Friday, June 29, 2018



When a person has great “Hutzpa” or “Gusto” or “Mojo,” you can be sure they have high self-esteem.
When a person of great Beauty and confidence enters a room, almost everyone takes notice.
They are more likely to be believed, trusted, and liked then when an average looking person enters
the room. Why is this?  Is it their beauty or their confidence which gives them such power over others’
opinions? I found that it's mostly confidence which makes a person attractive. I've known very
beautiful people who didn't appear to be attractive at first because they had such low self-esteem.
I’ve also seen the opposite. I see examples of people like Mick Jagger for instance. He is usually
treated with great respect, deference, and awe by most people he meets. He seems totally confident
despite his lack of good looks. Good looks and confidence play off each other and without one the other would vanish. These two qualities that some seem to have in abundance co-create each other. That being said, I feel confidence is the most important in terms of the reality we create for ourselves.

Confidence in how we look to others, and confidence in how others will treat us is only one type of
confidence.  There are many. Confidence can be focused. You can be confident in your ability to
grow roses and when the day comes that you get your big reward for the prettiest rose, that
confidence will shine. Being an expert is having confidence in your knowledge of a particular topic.
There are many different flavors of confidence, yet a common thread runs through them all. That
thread is having a belief in one's agency, or one's ability to accomplish.

Confidence, when you get right down to it, is a form of belief in oneself. The flip side of confidence is
low confidence, or low self-esteem. I think it's fair to say that just about everybody at times knows
what it feels like to believe that they're a failure or that they're no good or that they're unattractive or
that they're unlovable. At some point in everybody's life we all feel that way. Is it true to say that
without confidence then you almost always believe the flip side is true?  Is it true to say that without
confidence, whatever it is you are trying to do, deep down you believe you can't? Whatever it is that
you lack confidence in; you always believe you can't.  If you believe you can't fix your car by yourself
then you probably won’t be able to. You may even have the sad sad believe that you could never
learn. How’s that for believing in the “I can’t” belief?  If you believe that no one will want to dance
with you at the high school dance, then you may believe or suspect that you can't attract anyone.
Whatever it is that you lack confidence in, there is always an underlying assumption of “I can't.”   
Confidence seems to stem from the flip side of that belief. That is in the assumption of “I can.”
When we have confidence we often are able to over come great odds and accomplish amazing things.

Whether we have confidence or no confidence we are seeing our world through, a similar belief
system.  The confidence/ no confidence belief system is our answer to knowing who we are. Whether
we are abundantly confident, or we lack it completely, the common thread between these two ways of
seeing ourself in the world is that both see the world through the lens of the self.  These are beliefs
about the self. We may assume that others see us as no good, or uninteresting, or unworthy. Notice
the “un” in front of each label? The flip side of each label is “good,” “interesting,” “Worthy.”

What if all those beliefs were false? What if both the positive and negative self views were false?
What if the whole spectrum of self views were all false? What then? Who would you be? This is
something worth contemplating. If you want to contemplate this, the don't forget that question. Ask it
again and again:. “who would you be without these beliefs in yourself?” Resting in the unknowable
nature of that question is the best way to contemplate it.

Perhaps the next question, once you become comfortable with not knowing who you are, is the more
important question. That question is: who is asking and why?  Don’t worry about finding an answer to
these questions either. Learn to see all answers are just more beliefs about the self.

Why not just stay? Stay in the place of not knowing. Stay in the place of openness to possibilities,
openness to change, to anything. This is the place where curiosity is born. This is the place where life
truly happens.

Most of us can only live our life fully when we forget the self.  We are only truly alive when we forget
the self. Holding a newborn in our arms is one way to forget the self.  Flying down a mountain on a
snowboard in a foot of fresh powder is maybe another way to briefly forget the self. Gazing into the
eyes of the one you have just fallen totally in love with is another example. In all these experiences
and so many more like them, we probably felt very alive. There is a reason for that.

What a good day it is when we have experienced life while the “self” took a backseat to the
experience.  Do you remember what it felt like when you were experiencing life without the burden
and anxiety of maintaining or improving the self? The self takes so much of our energy to maintain
and protect, not to mention all the ambitions we have that will “define” us in some way.  The problem is,
that all those things which are used to define the self, and to protect the self, and to maintain the self,
limit “our” awareness to a fine point. A point in space and time which invariably misses the big picture.

The drama that can result from the narrow view of the self is apparent to anyone who watches this
kind of human plight.  Have you ever noticed that during a big drama storm there is often someone
quietly watching the whole thing go down? Didn’t it seem that they were the one who were most free
of the drama?  They weren’t stressed about it because they probably saw that in the long run, it all
meant pretty much nothing. Perhaps one could make the argument that those experiences had to be
experienced by those involved and so in that sense they had meaning, but not the same meaning that
those caught in the drama believed at the time.  Think of all the dramas that must have occurred over
the vast expanse of history. How many of those still have meaning? Did they ever? This is what it
means to see the truth of a thing.

There is relative truth and absolute truth. Those caught in the drama are seeing their world from the
lens of the self and through the limited lens of relative truth are caught in that limited understanding.
Those who sit in the corner and grin perhaps see the situation from the perspective of absolute truth,
or a perspective closer to that.  They are free of the drama. Although they experience the same
situation, they are free of the suffering and anxiety, and adrenaline. They are also free of the hatred
and violence and fear. They have much more peace than those caught in the drama. Those playing
out the roles of “their” selves are the ones who are suffering. (I put the possessive pronoun in quotes
because who owns who? Do you possess your “self” or does it possess you?)

If you contemplate what it is to know thyself without all the labels and beliefs, you may realize
something incredibly profound.   In fact, one day you may realize exactly what the Buddha meant by
the term “no-self.” When you see the world through the lens of absolute truth, you will be free of seeing
it through the lens of the self because you will see that, like everything which is compounded, it is only
real in a limited sense.  In other words, you may see someday when you least expect it, that life is not
really real. When you see that the self is just another set of beliefs, you may be free of it. As you
realize this, you may find that you do not have to take your life and “your” self so seriously. Mistakes
take on a whole new meaning when you no longer have to prove your self.

Once you see the flowing, ever changing nature of life, and can feel the true depths of impermanence
then you will be close to understanding what the enlightened ones meant when they said there is no
self.  To realize the nature of self is to be free of it and all suffering. This is what they say, but find out
for yourself. Don’t take the Buddha’s word for it, contemplate with the aim of finding the truth for

Saturday, December 23, 2017

If you want to go to heaven

Much thought and effort has been given to getting to Heaven and avoiding the alternative. Most Christians assume they will go to heaven simply because they are a card carrying Christian, but will they? Lets hope so, but from the standpoint of what Heaven is, its fair to say that many won't or at least, they won't if they continue to be who they are now. Most people get angry at times, they get jealous, or greedy, or judgmental towards others. Have you ever wondered what Heaven would be like if everyone got in? For instance, what would Heaven be like if people there got angry at times? There could be fist fights. Are there fist fights in Heaven? Maybe Valhalla but not Heaven.

If beings in heaven got angry then it wouldn't be heaven anymore would it? Anger, hatred, selfishness, and greed are behavioral patterns which cannot exist in heaven because if they did, then it wouldn't be long before people would get angry and start shouting, and maybe even start fist fights. If people had fist fights in Heaven then how can you expect there to be peace in Heaven? If there isn't peace in the hearts of all those who live there then its not heaven is it? It stands to reason, does it not?

Although Jesus or Allah or whatever name you use for God forgives you for what you did in the past, he or she cannot change your mind for you, only you can do that. If you get angry or have bouts of jealousy, or greed then you can be sure that you won't be let into Heaven regardless of whether God wiped away your sins or not. The reason is obvious, Heaven is only possible if the people who live there are free of those negative patterns. 

If God changed your mind by removing your hatred, your prejudges and all the things that would make you not fit in in Heaven, then you probably would not be you anymore. In order for us to be alive we have to have free will. If our mind were somehow magically re-wired without our help then we basically would be like a computer or a complex piece of software that could be re-written and restarted. If we didn't have free will, what would we be? We would be nothing more than a robot or some animated character following a carefully written script. We wouldn't be really alive. God gave us life because he gave us free will. If God started tweaking with your programming to make you compatible with Heaven then at what point would you not be you anymore? Besides, wouldn't God have done this by now if he or she could have or would have? God knows that you can't be alive if you don't have a free will of your own. He (or she) knows that the only person who can change your mind, is you. This is why he sent Jesus to the Earth, to help us change ourselves. If Jesus just had to wave his magic wand and make us all saintly again then why did he spend so much time teaching?

What did he teach by the way? He taught methods and viewpoints that will help anyone change themselves if they have to courage to really see their negative side clearly. To work on a daily basis toward becoming a better person is really what God wanted from us all along. Just about every religion on Earth has as its basis the notion that we can and should become better people. There has never been a saint who has started out as a saint. It took a lot of gentle, self compassionate understanding and daily work. Daily contemplation, daily mindfulness practice or praying are great techniques you can use and maybe already do use to change yourself.

Using Jesus as an example of someone we would like to be like, is another way of changing ourselves unless we think that we must either be 100% like him already or we have failed. Many people have this kind of notion I think. That they need to be either perfect or they have failed. This kind of perfection based understanding of personal transformation is overly simplistic.  It assumes that the self is static, and it assumes that either one is a saint or not. The perfection based understanding of personal transformation is not really right.  When we change we usually change slowly, its not all or nothing. For instance, very few people can just quit smoking in a day. It usually takes many times of trying to quit before they succeed. If a person felt guilt for not being able to quit the first time they might not even try again. I personally quit about 10 times before I finally succeeded. Its been almost 15 years since I have had a craving for a cigarette, yet there was a time when I smoked 20 a day.

The most important thing to remember is the one thing that people often overlook. This is the simple fact that we can change ourselves. Why would Jesus have ever even tried to teach to us if he didn't have faith in our ability to change ourselves? We can change ourselves, and that's good news. We don't have to be perfect. Not only can we change our habits and tendencies but even our perspective of our self may change. Moments of wisdom and clarity come to us at the most unexpected times and we are never really the same. Maybe its those daily times when we are quiet which help us to see and to change as a result of that seeing.

What did Jesus mainly say about how to change yourself? He demonstrated how to be meek, forgiving, truthful, loyal, loving, and perhaps most importantly, compassionate. If there is one impression I have of Jesus from what I've read it is that he was always loving and compassionate. Even when he overturned the bankers' tables in the temple, he probably didn't hate the bankers. I think he just wanted to wake them up to what they were doing. He saw how they were harming themselves by expressing their greed.

I am not the only one to say that the most important thing you need to do in order to get to heaven is to do what Jesus did. Some of the things that one needs to do is to learn to forgive, learn to let go, and always try to remember that all life is sacred and unique and deserves our respect and maybe even our love. I believe that if one cultivates love in their own heart instead of anger, judgment, hatred, arrogance, greed and pride, then that person has accomplished more than someone who is been saved by Jesus 1000 times but hasn't changed themselves at all.

I am not sure but it seems to me that maybe baptisms and saving ceremonies are really meant as good starting points on our journey to become better people. I think that is a much smarter way to look at it if your goal is to get to heaven. Seeing these ceremonies as some sort of magic wand waving is missing the whole point. To improve ourselves is to transcend our programming as selfish individuals who are only concerned with survival and getting our little needs met. To transcend ourselves we have to see ourselves clearly and we have to actively work on changing our habits and patterns.

Spirituality can be seen as some sort of conduit to magic and the kinds of things that only God can do, or it can be seen as a path to change ourselves. What approach do you think will be more effective at getting into Heaven?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finding the Self in the Labyrinth of the Mind

Seeing the "self" from outside the self is so difficult and yet, at the same time, so easy. Its easy in the sense that awareness is effortless.  Its difficult because our awareness has been trapped in the self for so long its hard to even imagine what our awareness would be without the ego at the center.

Perhaps one must go to the center in search of the "self" in order to see, first hand, the nature of self. Its ironic that the self can only be seen from the outside, when one moves their awareness into the center of the mind to find it.

What is it that we find when we go on this journey of contemplation? What is the self or the ego? The self is many things. The self is going places, accomplishing things. It becomes great at times. It is always striving to build itself up.  The self seeks to have a purpose or a place to fit into the Universe. It seeks to secure its future, and often sees events, conditions, or even people as everlasting. It sees itself as eternal, even though the more rational mind may know better.

The self is ambitious and strong at times, and aimless, hopeless and weak at others. The self longs to be liked, loved, admired,and accepted. It longs to be great and fears to be rejected, hated, maligned, or spit upon.  The self fears losing, and failing, and looking stupid. The self fears and the self dreams and it often has hope for a better future.  The self seeks to lock up the future to overcome or ignore those many fears.

Control is the mantra of the self. It seeks control over the body, the home, and ultimately, if possible, the world.  The self believes in its position in life, good or bad as it resists and ignores all evidence to the contrary. The self strives to be whole, real, and everlasting.

Seeing all this from a perspective outside the perspective of the self seems impossible, yet we have just done it.  It was effortless, when you look with curiosity.  Any effort behind any seeing is just another ambition, just another goal, just another thought that came from the self. When you look with curiosity you see from outside the box of self.

The self is the lens we see the world through, yet when we seek to find the self in the center of our being, it is not there.

In the center of the labyrinth there is no-thing at all except the sweet open emptiness which gives a canvas for all of existence. In order to fill a pot with water, first the pot has to have nothing in it.  To say the self is empty of thingie-ness is not a denial of our existence, its a clarification of it.  

The journey into emptiness is a journey of moving toward humility, and peace and clarity.  The journey of seeing this life's attachments for what they are; empty of any lastingness can be a painful one, yet also somehow exhilarating. Learning again and again what we are not is empowering and humbling, at the same time.

The journey is empowering because of how the self is revealed. Sometimes painfully, sometimes profoundly, the self becomes exposed to the light of awareness. Slowly, slowly our inner light shines more brightly as our ambitions are seen for what they are. Step by step all aspects of the self are revealed as we learn that the path toward emptiness is not a path toward nothingness but rather, a path toward everythingness.

When everything is revealed as being empty of permanence, then the great flow of life begins to emerge as the true life force. The vast inter-connectedness and non-duality of our life becomes more and more clear.

I find it interesting that as we walk the labyrinth of our psyche, we are at first making an indelible impression on life. Then at some point when the path and the awareness of the path become one, each step erases the karmic impressions leaving nothing in its wake.  Each step becomes an undoing rather than a doing. What was once a path of "shoulds" becomes a path of "coulds".  What was a path of heavy-handedness becomes a path of lighthearted joy. The path of discovery has led both nowhere and everywhere.

Finding the center of our being is moving toward the light of life.  There is no separate self  so it is not "our" life. Finding the light that was there all along is like coming home to the realization that we don't "have" a life, we are life.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Anatomy of Desire

It’s been said in many Buddhist circles that desires are what keeps us from realizing our innate enlightened nature.  It’s said that if we can eliminate desires, we will be free of attachments and suffering.  However, isn’t the desire to eliminate desires just another desire?

Maybe it would be good to investigate and contemplate the nature of desire. So what do desires do?  What happens when you are hungry, for instance? Your body has a particular feeling which you probably label as uncomfortable.  You then have the desire for breakfast or lunch or dinner.  
Is the feeling state the whole of the desire, or is there more to it?  I would say that there is more to a desire then just the feelings.  

Have you ever felt hungry for something but you didn’t know what it was? You look all through your pantry and fridge yet you nothing seems right.  Do you want something sweet, something savory? You just don’t know what kind of food it is that you want, but you do know that you want some kind of food.   So, although this would still be a desire its almost to the point that it isn’t. What if you just had the uncomfortable feeling but you didn’t know there was anything you could do or eat that would cure the feeling?  Would this be a desire? I would say it wouldn’t be because just having an undefined feeling without any idea of fixing the problem doesn’t have any motivational power over you.  As soon as you found a cure for the bad feeling then you would crave that cure whenever you had the feeling and then it would be a desire.  Desires seem to have a cognitive component to them as well as the bodily feeling state. 

Is the cognitive part of desire the whole thing though?  Without the feeling, is there desire?  Can you convince yourself you want an omelet when you don’t have feelings of hunger?  Maybe, you go out to the local diner and get an omelet and eat it but it probably wouldn’t be satisfying except maybe  in an intellectual way.  So without the feelings of hunger and the story of how to fix the feelings you won’t be in the grip of desire.  This being said, I have found that if you convince yourself thoroughly you want something even if you don’t have the initial feeling, then you can arouse the feeling, but it really isn’t a desire until both the feeling state and the idea of the “fix” are present together. 

Is there a link between the degree of hunger and the satisfaction one gets when the hunger is satisfied? If you waited 24 hours without eating anything and then you went to the diner and ate an omelet would your satisfaction be deeper than if you only had waited one hour and ate the omelet?   I think it would. There does seem to be a link between the degree of discomfort and the degree of peace one feels by “fixing” or eliminating that feeling. 

One thing I’ve noticed in this whole process is how I seem to have a strange illogical notion or unspoken belief while the feeling of discomfort is satisfied. I have the notion that by eating the omelet then I will be satisfied forever. I never seem to think or am aware of how the feelings of hunger will come again in a few hours even after I eat the food. From my experience there seems to be an assumption that this is a permanent fix because after I eat the omelet, and my desire is satiated, there is an unspoken assumption that there will be no need to worry or think about eating ever again. The feelings of satisfaction seem to have this belief built right in even if it is patently false and we know it. If I was worrying about where or when I would get to eat the next omelet I probably wouldn’t feel as satisfied after eating it.  So it seems that the satisfaction is the pleasurable feeling that I am really longing for.   

Pavlov did some famous experiments with dogs where he would condition them to salivate when they heard the sound of the bell.  An association between eating and the bell was made and it stuck. Maybe desires and the satisfaction of desires are what our bodies use to motivate us to seek out what we need, but is it the actual food or whatever that we long for, or is it just the feeling we have when we satisfy the desire?  I think it’s the feeling we crave but we assume it’s the food or the sex or whatever the fix is. 

Another aspect of the process of desire is how we can make associations just by repeating a process. If we drink alcohol and it gives us a good feeling after we drink it for the first time, are we then an alcoholic?  Probably not; it may take many drinks on many different occasions before we are hooked.  Smoking cigarettes was like that for me.  I think it’s true with any desire. The more we indulge, the stronger the desire, even if the process of satiating that desire becomes harmful or painful.  So desires seem to change over time. The amount of satiation needed to feel the satisfaction or the peace we initially had seems to increase when we do the deed enough times.  At first when I started smoking cigarettes I only smoked one every few days. Over time I was smoking over 20 a day. All throughout the day I would have cravings.  Even when I was in the movie theater watching a big blockbuster, I would be squirming in my seat thinking of when and where I could have a smoke.
Once a desire becomes strong enough, it becomes a lens through which we see the world.  If, for instance, we get a pleasurable feeling when we win money at a casino, it may take several trips to the casino before we are hooked on gambling. If we continue to satisfy that desire again and again, then eventually we will want to go more and more often and the stakes will get higher each time so we can get a bigger rush when we win or until we at least get the same feelings of satisfaction we had when we first started.  We may take out another mortgage on our house so we can have enough money to gamble with so we can continue to get that feeling of satisfaction. We will probably negotiate with ourselves to convince our more rational mind that we “need” to mortgage the house.  We may try to convince ourselves that when we win big as we most definitely will, then we can not only pay off the mortgage but all our other debts as well.  So we do it. We mortgage our house and go gamble it all away.  If gambling isn’t our addiction then maybe it’s a drug addiction. The story will be slightly different but the general plot will be the same.  Desires are a part of being human, but indulging them over and over can lead us to ruin.

As biological beings we need things to survive. We need energy, certain chemicals like carbohydrates, water, proteins, as well as oxygen.   We need warmth, and sleep too. Desires are our body’s way of motivating us to get what we need.  However some desires are learned and are not what we really need to survive.  Other desires are for things that we kind of need but could survive without.  For instance, the desire for sex is a desire which seems to be hard wired in us, but we don’t need sex to survive, only to procreate. Our notion that we need sex to feel whole or to feel the deep love we believe we are missing, is a part of the desire for sex that is learned.  Other animals have the desire for sex at times but they don’t seem to be tortured with self doubt if they don’t get it.  We do, however. There are some desires which are completely learned.  Learned desires like gambling addictions are almost always for things we really don’t need to survive.  

As long as we have a human body, and maybe afterward too, we will have desires.  So the notion that we should abandon all desires is not practical and probably in a truly honest sense, impossible until at least we don’t have a body anymore.   So how do we work with desires so that they don’t dominate our life?  

Being human means we will have desires.  If we didn’t we would likely not survive.  If you want to see how strong of a motivational force our desires can be, then go a day without eating, and watch your thoughts as well as your bodily feelings.  Maybe even write your experiences in a journal and record the time when you make entries.  It takes a lot of courage to do this, so if you can’t, then try it for 12 hours instead. Notice what thoughts you might have.  You may say things to yourself like, “Why do I need to do this again?” or you might think, “OK, 6 hours is long enough, I get the point.”  Noticing your self negotiations during a period where desires are strong is a powerful practice because getting into the habit of seeing your desires from a slightly more panoramic view can lead to all kinds of realizations over time as our self deception is revealed.  You can really learn a lot about yourself if you are able to see how you go about convincing yourself to indulge your desires.  

Refraining from an addiction seems to be a good way to lessen that desires grip on us, however is that the only way to be free of a desire, and are there any possible problems with this approach?  Is denying your addiction through force of will a good way to unlearn a desire?  When you make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, does it work?  It does for some people but for most, it doesn’t.  Most people can’t just stop their desire and habit cycle cold.  In fact trying and failing can make it harder to quit in the future because it undermines our confidence.  There are other major problems with the force of will approach, and I will discuss those later in this essay. 

Why is it important in overcoming a desire to have confidence?  What are you really having confidence in?  Is it your will power to scold your body into following orders?  No… that’s not the kind of confidence needed.  The confidence needed is the confidence you have in your ability to stay.  When you can stay with your feelings in the midst of a desire and feel your body fully with curiosity, compassion and resolve then you will be building your confidence.  If each time you waited longer before having the cigarette then over time you would have more and more confidence that you won’t explode or die without the fix even though it might really feel that way during the desire.  As your confidence grows you can stay even longer and as you can stay even longer your confidence will grow more.  

Eventually you will be so good at standing tall during the storm of your desire, you will realize that it’s just a feeling. You will realize that it has no real meaning and it will be easy to give up. In fact you might even see the whole desire-indulge cycle to be silly and laughable.   This approach of working with your desires can work if you have enough patience and compassion with yourself.  If you try to use the all at once approach you may end up believing you are somehow flawed, or that you just don’t have the will power to overcome your desire by force.  In the more gentle approach you learn over time that in order to stay with your feelings for longer and longer, you have to have curiosity and compassion courage and some self discipline but the self discipline is not the most important part, courage, curiosity and compassion for yourself are.  Know that habits are not formed in a day and so they can not be undone in a day.  

If you want to find peace, then how can forcing yourself into submission be a way to find that peace?  Won’t the desire just come back again and again in the battle between your good, wholesome, ideal you, and the slothful, sinful, lazy, indulgent you?  Which side usually wins in the end?  For me it was always the indulgent side, because even when I managed to go three years without smoking a cigarette, the desire was still there waiting for the right conditions to pop up.  As soon as my will was on the wane, and I was feeling stressed and sad, I gave in to “just one”.  Of course I was smoking a pack a day again in about a month after giving in to that “one” cigarette.  

Isn’t the force of will, simply the force of suppression? Isn’t the process of suppressing our desires simply the ego suppressing what the body is screaming for? When I am suppressing my desires through the force of ego, it’s like there is a war going on inside myself.  Isn’t suppressing our desires by the ego really a separation of mind and body?  Isn’t it simply learning to not pay attention to what the body is telling us? I think it is.

This dualistic split in the quest to be a “better” person is not a viable way of working with your desires. Aside from the fact that it really doesn’t work most of the time, this approach can lead us further down the hole of suffering.  Either our self confidence is undermined and we begin to see ourselves as weak, and eventually we may even come to think of ourselves as “no good,”  or it will cause us to become split into two.  When we train our mind to ignore what the body is feeling it causes a dualistic split, or a mind-body separation.  What usually happens is that as we get better at suppressing or ignoring our feelings we slowly lose the ability to feel anything.  We can even lose the ability to enjoy life at all, or at least only on rare occasions.  We become more and more stoic and unaware of a dimension of life that only our bodily wisdom can know.  Emotional intelligence is one of the aspects of this kind of wisdom.  

Suppression of feelings also creates problems because when you suppress your feelings, that doesn’t mean the feelings go away.  They usually just pop up in some other place.  For instance in recent years it has been revealed that priests of the Catholic church sometimes sexually abuse young kids.  I am not alone in the belief that this is due to them suppressing their desires so that they can convince themselves they are “pure.”  If this is true, then it shows how following the path of ego, even in the pursuit of spiritual growth, can lead to the exact opposite. 

Being able to feel our feelings fully, is very important for our spiritual development because compassion and sympathetic joy both are experienced through being aware of our feelings fully.  This is because our bodies are like tuning forks in that we can feel other’s feelings in resonant ways.  Notice how being in a room with other people who are angry, often make us angry.  Being in a room with someone who is very sad, can bring us to tears as well.  We may not even be aware that we are feeling their sadness, yet how else can we explain it?  Sympathetic joy, or feeling joy when others are joyful,  is also a body based wisdom that is only possible if you are accomplished at tuning into your bodily feelings.  From a spiritual development point of view, dualistic mind-body separation through the practice of suppression, means we will probably have little compassion or joy in our lives.  

Wisdom without compassion is very dangerous and can lead us to be very cruel as was famously shown by the Roman emperor, Nero, who watched dispassionately as Rome burned.  Without compassion, enlightenment is farther away from you than if you were a squirrel or a raccoon.   Suppressing our desires in the quest to become “pure” can lead us down that path. Its not a path to liberation, it’s a path that either leads us to feeling increasingly weak and irresponsible or it’s a path of becoming cold to life.    

So if the approach of using your will power to change your habits doesn’t work, then what will?  The answer is not simple, and not necessarily easy, but I have found through my own trials and experiments that there is a way. 

First and foremost it’s important to realize that no one has ever been perfect and no one ever will be. Perfection is not really within the nature of how our universe works because perfection is an oversimplification.   Even Jesus farted from time to time.  The notion that you need to build yourself up to be great is patently false and in actuality leads to more ego not less.

The second thing to remember is that because a habit is learned over time, it can’t be undone in a day. It takes time and patience. The longer you have had a habit, the longer it will likely take to unlearn it. So its important to be as gentle and forgiving with yourself as you would be with your best friend or your child. If you scold yourself when you fall back into a habitual pattern of behavior then you are in effect training yourself to not notice the feelings the next time you have that desire.  Its important to rejoice in the fact that you are noticing the pattern in yourself rather than feeling bad that you have repeated the pattern.  Guilt has its place, but not in the process of unlearning a habit.  Remember, habits are not you, they are only temporary, so how could they really be a part of the you which continues?  Wasn’t there a time when you didn’t have the habit, and so doesn’t it stand to reason that there will be a time in the future when you don’t have it anymore?  Learn to work with yourself, not against yourself.  

When you are gentle and forgiving, you will be more likely to be able to notice the feeling of the desire when it comes up next time.  Simple noticing is what is most important with this approach.   
When you do notice that you are having the urge, such as the urge to gossip about others, then instead of immediately trying to fix that urge by blabbering the juicy gossip you are dying to tell someone, just take a look at the feelings you are feeling. Get to know the feelings you are having when you have the urge.  The curiosity part of this approach is what works as the motivating factor.

As soon as you notice the urge, then rejoice in the fact that you noticed the urge, or the feeling and assume that you don’t really “know” how this feeling really feels. Be curious about it and try to learn all aspects of the feeling. Feel your feelings as fully as you can and stay in this curious awareness as long as you want to and notice if the feeling gets stronger or weaker as you watch. Also notice what thoughts come up, and try to remember them for later contemplation.  Is there negotiations or internal arguments popping up?  Notice, but do not judge or use the word “should”, just notice as much as you can.  Remember, its not about being perfect, its about changing your habits.  

Learning to stay with my feeling for a while then giving in to the desire seemed to be a better approach  because it wasn’t so much of a battle I was having with myself as it was a journey born as much out of self improvement as it was out of curiosity. When I used this approach to quit smoking 14 years ago,  I wanted to live longer, and this was part of the motivation,  but I was also curious how much of the raw desire I could stand before giving in. I was on a journey of discovery and I was in no hurry.  When I finally did decide to quit for good, it was a decision which I knew was right on a very deep level.  It was an easy decision which almost made itself, and most importantly it was a decision which wasn’t dreaded, or forced in any way.  It was like I had used up the “need” for tobbacco and had no need for cigarettes any more.  

One day my inner wisdom realized that the desire was caused by the cigarettes not the lack of them.  It seemed like the cigarette was the solution to the desire but once I had enough clarity and experience with the process of the desire then it was easy to see how the desire was just something that happened for a while but didn’t need to continue anymore.  Once the wisdom which can see the desire from farther away, became predominate, then quitting was easy and all I had to do was go through the painful part of physical withdrawal. 

During withdrawal, I meditated a lot. While meditating I was trying to experience the feelings of withdrawal as fully as I could without the notion that there was a fix.  It was a lot like having the flu. Deep down I knew that cigarettes were the cause of the desire, so I didn’t even see them as the fix anymore.    After about three days the feelings of physical addiction subsided and went away. There was peace underneath the desire.  The peace had been there all along. Since I quit  I have only had one or two brief spats of desire which lasted only seconds.  The peace I had when I smoked a cigarette is there all the time now and nothing needs to be done to have it.  When I took the approach of suppressing the desire by using force of will, the desire was still there waiting to come out and take hold at the first sign of weakness in the will.  When I took the approach of learning the desire and contemplating it, and staying with the feelings more and more, the desire became meaningless.  A meaningless desire is no desire at all.

Once you notice the urge and you stay with that feeling as long as you want, out of curiosity, then notice the feelings you have when you are doing the deed, and notice the feelings after the deed is done.  The important thing to remember is to do it out of curiosity not out of some need to be great. Experiment with how it all plays out and be thankful of your awareness of the desire.  A habit is not really a habit if you are aware of it while you are indulging.

Each time you are aware of your habitual urge before you indulge it, try to stay with the feeling a little longer than the last time just to see how long you can go without indulging the habit. For instance, the next time you feel the urge to get a bowl of ice cream, stop and stay for a while as you get to know that feeling.  When you do get the bowl of ice cream eat it slowly and feel all the feelings as fully as you can instead of wolfing it down as fast as you can.  Notice all thoughts the come up as well without judgement. If the thoughts that come up as judging thoughts, then for enlightenment’s sake don’t add another layer of judgement to that.

The condensed process is: stop, stay, feel, do it, feel it more, contemplate and learn.    If you miss noticing the pre-habit process then be aware when you are aware, instead of scolding yourself.  Be as curious and aware as you can be and be joyful for that.   

If your habit is one where you harm others, such as stealing, then instead of going through with the action of stealing, try to fantasize that you stole what it was that you desired.  Try to feel the satisfaction you get by stealing, without really stealing.  If you don’t notice the feeling of the urge until after you have done the deed, then feel the feelings of remorse without the guilt. Know that you are not your habits, but also be aware of the harm you have caused and feel compassion for those whom you caused harm to.  If possible apologize and try to rectify the harm in a way that will hopefully right the wrong as much as possible.   Guilt is not nearly as useful as feeling compassion for those who were victims of the habit and for yourself for having the habit.  Make a wish or have an aspiration to notice before you do the deed next time.

If you follow the path of increasing your awareness and staying with the feeling again and again for longer and longer, then over time, the courage and ability to fully feel the pre-habit body state will increase. Also your need to fix the habit by doing the deed will diminish. Know thyself more and more each time and slowly, slowly you will become more and more free of the habit until one day, it means nothing at all to you. You may one day have an epiphany that you really don’t need those cigarettes or whatever it is that enslaved you.  This is what is called renunciation.
Renunciation is a process where desires are seen for what they really are, and giving them up when they are all used up, is easy.   It has nothing to do with building up your force of will or your “angel” side.  It has everything to do with seeing the situation more clearly and being able to work with your mind and your body in the process of that seeing.  We have all renounced many things in our lives. We used to be so attached to our toys when we were a child, but at some point they meant nothing to us. We renounced them without even being aware that we were.  How funny is that? We are all renunciates and we didn't even know we were. 

Through this process I have overcome many desires, however I still have some that will need to be fully seen through at some point. There is no hurry as I see it, as long as I am working with those desires and learning them more and more, I will be knowing myself better and better, so there is no need to eliminate them as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.  If I tried to eliminate the desire as some form of self improvement program then I would fall right back into the ego battle where the force of will is trying to dominate the other more “animalistic” parts of my being.  Not only will this method eventually fail for most people, it will also separate the mind from the body, which is a very detrimental thing to happen on anyone’s spiritual path. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Field of Dreams

(note: This teaching is not for everyone and should not be read by everyone. If you are reading it and feel it is upsetting or wrong to you, then stop reading it and forget about it. ) 

We are all driven by our inner beliefs. The belief that we need love drives us toward finding a lover. We probably even have a dream or vision of what kind of lover we feel we need in order to be happy. Maybe the dream includes a dream house with a dream dog and dream kids. We may think that having that house, that dog, that partner and those kids will “complete” us and then and only then can we rest and be at peace with ourselves. Hope and fear are the two emotions that drive us toward that dream. Hope that it will all work out and we will finally be truly happy; fear that we may screw it up somehow maybe by putting our foot in our mouth when we are on the first date with that dream partner.

When we are feeling lonely, sad, and empty we automatically believe that we are feeling that way because the dream hasn't materialized yet. Feelings of impoverishment and unworthiness stem from the inner belief that we will only truly be happy when that dream becomes a reality. The truth is much more sharp and harsh than that. The truth is that even when we get that dream, we still may feel sad, lonely and impoverished. 

Because another's love is almost always very conditional we will never really feel like our happiness is secure or complete. It almost seems like as long as they are getting what they need from us, they will continue to “love” us. Is our love of them conditional too? Of course it is, especially in the beginning of a relationship. In a way, getting this kind of “love” is never deeply satisfying because there is always the fear or inner knowledge that it will not last. Longing for and working hard to keep the relationship which will fix our loneliness and self doubt is like trying to use a thin band-aid to heal a large gushing gash in our chest.

Is this “love” really love or is it just an unspoken symbiotic understanding that gets each other's “needs” met. What happens when the unspoken contract is broken? Usually anger and drama ensue. What happens when your partner is cold and judgmental one morning instead of being warm and accepting? We usually blame them and feel angry that the contract was broken. When someone cheats on their partner, what are they cheating on?

Seeing the hopes and fears under our dreams is both grounding and also unsettling. Realizing the dream that we thought would make us happy isn't true, can be a sad, raw realization. Perhaps as you read this you are thinking just how untrue this is. You may feel angry that it is even being brought up. If this is the case then you will need to find out for yourself whether this is true or not. In truth we all have to come to this kind of wisdom through our own experience and the suffering that comes from having your dreams either dashed or completed. We are all attached to a lot of beliefs until we aren't. Eventually, if we are lucky, we go through so much suffering we end up giving in to the truth. The truth which comes from the realization that our suffering doesn't stem from the outside, but rather from the inside. Giving in to this truth means we have come to realize that our suffering comes from our belief in those expectations. Our attachment to those sweet, scary dreams is what causes so much pain and self loathing. A friend once told me: "Expectations are premeditated disappointments. 

To realize the the truth under our dreams means we need to stop trying to convince ourselves of something that is fundamentally not true. The kind of honesty needed to see the true ground is a fearless kind of honesty. Its also a simple honesty without agenda or criticism. Realizing that no one else besides ourselves can ever “fix” us means that we no longer feel quite as driven to make that dream a reality. The athelete who has hope that they are a “winner” and fear that they might be a “loser” may realize one day after years of trying really hard that since being a winner or being a loser is only temporary, it is at best just a thin band-aid which covers up the big gaping gash of their own self doubt. When that stark truth becomes apparent to them at last, there is a release. Afterward they may not train at all anynmore, or they may train harder but for a different reason.

The release is like a giving in or a giving up. On the rare occasion when this realization hits someone they are often very upset, yet somehow more at peace. The person who works so hard to gain other's respect and acceptance may realize someday just how futile their efforts are and may give up. If you happen to be there when that realization really hits them, you may notice that they are no longer trying to impress others. They may somehow seem more real and honest about themselves even though they are in the midst of a great emotional storm. They may be bawling their eyes out, but they are no longer worried about saying the “right” thing. After the emotional storm passes they often are much more at peace with themselves. They are real and genuine at last. When all the dreams fall apart, there is a deep realization that you don't need to “be” anybody. When the desire for the truth is greater than the desire for the dream, the dream can be seen for what it is, an empty promise. 

Striving for something for which you feel you need in order to feel happy and whole may seem like a worthwhile endeavor. Some say: 'Nothing great has ever come about without first having a dream.' This is true except that the dream that creators follow is less a dream of personal salvation and more a vision inspiration that comes from a source outside the small self. In the movie “Field of Dreams” Kevin Costner plays a mid west farmer who has a vision where he is told by an apparition: 'If you build it, they will come.' He doesn't really know what will happen or even exactly why he needs to build a baseball field, but somehow he knows that he must. Against great opposition by his wife friends and neighbors, he follows this dream and builds that baseball field. The magic that happens is legendary.  Another example: Have you ever noticed that a poem written to impress others is not nearly as good as a poem written from a deeper place of raw honesty? The dreams we have for a better future usually come from a place of dissatisfaction and impoverishment and not from a place of inspiration and aliveness.

The problem with dreams that are based in dissatisfaction is that they are usually rooted in an inner belief that there isn't enough already. The woman who can't leave the house without makeup on likely has a deep seated belief that she isn't beautiful enough as she is. Whenever she wears makeup it deepens her inner belief that she isn't OK as she is. In this was the very quest for the dream reinforces the inner beliefs that we don't already have what is needed. The guy who tries really hard to impress a woman into loving him reinforces the inner fear that he is not lovable as he is. The inner belief creates the reality. This is one of the main ways we create our own suffering.

One of the biggest obstacles in a person's spiritual development is what Chugyam Trungpa Rinpoche called “Spiritual Materialism.” Spiritual Materialism is the belief that one's own personal growth and realization is a building up process. One who is caught up in this view believes that the more pious and “good” you act, the more realized you become. The notion or dream that one must try hard through force of will to overcome their own human desires and tendencies in order to get into Heaven, or to reach Nirvana, is at the heart of this view. The view that if you are great at acting like a saint, God will bless you and allow you into heaven, stems from the inner belief that you are not good enough as you are. Being perfect is often the goal and standard one strives for when they have this view. The dream to become enlightened or to become an angel is often the source and motivation for spiritual seekers. Unfortunately the seeking reinforces the inner belief that they do not have what it is they seek.

Many enlightened people have said that you already have what it is you seek. The Buddha once told a parable of a man who was outwardly very poor, yet all the while he didn't even know that he had a treasure chest buried in his basement. The fact that we already have Buddha nature or what some call basic goodness is like the treasure that is each and every one's birthright. It is said that it can not be undermined or destroyed, yet we have a hard time understanding that or seeing it to be true. 

There are many accounts of people suddenly becoming enlightened after giving up in some way. Adyashanti was a spiritual seeker who put in great effort to become someone “great.” He would always be the first in the meditation hall and would push himself to exhaustion trying to suppress his thoughts while meditating. One day, out of extreme exhaustion from trying so hard, he finally gave up. When the dream to become enlightened finally collapsed he was left standing in a place of complete honesty. His ego could not exist in the face of such honesty and he realized the true nature of the self and also that he was already what he sought.

Spiritual materialism is in a way a place of dishonesty about oneself. The belief that one must act like a saint in order to become one is backwards from how it really is. The realization of the nature of self or the nature of ego is actually a grounding in an extreme form of honesty. When one sees the ego for what it is, then most if not all desires fall apart. The need to be someone great is seen through as just another dream. When there is no one to defend and fend for, then all that is left is pure unconditional love for life and for others. The saint like behavior comes from this place of realization, not the other way around.

When the ego is seen through in this way and one's dreams for a better future fall apart, then one's efforts can be directed by a situation instead of for an agenda. Great things have happened when people allow their efforts to be pulled by a situation instead of being pushed by a personal dream. The most profound art came about because the artist was pulled to create it. It was as if their body and skills were being used by a larger force to be a part of something that had a life of its own. The notion that they created the art is not really correct. The creation was really only possible when their ego got out of the way. Yet, often after the creation is complete the ego jumps in and feels that it was the creator and owner of the work.  In actuality the creative force of life is what directed and drove them.  The creations that came from these selfless efforts not only were beautiful but also deeply inspiring. In order for this creative process to happen, all you need to do is give in to it and to give up the notion that you will only be happy when  (you can fill in the blank).  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

On Dismantling Your Suffering

I think from my own experience suffering comes from some reaction to an event. For instance, I still feel my body become angry or perhaps saddened when I feel that someone is judging me harshly. I've found that when I am aware that I am "suffering" I am somehow not caught up in it quite so much. If I am angry and I notice that I am "angry" then I usually remember to become interested in just the feeling in my body. Its a habit worth cultivating. Each flavor of suffering feels different in the body. Anger, for me feels like energy coursing through all my veins with the center being in my chest. Its really interesting to watch it. Sadness also is interesting to notice. They all are. Some feeling states are much more subtle than others. Arrogance is much more subtle than Animosity.

Its also interesting to notice how certain thoughts arise automatically when certain feeling states are present. Like when I notice someone scowl at me, my body instantly recoils and this starts a cascade of thoughts which are always on the theme of "How dare they think these things" or "They are such a jerk." Being aware of the body's feelings and the thoughts that come up when those feelings are present is a really interesting, almost scientific way of finding peace within the storm while at the same time learning about who you are.  

One caveat to this approach however, is: If you seek peace or to get rid of the feelings, you will find only suffering even if you are feeling the feelings. I've found that the way out of suffering is to drive your awareness with curiosity, and the desire to really learn about your "self." You may notice that the feeling state can not survive without the thoughts that come from the feeling state being believed in. If you are more interested in feeling your feelings fully, rather than getting caught up in the automatic thoughts/beliefs, then you are not dragging your feet while at the same time you are not really "doing" anything. Since awareness isn't really "doing" anything, and has no real goal other than just to be aware there need be no effort or resistance in it. There is just curiosity which is playful if anything. Over time I've found that I don't get angry much anymore. Its like some programming that created itself has been seen through more and more thoroughly over time until you just know in your bones that there is no reason to take life so personally anymore. Its just life. :-)

When I am not aware that I am suffering then I am actually suffering. I am "dragging my feet" so to speak or as I like to say: 'I can suffer as much as I want.' This is because I will suffer over and over until I do notice it. Being aware that you are suffering, and being interested in just the feeling state, and moving your awareness there with gentle curiosity is the key that I've found to seeing my attachments for what they are, and seeing "my ego" for what it is. It requires no "effort" to be aware of your suffering, it only takes courage and curiosity to feel your feelings as fully as you can when they come up.  

I've found that over time my courage to feel the difficult feelings has increased because I realize that I can make it through. For instance the second time I got my heart broke it was somehow easier.  Living life with more courage is a side effect of dismantling the suffering through mindfulness of body practice. As long as you do it out of curiosity instead of a desire for internal peace it will eventually have the result of bringing more peace. Having more courage to feel whatever feelings come up will likely lead to many good things in your life aside from just feeling less suffering.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

An Argument against Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism is a theory which equates human social organization with natural selection. “Survival of the fittest” is the mantra of social Darwinism which is a justification of social stratification, and exploitation of the weak by the powerful. Many rich and powerful people these days, believe wholeheartedly in it as can be seen in the documentary by Jamie Johnson called “Born Rich.” Many wealthy people believe in social Darwinism to such an extent that they feel justified in exploiting those who are weaker and feel that all forms of greed are “good” regardless of who suffers. Many con artists have justified defrauding others by pointing out that its always been a world where the strongest have survived. Using the natural world as a philosophical foundation that underlies their belief that they are doing the right thing by being greedy, selfish and ultimately sociopathic people have, started wars, gotten unfair laws passed, and basically have used all their mental capacity to accumulate wealth and power at the expense of everyone else. Social Darwinism combined with scientific materialism (which is a form of nihilism in my opinion), is a deadly brew for our species and our planet.

One of the main proponents of social Darwinism was Ayan Rand. Arguably she was a simplistic social philosopher and a social Darwinist to her core. She did her best to use scientific materialism which she coined objectivism, and the notion that greed is good, to nullify any natural morality her acolytes had. Many of her followers trained themselves to negate any natural feelings of empathy or compassion because, according to her, those emotions are a source of weakness in a world ruled by the law of “survival of the strongest.” Ayan Rand herself had a very sad childhood in Russia where her middle class family had lost two businesses to the Bolshevik revolution. Her hatred of collectivism blossomed into a general hatred of humanity according to twobiographies. Here is a great article from which summarizes the sad story of her life and the underpinnings of her philosophy.

According to these biographies she viewed sociopaths as heroes. This can clearly be seen in her diary entry about the serial killer in the early 1930's named William Edward Hickman, whom she labeled a “genuinely beautiful soul” . She saw his lack of morality as a sign of ultimate strength and thus noble, despite his tendency to kidnap, kill and dismember little girls. He was caught and executed. Her only lament of his fate was that he “was not strong enough.”

Many of the worlds most powerful people believe in the notion that only the strongest survive and so therefore only the strongest deserve to win in the game of life. They believe that morality is a human construct which weighs down the movers and shakers of the world, who, if they pursue their own greedy motivations as far as possible, will raise up society with their capitalist ventures. They believe that greed is good, and compassion, generosity, and a sense of obligation to a greater good is weakness. Social Darwinism seems to be a convenient mental view or belief system which negates morality and justifies harming others simply because “might makes right.”

Is social Darwinism true? As a theory does it hold up to scrutiny? Does the notion that the natural world works through the law of survival of the fittest really conform to the actual evidence. I would say it doesn't. If a lion runs after a herd of gazelles, they only kill the ones who are not going fast enough. So, in order to survive you only have to run just fast enough to escape, you don't have to be the fastest gazelle in the bunch. If a lion is chasing a herd of gazelles, does the lion kill all of the gazelles except the strongest individual? No, the lion only kills the slowest. If all were killed except the strongest individuals then that species would most likely go extinct due to lack of genetic diversity.

Its been shown time and again that when a species is reduced to a small enough number whereby their genetic diversity becomes too limited, then that species is usually doomed after only a few generations. For example, even though they had survived when 95% of their fellow tigers didn't, their offspring down the road have succumb to more illness and genetic defects because of the lack of genetic diversity due to in breeding. Siberian tigers are an example of a species where only the strongest survived and because of that they will likely may become extinct due to lack of genetic diversity.

So, in a situation where a Lion catches the slowest gazelle and all the rest escape then the majority of gazelles will live another day and reproduce regardless of whether they are the strongest or not. Because most of the gazelles survive, genetic diversity is maintained and the resiliency of the community to illness and disease is preserved. Mother nature doesn't want just the strongest to survive, she wants as many as possible to survive so that diversity and vitality is preserved and thus equilibrium is maintained. Mother Earth strives for harmony in ecosystems and this is achieved through balance. If a new species of animal were to evolve or be planted here on Earth which were as strong and dangerous of a species as anything the imagination could dream up, then wouldn't it just wipe out its own food supply and eventually parish itself? Given that the natural world stays in balance through a process where generally only the weakest die, how can one claim that only the strongest deserve to survive? Many wealthy and powerful people feel justified in harming others because they have convinced themselves that they are chosen by nature to win and only the winners count in a world where survival of the fittest is supposedly the rule of nature.

However it doesn't take much contemplation to realize that its not a world like that. Instead of being a world which is governed by the rule of “survival of the fittest” its actually a world governed by the natural law of survival of the just fit enough. It may not seem like a big distinction, but it is. In a world where the law of survival is to be just fit enough, most of the community can still exist and interact and live their lives as a part of a greater whole. The interconnectedness of the species in an ecosystem is dependent on each population to be not too big and not too small. The balance is maintained by the natural law of survival of the just fit enough not the erroneous notion of survival of the fittest. Whenever a situation arises in nature where only the strongest of a species survive, then that species is likely doomed. This is not opinion, this is observable fact.

This pattern holds true for human economies as well. Capitalism, for example works best when there is a lot of competition, or in other words, a good diversity of businesses makes for a robust and vital economy which benefits everyone, not just the “winners.” The weakest businesses may fail but the majority survive, grow and adapt to changes. However, because of the fundamental structure of capitalism where money is used to make more money, eventually the largest businesses prevail and force the others to get bought out or fail. Eventually a few large businesses cause the failure of all other smaller ones by mergers and often unfair business practices. Once a monopoly is established , that sector of the economy becomes more and more exploitative of the population and eventually saps consumers to the point where they become too poor to buy the very goods that the monopoly produces. The system will eventually fail when survival of the fittest is the rule. Band-aids such as expansion of consumer debt can stave off the inevitable by loaning back some of the money taken from the consumers so they can continue to consume, but eventually the populace can no longer afford all the debt and interest and can no longer continue buying those goods. Eventually the system collapses. This has happened many times throughout history. A business that becomes too strong will eventually fail for the very reason that a species which becomes too strong, fails. Survival of the fittest eventually causes the system to become unbalanced and it collapses. Being too strong is just as bad for a species, and a business as being too weak. This is why in ecosystems you will not usually see a native species that is out of balance with the rest of the ecosystem because it is too strong. There are many examples of invasive species that are too strong for the non native ecosystem they were placed in and eventually because they were too strong they cause the ecosystem to become unbalanced. Because those species also depend on that ecosystem they themselves often fail. This is why survival of the just strong enough is a viable foundation for an ecosystem while survival of the strongest is not.

So social Darwinism is a fundamentally flawed theory which does not really work in the long run because it destroys diversity, and balance and eventually causes systemic collapse. Many wealthy and powerful people cling to social Darwinism because it allows them to feel they are doing the right thing when in fact they are not. They see basic human traits such as compassion, empathy, generosity and they see social conventions of morality and ethics as nothing more than weaknesses. This erroneous belief that greed is good, leads them to do many heinous acts, such as starting needless wars, or torturing those who oppose them. Social Darwinism is as fundamentally false as the notion of the divine right of kings.

So if greed isn't really good after all and I think its fair to say that spiritual masters of all times agree that it isn't, does this mean that compassion, generosity, loyalty, ethics and morality are not weaknesses? Yes! In fact compassion, generosity, ethics, loyalty, and morality are very likely ancient survival traits and here's how. During times when food, and resources were scarce, or when dangers were prevalent many animals evolved to band together in groups. This proved to be a powerful survival strategy. A pack of wolves is much more likely to survive than a single wolf. Humans are social creatures not by chance, but because that is what worked. Our ability to communicate and share ideas would not have come into play if we had not evolved the survival strategy of banding together in groups. Those traits that increased group cohesiveness were the traits needed for survival for most of the time that humans have been on Earth. Those who exhibited ruthless greed and had no compassion or sense of morality were most likely banished from the tribe or killed. Being ostracized from the group put them at a serious disadvantage in a hostile world, not to mention the fact that they would have been much less likely to reproduce. Those who exhibited loyalty, generosity, compassion, and morality were respected and protected by the group. This is true even today. This is why most people have the capacity to feel compassion, and why most people have a default tendency to do whats right, especially when their actions are being observed by others. The reason why sociopaths only comprise approximately 5% of the population is likely because those traits were actually a weakness and individuals who had those traits were weeded out of the gene pool. Their lack of compassion, loyalty, ethics and morality in actuality made them the weakest of their group and likely got them killed young because of it.

In the past, sociopathic traits were actually an evolutionary weakness but today is that still true? Today the community of humans has become so large that sociopaths are rarely ostracized or killed, and because they can retain a certain degree of anonymity they can predate on other humans for quite some time before being arrested, and put in jail. Does this mean being a cold hearted predator is a strength now? In the long run it isn't. For instance, a contractor who cheats and fools people may make more money than their ethical competitors but in the long run they will ruin their own reputation and will have to move to a different city or state. Martin Schkreli who famously raised the price of several life saving drugs to astronomical levels after acquiring their patents was recently put in jail because he made no pretense about his lack of compassion or ethics.   He is facing decades in jail for fraud and will be universally reviled for a long time to come. Did ruthlessness and a lack of morality serve him well? In the short run, perhaps, but in the long run, it didn't.

On a larger scale, a fascist government may seem strong to some, but eventually the world rises up against them an wipes them out. Its clear that both on an individual level as well as a collective level a lack of compassion, morality and ethics is not a strength after all. Ayn Rand was completely wrong, and given that she died alone and miserable its seems clear that even she was not served by her own philosophy.

So even from a purely selfish point of view, having compassion for others, being generous and kind to others, living by a high moral standard are all signs of our strength as a human and not our weakness.