Where I am Today

So much has been changing for me recently. On certain matters it feels like I change my mind daily. But far from feeling uncertain or adrift, I’m feeling confident that I’m on the right path.

I thought it might be useful briefly to recap where I am today and some of my beliefs. These are subject to change and revision!

I’ve started reading about the work of psychologist Carl Jung – it’s fascinating. Many of his ideas seem to chime with intuitions or part-formed ideas I’ve been mulling over recently.

We each hold a divine spark within ourselves, in our unconscious mind. Some people can go their whole lives without realising it’s there. But others of us, myself included, keep getting hints and fleeting connections with our inner divinity.

This divine spark is potentially God-like. It’s like a physical embodiment of what we’re all capable of. It’s pointing the way to being the very best me.

Now, when I think of God, I’m referring to this God-like potential inside myself, this little slice of heaven.

One way (maybe the best way) we can get in touch with the God inside us is through meditation. When we’re still and pay attention… we can start to feel a deep inner peace. We “wake up” in a very real sense.

I now view meditation as an essential part of my spiritual journey.

In mid-August, I took a huge quantity of DXM. I refer to the following 2-3 weeks as a Spiritual Awakening. Chemically, something happened inside my brain which enabled me to become more closely in touch with my unconscious mind, including the spark of God or Higher Power within me.

My Spiritual Awakening isn’t just a singular moment in time. It’s an ongoing process. Every day, I’m waking up more. There’s also a tight correlation with another kind of waking up… every time I bring my conscious awareness back to the present moment (i.e. being mindful), that’s another form of waking up.

Through these two forms of waking, I’m getting closer to the real me and also the me that I’m capable of becoming – the best version of myself.

I’m now thinking that this true purpose of life… or at least the true purpose of my life. It’s to manifest the divine spark within me as much as possible in my everyday life. It’s to become Holy – the best version of me possible.

This won’t happen overnight. It’s a daily process, requiring continual effort.

I will make mistakes, I will forget things and need to re-learn them. I’m embracing a model of “two steps forward and one step back.” In other words, I’m being kind and patient with myself. I’m not going to quit just because things don’t seem to be working so well on a particular day.

I still have some reservations and reluctance regarding the official 12 Steps and the associated “stepwork”. I really dislike dogma – it’s necessary to be generic in order to deliver teachings in a way that’s suitable for the masses. But I am not the masses.

I’m determined to keep thinking critically and keep integrating the 12 Steps teachings in ways which resonate deeply with my other beliefs. I’m not just going to accept things on blind faith – that’s simply not who I am. I would be insulting my inner divinity by uncritically accepting everything I’m told.

I do have a “self”, but it’s not constant. In fact, in my case, it seems to change more frequently and more radically than most people’s. I don;t see that as a weakness, I see it as a strength.

I think of my sense of self as like an eddy in a stream. Over time, it may appear to hold a mostly consistent form, but it’s also ever-changing in many small ways.

Having a loose sense of self makes it easier for me to ignore my ego, which often just gets in the way of my spiritual development. It’s important for me to stay humble and open-minded, willing to re-evaluate my thinking at any point in time.

I don’t need to be right all the time. It’s far more important for me to be kind, both to myself and to others.

I want to embody the spiritual principles of Truth, Love, Courage and Humility in everything that I do. Again, I don’t expect to be perfect. I will make mistakes. But these mistakes are necessary and I’ll welcome them. Every “mistake” is an opportunity for learning.

I’m going to keep building the gap between stimulus and response in my own mind. I’ll do this through a daily meditation practice. This will have a huge effect on reducing any feelings of anxiety, depression or addiction. In essence, I’ll become free.

I’ll take personal responsibility for my life. I’ll pray for guidance on how best to do this. When I pray, I’m praying to the inner God-like potential that lives in my unconscious.

I’ll use the Serenity Prayer – this seems to embody the concept of personal responsibility.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer

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Today is my birthday. What better time to listen to my favourite JBPWAVE tune from Akira The Don.

This tune, Wishes, is about the best way to pray to God.

Maybe ‘God’ is just your own unconscious mind… by praying to it, it can tell you what you should do next to make your life a little better.

The music is so mesmerising too. I’ve listened to this tune at least 10 times today. I love it.

Jordan Peterson rules. Akira The Don rules too.

Serenity Prayer

As it’s Sunday, it feels appropriate to post a prayer. This is the Serenity Prayer and it’s commonly used at 12 Steps fellowship meetings.

It’s really powerful and, as its name suggests, helps me to feel a great sense of peace. It reminds me to let go of my desire to try to change things which are (almost entirely) outside of my control.

That doesn’t absolve me of all responsibility, however. I’m not a helpless victim. I must still have the Courage to change the things which are within my control.

Serenity Prayer

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What are Prayers Good For?

The act of praying is treated with derision by many. A common example is after mass shootings in the US. Religious folk often use the phrase “thoughts and prayers”. Secular folk will mock them for using (supposedly useless) prayers as a substitute for taking meaningful action.

Let’s re-assess though. What are prayers for?

As part of my quest to unify Science, Religion and Spirituality, I’m going to hypothesise that prayers may have some kind of positive function, though perhaps most of us don’t fully understand it.

It doesn’t make sense to me that so many humans, worldwide and as a species, would bother to pray if doing so conferred zero utility (benefit). Humans generally don’t like to waste their time and energy like that.

The first idea that occurred to me is about praying to put events into God’s hands. What function could that serve? Well, I believe it has a very important one.

If you look at Stoic philosophy, there’s a strong focus on what’s within one’s locus of control. In other words, we really only have control over our own thoughts, feelings and behaviour. External circumstances are often outside of our control. We can’t always force a certain outcome to occur because there are so many variables outside of our control.

This is why I feel that a good general approach to life is to do your best, but let go of your need to control the outcome. This is the spiritual principle of Acceptance (or Love). And it’s extremely powerful.

If there was a medication which could minimise depression, anxiety, worry and stress within a matter of a few minutes, everyone would want to be taking it, all the time! And yet, that’s the power of Acceptance.

It releases us from our need to control events outside of ourselves. And by doing so, it releases us from any emotional prisons we’ve wandered into.

NOTE: There’s often a misunderstanding about Acceptance. It is very much NOT about being passive, falling into a heap on the floor, allowing the world to kick you while you’re down, becoming a helpless victim.

I re-iterate, Acceptance is about doing the best you can, and then letting go of your need to control the outcome.

Doing this can bring a tremendous sense of peace.

For example, think about job interviews. You can give them your absolute best, but still not get the job. Sometimes there’s a candidate who beats you by just a tiny margin. You couldn’t control that (other than assassinating all other candidates before the interview!) And so it doesn’t make sense to beat yourself up for “failing” when you know you did your best. So instead, you just Accept the outcome, even though it’s not what you wanted.

This is why I included Acceptance/Love on the second version of my Tidy Your Room diagram. To do our best at taking personal responsibility and improving our lives, we need to attend to our psychological well-being. Acceptance is a great way to do this.

So, how does this relate to prayer?

Well, how do you feel after a mass shooting? Quite possibly any or all of the following: deep sadness, sick to your stomach, anger, frustration, helplessness.

Or maybe you’re just numb to it all because it seems to happen so often and yet nothing seems to change at a societal level.

These feelings, whilst understandable, can be psychologically debilitating if they go on for too long.

The truth is, for most of us, there’s very little we can do to directly affect the chances of a mass shooting happening in future.

Maybe we could vote differently (assuming we believe that would help). Maybe we could donate to relevant charities to help the victims. Maybe we could hold a protest. But, unless we happen to be a US Senator, there isn’t really that much we can realistically do.

Except, we can also pray.

God, please care for the victims of today’s tragedy. Please bring them comfort in their time of need. And I pray that such a thing doesn’t happen in my own community. I leave all this up to Your Will, my God.

The act of prayer hands over responsibility for a situation to God (or a higher power, or Fate/Destiny). [EDIT: Again, this is NOT an excuse for inaction. We should still be courageous and do what we can to make things better. Only then then should we hand over responsibility to a Higher Power.]

Praying like this is tremendously liberating from a psychological perspective. It allows us to function normally again. (See the Serenity Prayer a bit further down in this post).

I take the position that we need to look after our own mental health first, otherwise we’re no use to other people. Looking after yourself is definitely not selfish. It’s the first step to being able to help others effectively.

And, it seems to me, that prayer is an effective way of re-centering ourselves psychologically. It removes the burdens of stress, sadness and worry from us. It allows us to return our focus to the things which are within our direct control.

I’m really not sure if there actually is a divine being up in the clouds who can intervene on our behalf. But I think praying to Him serves a useful function.

Maybe prayer is a powerful way to bring ourselves to a place of Acceptance.

Bollinger, R. 2019

Of course, there are people who use prayers merely as virtue signalling – “Look at me, aren’t I such a good Christian person [smug smile].” But, I think that’s probably only a minority.

We also pray as part of the 12 Steps for addicts. It’s very far from useless. I feel it serves a similar function to that in mass shootings. It reduces guilt, fear, depression, shame, anxiety, worry, stress. It re-centers us, gets us back on an even keel, heals our hearts. Using Acceptance, it brings us back to a place where we can take full responsibility for ourselves again.

The Serenity Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

So, again, be open-minded.

Just because something may strike you as useless, pious, weak, like an excuse for inaction… that doesn’t mean it really is.

Challenge your assumptions. Look beyond your prejudices and biases.

Assume the best of other people. We’re all human, we’re all doing our best, we’re all imperfect and we all make mistakes.

Focus on our similarities, not our differences (another important lesson from 12 Steps).