“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
The last blog post contained the lesson “before goals, work on the self first”. This post continues with this context. With New Years right around the corner, many of us are contemplating resolutions for the new year. We are making promises to ourselves and setting goals to improve our lives. But before we make that selection and promise, it is wise to contemplate the motivating intention. This too is working on the self first.
As mentioned before, self-management (sovereignty) is ego management. Ego intentions can lead to an unexpected and undesired destiny. Self-reflection is a good meditation to explore the why and what of the intention being considered. Its good to step back and pay attention to the emotions that may be driving those intentions. It’s good to acknowledge and remember that the ego is mostly self-serving and narcissistic. And it is always wise to remember take a moderated approach.
Ask your self these questions and give honest answers. They will reveal what is behind your intentions. Your intentions should be grounded in wisdom and virtue. Look to see if the ego intentions such as vanity, greed, or envy.
Why do I really want to achieve this goal?
If you are intending on aquiring something, is it “want” or a “need”.
What am I trying to accomplish?
What will it take to achieve this? What level of commitment are you willing to give?
What role is the ego playing in this desired goal?
Will this cause harm to others?
What future and destiny am I creating for myself?
Goal achievement takes a measure of discipline to continue when you face obstacles along the way.
What is your strategy for staying on the path when you have the inevitable setback?
How will you maintain willpower and not give in to distraction and desire?
Finding answers to these questions is working on the self. Sovereignty is the ability of the true-self to manage the ego self from hijacking good intentions and getting lost on the side paths.
For more strategies on working on the self, please see my book.
The new year is just around the corner. It is a time when people pledge new resolutions. Lofty goals of self-improvement are set and like so many of us, they have been forgotten by March. I found a way that helped me to stay on the goal path until the achievement has been made. Your first resolution should be to work on your “self”.
Before you can work on your goals and strategies, you must lay the foundation for success through self-discipline. The first discipline that you must commit to is to cultivate your “self” first. Chapter 26, Sovereignty.
I picked up this invaluable insight while listening to Derik Lin, and I have found it to be one of the most important first strategies to cultivate. Goals without willpower and self-discipline are just good intentions. The chances of not finishing are much higher without them. You know the old proverb about the road to hell as being paved with good intentions.
What does “work on the self first” mean? It means to learn to control the wild ego part of the spirit that is the epitome of self-satisfaction and desire. The discipline in maintaining full management and control over emotions, desire, and distraction so that you can avoid the pitfalls and temptations that lead to failure.
Ego-goals are well intended but almost always fail. Every January, many people state a new resolution to accomplish a personal goal. Weight loss is a very common one, and we all know that the failure rate is very high. We lose our momentum towards the weight loss goal when we:
Lose the will to continue
become distracted (forget or don’t pay attention to what we are doing)
Lie to ourselves
set the goal for the wrong reasons
and most importantly, when we lose our battle with desire
Only if you are mindful of your emotions, feelings, choices, and actions can you wisely navigate life to accomplish long-term goals. Goal achievement lies somewhere in the future. The steps you take to reach that point in your destiny are made right here and right now. That moment of choice is the point whether you remain true to your higher self or fail at self-discipline. You must have virtuous clarity in picking your strategies and goals otherwise you will serving the ego’s path of desire. How to work on the self begins with meditation and mindfulness. A good teacher can help you begin to be aware of the ego’s effect on your choices and actions through mindfulness. Being aware of your intentions and choices are mandatory to have the willpower and discipline to not make those working choices. Awake, aware and in touch with your higher wisdom, set you goal and finish what you start one step at a time.
“A journey of a thousand miles
begins beneath the feet.”
Verse 10, Chapter 64, Tao Te Ching, (Lao Tzu)
These are excerpts from the book. For this and more Tao wisdom please consider getting a copy here:
Sovereignty, The Tao Principle of Self-Discipline, available on
The Strategy: Wake up and live your life. Stop missing chunks of it by intentionally being distracted. life is meditation (awake and aware).
Its Application: Learn how to wake up, stay awake, and experience life. Where ever you are, be there. What ever you are doing, know it, have the experience. The past is over and done. The future has not arrived. There is only right here, right now. In this now, be at one with the living experience.
In holding the soul and embracing the oneness Can one be steadfast, without straying? In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation Can one be like an infant?
In cleaning away the worldly view Can one be without imperfections?
In loving people and ruling the nation Can one be without manipulation?
In the heavenly gates opening and closing Can one hold to the feminine principle?
In understanding in all directions Can one be without intellectuality?
Bearing it, rearing it Bearing without possession Achieving without arrogance Raising without domination This is called the mystic virtue.
We are called to embracing the oneness, to refrain from straying and to holding the soul. How does one accomplish this? Unifying the physical with the spiritual is the state of consciousness we know as meditation. Holding the soul is the moving above the singular view of materialism and sensation seeking (ego) and experiencing life without constant straying (distraction).
When we contemplate the nature of distraction, we can realize that it is a tuning out of life. Distraction is by nature the dropping of attention and our being captivated by the irrelevant. Experiencing life is the singularity of physical experience. We can refine the experience by paying attention to each moment and letting go of those things which block or create resistance.
LIfe, the cosmos, and reality simply is. Notice how ego has its own agenda and expects things to according to its unrealistic plan. There is the unrealistic ego reality and there is the true underlying reality. It just is. In each and every moment, we have the choice to accept or react needlessly. Reactive ego, does not accept what is, and seeks to disengage from life’s problems through distraction. There are a myriad of ways ego tunes out life and allows the attention to become absorbed. Distraction may seem like it is working, but it is only temporary and one will find themselves right back to facing that darn reality.This constant struggle with reality is resisting life. Through meditation and mindfulness, we can learn to accept and and flow around the obstacles.
So when life does not work the way you think it should, what are some forms of distraction or “coping” that you practice?
Example: Eating. Notice the WHY that you are eating. It is because you are coping and seeking distraction? What are you doing when you are eating? (talking, reading, watching tv, on the computer) Are you aware of eating? Or do you reach the end and wonder “how did that happen?” Most importantly, Are you aware of the eating experience? Are you enjoying all of the different sensations, taste, texture and smell of the eating experience? Or do you just shovel it down missing everything?
Ask the same questions about driving a car. Do you have the driving experience? Are you aware of the journey? Or are you so distracted that you drive on auto-pilot, arriving without ever being aware of the experience that got you there?
Life is meditation. Life is spirit having a physical experience. That is unless you are distracted. If life is experiencing reality, then its compliment, distraction must be not experiencing reality. Nature has this law, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. So here is your moment of truth. Slow down and be present. Experience life and all of its wonder that is around you. If you pay attention, you will see that there are no ordinary moments.
Being relaxed and concentrating our life energy we become like infants, soft pliable and full of wonder. Allowing our “self” to become distracted and dominated by ego, we create resistance, stress and the sense of wonder is lost to anxiety and problems. When we allow our mental focus to become absorbed by distraction, we have lost our foothold on life as the spiritual or true self.
The Tao cultivator tunes into life, and pays attention to protect the sanctuary of keeping a peaceful heart. The sage or wise person does not lose nor waste energy on unnecessary clenching and striving against the flow of life. The sage reaches balance and harmony by realizing the flow and becoming one with it. The harmonizing of the spiritual and soul with the physical experience of life brings forth mystic virtue. This is the authentic path of heaven and true being. This does not mean there are not difficulties. This means we do not give into ego coping because the experience we are having is difficult. With hope, we bridge the gap between fear and courage. Especially in times of turmoil, we return to spirit for guidance and solace. The sage seeks the path of balance and harmony. The balance between the spiitual self and the physical world is the path of mystic virtue. Without arrogance, without dominance, without the illusion of possession, and without ego, the Tao cultivator embraces mystic virtue. This is life. This is true living.
The Strategy: Use the virtues of compassion, conservation and humility to guide you along the true path. Mindful of your choices, allow the three treasures to guide you to wisdom.
Its Application: As a Tao cultivator, you are mindful of thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires as they rise in each moment. The application of practicing the virtues of the three treasures is a good place to begin. Compassion, Conservation and Humility to become the gateway to other virtues. With conviction and practice this three virtues become become the paradigm of mystic virtue.
If one were to only read and practice a single chapter in the Tao Te Ching, this one could transform your life. If all people would practice the three treasures our society would be transformed into something new and wonderful. The three virtues in this chapter would be enough to change your life and change the world. These three could bring about heaven on earth. The three treasures are compassion, conservation and humility.
I have three treasures
I hold to them and protect them
The first is called compassion
The second is call conservation
The third is called not daring to be ahead in the world (humility)
Compassionate, thus able to have courage
Conserving thus able to reach widely
Not daring to be ahead in the world
Thus able to assume leadership
Now if one has courage but discards compassion
Reaches widely but discards conservation
Goes ahead but discards being behind
If one fights with compassion, then victory
With defense, then security
Heaven shall save them
And with compassion guard them
conservation in both tangible and intangible 59 moderation 55 -7
Treasure number one: Compassion.
Who ever you are, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, at some moment in your life you will need true courage. Lao Tzu tells us to be “compassionate thus able to have courage”. Yet we are even warned that courage without compassion will end badly. The strategy of this virtue means that must draw courage from love. Love is beyond virtue and is at the highest level. Love is the foundation for serving others. Love is selflessness at its finest and putting aside fear so that we can move forward in leadership. Moving forward to satisfy fear for the sake of fear, is still satisfying the ego. Love empowers us to do what we must so that those we lead can benefit. Love is serving the needs of others first.
This is the path of the true self. This is the true path of virtue where compassion for fellow beings gives us direction and helps us to choose wisely. The strategy is to consider a choice that has the most compassion for all involved putting others above our own ego.
Treasure number two: Conservation
In governing people and serving heaving
There is nothing conservation
Only with conservation is it called submitting early
Submitting early is called emphasis on accumulating virtues
Accumulating virtues means there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing one cannot overcome
One’s limits are unknown
The limitation being unknown, one can possess sovereignty
With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting
Thus is called deep roots and firm foundations
The Tao of longevity and lasting visions
Conservation for the Tao cultivator is giving priority to time management, managing energy and regulating the mind and spirit. “ Submitting early” is surrendering, sooner rather than later, to the flow of life and accepting the underlying reality. Wasting time, energy, and creating stress because we over react to reality of life is to become resistant to the flow. This pushing or striving unnecessarily is a function of ego and takes us closer to suffering and self destruction. There is great wisdom in learning to not react to life and to become like water and flow around obstacles. We can free ourselves from ego and unify with spirit to find virtuous solutions to our problems.
As we cultivate our ability to stay above reaction, we cultivate our connection to spirit and unity with source. This is practicing mystic virtue. Assisted with mystic virtue, there is nothing we cannot endure or overcome. By conserving spirit and energy, we build the foundation for longevity. This longevity applies to both the tangible and the intangible. It can create a long healthy life with joy and well being, just as it can create and sustain financial abundance. This sovereignty over ego so that one can implement the virtue of conservation, is the foundation for a long path. Build your strategy for life around the foundation of conservation and you will go far.
Treasure number three: Humility.
The large is like the lowest river
The converging point of the world
The receptive female of the world
The female always overcomes the male with serenity
Using serenity as the lower position
Thus if the large country is lower than the small country
Then it can take the small country
If the small country is lower than the large country
Then it can be taken the large country
Thus one uses the lower position to take
The other uses the lower position to be taken
The country only wishes to gather and protect people
The small country only wishes to join and serve people
So that both obtain what they wish
The larger one should assume the lower position.
Humility is the hardest virtue to practice for most people. That is because most people are still under the power of the ego. When you read the term above, “lower position”, perhaps you may notice a bit of ego reaction. Vanity and self esteem are so controlled by ego that “taking the lower position” or humility, may seem impossible. Perhaps as you read this you may feel that there is just no way that you can practice being humble. If you are honest and able to realize this, warning sirens and red flashing lights are going off. Warning warning, ego is in the house !
As a strategy, humility is the great ego destroyer. When one honestly takes the lower position one is becoming at one with the true self, the spiritual self. Humility is so very powerful, that as a strategy, as a living virtue, it will level the playing field. Humility is the freeing of one’s self from all of those artificial things that limit our true power. This is sovereignty over self. Ego vanity, self esteem, self judging, arrogance, boasting, greediness, and a foundation of neediness limit us and chain us to that which has no spiritual merit. We cannot move forward on the true path when we cling to these limiting illusions. One cannot rise above fear and have courage when we are attached to the material. One cannot stop taking words so personally and experiencing hurt when we are entangled with ego reaction. We cannot practice other virtuous strategies when we are bound by the ego. When we are no longer attached to stuff, we are free from the fear of losing “it”. “It” may be pride, self esteem, false sense of security and many other illusions of ego.
When we are humble we are free of ego judging and are able to implement the power of acceptance. When we can accept life as it happens to be without ego reaction, we are free to choose wisdom over ignorance. Practice humility as you interact with others along the path and watch how they respond to you when they realize they are not being judged. That they can be themselves. Notice also those whom you like or love most, and at the core you will find that it may be because they do not judge you and accept you as you are. You make powerful long lasting friendship and be loved deeply because of the virtue of humility. Being humble frees us to do what has to be done with worrying over what people think, what they will approve of what they might do. If you can see the true power in this, you will realize the the power in its simplicity. We we are caught up in ego, we are extremely vulnerable to manipulation. Ego is blind to wisdom, and being grounded in ignorance is easly lead around. Humility frees the Tao cultivator from this mental emotional trap. Accepting and assuming the lower position, we root ourselves in wisdom of experience. If our cup is full ignorance, we cannot recieve the blessings of wisdom. We must empty our “self” and be open to underlying reality of any given situation.
In Chapter 43, Lao Tzu tells us that we must use softness to overcome the hard. In this way the softness strength of humility will overcome the hard aggression of ego. Just like the softness of water will wear down the mountain of rock over time, so will humility overcome short lived egoic stance. Ego burns its energy quickly and cannot sustain itself. Humility is soft and conserves energy. Humility benefits us with longevity. Humility creates the opportunity for harmony. Humility is the practice of mystic virtue.
Think of the those spiritual sages who have come and gone in history, and you will realize that centuries later, they are still loved because of their foundation of humility. If you can learn and practice just this one virtue, you will change your life and the lives those around you.
Together, the virtues of the three treasure are so powerful that if each person were to just practice them for one hour a day, we would soon be living on a new earth. It would be heaven on earth. We are encouraged to find our true sovereignty and cultivate three treasures. This is the strategy for true power. This is the sovereignty of the true path.
Strategy: Wake up, Stay awake and pay attention. Application: Meditation does not end when you open your eyes. We must pay attention to our state of mind and return to the true self (self awareness) and not become lost in ego and distraction.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10
“In holding the soul and embracing oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?”
In the first strategy, one learns to wake up and become self aware as the true self. In strategy number two we must learn to not stray too far from our true self and oneness with virtue. Self aware, we balance being present with thinking and doing. In this way, life becomes meditation.
Many, if not most people, live their lives in various degrees of distraction. In this sense, distraction means to divert the attention away from being present. Let us define attention as where the mind is concentrated. Self awareness is the attention held as the true self, the highest state of consciousness. But the attention can be absorbed in thinking or some distraction and become disconnected to the true self. This can become so deep that even the identity can be absorbed. In this state, many identify with their thoughts. In this state where thought and subject are the same, our whole reality is influenced and defined by what we think about. When our attention becomes absorbed in the prison of stressful thinking we become trapped and suffer, not knowing how to extract ourselves.
However, the ancients of eastern spirituality have long known that this ego self is the ignorant identity and can be transcended. Here ignorance is defined as a lack of knowing or understanding. When only the emotional mind is apparent, when only desire seeking is known, we are following the path of ignorance which leads to self destruction. Thinking is neither good or bad, it is just a cognitive function of the brain mind. But thinking when controlled by the ego, is a state that is out of control. When ego and thinking cannot be controlled, the voice in the head will drive us crazy. Since thinking is a necessary part of life, we must bring thinking under management of the true self, the higher self. Consciousness observes thinking, and uses it as a tool to insight and higher understanding. Thinking can be directed and controlled. When thinking and ego are in controlled, things are in reverse and we experience chaos and suffering. Perhaps the metphoare of “the tail wagging the do” will give you the insight.
We must to learn to control the ego and take back control of the mind. This is the intention in mediation, where we learn to leave or transcend being absorbed with thinking. By concentration we can transcend thinking and observe the thoughts. When we are observing our thoughts we can then pay attention them and manage this process. When thinking begins to slow down and become still, we can realize our true self. This realization of your ‘self’ outside of thought is the true self. You are not your thoughts. By lots and lots of practice we can learn to become empty of the thoughts. Thinking is fueled by attention. The mindstream can build up a powerful inertia and when we get captivated, that is when we become absorbed by the thinking and cannot stop, we just continue to feed the stream of thought.
When we concentrat our attention out of thinking onto something else, like the breath, we are no longer giving the thinking mind the fuel it needs to keep going. If we sit long enough without feeding the ego and thinking, it will eventually slow way down. Finally the mind will become still and empty of the crazy thoughts.
Now here is the a big insight. Even though thinking becomes still, you still exist. Existentialism is not and should not be grounded in thinking, its foundation is being and stillness. The beingness, this stillness is found in the present moment. The now.
The now is infinite and eternal. In this infinite and eternal now, you connect with source. This is the realm of spirit. And spirits avatar is the true self. This is where we manage the physical realm from to follow the true path. If is only found in mediation. Strategy number two is returning to the now and managing the the physical with the spiritual. This is mystic virtue.
Sometimes after meditation, one may resume their regular life of distraction, where they return to the conditioned mind set. That is, however, unless they become mindful of this distraction and keep from being completely absorbed. This is the practice mindfulness and the heart of strategy number two. This is very powerful and a necessity in changing your life.
When we are completely absorbed, we are bound by ego, desire, sensation seeking and distraction. Lost to the true self, discipline and self control are lost to ego. Ego decides what choices are made. These choices are going to choose from the ego’s menu of desire, sensation satisfaction and distraction from living. If you are trying to transform your life from one of suffering and learn one of well being and wisdom, you must control your attention. This is concentration. This you that I a speaking to, is the true self. The you that has set the intention of making virtuous life changes. This is the identity that must remain present and manage the ego mind. Your spirit, that is your mood, morale or state of mind is influenced by the emotional state of the mind. If you let the ego run the show, you will feel whatever it is feeling. It does not have to be this way. You must be mindful of your thoughts and feelings and return to the true self to seek wisdom and virtue. Choices made while in the ego mind state are the ones that get us all in trouble.
So, how does one develop mindfulness? One must practice the mindfulness of mindfulness or maybe mindfulness of paying attention to attention. Just kidding around here, playing with labels and terms. Seriously, we must find ways to wake up, and stay awake and keep the attention present.
In our modern society there are tons of technical gadgets that can help. Watches and smart phones are great. One can even use strategically placed sticky notes where they can been seen. You leave your “self”, your true self, a clue, to wake up and be present, to return to the now, and the spiritual.
I learned this before the advent of smart phones. I those days, digital watches were trending and I had one that would chime at what ever integral I wanted to select. In the beginning, I set my watch to beep every hour. When I heard the watch beeping, I would stop, find my breath and return to the present. I found my attention completely absorbed in the craziest thought places. I would be in various states of emotion and mood, usually ones of stress. Yet when I woke up and payed attention, I could choose to let the stressful thinking go. Even in traffic, or I should say especially in traffic, I could find my breath and concentrate my mind there, until stillness set in and the stress thinking receded. This had an immediate positive effect on my life. As I begin to extend the stillness in mediation to my active life, my stress levels begin to drop. As the stress dropped, my weight went down, and my energy went up.
In the beginning, my watch was set for every hour. After a while, I begin to realize that just before the hour, I was anticipating the chime. My body and my inner clock were becoming conditioned for regular relaxation and quiet time. So I moved my alarm to chime to every half hour. Later I took it down to every 15 minutes. Eventually I gave up wearing a watch altogether. My mind and body had learned to balance between being and doing.
Once I was paying attention to my choices, and being the true self, my choices changed dynamically. There was kind of critical mass of sustaining awareness and choosing wisdom in everything that I did. People began to notice and very much approved of the new “me”. I eventually wrote a book about my experience and published a self awareness handbook on how people with messed up lives can turn things around.
Both strategy number one and two are critical must do’s. These are not optional for true transformation. People are in different ends of the spectrum for self awareness and their ability to be present and mindful. So this process is easier for some and harder for others. The rule of thumb is, the more deeply your consciousness is embedded in ego, the more your spirit is dominated by ego. The more you are transcendent and identifying as the true self, the more self control you have and employ. You probably know by now where you fall on the spectrum. The more out of balance your life is, the deeper you are absorbed by the ego, the more problematic your life is. To find the true path is to realize who you really are as the true self. Follow strategy number one and two as if life depends on it. Why? Because they do. One is self realization the other is self destruction. Self aware and paying attention, we can choose the way of happiness and well being. This is the way of the Tao.
Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it
Cannot be kept for long
Gold and jade fill up the room
No one is able to protect them
Wealth and position bring arrogance
And leave disasters upon itself
When achievement, fame is attained
This the Tao of heaven
Not so long ago, popular culture adopted the mindset that if more is better, extreme is the best. There were television shows that proclaimed all sorts of extreme interest areas. It became a goal, a competition to see who be the most extreme. And then the great recession hit and brought the advent of extreme unhappiness.
Why is it, that enough is not enough? The concept of moderation is simple enough and the result in practicing it is known to be a virtue of wisdom. So why is it that so many of us cannot practice moderation?
The answer to this can be realized when we identify the ego self in charge of our life. Ego is the emotional and desire aspect of the self that seeks to fulfill desire. Ego is self serving and is completely grounded in a perspective more is better when it comes to sensation. Enough is never enough. Ego, initiates the self serving circularity, where ignorant indulgence leads to disastrous consequences that lead to suffering. To ease the suffering, the ego copes with more sensation seeking. The cause and effect of these choices leads to more disastrous results, which leads to more coping. Round and round it goes in a downward spiral. This is all ego knows. Ego is absolute in its belief that happiness lies in fulfilling desire. When the ego experiences unhappiness it seeks to to cope. The coping creates desire. That desire may be a bacon-cheese burger and biggie fries or it might be that tv show that brings a few minutes of distraction. Sometimes the coping device is addictive. Our coping mechanisms are always personal and are rarely practiced with moderation.
Moderation brings balance. Balance brings harmony. Harmony is a state of well being that cannot be acquired. There is no happiness store with boxes of happiness that you can consume. True and lasting happiness is not sourced in any material form. To be free from this downward spiral of ego suffering, one must find their true path. One must wake up and become self aware. In this moment of self awareness where you are paying to what you are doing and why you are doing it, you can choose… moderation. Mindful of of our desires we can choose moderation.
Moderation allows one to keep balance. When we can enjoy some thing and then let it go without clinging, then we do not become bound by it or we do not become attached to it. When we cannot seem to let go, we become entangled, dependent, trapped and addicted.
Sensation Seeking and Desire
The Five Colors make one blind in the eyes
The Five Sounds make one deaf in the ears
The Five Flavors make one tasteless in the mouth
Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause danger
Therefore the sage cares for the stomach and not for the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this
Have you ever heard music and really enjoyed it? Sometimes we hear a particular song that moves us. Maybe its the words, maybe it is the sounds themselves or the chords. And sometimes really beautiful songs combine both in such a way that we pause and experience a profound moment. It may be a song from our past that provokes a wonderful memory, and for a minute we experience a kind of blissfulness. These create a sensation of wonder and joy which feels good on many levels. And then here comes the ego. Instead of enjoying the moment and letting it go without clinging to it, ego becomes attached. It feels and says to itself “I have to have it”, “I have to hear it again”, and “I need to hear it over and over”. The ego mind quickly slides into striving to immerse itself in the blissfulness that was just experienced and the mindset becomes “more is better”. Enjoyment quickly becomes dependence.
But notice what happens. After the ego has listened the song over and over for a period, the blissfulness begins to fade. The meaning becomes mundane. The song no longer brings the sensation it once did. The ears no longer hear the magic. Time for a new song.
In this way, the ego whose eyes once held the beauty of another person becomes blind after obsessing over them for a time. The trap lies in the clinging and becoming entangled.
These days when someone says something is “very vanilla” it is not a compliment. It means very plain or ordinary. Yet to someone who has never eaten vanilla ice cream, it [vanilla] will be felt as exotic, wonderful and extravagant. Vanilla once was an exotic spice that only the rich could enjoy.
The self aware person, who as the true self, can mange ego and appreciate the simple life. They learn to be happy with the basics in life. And when they hear that song, or taste vanilla it is wonderful and magical. In wisdom, they enjoy the moment fully, staying above distraction, and become one with that experience. When the experience ends, they let it go, not seeking to cling to it. They do not become bound by it or become dependent upon it. The wise person realizes and appreciates the virtue of moderation. This middle way of enjoying with becoming trapped is very powerful. It is a power that can only realized by being sovereign over the ego self.
The willpower to practice moderation is only found in the true self.
The true self is realized through self awareness.
Self awareness is realized through meditation.
Self awareness is maintained along the path through mindfulness.
Paying special attention to what the mind is being influenced by and choosing moderation will bring about harmony. Harmony brings well being and well being is an aspect of the true path.
One can see where there is moderation in their life by realizing how well their life is in balance. One can realize how there is a imbalance and see the lack of moderation. Stop and view your life as it truly is.
Are there areas of imbalance?
Look at the obvious. How much debt do you have? How is your savings?
Is your weight in balance? Are you over or under weight?
How is your health? Are you causing any decline because of bad habits?
You must be honest. You must take ownership. Most importantly you must wake up and pay attention to what you are doing and why. You must free yourself from the ego domination and balance your life with wisdom.
This does not mean that you must stop enjoying life. Remember all things in moderation. This even includes how you moderate your life. “All things in moderation, even moderation” is a saying credit to the Buddha.
Moderation is the path of balance. In spirit we must find balance between the true self and the ego. This the balance between the spiritual and physical. This balance is known as mystic virtue. This is the way of the Tao.
Strategy: Build the foundation for self control through meditation and self awareness.
Application: By transcending the ego mind and thinking one can wake up into the higher state of consciousness of the true self. Transcending distraction and ego dominance is realized by concentrating or “tuning” the mind and becoming “present”. As the true self is realized, wisdom becomes the foundation for self control, discipline and implementing wise choices. In each moment, in each step, in each choice along life’s path, we create the new reality.
Any project must have a good foundation. To transform your life you must build the plan upon a good foundation. Strategy number one is building that foundation on Self Awareness and Meditation.
To implement any strategy, you must have set an intention. To follow the path of virtue you must keep a virtuous intention. How does one keep a virtuous intention? Through willpower, self control, and self discipline. These are terms that you have heard all of your life yet may not have been able to stick to them. The only way to change a bad habit is by adopting a good habit and sticking to it. It has to become the new default. This takes self control. This is something you already know at the surface level. A deeper understanding of self control is to realize which self is in control.
If one is only able to make and keep bad habits and self destructive behaviors, it is the ego self that is in control. Please read the chapter on Ego to understand what drives this aspect of the self. For now, just understand that this is the ignorant self that can not break the need to fulfill desire.
The wisdom self also known as the true self is the higher aspect of self that can control the ego and implement patience and wisdom. This also your spiritual self that has great power because it is the aspect that is unified with source. To wake up and realize the true self, you must align your spirit with source (the Tao). Thinking is a cognative function that can be influenced by either aspect of the mind, yet it is only the true self that can control the ego and manage the thinking mind.
Self discipline and self control are choices. The secret or deeper understanding is to realize who is doing the choosing. There is the true self and the lower ego self. The true self, your authentic self and your spiritual self is not bound by desire and the clinging of the physical domain. That is the essence of the ego. The true self is also called the wisdom mind and this is the part of you that can make the wise choices. Think of the image of the devil on shoulder and the angel on the other. The angel is a metaphor the spiritual self, the wise you. When your sense of “I” becomes the true self, you are identifying as your spiritual self. When your mind becomes absorbed by the physical desire and sensation nature of the physical realm, many of the dark elements arise.
We must train, learn to find wake up and realize our true identity, which is the true self. This waking process is done through meditation. Meditation is a higher state of consciousness where we transcend from or move above the purely thinking mind. The transition in meditation is the raising of the true self, the waking of the true self, the remembering of the true self and taking charge of the ego and emotional mind. The practice of meditation is to” tune” the mind or to focus and concentrate the attention from thinking to observing. Thinking is necessary and has its place, but it is not the sole aspect of existence. You are not your thoughts. The imbalance of too much thinking and especially distraction is where suffering begins.
Realizing that you are not your thoughts is a good first realization. This realization happens when we can observe the thoughts and thinking. In the beginning of the mindfulness meditation, one begins to practice observing the breath.
Here is an exercise. Close your eyes and ask yourself “am I breathing?”
Look and see. Look with your mind and observe whether or not you are breathing. In that instant, you switch from thinking to seeking and observing. There is very short moment that you notice the breathing. You may even make your self breath just to make sure. Yet for just a brief instant you were observing.
Who is this that is doing the observer?
Now watch the breath for a few minutes with judging or thinking. Just allow the natural rhythm of breathing to happen without interference. You may even silently count them. You may or may not count very far before thinking begins. When the thinking begins your attention becomes absorbed somewhere else, in the thinking. But as soon as you leave thinking and return to observing, your back. This being “back” is to be “present”. You are present when you are observing. When you are present, you are in a state of “being”. For most beginners, there is a switching back and forth between thinking and observing. It will back and forth, back an forth, with thinking eventually taking back over. Meditation is the cultivating of remaining longer in the being or higher consciousness state of mind. This state of being is found in that tiny gap between thoughts and thinking episodes. “Being” in the gap is fleeting at first, but with practice one learns to remain longer and longer. This is the waking up from the thinking mind. This is the identity shift from purely physical being to spiritual being. This may too simplified, but try practicing this and you will find that it is extremely effective in balancing mindfulness.
Since we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, we must first wake up and take back the identity of the spiritual self, or the true self. Yet we are having a life experience in the physical realm, so that is part of us too as long as we are alive.
Meditation and mindfulness is the balancing of being, as both the true self and the ego self. If your life is a mess, it is because the ego self has been in charge and only knows one plane of existence., the material world of form. When we realize our spiritual self, the true self take over management. The spiritual self is not bound illusionary world of the physical. So when we are realized as the true self we can effectively manage our physical experience, and this other aspect of consciousness. The true self is not bound by sensual desire or need for distraction. The true self is not a prisoner to physical neediness, but is aware of them and even enjoys them in moderation. Self control and self discipline are manage by the true self. So if a person wants to practice them, they must wake up and become assume the identity of the true self. They must wake up from the physical and return to spirit. Spirit is the confluence of both selves, the true self and the ego self which is like your physical life avatar.
This brings us to choice. The dichotomy is wise choice and emotional reaction. When any experience is perceived what happens next depends on which state of mind the person is in. If they are lost in ego, then the mind will react in accordance with the sensation seeking, distraction seeking, narcissistic and “what’s in it for me” point of view. If the person is awake and “self” aware as the true “self”, then it [spirit] is free from ego influence and considers various perspectives and will use wisdom to guide in choice. And this is how we create our reality and our life.
Therefore, to implement the wisdom of the Tao sages, we must be awake and aware. We must be mindful of what we are doing and why. We must be present as the true self and be aligned with the Tao create along with it. Ego is “tuned outward” or absorbed and true self is tuned to source or present in being. Distraction is the state of consciousness where we are not awake and aware. You can quickly notice that when our minds are captivated for long periods of time with obsessive thinking, we are “away” for extended periods. Decision making is on ego autopilot. The consequences can be severe.
Here is an example. Think about driving your car to some destination. As soon as you sit in the car, crank up and go, what is the mind doing? Typically, as soon as you pull away, the mind goes away too. You will go off in a prolonged mental state of thinking and be completely unaware of the driving experience. Amazingly, we can drive for many miles, passing through dozens of traffic lights and dangerous intersections, switching lanes and stopping at stop signs without ever being aware of it. We do all of this without having the driving experience. We are only vaguely aware of driving the car. Its no wonder that ther are so many traffic accidents. And in this modern day, there are additional distractions added to being lost in thought. Now many of us are trying to use phones, send text message, surf the internet and more … while we are driving in very dangerous conditions! This is not a lecture about texting and driving. The insanity of this is obvious to the self aware and wise person.
So strategy number one is to learn and practice meditation so that you can wake up and stay awake as you live your life. If you are awake and aware you can develop a strategy, implement the wise strategy and stay with it because you can choose. You can choose from the foundation of self discipline and self control.
Each moment, each step, and each day you can recreate your life by choosing the wise path. This is not just good advice, this is a necessity for well being and longevity. We can look at our own life or the life of others and see how well life is in balance. The imbalances are very obvious and many time, if not most of the time, the result of poor choices. The obvious question is “why”. Why do we cause ourselves to have so many difficulties and cause so much suffering to yourself? Now you know the answer. It is due to being lost in the mind of ego.
How do we wake up from ego? By practicing meditation. How do we pay attention to ego and seek balance? The answer is Mindfulness.
How do we develop a wise and effective life strategy and stick to it? The answer: by our choices. Harmony is created by balance. Balance is achieved by returning to the true self and choosing wisdom over ignorance.
Most importantly, the true self always brings balance. Balance between the spiritual and physical. Balance in all areas of life. Moderation is the wisdom, harmony is the result.
Mindfulness instruction is in most major cities. You just have to look for them and begin the practice. Here is the link to a guided meditation to give you something to practice with.