to walk the warriors path is to continually step out into the unknown
For years my life was based on self-belief, selfishness, and instant gratification. I was a one-dimensional man, and deep down I was always afraid. I went to church but I had no belief, I was married but there was no love, I was successful but all that gave me was money.
When we as human beings are disconnected from our true selves we place ourselves in a perilous position. Our sense of identity becomes lost and we are prey to evils from within and without ~ anger, arrogance, envy, fear, greed, jealousy, lust, paranoia….. There is no inner peace and little joy in our lives. We act without thought for others, and we react to real or perceived attacks and slights with anger and extreme verbal or written or even physical aggression. There is no real love in our lives, either for ourselves or for other people.
Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life. ~ the Buddha
Without spirituality, without a belief in a power outside of ourselves, outside of that which we can explain through modern science, we do not live, we just exist. This leads to serious physical, mental, and emotional problems and illnesses. Alcoholism, explosive anger, drug addiction, gambling, infidelity, inappropriate casual sex, lust, resentments, narcissism, self-doubt, paranoia, fear, cowardice….. It is not by chance that the second step of 12-step recovery programs is; Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Accepting that there is a Power greater than ourselves is the beginning of spirituality, the beginning of a real connection with our true selves. Spirituality means evolving our consciousness, and at each level of evolution we react to the Cosmos in different ways. Most people are driven by what is happening in the world outside them, some shape their lives to live in the world they choose, and a very few change themselves by looking at the world inside themselves. Extraordinary people learn to reshape themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally ~ learning inner peace, true happiness, and how to love themselves and others.
There are three principles to reaching inner peace, knowing our true selves, and spirituality;
- associate with like-minded people, people who strengthen us. avoid toxic people and toxic relationships
- put aside time every day to make and strengthen the connection with our true selves. rest, meditate, harmonise your heart and brain
- transform our character; turn arrogance into humility, hate into love, paranoia into trust
Some say that there is no God, no Higher Power, nothing greater than man and science. And that Spirituality ranks alongside Magic, Sorcery, and the belief in a Flat Earth for stupidity. All I know is that a Power greater than myself restored me to sanity.
My own mind was a prison
three things cannot long be hidden; the sun, the moon, and the truth ~ Buddha
under this bohdi tree
things are bad being me
as dire as could possibly be
look around and what do I see
that at least I knew and loved thee
I see the moon
smiling down on me
When I am true to myself, I am strong beyond measure.
the application of will
continues to tempt me still
uninhibited too dangerous thrill
urges wants desires needs emotional
uninhibited casual sexual relationships fill
my life with seductress midnight encounters
hazardous erotic carnal liaisons midnight hours
rash instant gratification sensual lustful animal urges
I know that I should have become a better man than that
the path to freedom from suffering
is through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit
confession, penance, atonement, amends, forgiveness
Today, the 28th of February, is Shrove Tuesday ~ a day when the basic tenents of religion, 12 step recovery programmes, and a spiritual lifestyle all come together. It’s all based on strength, honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. It’s sometimes called a moral inventory, and it may involve the God /Goddess of your understanding, your Higher Power, your most trusted friend, or any combination or variation of all three. Ash Wednesday, and by extension Shrove Tuesday, is really a Pagan Festival anyway ~ the main thing is that today is a good day for me to take the next step on my own spiritual journey.
All this, the whole point of Shrove Tuesday, may have nothing to do with religion, or recovery from an addiction, or eating special meals, or the carnival celebrations of Mardis Gras ~ but what it should have to do with is acceptance of who we are, who we used to be, and who we wish to become in the future. Today I will take a long look at who I was and what I did, all the good, the bad and the ugly. I will try to accept and understand the past. I will acknowledge the reality of the past, and think about making my amends in the future. Today I will forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes, and hope that others do too. I will think about being a ‘better’ man tomorrow than I was yesterday. My personal tools for doing this are the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
I am not a follower of the Buddha ~ in fact my personal ‘higher power’ is the Mother Goddess, in one of her forms, (it’s complicated). But the Buddha’s Teachings will make sense to me today ~ Shrove Tuesday. I will be making pancakes today, but the whole idea of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival is not really an English Gentleman’s thing. Mardi Gras isn’t really a spiritual event, it’s just a street party.
Have a Happy Fat Tuesday, a Great Carnival, a Joyous Mardi Gras, and a Calm and Spiritual Shrove Tuesday.
(Maybe one day I’ll look for a cool woman wearing a great mask at Mardi Gras.)
The Greatest Gift You Can Give the World is a Healthy You.
Sometime around the first century AD, Roman poet Juvenal, (Decimus lunius luvenalis), wrote this;
you should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body
ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death
and deems length of days the least of nature’s gifts
that can endure any kind of toil
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labours of Hercules
better than the loves and banquets and downy cushions of sloth
what I commend to you, you can give to yourself
for assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.
Except Juvenal wrote it in Latin, and he wrote Sardanapalus, not sloth. It actually rhymes much better in Latin. This is from where we get the phrase ~ mens sana in corpore sano ~ a sound mind in a sound body.
To me, this reads a lot like Kipling, who was also very adept at giving good advice to young men; for example in his seminal poem IF Kipling explains what it takes to be a Man. Sir Henry Newbolt with Vitai Lampada, gave a more inspirational lead. But for hard advice the Maxims to Guide a Young Man, which appeared in the 1850’s maybe says it all. After a long career in banking, my personal advice to a young man echoes Shakespeare’s from Hamlet; Neither a borrower nor a lender be…
Even two thousand years later Juvenal’s advice is sound. He’s telling us not to lay about eating, drinking, having sex, (all things that the ancient Romans excelled at), but instead live an energetic life of courage, self-discipline, and virtue. Every great teacher before and since, including Jesus Christ and the Buddha, says more or less the same things. The Noble Eightfold Path could have come straight from Juvenal.
Life is difficult and painful. The way to freedom from pain lies in courage, hard work, and self-discipline. And by the way, don’t get cynical, envious, impatient, apathetic, or angry along the way ~ these negative emotions will not serve you well.
Neither in a man nor a woman is negativity a pretty sight
When you haven’t slept for days, and you spend all your time in the depths of hopelessness, convinced that you are physically, mentally, and spiritually ill, and that there is no cure, no way out at all, then even the glimmer of an end of suffering will have you hanging on to that dim light like a drowning man clutches at a lifebelt.
So it was for me at a grim three o’clock in the morning on Monday, March 28th, 2016 ~ Easter Monday.
The single glimmer of hope in the darkness were these words; ‘Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.’ The opening words of a book called The Road Less Travelled.
This is also the first of the Four Noble Truths as revealed by the Buddha.
Being in the hopeless state I am, for today I have simplified these Four Noble Truths into versions I can understand;
- Life is difficult and painful.
- The causes of my problems and pain are my own cravings, lusts, and my blaming of others.
- I can’t change what happens to me, but I can change what I do.
- The path to freedom from suffering is through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit.
The cruel trick my mind is already playing on me is that I keep forgetting what #3 says. I know there ‘s a #3, but I forget what it says.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. ~ Gautama Buddha.
Dying is easy. Living takes work. Don’t try and do it all on your own.