Digesting experience

Feelings, emotions and thoughts are all like colours and flavours: they exist in great diversity but none is intrinsically better or worse than any other. It is only human judgement that labels them as good or bad. They are the stimulus-response that takes place in each of us in reaction to the experiences of life, and as such they are the composite product of the facts of the event itself coupled with our own subjective, involuntary interpretation based on our own ‘filter’ (i.e. our psychospiritual identity). I say involuntary because you cannot choose your feelings, emotions, and thoughts. The only thing you can choose in this regard is where to direct your attention, and how to act and react.

So what is the purpose of feelings, emotions and thoughts? I think that the purpose of all our life experiences and the feelings, emotions and thoughts that accompany them is to expand and evolve our consciousness, or rather our window into consciousness, towards an ever larger and richer context in space-time. To put it simply: every experience is a lesson, an opportunity for growth and evolution. Some of these experiences are easy to digest, others more difficult, but they are all valuable. The important question to ask ourselves is: are we interpreting events authentically through our own filter, or are we using someone else’s? And are we allowing ourselves to openly receive what the experience has to offer us, or are we putting up walls of insensitivity or denial or trying to select only the parts of the experience we agree with rather than accepting the full picture? Finally, is our filter overly contaminated by popular culture and others’ expectations, or is it clean and receptive? While we cannot control the events that occur in our lives, we can in the long run change our filter through inner work. By examining the self and how it operates, we can learn to be more open and sensitive, and less judgemental and afraid of new experiences, thereby enabling deeper spiritual growth and evolution.

Through our filter, we transform inputs into outputs. Each of us does this in our own unique way, and it applies equally on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. We take in material from our environment, our childhood, our parents and lineage, and we transform it into something else. Sometimes the inputs we are given are painful and hard to handle. These may come in the form of emotional or physical abuse at the hands of parents or caregivers, impoverished material conditions, poor health or physical handicaps, war and violence, or many other such forms. We cannot choose what life gives us, but we can choose how we will transform it into something else. Many find it hard to cope with the painful inputs they have been given. We refuse to pay attention, we refuse the lesson, and so we act out our frustration or we pass it on to others, perhaps our children, coworkers, subordinates, neighbours, foreigners, or other vulnerable beings, perpetuating the cycle of pain and suffering. The most moral act I can think of is a conscious choice not to pass on our pain and suffering to others; to deal with it and digest it within ourselves, so that we may pass on love and kindness instead. A great visual symbol of this kind of act can be seen in the scene near the end of the first Matrix movie when Neo stops the bullets in mid-air, causing them to fall to the ground. The best thing one can do is not to send pain and violence back to its originator or pass it on, but to process it, to diffuse it entirely so that no-one else will be hurt by it. This is a very difficult task and it requires great courage and strength, but it is our task, and well worth doing.

Consciousness is the digestive fire for experience, and it can be thought of as a currency. At any given moment, each person has only so much of it available to spend on all possible objects of thought. Another way to look at it is to use the analogy of a computer processor: it can only process a certain amount of data at a time. The more we spend grappling with the events of our past or anticipating the future, the less is available to give to the present moment. Looking back, we all have painful and confusing memories from childhood and adulthood that affect our present disposition and our ability to clearly think, feel, perceive and make judgements and decisions. These memories are like baggage blocking the flow of new experience, new information. Psychoanalysis is useful in clearing up and processing the past so that our conscious energy can return to the present. We are also preoccupied with fears and desires, which are emotional preactions to anticipated future possibilities based on past experience. They can only arise when our awareness slips out of the present into the past or future. Mindfulness and present-moment awareness are useful in dissolving our fears and desires, liberating the energy spent worrying about the future for present use. The best use of the divine gift of consciousness is allowing ourselves to be faithful and sensitive observers to the ever-unfolding mystery of creation, which always takes place here and now, not in some other time or place.

What is it that each of us is meant to experience / perceive / pay attention to? If that is our divine purpose as individual beings – to be a unique channel for the universal spiritual energy, then every experience is a lesson, and there are no mistakes or accidents. With each new experience that passes through us, we should remember: “This is not a mistake; you are meant to have this experience. Though you may not fully understand it now, there is something here you are supposed to pay attention to. The universe created this experience to give you an opportunity to grow and evolve. Not only was this experience created for you, but you were created so that this experience could take place. Pay attention and take it in.”

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~ by spiritualseeker1 on January 31, 2012.

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