DEAR FRIENDS- A life of deep inner peace, daily happiness and inspiring love are possible on Earth and attainable by you in this lifetime. The Promised Land you dream of is real and you were born to claim it! The door to this beautiful state of grace is a self-connection and self-acceptance so thorough and deep that you completely love and believe- in you.
As I have written elsewhere, this path of self-love involves freeing your mind of the illusion that you are somehow flawed and "not good enough"; opening your heart to the suffering you carry and fully releasing it; and embracing and living the joyfulness of your body.
No prior spirituality has at its heart the project of confronting and releasing one's emotional pain, and developing complete trust in and love for oneself. The spirituality of the future must use the best of ancient traditions while renouncing the distortions that all of them contain. We must think for ourselves, and question all we have been taught, if we are to fully set ourselves free.
To illustrate this, let us enter into an examination of the great tradition of Buddhism.
The soul of the Buddhist path is the practice of meditation. I heartily propose that meditation and the cultivation of mindfulness (the ability to center your awareness in this present moment) are not only helpful, but essential to living well and developing inner peace. I teach my students and therapy clients how to meditate and I personally do zen meditation every day. I have done so for 30+ years.
Crucially, however, I have found that despite its many positive effects meditation and the development of mindfulness have severe limits as a path of healing and awakening. People's emotional pain- and it's origins in childhood especially- is so effectively suppressed that no amount of meditation will bring that pain to conscious awareness, for the majority of people.
Relying on meditation alone as the lens through which one examines the self and its moment-to-moment experience ultimately led to the Buddhist ideology of "no-self". This doctrine states that you will only become free of your suffering when you renounce your identification with the unique you and come to identify with the transpersonal sea of energy. In other words, YOU don't really exist in a solid and meaningful way, and your pain, desires and dreams are also illusions. This, of course, is unrecognized/unconscious self-rejection mistaken as "enlightenment".
I hope that I can reach both your heart and your mind with this primal example. Consider the sense of love, wonder and sacredness you feel when holding a newborn child. Could anyone whose heart is open and mind is clear believe that this child has come to Earth to learn that she doesn't really exist? That her pure and precious body is a trap to be devalued and escaped (instead of being trusted and fulfilled)? Or that her emotions and desires will be a subtle prison of "attachment" and an illusion to be transcended? What a misleading view of our existence!
I believe that the Buddha- and the tradition that grew from his teachings- developed this approach simply because he wasn't aware of the childhood origins of people's pain and problems in life. He rightly- and with great courage!- faced the fact that there is great suffering in life and that this need not be so. But by not seeing that the actual source of people's suffering originates in abuse, neglect and misunderstanding as their personalities were forming during childhood, he devised a "cure" that failed to address the true problem.
Therefore, if you were in emotional pain, the answer wasn't to see how it originated in actual events and circumstances in your childhood, completely express it and release it, and learn to love and accept your unique individual self. Instead you are advised to cultivate a permanent meditative detachment that subtly splits your awareness away from your body and feelings. You train yourself to stand back from your feelings and watch them- rather than fully experiencing and expressing them.
Of course the ability to meditatively observe one's emotions is very helpful- that's why I meditate every day! But to cling to this detached "observer" state as a way of being in the belief that the observer is your real/only self is actually a way to renounce the value and meaning of your emotions.
True self-acceptance involves loving and validating all of your emotions. To love oneself is to take one's feelings seriously, and to work to understand what they are telling you. Your feelings are real and they matter!
It is both more awake and more liberating to break through denial and become fully aware of one's stored-up emotional pain, and thoroughly release it, than it is to only "watch" your feelings. And the result is much more aliveness, joy and self-acceptance- and therefore happiness!
I firmly believe that what we now know about the childhood origins of adult problems and suffering- knowledge hidden until the early 20th Century- and how it is stored in the body, must be combined with mindfulness-based practices for the complete liberation of the person. Buddhism alone- along with all the other ancient philosophies and religions- just aren't deep and thorough enough to free both individuals and the human race from the individual suffering and collective destructiveness that continues to plague us, despite the widespread adoption and practice of these ancient teachings. A single glance at the state of the world, and the widespread personal unhappiness of the masses, is ample proof of this.
Humanity's spiritual traditions and practices- unless they incorporate the revolutionary awareness of childhood's primal impact- have taken our sacred quest for peace, freedom and love as far as they can. As I have stated elsewhere, it is time for our next revolution of love and awareness.
And some of the key ideas of what I refer to as the old spiritualities- for example the Christian doctrine of "original sin/inborn guilt", the Judaic commandment to submissively "honor one's parents" (thereby burying the pain of neglect and abuse) and the Buddhist doctrine of "no self"- are actually toxic and perpetuate suffering rather than healing it.
Love and compassion, trust in oneself and faith in the goodness of life, are the eternal foundation of happiness. The doctrines of the past are incomplete roadmaps to making these experiences real in our daily lives. A deeper knowledge of why we suffer, and how we can be healed, is emerging. We must continue to evolve in our ability to set ourselves free. And I believe that the humblest of ideas- that one must fully love and believe in oneself- can lead our lives forward. LOTS OF LOVE- BRIAN