Friday, February 25, 2011

Anything Is Possible

One time a friend of a friend asked me to sum up my beliefs. He had one very succinct sentence for the core of what he believed about the universe.  It was "Energy changes."  (He was into some kind of chaos magic.)  He was trying to understand my worldview and spiritual beliefs, and so he was wanting me to give him a similar kind of summary.

I was very reluctant to do so, because there's kind of nothing at the core of my beliefs.  What I finally came up with was this:

Anything is possible.

But of course, for this sentence to be true, it must contain the possibility that it's false.

So that's what I said, "I believe anything is possible, but that means it's also possible that I'm wrong."

I still like this statement as an attempt to summarize my beliefs about everything.

(Just as an aside, he did not like this statement, nor have most of the people I have shared it with.)

I do not believe in any kind of objective reality.

Everything humans know about the universe is filtered through our little bodies and minds, which have so much going on in them, it seems to me there is no possibility for objectivity.

If perhaps there is some kind of Divinity with a consciousness, then perhaps it could have an objective view of reality.  But that seems like such a narrow kind of Divinity to me.

I kind of believe that people's beliefs is what makes things true for them.  I don't believe in Truth.  (That is, Capitalized Truth.)  But then that can get pretty complicated.  It's hard to really break it down.

I believe that anything anyone believes has some kind of validity, simply because they believe it.  Now I also believe that we are in a vaguely shared reality on this planet that makes certain beliefs inappropriate, but I absolutely do not think that "reality" is certain or objective.  There's no way to truly say what is so.  I can not absolutely know anything.

I believe this shared reality we are in tends to value love a great deal, something I value as well.  I also value respect and tolerance a whole lot, too.

So whatever you believe, whether you believe in Jesus, Shiva, Diana, God, gods, goddesses, the Tao, Spirit, lifeforce, science, nothing at all, and/or something else entirely, it's all fine with me so long as you strive to be respectful, tolerant, and loving, as well.  

And sometimes I feel sorry for the people who are disrespectful, intolerant, and unloving, that they don't have a place to exist where those things are valued.  I certainly don't think there's anything objectively wrong with those things (because nothing is objectively wrong) but they are anti-social qualities, for the most part.

I think generally we look for objectivity as a way to explain and understand things.  I don't think the universe makes sense.  I don't think it needs to make sense. I take delight in it not making sense.

Now I don't go through my daily life questioning every single thing, in some kind of "Hey nothing is real!" fit.  That's just not really practical.

I do actually have some more specific personal spiritual beliefs, which perhaps I'll attempt to go into in another post, but I say "attempt" because they're not super clear and they can change a lot.

This is all rather difficult for me to write about, because it is slippery and strange.  But I embrace the contradictions and confusion of my own beliefs and of the whole world!  Anything is possible!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Milkshake and Pizza Epiphany

So there's this awesome book called Women Food and God.  It's by this awesome woman Geneen Roth, who's written a ton of books on food and eating, most famously When Food Is Love, which I believe is about eating disorders and is considered an important work on the subject.

Her basic stance on eating is that to be healthy and your proper weight etc, you should eat exactly what your body wants.  BUT there are "guidelines" for eating, which boil down to being extremely mindful while you are eating.

I have finally realized that this is what I need to do.  And after a lifetime of not being especially mindful, it's much harder than I expected.

I've been letting myself eat "what I want" the last month (and attempting to do it without guilt), and yes, I've gained back a couple pounds.  I've been trying to keep in mind that an adjustment/learning period is normal, but I was starting to question if this did make sense for me.

Until this afternoon.

I decided for lunch I would have a milkshake and leftover pizza.  Not healthy, but it sounded delicious.

I ate through half of my milkshake quickly, enjoying it certainly, but not really focused on it.  And eating in that kind of way like this might be the last milkshake I'll ever get to have in my life.  Creating strict rules for yourself about what you're "allowed" to eat because otherwise you're a bad person will do that to you.

Then I stopped and looked at it.  I realized I could eat it a lot more slowly, and really pay attention to the experience of the milkshake.

And it was so difficult and foreign. Something about just the idea made me feel threatened.

I realized I have a concept in my head that "milkshake=delicious" and I was so caught up in that, that I didn't really know what I was experiencing.

So I ate a few more spoonfuls, slowly.  The consistency was oddly sticky gooey.  And it had a sickly sweet aftertaste that I was not enjoying but rather overcoming.  I poured the rest down the sink.

Then my pizza.  Even before I started eating, I got a kind of uh-oh feeling.

I don't think I actually liked that pizza much at all, and I know my belly didn't really like it.

And yet, somehow the very notion that maybe I don't actually like pizza was totally threatening to my whole way of life.

Like, dear god, if I don't like pizza, what else don't I actually like?  What else have I talked myself into?  What else have I made wonderful in my head, without really seeing the reality of it?

Somehow just focusing on my experience of pizza with my full attention made me realize that I really ought to be giving the same level of focus on everything in my life.  And I might find some surprising things.

Part of me was in such denial that this was even happening, I ate the whole piece.

In that awesome book I mentioned above, Geneen Roth says: "Our relationship to food is an exact microcosm of our relationship to life itself.  I believe we are walking, talking expressions of our deepest convictions; everything we believe about love, fear, transformation and God is revealed in how, when and what we eat."

I think she's right.

Here are her Eating Guidelines, which I intend to follow a lot more closely now.

1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment.  This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions.  Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations, or music.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.

Here's to waking up.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Defining Spiritual

I spend a lot of time thinking about spiritual things.  I consider myself a very spiritual person.  I long for more time for Spirit work.

I am not religious.  I was not brought up with any religion.  I was only briefly ever part of a religion, for a couple years when I was in high school and college.  I attended a Unitarian Universalist church in Houston.

A lot of people like to describe themselves as, "spiritual, but not religious."  Myself included.

Recently I've been pondering those terms.  What do they actually mean?

Before I go look them up on, I want to attempt to write out my own personal definitions.

Defining "religious" seems easy to me.  Being religious means participating in a particular spiritual path and/or community, which includes certain common beliefs and practices.

But the concept of "spiritual" seems much more vague.  It's the word "spirit," I think.

I would say that being spiritual means having a relationship with Spirit or Divinity or God or The Universe or Whatever Word You Prefer To Capitalize.

And frankly, that could mean all kinds of things.  It's very personal and subjective.

And I think that's what at the heart of people wanting to distance themselves from the word "religion."  They don't want to follow any prescribed path.  They want to discover and create and follow their own path.

To go farther into defining the word spiritual, I'd have to further define that Capitalized Word.  And that's hard.  I mean, that's part of the point of a lot of those religions, right?

I think the most general definition I can come up with is that Capitalized Word is something greater than one's human self.

And from that perspective, even an atheist could be spiritual.  I think it depends on what exactly a person does and does not believe in.

(And as Joel Fleischmann (the main character on my favorite TV show, Northern Exposure) once said, "I've always kind of admired atheists.  I think it takes a lot of faith.")

So to sum up my definition, being spiritual means having a relationship with something greater than one's human self.

Out of curiosity, I checked just now.  "Religious" takes you to "religion," and it's pretty much what I expected.  "Spiritual" takes you to "spirit," and I find that to be a pretty delightful list of things.  What a very difficult concept to define.

Now, I haven't even begun talking about my personal definition of Spirit or Capitalized Etc.  Another post some time.