Start with What Is
In my book Active Consciousness, I have often mentioned the work of my teacher, Gary Sherman. At the beginning of a weekend workshop with him at the end of April, Gary gave the class the following piece of wisdom:
A good “line up” (or state of personal alignment) is, instead of viewing our experience of life through the lens of our concepts and beliefs, to center our self in direct experience and then derive our concepts and beliefs from that experience.
In other words, start with what is, and go from there.
The trouble is, this isn’t the way most of us operate! So many of us suffer each day because of our ideas and stories about the way things should be (“I should have more money.”;”I should go to church every Sunday”; “My boyfriend should be more attentive.”; “The government should finally get something done!”; “My friend/boss/relative should agree with me.”). Of course, bad things do happen. But it would be a lot more productive and even enlivening if we got a grip, took stock more often of what IS, and then go from there.
As Gary also pointed out to us, most people need only look in their closet to find dozens of items they haven’t used in years. In his words, we need to “get current” on what is really useful and meaningful to us now. In the same way, our beliefs can be just as outdated as an old shirt we’ll never wear again. A good state of alignment is to start fresh, use our meditative skills to see more clearly the way things are now, and go from there.
But be careful! Don’t use this advice to suppress or run away from your inner feelings. I made this mistake myself after the workshop. At the time I was quite agitated about various governmental health policies and media misinformation campaigns that I felt shouldn’t have been happening. I had taken action and done all I could, but I was angry because I felt things “shouldn’t be this way!” and the issue dominated my thoughts each day. The workshop with Gary did help me to accept what is, rather than suffering over what should be. I was finally able to stop thinking about this issue and move on. But I then made a crucial mistake. I suppressed my anger rather than work through it.
Those of you who have read my past articles about the wisdom of Hawaiian beliefs about the inner-feeling Basic Self (for example, The Secret Knowledge of the Kahunas, Don’t Ignore the Basic Self, and The Psychosoma — which is actually about working with the Basic Self) know that using the rational mind to subdue or argue away the feelings of the Basic Self can be a recipe for illness. And that’s precisely what happened to me. I’m only recovered now from an intense lingering cold and cough that began about 7 weeks ago. It’s true that a lot of people in my area have been falling prey to this ailment, but I believe it’s no accident that I became susceptible to it only a week after I “shut off” my anger.
The moral is: part of starting with what IS, is working with what your feelings ARE!
For example, in addition to acknowledging that “Yes, I don’t have enough money” and deciding to finally do something about it, or perhaps realizing that “Well, I really do have enough money”, you must also examine what exactly your inner feelings are about money. Are you angry you don’t have enough? Are you disappointed in yourself that you don’t care about making more money? Do you have irrational fears about not having enough money? Do you believe you don’t really deserve to have more money? Do you think money is evil? There are all kinds of inner feelings people have about this issue, many of them instilled by their parents.
The Basic Self and its feelings must be unearthed, acknowledged and worked with directly. According to Hawaiian wisdom, the best way to do this is through some form of physical action, not just through internal thought processes. Write down your inner feelings and beliefs. Then repeat them out loud. Talk to your Basic Self out loud. If you want to modify the beliefs and feelings of the Basic Self, perform a prayer ritual, complete with ritual objects like candles, incense, etc. to help you.
I highly recommend the book Fundamentals of Hawaiian Mysticism as a great starting point to learn more. In fact, the new book I am currently writing presents a great deal of awareness material that begins with the ideas in Active Consciousness and makes them practical through practices and concepts developed by the Hawaiians, as well as other techniques I have learned.
To conclude: start with what is and go from there. Are you suffering from a should? Meditate upon your issue to help you see more clearly what is. Make an action plan. But don’t forget to acknowledge what is also true for your inner Basic Self. Talk to it. Work with it. If you do, real transformation and action can then truly take place.