Sunday, March 9, 2014

Moving on from religion

   Moving on is something that we all have to do in various areas throughout our lives and spirituality is certainly no exception. My observation, however, is that many people struggle to truly put their past behind them. They unintentionally reopen wounds of their previous religious life again and again not realizing how it's impeding their own healing. I know this all too well because it took me several years to figure out the ways in which I did exactly that. So, what follows are just a few simple suggestions on how to assist yourself in moving on, if that is the situation you find yourself in:

Avoid what aggravates your wounds

   This is easier said than done. However, we can often control to a certain extent how much we expose ourselves to that which aggravates past spiritual hurts. There is also a lot of trial and error here but I think it becomes fairly obvious rather quickly what we should consider avoiding. For example, one of my hang ups has always been debate --but I've slowly learned to avoid getting into it with most individuals. In particular I avoid getting into debates with fundamentalist christians because I know there is likely going to be no true discussion.

    It's just one of those things where I pretty much know what is going to be said before it is and I don't see the point in subjecting myself to it --it's all the same stuff I used to say. I've spent the better part of my life in fundamentalist churches so, I really don't need to hear for the ten-thousandth time about how I'm headed to "Hell" ultimately due to my failure to have faith in the correct things before I die. Even if by some chance I can impart something for someone else to think about, I don't feel like those discussions really serve me.

     For you, it may be something different but just ask yourself: Do you really need to respond to that status update from that person you used to go to church with? Do you really need to read that article about the  mega-church pastor? Do you really have to go with your family/friends to that religious function? Etc.

Limit how much you talk about the past

    This more or less goes with the above. On the one hand, I think talking about what you've been through is not only highly beneficial but necessary for you to heal. It's a special thing when you can relate to someone on that level. On the other hand, there is a certain point where the constant talking about it can become detrimental. It's like when you break up with someone and you continually allow yourself to talk or think about them and rehash everything that happened --it doesn't really get you anywhere. You can easily keep yourself locked in the pain and the negative energy of a certain situation by keeping it alive in your mind.

Accept that it (whatever 'it' is) happened

    I tread lightly here because I know there is a wide spectrum of religious trauma that people have experienced and I don't wish to undermine anyone's experience. Personally I have experienced rejection, ridicule and deep depression among other things but I know that it's nothing compared to what many others have experienced. A lot of my pain actually derives from reflecting on the way that I treated or viewed certain people because of my past beliefs. Whatever you have experienced though, the fact of the matter is that it happened --it can't be changed.  We live in a world of all sorts of "darkness" but I try to ask myself how the darkness I have experienced can somehow help someone else overcome the same?

     It's also important to keep in mind that you wouldn't be the person you are today without your experiences both "good" and "bad"(which are just labels we apply anyway). Does that excuse what happened to you or make it justifiable? No. But perhaps our task is not to judge the fairness of any one thing but to accept it as reality and decide how we can proceed from there?

Find something else to focus on

    I've known a lot of people that were once fundamentalist Christians like me and I've seen them go in a multitude of different directions. They become more liberal Christians, agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, New Age, Occultists...or they are kind of like me and just say fuck all the labels, "I am that I am". If there is anything of worth I can say it is that absolutely no one can tell you what the best path for you is. The most important thing is that you learn to make sense of your life beyond whatever religion or background you are wanting to leave behind.

    One thing I have come to have greater respect for are just all the different ways that we go about that philosophically --we all use different tools and there is no "right" or "wrong" in that per say. There are all sorts of books and resources out there if you're willing to look for it. It's up to you to discover what tools best work for you and seem to best edify your life as well as those around you.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A dream I had

        So, as some of you know, I've been doing some reading about and experimenting with astral projection --otherwise known as out-of-body experiences-- over the past few months. I originally heard about it several years ago from a friend and wrote it off as some new age, devil-practice of some sort. Most people don't seem to know anything about it apart from the movie Insidious. I haven't seen it yet but I can tell by reading the plot summary on wikipedia that it's a lot of half-baked nonsense (like virtually every cheesy horror flick). I recently started investigating AP simply on a whim as I've become more interested in the whole idea of human consciousness and how it relates to dreams.

   Anyway, the concept is essentially that while the physical body sleeps you can "project" your consciousness --or a part of it-- out of the physical and experience different realms, if you will. The basic level looks nearly identical to the physical world and then there are subsequent deeper levels, worlds or frequencies that can be explored. A lot of accounts involve being connected to your sleeping body via a "silver cord" and to get back into their physical body one simply has to think about it --it's pretty trippy stuff. There are quite a lot of methods out there on how to experience it involving self-hypnosis, meditation and various relaxation techniques. There are also a lot theories that involve everything from it being mentioned in the Bible to how quantum physics might explain the whole thing but that is all lengthy and not worth getting into here. Suffice it is to say that regardless of it escaping common knowledge, the phenomena appears to go way back and is attested to in various religions.

   I haven't tried to achieve an out-of-body experience every single night, but for the past 2 months or so I've been listening to a couple self-hypnosis mp3's before bed that are supposed to help induce the state. I suspected that, even if AP was real, that I would probably dream about the experience before it actually happened as your dreams tend to involve things you are thinking about before you doze off. However, this has not really been the case. Up until the other night, I've had a few odd dreams and experiences but I never woke up thinking I had projected. In one dream, I woke up and then dozed off again to see my body flying above the Earth like superman but I became aware, or lucid, that this was a dream which caused me to wake up again. I immediately felt vibrations throughout my body and my heart was beating really fast which totally freaked me out until it subsided. Subsequent times I have tried to flow with that vibrational state a bit more and I can only describe it as feeling pure love (supposedly this involves the heart chakra). I have awoken to other strange sensations like my body being covered with energy (?) but still not actually projecting in consciousness or what have you. Other dreams have involved me floating or flying through an area but never involving my sleeping body or my room. However, the following is a slightly edited version of my waking thoughts from around 3:28 am on December 29th:

   While laying in bed I couldn't decide whether to keep laying on my back or lay on my side. Somewhere in the course of the night, I turned to my side and had an almost cartoonish sense of splitting off into two separate bodies and then flying around the room shouting, "wooo!" I heard a voice from some unknown place say, "yes, flying around is fun but you should--" I wasn't really paying attention to the voice because I was so giddy at the thought that I had achieved this state. I assume it was giving me some valuable information on what to do. I tried to stick my head up through the ceiling and then through the door but there was some type of resistance that was stopping me from passing through them. I went and tried to turn the knobs on my dresser/entertainment center and then clicked on my TV. To my surprise, it turned on and there was a scene presumably from The Dark Knight as it involved the joker so that was kind of creepy. I went towards the door after this but it was clear that it was ending and I said something like "wait, what does this all mean?" and then I remember being shifted into in some unrelated dream.

   Afterwards, I woke up in the middle of the subsequent dream and wondered, "shit, did I just project or was that a dream?" I haven't read much about interacting with actual physical objects beyond just passing through them so, it's quite likely that it was simply a dream. However, the monkey wrench is this concept I have read about called the "mind split effect" from a book I'm reading called Astral Dynamics (which I wouldn't recommend as your first read on the subject). The concept is sort of confusing on top of an already confusing, farfetched-sounding idea but basically it suggests that there are three "copies" of your consciousness --the physical body/mind, the dream mind and the projected double/energy body. These different copies can apparently experience very different things within the same time period and the stream of memories that you actually recall is really all up to a number of factors. So, my thought is that perhaps I did successfully project my consciousness but what ended up as the solid memory recorded above was my dream mind's interpretation of it or even a combination of the projection and the dream mind's. Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch but,it's just a theory. In any event, it has been fun and I'm going to keep experimenting.

P.S. If you are looking for some decent information on the subject, check out Adventures Beyond The Body by William L. Buhlman.