In Which I Think I Have an “Aha” Moment

I have a fairly long habit of reading a small meditational passage of some sort right before I go to sleep at night. It gives me something good to think about so I don’t get into the anxious headspace that causes insomnia for me. I try to be somewhat diverse in my choices. Some frequently used sources have been:

  • The Tao of Pooh
  • The Te of Piglet
  • The Tao Te Ching
  • The Bible
  • The Bhaghavad Gita
  • The Third Jesus
  • The Little Book of Zen
  • The Mastery of Love

I have been into The Way to Love by Anthony de Mello lately. He’s another one of these East/West fusion guys that I tend to like. One of his meditations that I read recently has really struck a deep chord with me. It is based on the Bible verse, Matthew 6:3: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.”

The particular verse is specific to giving, but de Mello branches it out into the idea of happiness, or holiness, in general. He points out that “the moment you are aware of your holiness, it goes sour and becomes self-righteousness.”  Similarly, he argues that true happiness is uncaused. It is a state of being, not a string of events or a constant state of excitement over events.  

According to de Mello, true holiness and true happiness are unselfconscious, effortless, and without ambition. We don’t achieve these states of being through effort or discipline. Strong effort to be happy or holy (ie. “admirable”)often signifies that your ego is pushing you into making efforts to become something you’re not meant to be so it can glorify itself. He writes that:

effort can change behavior, it cannot change you. ..it can put food in your mouth, it cannot produce an appetite; it can keep you in bed, it cannot produce sleep… it can force you to pay a compliment, it cannot produce genuine admiration.

He contends that a person can’t strive for happiness because “if you desire happiness you will be anxious lest you do not attain it. You will be constantly in a state of dissatisfaction; and dissatisfaction and anxiety kill the very happiness that they set out to gain.”In de Mello’s opinion, the only way to find sustained happiness is to remove the things that make you unhappy or unfulfilled; in other words, your attachments.

This passage struck a chord with me because of the enormous amount of struggle I’ve been going through trying, as I so succinctly put it yesterday, to “get my shit together.” I beat the crap out of myself all the time, basically about how not-admirable I am.  However, I do happen to agree with de Mello that the only way to find happiness is to get rid of the things that make you unhappy; not to strive towards things that you think will make you happy.

So, this points out a philosophical problem in my approach to this blog. I have been writing it based on achievement, or lack thereof. Really my approach should be writing about the journey of getting over my attachments; for example, my attachment to having a place of perceived success in a socio-political-economic structure that I don’t even believe in. Or, my attachment to being attractive in a way that is set in place by a media that is largely based on making money by preying off from people’s psychological  weaknesses.  Etcetera.

The other conundrum that I’ve been rolling around in my mind has been: if I’m not writing this blog for my ego, or to goad myself into striving to “win,” why am I doing it? The answer is because I love to write. I love to set down and share experiences. I could use support and feedback. I’m human and I don’t want to live in a void. Is that a good enough answer? = )

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