the person simply does not have a very good understanding of themself or reality. To be upset at someone for their evils is like getting upset at someone for being illiterate. No one ever taught them, they never figured it out on their own, because of this they have fewer options in what they do and they may hurt others because they are not good at solving life’s problems and they don’t know any better. If you feel this is worth the energy of feeling anger towards them that is your choice. In this case the problem is ignorance and that can never be resolved with anger or fear from another person.
All humans have the innate ability to choose how they will live and how they will respond to life’s challenges. Your feelings are under your control whether you like it or not. It is your responsibility to find your own way to manage your actions and feelings to make them work for you instead of against you. You cannot change anything in the world except your own behaviors, choices, and opinions. These are all you need to make a difference in your life. And the good news is that what is truly good and harmonious for you is also good and harmonious for everyone else. Choose your beliefs wisely, for they create not only who you are, but also the life experience that you will have.
From outer to inner
The belief that external conditions control the inner conditions is the main difference between a deeply spiritual person and a blind one. The difference is the methods that people use. The normal method is to chase external things that could enhance the inner state. The virtuous way is to use internal means to get what you want and what you want is within. This is done by questioning one’s own opinions, thoughts, and feelings as if from a third person perspective. The question that should arise is: “What action will give me the easiest and most beneficial solution to my inner state?” Another great question to yourself is: “Is my inner state helping me or hurting me at this moment?”
What this means is that whatever inner value you choose it will become your guide in all situations. You will not sacrifice your values for some other state of mind. A person who truly desires peace and lives it will never experience anger or fear because those are not peace. The person can still use reason to know what is a good or a bad decision. They simply no longer need negative emotions as motivators.
A common problem is people believing that their emotions must have some justification. They do not want to believe their emotions or opinions are wrong. People will turn to an external source and blame it for the way they feel. A giant step to an easier life is self-doubt. Admit that you might be wrong about your opinions to yourself and see how this acknowledgement changes your life. Ultimately if you have practiced questioning yourself and using introspection you will see that you control the way you feel by controlling your thoughts. No one can take this from you.
We must learn to use the gift of thought well. It is our gift and therefore our responsibility to control it and use it responsibly. If you have ever examined your thoughts while you are feeling bad you will find that your thoughts are constantly trying to define the cause of and resolve the negative feeling. This is why distressed people say and do things that are very irrational. Because their inner state is not aligned with reality and so neither is their thinking. If the person perceives a situation as worse than it truly is than their reaction to the situation will also be too extreme. Thinking will be compulsive until the negative emotion is resolved.
Your inner state is all that matters. Do not be fooled into believing that the world, or life, or the universe is wrong and you are right. Learn to control your inner self and the world will have little or no power over the way you feel anymore. Do this by remembering that your inner state is primary and must be resolved first. The externals are always secondary. This can be done through a number of methods. The best to me is breathing focused meditation. If you can listen to your breathing while feeling the body and be calm and at peace there you will have a tool to bring into the everyday world which will help you to stay at peace even when things get very bad.
You may also try going for a walk, playing with a pet, or whatever it is you like. When you feel much better come back and analyze the problem that occurred because you will be able to prevent it from happening again if you can find what it was within you that caused it. Once again, simply analyze the situation, analyze your thoughts and reactions to the situation, and then decide how you will approach it the next time to give you a deeper feeling of what you value.
I don’t like the everyday terms ego or enlightenment, but I feel it relevant to mention that in studying Buddhism as well as new age philosophy, the only difference I see in the two is that egos depend on external things for feeling well. Enlightened people use internal means. The shocking reality is that everyone seems to want to feel well and the massive differences we see in behavior are only the methods people are using to get that feeling. In a hilariously tragic way everyone is right now already doing as best as they can to be well and to be content with life. I believe the total failure of our world in general at feeling well and content is a problem that begins at the level of governance. But luckily the government can’t stop you from improving yourself, although they try to slow you down.
Discovering your values
To a person who has strong values a set back in reaching a goal is totally insignificant in regards to their value. Bad circumstances never change what they want. It will have no effect on their value, it will only change what they do to continue and keep going.
If you want to see examples of this, watch nature. Birds, bugs, plants all live in this way. They continue growing, evolving, reproducing, regardless of what happens to them. Go to any park inside of any city and you will see how few angry birds there are. They do not care how many buildings are constructed, how loud the cars are, how annoying the people are. They continue to seek exactly what all birds do in any environment, although they may use different methods to get what they need. They continue to find food, build nests, and reproduce. They are clearly not changing very much based on external conditions.
As a second example anyone who has a lawn can see that plants do not care how many times they are cut down. Their goal is to grow and reproduce. So they continue to do this regardless of how often you mow your lawn. They are not wasting their energy trying to stop the lawnmower and they are not abandoning their goal altogether by giving up on growing. Nature has automatic values, for us humans we must choose.
To choose what you value is somewhat of a learning process. You may begin by choosing several different deep feelings that you enjoy the most. Try to remember the best times of your life and what truly made them the best. Make certain to decide exactly what it is you value. Write it down but don’t be worried about changing it later if you choose. You need to have something to start with to get used to practicing introspection.
After enough time you will see from your own personal experience the things that you want to live for. You may have to let go of some of the things you have always enjoyed doing in order to live your value, it will be worth it. This process starts whenever you choose and it never really stops unless you choose to stop. If you truly want to live for something you will realize that you are not sacrificing anything, you are just doing what you need to do to live what you believe in.
The first step to developing your values is to know what you value. I value peace. You may value love, or compassion, or joy, or any feeling or combination of feelings that you choose. If you have chosen your values you do not need pain-centered motivation. Your actions will be aligned with reason. Everything you do and say will come from clear and straight lines of logic that leave little room for debate. You know what you want and you will know the easiest and best ways to get it. You understand your own perspective and the fact that others have different perspectives. Without an inner conflict there won’t be a conflict in your actions or words. Ordered thinking is just one benefit of living by your values.
A person is better off not choosing physical sensations as values because the body has many limitations, even if healthy, and it needs to maintain a balance for a person to feel well. If a person seeks physical sensations as a value they will end up in endless high and low cycles. Many people, including myself, have gone long periods of time forever chasing highs and not seeing that they are a slave to these highs. These physical highs are similar to people who chase emotional highs by creating pain in themselves now for a future goal.
It is fine to do whatever you want with your body, you own it after all, but be aware of what you do and the consequences of it. Don’t put all your attention on the good part and be ignorant of the down side. If many people tell you that you are doing something too much see if you reply with an excuse. This means you are defending that which controls you. Using the body is a simple matter of balance.
I invite you to begin practicing some of these ideas in your every day life. The worst death for an idea is when no one even tries it out. If you think there is some truth to these words go out and try it for a bit. See if you get more of what you want in life and less of what you don’t want. Come back to these words if you need to or continue on to other spiritual and philosophical teachings to continue your practice. Whatever you choose to do I hope you help yourself and begin developing your own person. It is so easy to follow others and lose ourselves in this world. The more you find yourself the less lost you will be in this crazy world. I invite you also to read the final part to this series in one week which will discuss practical ways on how to live these values you have chosen. Be well.