Why some chose an ascetic life

People choose to spend their lives as hermits because they think it will make them happy.

The hermit pulls away from the world. Thinking that renouncing it will also rid them of the unease that comes with it.

On the other end of the spectrum we have the hedonist, who tries to drown his unease with pleasures. He does not pull away from the world but abuses it.

It’s the most deprived that become the most indulgent. People from poor backgrounds who win on the lottery also become the most indulgent with their wealth. Not to talk about sexually deprived catholic priests. : /

Similarly, it’s the overworked, burnt-out CEO’s and other ambitious people who want to become hermits and meditate all day.

Both asceticism and hedonism are extremes, desperate ways of searching for lasting peace and happiness.

True happiness however lies in neither in denying or indulging.

It lies in awakening a heart of love and gratitude, that’s the middle way.

Where we are not clinging to the world like a hedonist does to his pleasures.

Neither are we denying the world and all its pleasures.

The only benefit asceticism affords you, and which is its true purpose, is that it offers you less distraction from the things that try to pull you away from awakening a heart of love and gratitude.

“Truth” and why conspiracy-theories often involve alien or reptiles

I met a drug dealer once in a bar in the US and described him to my friends the next day as a hyena-like type with sneaky smile, thick throat and flickering look. To which they all laughed, and felt was “spot on” because they all knew him.

People have probably always kept a watchful eye on others don’t seem to have the best of the group, village, team or country in mind, but rather act out of self interest. Historically, these have always been described as something not really human but rather inhuman, predator-like, blood sucking or as some kind of reptile. Disney for example often uses metaphors to describe different types of people and human behavior. Robin Hood is a sly fox. The king’s calculating but cowardly helper is a snake. etc.

Regarding conspiracy theorists, that’s exactly what they’re doing. He / she sees destructive forces in society and often expresses these through metaphor that speak some truth, even if what they say is not true in a rational, objective sense.

The story of Snow White is obviously not true, but can still speak the truth about human jealousy (and a lot of other things). Similarly, a power-hungry, predator-like group of reptiles that play with and exploit ordinary, vulnerable, hard-working humans can speak a certain truth.

Looking at Hollywood, I think this feeling of powerlessness for the inhuman (the Predator?) runs as a backbone through all human storytelling whether including tales like Little Red Hood or Erin Brockovich (Lonely mother fighting big corporate), Sleepless in Seattle (Small book store fights against major corporate), Ratatouille (Small rat fights against oncoming frozen food empire), Wall-e (Earth and and greenery against AI and machine).

We see the same theme in all art and storytelling, as well as among eccentric conspiracy theorists – the small human against the big and blood sucking. The human versus the less human.

In fact, for a predator (Great White, Lion), a person is reduced to calories, or fuel. In society, you may similarly feel reduced to fuel for other people’s predatory instincts, perhaps as a consumer, employee, slave, prostitute, instagram or spotify musician – you’re something to be utilized, consumed and spit out when exhausted. And the analogy of being lab-rats on a Alien mothership (nothing but an older version of the Matrix-story) is probably something that will increase among conspiracy theorists (and in art) as that’s how it feels in today’s algorithmically controlled and digital society. The “Mother Ship” is Silicon Valley, the “experiment” is our screens, dopamine and behavioral-science – to the extent that many in the valley don’t let their own children use many of the behavior-optimized technologies that they themselves developed. They simply keep their own children away from the predatory, blood-sucking “beast” they created.

The drug dealer I met at the bar likewise had something very well-studied and calculating, almost prowling in his behavior that to me instinctively aroused machine, robot or predator images. Of course, wasn’t a Hyena, but according to my friends, that picture was more true than the objective and scientific description of his height, weight and hair color.

What is not very reassuring about modern life

Although it might sound strange but in the aftermath of the Stockholm terrorist attack you can read in the news things like:

“Usually we avoid each others eyes and don’t see each other. It’s the pulse of the city. But that changed with the terrorist attack yesterday. People sought contact, shared grief, helped his fellow man and opened their homes for each other.”

As if that’s a reassuring assertion about the state of society today.

That it takes loss of life and tragedy for people to ‘see each other’ and display some humanity should be anything but reassuring.

We can read “We felt there and then a kind of heightened reality. Time stood still and rushed at the same time. Anyone who has ever been in extreme fear, sadness or happiness knows what I’m talking about.”

Unless we have ways to feel ‘fully alive’ and practice gratitude and our humanity daily next to our numb affluence, tragedy might be the only way people feel appreciative and fully alive.

And as both art and religion have abdicated from the responsibility of making us see the wonders of existence, before tragedy strikes, that makes for a scary future.

The art of spiritual cleansing

Spiritual cleansing is when you look too see where you’re not being honest with your self in your life, where there’s a discord between who you are (love) and what you thinkfeel and do.

Once you spot inconsistencies you take active measures to correct your life which usually means you start listening more to your heart than your mind.

See your heart as the captain of your life. He bravely charter the seas and take your life where it needs to go by inspiring the crew, or the mind. Your mind however is the crew, not the most loyal people who whimsically stear the ship towards the closest harbour and barrels of rum at times.

Although they look tough and feroucious, when the storm hits mid-sea they don’t stand a chance towards the courage and integrity of the captain, or the heart.

So, spiritual cleaning means nothing more than that the captain regains the helm of the ship, which cleanses the crew of all the confusion, commotion and lack of direction.

That’s the meaning of spiritual cleansing. How to achieve it is another story.

The difference between vision and imagination

Imagination is the tool your heart uses to get what it wants. It does so by producing a vision that is motivating enough for you to act upon. A visions basically mobilizes your mind and body for action. Not only that, a vision allows you to act coherently and with focus and determination over long spans of time.

Compare that to a Baboon.

Baboons don’t have much imagination or therefore vision. They loose interest in objects as soon as it leaves their line of sight. Sure, they can imagine bananas in the bag of a tourist, but that’s pretty much it.

Humans however sustain long-term goals by means of a vision. That is how we make airplanes, eiffel towers and particle accelerators.

In other words, imagination facilitates vision. The quality of imagination determines the quality of vision. The more imagination you have, the more outrageous, bold, and brilliant can your vision (and accomplishments) be.

Language on the other hand is the means by which we communicate our vision.

“Language has made us more than a group of pack-hunting monkeys – it’s made us a group of pack-hunting monkeys with a dream.” Terence McKenna

How music relates to spiritual awakening

Music is related to spiritual awakening by adding emotional depth to your affirmations and prayer.

‘Adding emotional intensity deepens the creek and makes it a river’ Louise Hay

Music works as a catalysis for opening a heart of love and gratitude which in turn helps us experience spiritual truthsnot merely thinking about them.

‘Truly fertile Music, the only kind that will move us, that we shall truly appreciate, will be a Music conducive to Dream, which banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate Reason.’ Albert Camus

As we need to banish all reason and analysis, and engage our heart and soul to appreciate music, it helps set the stage in religious ceremonies reassuring that the deepest parts of ourselves will be involved in the exercise. And when it is, you are more likely to get spiritual insights and over time achieve a permanent change of consciousness.

Another way of putting it is that ‘People only surrender and accept thoughts that are equal to their emotional state.’ Joe Dispenza

Think about it.

Music sets your emotional state so that you will fully accept thoughts in scripture and prayer. Music opens your heart, circumventing your ever-discerning mind, making you emotionally receptive to what you are contemplating.

That’s why spiritual rituals traditionally involved not only music, but also poetry (or scripture) and dance engaging the heartmind and body into spiritual practice, making it wholistic and complete.

It is often suggested however that the role of music in spiritual practice is merely as a backdrop to meditation and help in silencing the mind, and have as little to do with the heart, or emotions as possible. Although this superficial understanding is quite useful when considering the liberating and therapeutic value of listening to sound, it unfortunately disregards the greater, transformative power of art.

‘Today there are western artists avowedly using Zen to justify the indiscriminate framing of simply anything–blank canvases, totally silent music, torn up bits of paper dropped on a board and stuck where they fall, or dense masses of mangled wire. The work of the composer John Cage is rather typical of this tendency. In the name of Zen, he has forsaken his earlier and promising work with the “prepared piano,” to confront audiences with Ampex tape-recorders simultaneously bellowing forth random noises. There is, indeed, a considerable therapeutic value in allowing oneself to be deeply aware of any sight or sound that may arise. For one thing, it brings to mind the marvel of seeing and hearing as such. For another, the profound willingness to listen to or gaze upon anything at all frees the mind from fixed preconceptions of beauty, creating, as it were, a free space in which altogether new forms and relationships may emerge. But this is therapy; it is not yet art.’ Alan Watts

Once you have permanently transcended dualism, good, bad, ugly, beautiful etc., by identifying with and becoming love, you no longer need music, then silence will do. Much like meditation will be superfluous.

That’s when your life becomes music, and your life is a meditation – in action, not retreated from the world, but fully immersed in it.

The appeal of religion

The appeal of religion is that it’s the art and science of living without fear and anxiety. Our ancestors realized that the fearlessness required for happiness and peace didn’t rely so much on outer circumstances as much as inner.

The true purpose of religion therefore is not only what attracts people to it, but what it does to people. It rids them of pain, suffering, anxiety, worry – the lot. It affords them a glimpse of the true magnificence of living, something that most of us haven’t experienced since maybe a summer day when we were kids.

Psychologists refer to it as an ‘oceanic’ feeling or sense of ‘wholeness’ and ‘completion’ that is one of the deepest modes of satisfaction available to us humans.

So, the purpose and also the power of religion is that once people notice that they can invoke this feeling (or mode of being) at will, they can’t get enough of it.

They religiously remind themselves of a way of looking at existence that rids them of fears by awakening a heart of love and gratitude. The reason it does so is that there are mainly two modes of being in the world, fear or love, and we can’t turn towards love and gratitude and fear at the same time, as they are mutually exclusive in our consciousness.

This can have – and often has – the effect that we realize that ‘fears’ are rather a way of looking at things, than an objective fact, which – once we turn towards love, light, truth – allows fears to literally disintegrate in front of our eyes and makes them seem like a silly, weird, distant dream.

However, make no mistake, fear and anxiety are useful at times, as when approaching a river in Zambia where there’s crocodiles. We become tense, anxious and self-centered. You might even do what under normal circumstances would be considered morally and ethically questionable while worrying foryour own wellbeing, like stepping on a kids sand-castle or someones sandwich left on the riverbank trying to get away from a crocodile etc.

However, fear is a less than beneficial attitude towards the world in the long run, as the myopia, or near-sightedness that comes with fear doesn’t allow for the brilliantly unique human traits like empathy, reciprocity, compassion to bloom – something that’s not only degenerative to our bodies, but also to society and the planet. Moreover, much of our success and brilliance as a species lies in what we call civilisation and society, or to basically ‘act as if other people exist’, something that’s very difficult when you are wrestling with an imaginary crocodile.

So, religion sees our ideal way of being in the world as joyous, grateful and ‘not afraid’. It tries to do so by as I said awakening a heart of love and gratitude, by means of helping us stop judging, and start loving our selves. At least for Christianity that’s pretty much how you can sum up Jesus’ teachings.

Once we’ve rid ourselves of fear, our soul, mind and heart will be healthy, as well as our families, society and earth. Or what is referred to as ‘heaven’.

The trick however is that we need to train our mindset religiously, like going to the gym for our bodies, as there is little hope of ending war, divorce, hate, environmental degradation without doing so.

Our ancestors realised that we exercise this best by consuming stories inspirational scripture (or poetryart, music and ritual that lures our consciousness away from our learned, fearful and destructive way of looking at the world, towards our true nature of loving kindness for ourselves and everything in the world.

All of this however is complete nonsense if you haven’t experienced it.