The last few weeks I have not kept the two promises I made to myself this year – to write every week and to train 3 times per week to the best of my ability. Life has been mostly about work, although I have spent the weekends with family. I have nothing to complain about, I just see that time has been a factor and I have felt overwhelmed by the number of things to take care of at work and in my personal life. I think what has happened as a result is that I have become aware that I am questioning some of my heartfelt beliefs. They have been turned upside down and examined. When this started a few weeks ago, I was feeling angry, resentful, overwhelmed and confused. The trigger that started this was the «expected» passing of my mom and then the totally unexpected passing of the father of my child. I am seeing so many analogies between life and what I do on a daily basis for work. My work is in the consulting field. I have clients and we go into their business and assess their processes and provide recommendations to improve their processes and help them mitigate risk. How does this translate into challenging my beliefs? Hang on, here we go.
In my line of work it is best practice to have a sound control environment based on a set of principles for which the company should have elements, or mechanisms in place to help ensure the environment is sound. There is documented guidance around this. A theory or policy, if you will, that details these principles and provides examples of what good mechanisms would be. It is called COSO 2013 and three important elements are control environment, risk assessment and control activities.
In daily life I have come to the conclusion that society also has the same thing but for control environment, the main one is religion, the one of your choice, and for those that do not believe in any religion, we have spirituality. Many spiritual principles are found in religion. I am of the opinion that religion is more rules based and prescriptive whereas spirituality is more guidance based. Documented policy for religions are found in the Bible or the Quoran or the Torah to name just a few. For spirituality we have hundreds of «teachers» who have their own view on spiritual principles and how to apply these in our daily life. The risk here is inconsistent guidance and application of these religions and spiritual principles that I believe in.
Risk assessment and controls
Nevertheless, in the business world, once you assess your risks – what could go wrong – you are supposed to implement controls to mitigate the risk, or reduce what could go wrong to an acceptable level – i.e. no huge impact on operations and / or profit or life as the analogy. The following chart provides only a few examples of things that could go wrong and controls:
Spiritual teachers do not really believe in things going wrong, examples of this are as follows:
- Dis-ease – because there is no such thing as disease, it is simply your mental state of being causing the dis-ease.
- Death is not really death but «passing» and nothing has gone wrong because we are infinite beings and we have merely transitioned to the non-physical. There is absolutely nothing to feel bad about. Our loved ones are still with us and life goes on. They have merely gone to a better place and we physical people are here continuing the circle of life. We are born, we live, and we die. No problem.
Many of the spiritual teachers preach that your thoughts create reality, therefore thinking about what could go wrong will surely bring it to be and therefore the focus is mainly over loving, kindness, truth, understanding, compassion, tolerance, gratitude, and service or helping one another. Stay positive. I think the Dalai Lama said that these basic principles are found in all religions. I have not read the Torah or Quoran so I am basing this on his word and corroborated with what other people have said. The only one I know enough about is the Bible and therefore the bible will be used in my analogy.
Life – In life we have my example, the Bible, and it has Ten Commandments. These would be the rules. The authority is God and if you break the rules you are to feel very bad and go to hell. This is the control. Comply or burn in hell. Until you do, feel guilty about it. In addition, monitoring is through the form of weekly attendance at meetings – church. To ensure adequate revenue to offset increased expenses and help ensure adequate profit, or enough to go around and be of service to others, there is the donation portion of the church mass. However, in my humble assessment, they have done a poor job of ensuring consistent understanding of their basic guide. The Bible has been translated over thousands of years, leaving the book open to some questionable interpretation. For example, intolerance and killing is frowned upon, except in war, and intolerance over those who do not fit into a box. Whose box? Who decided? Oh right, the authority God, but he, as portrayed in the bible, is shifty at best and inconsistent in His own application of his own rules. I am reminded of the monologue from the movie the Devil’s Advocate:
« Who are you carrying all those bricks for anyway? God? Is that it? God? Well, I tell ya, let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He’s a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift and then what does He do? I swear, for His own amusement, His own private cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is He doin’? He’s laughin’ His sick, fuckin’ ass off. He’s a tight-ass. He’s a sadist. He’s an absentee landlord. Worship that? Never! »
But I had questioned this belief system long ago. I feel more comfortable with spirituality. But some beliefs I have come to hold dear to my heart, or as Louis CK likes to call it «believes» have been turned on their head and I have a new assessment today.
Believees around «Thoughts create your reality, stay positive, everything happens for a reason»
This sounds like the perfect control to mitigate anything ever going wrong. Just think love, compassion and be grateful and all will be well. Anger is a secondary emotion, only the «good feelings» should be given attention. Anything else is a sign of sickness or dis-ease, ignore these and they will go away. There is something wrong with you if you feel sad, depressed, and angry. In some groups, these are signs of addiction. Everything happens for a reason. Go to church or a meeting. Meetings would be those monitoring controls like church mass for support groups.
In my recent experience, this is completely and totally false. It is blanket statements like this that are dangerous. Case in point, the unexpected passing of my daughter’s father. He was released from a hospital with a severe skin infection and at risk for sceptic shock. He was an amputee with no legs, living alone. There was no compensating factor to help ensure he would be ok if something went wrong in his apartment. What went wrong? He fell over from the sceptic shock and could not do anything to help himself, like reach his cell phone and call for help. He was left that way for 3 whole days and died of sceptic shock. What were his thoughts before he passed this way?
- He was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, having been released from intensive care and on the road to recovery.
- He was looking forward to moving into his newer larger apartment and looking forward to seeing myself, his daughter and grandsons.
- He had been working out to improve his upper body strength.
- He had recently stated «Life is a process, not a struggle. Keep smiling».
Sounds pretty positive to me and if those thoughts were supposed to create his reality, then something went horribly wrong. Not according to the spiritual gurus though – no. He is in a better place now and no longer suffering. I have a question: should we just off all these people we consider to be suffering? Of course not. It is not up to us physical beings, there is infinite intelligence out there that decides all that. Circle of life remember? Everything may happen for a reason?
Believees around Spiritual principles – Love, compassion, tolerance, understanding, hope, faith, gratitude, and open mindedness
I still believe in these. I do. However, the challenge I faced recently was in the application of these by other people who apparently follow these same principles, supposedly. I see a lot of intolerance from spiritual people towards people who do not follow their rules. Case in point – my daughter was feeling very shocked by the sudden loss of her father. Well-meaning people reached out to her, with heartfelt intent, and told her that anger was not a healthy emotion and it was secondary. She was told to get over it and let it go. At least now she could get over her daddy issues. She asked for space but she was told to go to meetings and that her life was at stake if she did not go. Really? That because she did not identify as an addict at this time of grief she could die. She was not listening to advice and people were getting intolerant of her feelings and her.
It would appear, that much like the bible, if you do not follow the rules and do not attend that monitoring control, you will be faced with the same inconsistent application of those very principles that are preached. If you disagree with something, you are in denial. If you do not comply, you are sick. If you feel angry you are unhealthy and, again, are negative, attracting shit and etc……… If everything happens for a reason, then maybe feelings and emotion arise for a reason too? Maybe open-mindedness is a two way street?
Believee #3 – Believing in other people’s perception of reality
I became aware that all those above guidance examples had driven some of my beliefs. Other people wrote books, articles and policies. I found myself believing in their perceptions. Not my own. I never questioned them because they were embedded in my mainstream day to day life. Experts must know better, books that have been around for centuries must know better, despite the fact that the same nonsense has been occurring for the same number of centuries. I never questioned any of these, and always doubted myself. It felt awful, but negative feelings must be ignored and so on and so on. I believed more experienced people telling me I was not good enough. I believed that professionals knew better than me. I felt very conflicted. I should be allowed to question things. That is what my mind is for.
So I felt all of those feelings. I did not attempt to change any of them. I was no longer afraid to attract negativity because I was angry, resentful, and sad. I went through it. I am stubborn by nature and pretty determined, and on a positive day perseverant. I did not give up during the overwhelming moments of the past weeks but I stopped beating up on myself for anything. I started to question the above. I allowed myself to chill and accept at my own pace. Nobody else’s. I would find relief in breathing, appreciating the wind, trees and flowers, seeing/talking with my daughter and grandsons, and of course, thinking of the ocean.
Here is my conclusion – there is no control. You cannot prepare for things going wrong to ever guarantee they will not. We humans were given a mind and feelings. If feelings are here to guide us then there is NO secondary emotion. They are all valid and must be addressed in order for these feelings to provide the value they were supposed to provide, otherwise we would not have all these feelings. Just like there is a reason for every part of our physical body, so too is there a reason for those pesky intangible things like thoughts, and feelings/emotions. Logical, scientific and now what? What happens now?
I was feeling pretty shaky when I lost my faith in my believees. After all, these are what helped me get out of my cycle of self-destructive behaviours. I started wondering if maybe I was wrong and that maybe I was sick in the head. Maybe I was a diseased addict and needed to go back to meetings. If I was losing touch with my spirituality, where could I find it again?
Here is where I found it – in myself. I have heard multiple times that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. THIS makes sense. This is how thoughts help with perception of reality. The reality is that life will happen on its own terms. No matter how loving, compassionate, tolerant, understanding, patient, grateful and kind you are, life will happen and it will not always be your preferred way. No matter how many positive thoughts you think, negative things will happen. Why? Because that is life. You cannot control life. The one thing you can control is your response to it. And in optimal scenarios, learn from it. Lessons learned. Resistance is still futile, but it exists, until it passes – the choice is mine.
I have a mind, feelings and thoughts and I am able to make choices. Because of that I no longer believe that I am powerless or diseased. I have the power to change how I think, not to prevent reality (fear) but to make the most out of reality (love). I will not always comply with everything because I a human being. I will make mistakes, let myself and other people down. I will not be perfect. I will feel all ranges of emotions and this will not make me sick or diseased. I am alive and life is to be experienced. As a result, I know the following to be true in my experience, that ironically those mistakes previously alluded to, helped me learn:
- In order for me to accept that life is good enough, I must also accept that I am good enough. I will continue to do my best and that is enough.
- My perception of reality is as valid as anyone else’s – it is time to believe in my own and myself for that matter.
- Life is not a dream but an experience, best felt in appreciation, but with the understanding that when it is not fun, this too passes, like waves.
- Experts can make mistakes too. Mistakes lead to learning. Learning leads to more awareness.
- It feels better to love, understand, empathize, tolerate and be compassionate, not because I am told to but because it feels better to me. How I feel matters.
- I need to learn to prioritize myself, listen to myself, my mind and body.
- I also need to learn to chill and relax. Finding balance in my life has become a goal.
- Regardless of how some people preach and apply spiritual principles (sometimes using blanket statements and intolerance when their rules are not followed) I still believe in spiritual principles. My mind is open.
- Thoughts create your perception of reality, life creates reality with all of us being players in it.
- I still love life and believe that life does love me.
I feel relieved having written this. The waters feel calm, still, more at peace somewhat. I understand that changes in my life are required, but I think I am in good shape to change what I can and I accept that which I cannot. My new found belief in myself feels good enough for today. Just the way I am. I will still talk to my mom and loved ones that have passed, because my perception of reality is that they are here in spirit and that makes me feel better. Regardless of what the experts say. After all of the recent events, I still feel hope and appreciation for life. I am happy about that. It means that all those feelings had a purpose and brought me to where I am at this moment. So seize the day, make the most of what you have. Relax – nothing is under control.