Preceded by perception are mental states,
for them is perception supreme.
If with perception polluted one speaks or acts,
By Kim Michaels, December 2009
Resist not evil
Based on my personal experiences with getting in and out of negative spirals, let me share some thoughts on the “mechanics” of such spirals. I have come to realize over the years that there is an essential clue in Jesus’ teaching:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)
When we resist evil, we are essentially saying that we cannot feel at peace, we cannot be whole, because of this evil we have identified outside ourselves—which we must either seek to destroy or seek to isolate ourselves from (we must react to it in some way). Yet in reasoning this way – which we usually do without being aware of it – we are making ourselves victims of an external condition. We are reasoning that our inner state of mind is dependent upon external conditions. We cannot be at peace until circumstances change, which often involves other people. So we have now made our peace of mind dependent upon the choices of other people instead of our own choices.
Furthermore, in resisting the external condition, we feed our mental and emotional energies into a negative matrix, and as the energies build up, they will begin to create a vortex that will overpower our conscious will. Our mental and emotional bodies are in such turmoil that we get pulled into another negative reaction that creates even more negative energy and so on ad infinitum. I have felt this happen to myself, where you start out slowly, for example by talking about someone, and then one day there is a tipping point and you are sucked into a spiral that you no longer feel it necessary to restrict—although deep within you know it is not right.
The underlying assumption is, of course, that there really is something evil that has power over our state of mind. Take note that in saying this, I am not denying that there is evil or darkness in the world. What I am talking about here is the eternal truth that this external evil cannot influence our – internal – state of mind unless we use our free will to give evil an entry into our minds.
One way to do this is by believing in the lie that evil is real and thus has actual power over us—which means we must destroy evil in order to protect ourselves. Thus, we are forgetting the eternal truth that both Jesus and the Buddha were trying to show us, namely that evil has no direct power over us but only the indirect power of seeking to influence our choices. Why do you think the devil had to tempt Jesus instead of just destroying him? In The Church they have the following statement: “Evil is not real, and its appearance has no power.”
What I see in my personal experience is that every time I have allowed myself to react negatively to a situation, I have resisted something. And in that resistance I have misqualified energy, because I have responded with fear, anger, a sense of injustice or other negative emotions. Thus, I started building a vortex of negative energy which eventually became so powerful – in some cases by tying in to other people’s energies or planetary vortexes – that it overpowered my conscious mind. As a result, my attention, my life experience, was eaten up by this negative focus.
In each case, I have escaped the negative spiral ONLY by doing one thing, namely surrendering my resistance of the outer condition and instead taking full responsibility for my inner condition. It was only when I stopped believing that the outer situation could influence my state of mind that I could realize that I did not need to change other people’s state of mind in order to change my own state of mind.
So instead of putting the cart before the horse by seeking to attain inner peace through changing other people or the world, I could go directly to the source and work on inner peace directly within myself. And this effort has always been successful.
To return to evil, I am not saying we should not speak out to expose evil or serve to judge evil. I am simply saying that as long as we are resisting evil and keeping ourselves in a negative state of mind, we will not actually expose or judge evil. As Jesus said, we must first remove the beam from our own eyes before we can clearly identify evil outside ourselves and avoid applying human judgments to other people.
It is in turning the other cheek that we judge evil, but we cannot fully turn the other cheek until we have realized that evil has no power over our internal situation. Even if evil nails us to a cross, it still has no power over our state of mind, and we can turn the other cheek instead of reacting to or against evil. Thus, the true way to pull ourselves out of a negative spiral is to stop focusing on the evil we see in other people or the world and to start focusing on the evil in our own minds. By doing this, we can make evil irrelevant in that it can no longer influence our state of mind. And that is when we can turn the other cheek and bring about the ultimate judgment of evil. As long as we are resisting evil, we are actually reinforcing evil, and thus we cannot pull ourselves out of the negative spiral. We must honestly work on ourselves until we can say, “The prince of this world comes and has nothing in me.”
The perception problem
As profound as these insights have been to me, there is an even deeper layer that I have only recently come to see, and that is how our perception will create a mental state that prevents us from seeing the limitations of the perception. Consider for example how – when we are in a negative spiral – we look at a situation with a particular bias. We are so sure that another person or group is to blame for our state of mind – or for a particular evil in the world – that we see only what reinforces that the other person is at fault. We cannot actually see the other person as an individual who simply has a particular psychology with wounds and illusions—like everyone else. For example, in Israel I experienced how some Jews look at the Palestinians as a group of non-individuals who are all a certain way, while the Palestinians do the same to the Jews.
I can see in myself how I have sometimes been in a negative spiral and completely focused on changing a particular person. As a result I did not see that he or she was a human being who did what they did because of a wounded psychology—just as myself. I thought that my reaction was NOT caused by my wounded psychology, it was simply the only way for anyone to react to a situation where someone was doing something that was so obviously wrong. Thus, I forgot to ask myself, “Would Jesus or the Buddha have reacted to this situation the same way I do?”
Yet after I had snapped out of the negative spiral, it became obvious to me what I had been completely unable to see before. Now that I no longer believed my state of mind was dependent upon another person, I could suddenly see that person as a human being. So how can it be that we are sometimes so completely blind and unable to see what is obvious to others—and what would be obvious to ourselves if we were in a different frame of mind? Well, after contemplating this since childhood, I finally have a more clear picture, and it was brought about by the first verse in the Dhammapada.
Preceded by perception are mental states,
for them is perception supreme.
If with perception polluted one speaks or acts,
Several years ago I used a number of verses from the Dhammapada in the Eternal NOW rosary, but this one always stood out, and I knew it had an important message for me. So here is the insight I received from Gautama as I was contemplating writing this article.
The Buddha took a very practical approach to teaching, illustrated by the Four Noble Truths, one of which is, “Life is suffering.” Obviously, Gautama did not mean this as an absolute truth—life does not have to be suffering. His whole purpose was to show us that when we are in a certain frame of mind, a certain mental state, life is indeed suffering. Yet we do not escape suffering by seeking to change outer conditions, we only escape suffering by transcending the frame of mind that causes suffering. So how do we do that? By realizing the connection between perception and our mental state. Back to the quote:
Preceded by perception are mental states,
for them is perception supreme.
What Gautama is saying here is that when you are suffering, when you are in a negative spiral, you are in a particular mental state. For example, you may be afraid or angry or have a sense of injustice.
Yet this mental state is NOT created by any external conditions. It is a MENTAL state, and it is created by how you PERCEIVE external conditions. It is your perception that has created the mental state. Of course, perception does not mean sensory perception but how you mentally and emotionally respond to your circumstances in life.
Here comes the important point. Once your mind is inside a mental state that is created by perception, your mind cannot see that the perception that created the mental state is NOT the only possible way to perceive the situation. For a particular mental state, the form of perception that created the mental state is supreme, meaning that as long as your mind is identified with the mental state, you are not able to question or see beyond your perception.
Again, I saw how the Palestinians react with anger to any provocation from the Jews. They feel their anger is completely justified and is the ONLY possible way to react to certain actions from the Jews. Yet it is clear that anger has become a default reaction based on a particular way of perceiving the situation. So when you are in such an agitated mental state, you think that your perception of the situation is the ONLY possible or right way to look at the situation. You think this is the universal way to look at the situation and that all other people (even God or the ascended masters) look at the situation the same way you do. And if they don’t, it is because they are blind, stupid, evil, unreachable or unwilling to see reality.
I realize that this will make no sense from an intellectual, analytical perspective, but once you see this intuitively, you realize why you can have people with diametrically opposing views of a situation, yet each side is absolutely convinced that they are right and the others are wrong.
Again, look at Israel. Some Jews are absolutely convinced that the land of Israel was given to them by God, and thus they have a divine right to tear down the Muslim mosque and built the third temple on the temple mount. The Muslims on the other hand believe that when the mosque was built, the Muslim ruler made an agreement with the Jewish people, and thus this 1300 year old agreement gives them the right to the place. Both sides are absolutely convinced that their view is the only right one and that it is held by God himself.
How could you ever reconcile such opposing views? Conventional wisdom would say that one view is right and the other wrong and thus one view should be espoused by all or forced upon those who will not accept it. Yet the Buddhic wisdom says that both views are the products of a limited perception. Thus, there is a higher view that would truly resolve the conflict. The problem is that in order to see this higher view, we first have to be willing to look beyond our current mental state AND the perception that created it. So how do we do that?
Finding the deeper mental state
The understanding Gautama gave me is that we need to go to a deeper level and ask where our perception comes from. In other words, our immediate mental state – the one that makes life suffering by keeping us in a negative spiral (for many people life is simply one long negative spiral) – is created by perception. If – as the Buddha says – this perception is polluted, the mental state it creates can only bring suffering, and we cannot escape the suffering as long as our minds are identified with that mental state (look at life from inside that state), because we will not be able to question or look beyond the perception. So how does perception arise and what makes it polluted?
The key is to realize that the mental state that we are consciously aware of is created by perception, but our perception is the product of an even deeper mental state that most people are not conscious of. Thus, it is this deeper mental state that determines whether we have a positive or negative outlook on life. We might say that the deeper state relates to how we look at life in general, for example, “Is the glass half full or half empty?” Yet on a surface level is the mental state that relates to our circumstances in our current lifetime. And if that surface mental state is sufficiently agitated, we will not be able to look beyond it to find the deeper mental state.
Another way to explain this is to say that the images in your identity body determine your basic outlook on life. This is usually subconscious, so we do not see that it actually colors our perception. If our basic image of life is that we are victims of circumstances forced upon us by other people, this will color our perception of life. This will then cause us to see ONLY what reinforces our basic outlook on life. We will then “see” only the negative aspects of how we are treated unfairly by other people or by circumstances.
This polluted perception will then give rise to the images in our mental and emotional bodies, and these mental states are closer to conscious awareness. If our minds are focused on these mental states, we simply will not be able to see that our suffering is NOT caused by external conditions. Our mental and emotional states are the products of our perception and our perception is colored by our deeper approach to life. If we do not see this, we can live many lifetimes being caught in the emotional and mental states without ever going deeper to look at the identity body.
As Jesus has said many times, the universe is a mirror. Thus, our deeper attitude to life is what we project into the mirror and our external circumstance is simply the outpicturing of our mental images. What quantum physics has proven is that the act of perception is not a passive act of seeing something that is already there. It is an active act, an act of co-creation, and our consciousness co-creates the conditions we perceive. A general negative outlook on life will cause us to PERCEIVE life with a negative bias, and this negative perception will be projected into the cosmic mirror, which can ONLY reflect back what we send out. As they say in computer lingo, “What you SEE is what you get.”
People can live for many lifetimes in the consciousness that life is suffering. The Buddha, Jesus and all other true spiritual teachers came to show us that there is an alternative to this state of mind. Yet how do we enter this kingdom of God? Only by taking our focus OFF the drive to change other people or the world. We must look at ourselves and realize that it is our own mental states and our own perception that makes life suffering. This is the beginning of wisdom.
Do you see what I am actually saying here? When you are in a negative spiral, you think you are simply perceiving external conditions and that these conditions can only affect your state of mind one way. Thus, you are locked in a battle to change the external conditions – including changing other people’s internal conditions over which you have no direct power – in order to change your state of mind. This can never work because what truly determines your state of mind is NOT the external conditions but the way you PERCEIVE those conditions. Thus, the ONLY way to truly change your state of mind is to do the following:
- Pull yourself, your sense of identity, sufficiently away from your surface mental state, so that you can take your focus off blaming other people and look in the mirror.
- Realize and admit that it is your PERCEPTION that creates your state of mind and that your current perception of life or a situation is not the only possible, nor the highest possible.
- Realize that your perception is a product of your deeper mental state, the way you look at life, your general approach to life.
- Change that underlying mental state, whereby your perception and your surface mental state will automatically change.
Imagine you meet a person who is running around with a cleaning brush and waving it in the air. You notice the person is wearing yellow glasses, and when you ask, the person says: “The sky is green, it shouldn’t be green, I am trying to clean the green film from the sky!” How likely is it that you can clean the sky? Would it not be smarter to stop looking outside yourself and to look in the mirror, realize that the cause is that you have polluted perception and then take the glasses off?
Understanding the dynamics of a negative spiral?
Pulling yourself out of a negative spiral is actually quite simple—once you see that you are in a negative spiral and that it only serves to make yourself miserable. The problem is that the essence of a negative spiral is your perception, so it can be difficult to “see” a negative spiral and see that it is your own perception that is creating your suffering and not the outer conditions (as your perception tells you).
Once you have entered a negative spiral, you look at life from inside that spiral. And in that mental state, you simply are not able to question your perception of life—the reason being that your perception is what created the mental state, so for that mental state your perception is supreme, it is beyond questioning. In that mental state, you are so sure that your perception is the only way to look at the situation that you see no need to question it.
You may be aware that other people do not look at a given situation the same way you do – as the Jews and the Palestinians – but you are absolutely convinced that they simply cannot see reality. Thus, you might engage in a battle to change their perception or their mental state. Yet if you don’t realize that YOUR perception is the product of an even deeper mental state (and thus not the only way to look at the situation), how can you possibly realize that their perception is the product of their deeper mental state? And thus you will inevitably seek to force them to change their perception from the very mental state that created their perception—which can never, ever work. They can’t change their perception from that state, so their only option is to reject or fight you.
And if you don’t realize this, how can you help them escape their surface mental state and see the deeper state that produces their perception? Thus, you will simply engage in a battle to impose your polluted perception upon them in order to override their polluted perception. And this will NOT reduce the amount of tension in the world. As Jesus said, until you have removed the beam from your own eye, how can you see clearly to help another person remove the splinter in his eye?
Do you see how this explains the numerous unresolvable conflicts that you see among people throughout history and probably also in your own life? For example, the Palestinians are absolutely convinced that there will not be peace in Israel until the Jews see the situation the same way they do, see through their perception. Yet the way the Palestinians see the situation is neither the only nor the highest way. It is a particular bias that springs from the underlying Palestinian mental state. The Jews perceive the situation based on an underlying Jewish mental state, and thus they will never be able to perceive the situation the same way the Palestinians do.
What is the only possible solution? The Palestinians must transcend the Palestinian mental state and the Jews must transcend the Jewish mental state. Only when both sides stop speaking and acting with polluted perception, will they be able to see each other as human beings, or even as spiritual beings. Thus, Jews and Palestinians will NEVER make peace. ONLY people who see themselves and each other as spiritual beings can make peace.
To illustrate it graphically, imagine you have two people and one is wearing yellow glasses and the other red glasses—but none of them realize they are wearing glasses. They are engaged in a heated discussion about the color of the sky. The person with the yellow glasses is absolutely convinced that the sky is green, for that is what he perceives. The other person is equally convinced that the sky is purple, for that is what he perceives.
Both are in an agitated state of mind, feeling the other person is completely blind and is denying reality. Yet both persons are speaking and acting with polluted perception and that is why suffering follows. Once you “see” this intuitively, you no longer wonder why there is war in the world. What is the only solution to the struggle between the two people with the glasses? It is that they both take off their glasses so they can see the sky without polluted perception. Of course, you could also have a situation where one person is not wearing glasses, and in that case the person with the glasses is attempting to convince the person without glasses that what he is seeing is not reality.
What Jesus, the Buddha and all other true spiritual teachers have been trying to do is precisely to help us see beyond our immediate mental state and our perception. But do you now see the problem they face? When the masters give us a spiritual teaching, we can ONLY look at it through the filter of our current mental state and our perception. And thus, we may seek to force the teaching into our current mental box—which gives very little spiritual progress, as Jesus has explained in the drama discourses.
It is ONLY when we begin to question our perception of life and look towards our deeper mental state, that we begin the real spiritual path and start making genuine progress. You can be on the spiritual path for decades or lifetimes but still look at the path with the exact same polluted perception. And thus you are unreachable and unteachable for the true spiritual teachers.
How the epic dramas influence our perception
What is behind the unwillingness to realize that our perception is not accurate, is not the absolute truth? It can only be an unwillingness to take full responsibility for our path. And THAT – as Jesus has explained in great detail – can only come from a drama. A personal drama makes us vulnerable to the false teachers who are seeking to trap us in the dualistic struggle by making us believe in one of the epic dramas.
Can you see what this means? Many people have come to accept the basic outlook on life presented by one of the epic dramas that are created by the fallen beings in their attempt to prove free will wrong. Thus, they think they have to engage in this epic struggle to convert everyone else to a particular belief system. Yet the true goal of the false teachers is NOT to have one belief system be dominant. Their real aim is to trap us so firmly in a dualistic, epic struggle against other people or against evil forces that our attention is so focused outside ourselves that we cannot use our free will to look for the beam in our own eyes, raise our consciousness and ascend.
So once we accept an epic drama’s outlook on life, it becomes part of our identity body, our underlying mental state. This then produces a particular form of perception. We are now looking at life through the filter of the epic, dualistic mind, and thus we see ONLY what confirms that life really is an epic struggle between good and evil. This perception now gives rise to a surface mental and emotional state that puts us in constant conflict with other people. And once in that surface state, we think the only way to come to any resolution is to fight these other people – or fight for some epic cause – until the ultimate victory is won.
Yet what did Jesus try to tell us by saying we should not resist evil but should turn the other cheek? What did the Buddha try to tell us by teaching us non-attachment? They were trying to tell us that the entire epic struggle is a product of polluted perception and that our ONLY way to escape the planetary downward spiral is to simply walk away from the struggle and refuse to resist anything in this world.
Do you remember how the Buddha was sitting under the Bo tree and being tempted by the demons of Mara? They tried to get him to react, to resist them in any way. Had he resisted them, that internal resistance would have kept him out of Nirvana. Only when he had demonstrated that he would not resist anything in this world, was the Buddha free to go into Nirvana! And only when WE stop resisting anything in this world will we be free to enter the kingdom of God within ourselves.
Understanding why we do not see eye-to-eye
All of my life I have been wondering why two people can hold diametrically opposed views, yet each is absolutely convinced that he is right and the other person wrong. I clearly saw that both views could not be right, so how could people be so convinced that THEIR view is the only right one and that all other people should question their views but they didn’t have to? In many situations I observed in life – on a world scale and in my personal life – I clearly saw that both sides in a conflict had a limited view.
The effect on me was that I was generally willing to question my own view. So whenever I found myself in disagreement with others, my basic reaction was to step back and look at my own view. In every case that led me to a deeper understanding of an issue, of myself or of other people. Every time I have not been willing to question my own view, I have ended up in a negative spiral. And after I escaped the spiral, I could clearly see that my refusal to question my view was caused by an attachment and/or a psychological wound.
The effect on me has been that I have become much less aggressive, much more mentally and emotionally non-violent, than I was when I was younger. Back then, I had more wounds, and they made it seem necessary for me to convince others that I was right. As I have seen this in myself, I have also become more aware of just how common it is for people to be in a negative spiral that causes them to very aggressively seek to change other people’s perception. Basically, this is the main cause of conflict in the world. It is also what politics has deteriorated into in many nations. It is not about finding a higher view but about seeking to force our polluted perception on everyone else.
So how can we begin to establish a foundation for attaining “peace on earth and good will among men?” Well, is it not clear that this can happen ONLY among people who are willing to admit that THEIR perception of a situation is not necessarily the ultimate one? And when we do see this, we can stop using our own mental state as a justification for seeking to impose our perception on other people.
As an example, let us look at my experience since I started doing this website. I have personally experienced how some people will write me very aggressive e-mails, and they are absolutely convinced that I will look at Jesus through their fundamentalist lens and thus be convinced by their arguments. I have even had people – whom I have never met and who know nothing about me – proceed to tell me how to change my personal life. Some even seek to be so derogatory or mocking that their aim must be to destroy my self-esteem. Thus, if I had been sensitive to such people, I would have given up the website in its first year.
Many people caught in a negative spiral actually are seeking only to get us to react. They attack us deliberately in order to force a reaction, so how can we avoid reacting by defending ourselves or attacking back? To me the key has been to have complete respect for free will. I respect that other people have a right to be in a particular mental state that makes them upset at me. I respect that they have a right to be in an underlying mental state that affects their perception, so they see me as the cause of all their troubles or the cause of evil in the world. I respect that they have a right to voice their opinion to me personally or by trashing my websites or books. Their right is to be in whatever mental state and have whatever perception that gives them the life experience they want right now.
Yet in respecting the free will of others, I must also be careful to respect my own free will, meaning that I have a God-given right to have any life experience I want. Thus, according to the Law of Free Will, I have an obligation to respect the free will of others and their right to say whatever they want to say about me—but I have absolutely no obligation to let what they say affect my state of mind in any way whatsoever. I am free to choose my own reaction or non-reaction to them.
My point being that when I realize the connection between mental states and perception, I can clearly see that other people look at me through their individual perception, which is a product of their underlying mental state and their psychological wounds. Yet their opinion about me is in no way a threat to my own state of mind, my own life experience. And when I no longer feel threatened because other people have a different perception of me or life, then I no longer have any need to change their minds or to impose my own perception upon them. I can set them free to be who they are, and in so doing I also set myself free to be who I am.
Does this mean that I don’t listen to others? Of course not. I can often learn from the perspective of other people. Yet because I have taken responsibility for my own state of mind, it is easy for me to see when others have not done the same. And thus I know that their drive is based on their psychological wounds and their perception is polluted by an underlying mental state. It really is true – as Jesus said – that when you have removed a particular beam from your own eye, you can very clearly see when others have not yet removed that beam. Thus, if they are willing, you can help them, and if they are not you can see that you have no need to let their opinion affect you in any way.
My point is that this gives rise to an entirely new way of interacting with other people, one that is free of the dynamics of the negative spirals. This is a non-violent, non-aggressive way of interacting, where instead of seeking to impose our perception on each other, we are all seeking a wider perspective which raises the consciousness of all of us.
Obviously, you cannot have this kind of interaction with people who are still in the mental state of a negative spiral. I have clearly experienced in my own life that many people actually enjoy being in constant conflict with others. They simply have not had enough of the struggle to prove other people wrong or to prove themselves superior. I can have complete respect for these people’s desire to have that kind of life experience for as long as they want. Yet I can also have complete respect for my own desire to transcend that level of consciousness and the people who choose to embody it.
To return to the negative spirals, my point is simply that one of the main characteristics of a negative spiral is that it causes agitation because you feel threatened by other people’s opinions. Thus, you cannot focus on refining your own perception and changing your own mental state. Instead, you simply have to focus all of your attention on changing the perception and mental states of other people. You actually think that by changing others, you will automatically change your own mental state. So really, how can you possibly break the mental state as long as you are caught in this trap of seeking to change others?
The simple truth is that you will NEVER escape a negative spiral until you realize that the spiral was produced NOT by external circumstances or other people. The spiral is the EXCLUSIVE product of the closed circle created by your surface mental state and your perception—which to the mental state seems like the absolute truth.
How do we start breaking the closed circle?
Here are a few factors that can help us identify a negative spiral and see the need to get out of it. I have personally experienced all of them:
- A spiritual teacher can challenge us and confront us with the need to look at the beam in our own eye. A good friend or a therapist can serve as our guru in this process. And sometimes the guru is disguised as an ant.
- We can use the reasoning faculties of the mind, combined with intuitive insights to actually come to see that we are in a negative spiral. A spiritual teaching or teachings on psychology can be a great help in this process.
- The school or hard knocks will inevitably increase the intensity of our suffering. It is our perception that creates both our external conditions and the mental state that responds to those conditions. If we don’t see this, our minds become closed systems and the second law of thermodynamics will increase the intensity until we simply cannot stand it anymore and decide to acknowledge the ageless truth: “I am the one who needs to change.” Yet how much suffering will it take before we reach that point, which is why the masters seek to step in and help us.
If you don’t want to wait for the school of hard knocks to make life unbearable and if you can’t find a guru in the phone book, how can you use your own reason and intuition to recognize that you are in a negative spiral? Here are some things to look for and some questions to ask yourself:
- The essence of a negative spiral is that you are focused on changing other people or outer conditions instead of seeking to change your own state of mind. What is your focus in life?
- The effect of a negative spiral is that it takes away your peace of mind, your enjoyment of life. Do you want peace or have you not had enough of the struggle?
- A negative spiral makes you think that the way you look at life is the ONLY way to look at life. Do you want to live the rest of your life with your current understanding or do you want to expand your understanding?
- A negative spiral makes you focus on the negative aspects of life, especially when it comes to other people’s actions or beliefs. You are constantly analyzing and judging others, and the entire purpose is to find fault with them, so you can reinforce your basic perception of life. How long do you want to keep finding fault with others or focus on the negative aspects of life?
- A negative spiral often makes you seek out people who have the same attitude and beliefs so you reinforce each other. You will often seek to avoid or even expel people with a different view of the situation. Thus, you reinforce each other and might seem to get along very well, but the sense of oneness is really based on your opposition to other people, you are united in being against others. How long can you be satisfied in such a closed circle?
- A negative spiral causes you to take the focus off yourself by making certain other people into scapegoats. Your group might find a sense of empowerment and purpose in criticizing, judging or even putting down other people. How long do you want to postpone your own progress by scapegoating, for when you put down others, you also put down yourself?
- You might be aware that putting down or criticizing others is not exactly Christlike behavior. But your group can justify its behavior by either believing you are doing this for a greater cause (the ends can justify the means) or by saying that because the other persons are so bad or wrong, it is okay for you to judge them (two wrongs make a right). How long will this self-righteousness seem more appealing than real spiritual growth?
- A negative spiral causes you to focus on the need to change other people. You might see them as ignorant or deluded people who need to be rescued by being converted to seeing life the way you see it. You might see them as enemies who need to be defeated or judged by you. You might even see them as non-humans who deserve to be punished by God through diseases or accidents or even by being taken out of embodiment. Yet is this the way you want to relate to other people for the rest of your life?
- A negative spiral might make you convinced that you are engaged in an epic battle to defeat evil by destroying it. This can be quite a thrill and give you a sense of purpose. Yet when will it dawn on you that neither the Buddha nor Jesus sought to destroy evil? They sought to make it irrelevant by freeing their minds from all elements of duality.
A negative spiral is an addictive drug
Many other characteristics could be described, but I am aware that he central issue in a negative spiral is perception. Thus, many people who are in a negative spiral are not able to see that they are in a negative spiral. Others will not be able to see any need to change what they are doing, as they can justify their behavior as being necessary for a greater good. It is amazing to realize that when people have a biased perception, they can justify absolutely anything. For example, I have seen people write extremely angry, sarcastic and mocking e-mails to other people yet at the same time accuse these other people of not being kind.
What it all boils down to is the simple fact that while we are in a negative spiral, we may feel a sense of purpose and a sense of empowerment. I have experienced this myself. You can feel that you are truly doing God’s work by exposing the misconceptions of other people and correcting this wrong that you perceive (failing to see it is seen through YOUR perception). You can feel empowered by putting other people down, because your frail sense of self-esteem is boosted by your perception of other people being far below you. You can actually enjoy proving other people wrong or feel superior for having exposed their faults.
One of the greatest challenges of breaking free of a negative spiral is exactly that we have to admit that our motives for criticizing other people were not pure. While we are in the spiral, we are absolutely convinced that our criticism (or worse) is completely justified by the other people’s bad behavior. Yet this is a product of our polluted perception, and when we finally begin to question our perception, we realize that the other people were not as bad as we thought. Thus, we inevitably face the ghost of having to question the purity of our motives.
This is clearly not an easy or painless task. I have seen people run away from it for a lifetime, and I have run away from it myself for years. Yet for me there always came a point when I decided to look at myself and recognize that my motivation was not pure because I was acting from a psychological wound. My basic approach to the spiritual path is that it is impossible to live in this world without being wounded. Thus, there is no reason to add the double burden of condemning ourselves for being wounded. Better to look at a wound, resolve its cause and transcend it. This requires some initial pain, but it always leads to true resolution that takes us beyond the constant pain of living with the wound.
It is our wounds that cause us pain, yet I realized years ago that pain can become so familiar that we almost can’t live without it—we think this is the way life has to be. A negative spiral gives us a great drive to change other people – or judge and condemn them if they will not comply – and this gives us a “perfect” justification for not changing ourselves. This is actually a very aggressive, intense and powerful energy, and it is like a roller coaster that may have its ups and downs—but it is nevertheless thrilling. These energies can literally become a drug, and you can become addicted to it.
I have personally felt this addiction for years, and I have seen people be addicted to this drug for a lifetime. You simply have to think about a situation, you have to talk about it, you have to criticize and condemn other people in order to get your fix. I have even seen people who claim to be ascended master students be addicted to this drug for decades, railing about the flaws of a spiritual teacher that they had idolized.
My personal conclusion is clear. As Jesus explains in the drama discourses, the Law of Free Will gives all of us the right to have any experience we want for as long as we want. So if people need to have the experiences they have in a negative spiral, who am I to tell them otherwise? I am NOT here to change the minds of other people, I am ONLY here to change my own mind.
I have personally always longed for peace of mind. About ten years ago, I realized that my deepest goal in life is to attain the Buddhic state of consciousness. I also realized that the key to Buddhahood is non-attachment. So whenever I am in a situation that takes away my peace of mind, I know I have an attachment, and thus I need to look at it in order to get back to peace and make progress towards Buddhahood.
This has given me a great motivation for looking at myself, and it has led me to understand the need to become mentally and emotionally non-violent and non-aggressive. If I want to help bring peace to the world, I am not going to do this by continuing the struggle to change other peoples’ minds. I must begin by changing my own mind, so I have healed all wounds and overcome all aggression. Then I can perhaps serve as an example of how to rise above the struggle instead of thinking I must save the world by “winning” the struggle.
I have recently realized that even the desire to change other people’s minds, to set them free or to help them change can be the seed of a negative spiral. I have come to realize that the desire to change other people’s minds can so easily spring from a desire to change other people’s perception of ME. I have recently realized that one of my personal dramas is that I have had a desire to have people like me, to see me as kind and to have a positive opinion about me.
Yet this desire inevitably causes me to seek to adapt my behavior – even my thoughts and feelings – to the opinions of other people. And it is but a short step to wanting to change their opinion of me by seeking to change their minds rather than seeking to change my own. And this is already the beginning of a negative spiral that can gain momentum before one notices what is happening. So I am totally surrendering all desire to change other people’s minds, including their opinion of me. The distinct energies of a negative spiral – the aggressive intent to impose a perception on others – are no longer relevant to my life experience.
The Law of Free Will gives me no power or authority over the minds of other people. It does give me full power and authority over my own mind—if I am willing to take responsibility for it.
Copyright © 2009 by Kim Michaels