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Back to Basics

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by Roland Trujillo

   Every so often I like to write an article or give a lecture about basics. So here goes. Today my son and I went to play golf. At one of the tees, there were many beer bottles laying on the ground. I marveled at why anyone would want to drink so much.

   But it then dawned on me that they were after a high. People who drink, take drugs, engage in rituals, chant for long periods, get lost in music, or get a runner’s high are all after the same thing: a high.

   Some people don’t even have to take drugs or engage in a weird ritual. They can experience the high of hate, the high of using another, or the high of arousing a crowd or audience.

   What is this high that humans are after? It is a state of having one’s consciousness separated from God. At the same time one feels a sense of power or greatness, uninhibited by conscience or humility. Whether driving too fast, eating too much, working too much (to prove something or to escape from home), abusing their bodies, or upsetting others—the person gets a high from being liberated from conscience and doing something wrong, foolish or dangerous. There is a high from shocking people. There is a high from punishing or abusing oneself. There is a high from power over others.  

   Teens and kids who drink alcohol, puff on marijuana or sniff glue are repeating the age old quest for the high. In their case, though, it is most likely to escape from guilt for resenting their parents or to escape from the boredom of school. It often begins with being introduced to it by so-call friends, but then becomes the easy escape from conscience or boredom.  

    Kids are often mad at their parents—especially when the parents have been impatient, accusatory, or haven’t been there for them. Abandoned to the peer group, the kids become addicted to the group and guilty for giving up on principle. So they drink or smoke to escape from the guilt for hating their parents and copping out to peer pressure.

    Other kids, such as the ones in college, are often guilty for being ambitious, for copping out to the pressure to study and become something (other than what God intended).

    Maybe Adam experienced the first high. His heart started pounding as he reached with anxiety and excitement for the forbidden fruit. When he ate it, his consciousness became separated from God. Liberated from God and the straight and narrow, he ventured into the forbidden. It was exciting for a very short period. He did get high and felt like God for a few moments.

   But then he came crashing down to reality. He saw what he had done, sensed that he had changed, and sensed that the rapport he had had with the Father was gone.

   Eve was there. And now he saw her in a different way. He blamed her and used her. And it became her loathsome duty to support him in his fallen, animal, degenerating state. She had been used by evil, and now by her husband. She undoubtedly resented her husband for having lost paradise, and her guilt for resenting him drove her to try to make up for it by supporting his ego. For Adam, her presence was now a comfort and a distraction.

   He and his progeny wanted to forget the ignoble fall.  Now his progeny began to look for a high. Some them still wanted to get high and feel like God. They believed the lie that through reaching for the forbidden fruit of knowledge, they could be gods. Others sought to get high in order to escape from conscience, from boredom, from the pain of the reality they now lived in.

   They, and we, also developed a habit of escaping into the imagination. There we can pretend we are great and good. We can forget, for short while, the failing state we live in.

   The first high is feeling like God. The next high is to try to re-experience the first high and to escape from the guilt for the prior high.

   But each time, the high is less high. More drug or shocking experience is needed to escape from conscience and reality. Soon big doses of excitement, emotion, or drugs are needed simply for maintenance. Soon the idea is not to feel like God but to find relief from guilt and pain.

   Most of us have also been corrupted by emotions and feelings. Somewhere along the line we were emotionalized. Emotions give us feelings to escape into and emotions affect our consciousness like a drug. Drugs are a substitute for emotion. Many people can escape reality and wallow in feelings without needing any drugs or alcohol. Emotion washes away reason, and we get carried away. Emotions help us do what we want ambitiously or angrily, without the constraints of conscience. People turn to drugs and alcohol when emotion is not enough to totally escape from conscience, anxiety and reality.

   Who of us hasn’t gotten good and angry, storming away self righteously? And who of hasn’t known the high of being in love or the depths of depression when rejected?

   Up to a point it’s normal. As kids we love to watch scary movies, laugh at comedies and get excited at sports events.

    But at a certain point we begin to see that our emotions are not good for us. A big fright can traumatize a person and imprint them with a memory they can’t shake. The memory affects the rest of their life, making them afraid of cars, afraid of dogs, afraid of people, or of telling the truth. The emotion of fear invoked by the memory of the trauma, in these cases, paralyzes and restricts the victim. If the person uses another emotion (such as anger) to over-ride the first or uses alcohol to become disinhibited so as to function—they remain subject to emotion and a slave of circumstance and feelings.

    Even as kids we could see the dysfunctionality of emotions. We saw our parents fighting, our dad getting angry or our mom becoming moody and unhappy. We knew there was something wrong with it.

    And when we grew up and got married, we discovered, to our dismay, that anger, resentment, and hurt feelings began to ruin our home life. We had become emotionalized, and now through conditioning and having become externalized, we did not know how to function or live without emotions.

   Next we discover the physical toll that run-away emotions have on our bodies. Diabetes, heart trouble, stroke, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, ulcers, colitis, and other symptoms often have an emotional overlay. While it is true that conditions can stem from purely organic reasons, a large percentage of our physical woes have something to do with emotion, especially excessive emotion. Even being prone to catching colds can have something to do with the body being run down from being upset and stressed out. (Since few of us have to run from wild animals, as our ancestors did, stress is mostly our emotional reaction to the pressure of others).

   Now here is the basic point I’m making in this article: we were not intended to be emotional. While emotions are part and parcel of our fallen existence, we were meant to gradually transcend them and become calm and dispassionate.

   We all admire someone who is cool and calm under pressure. We like our airline pilots and surgeons to be in control. We like our parents to be stable and predictable. We like them to be reasonable. We quite properly distrust people who are out of control in any way. Incidentally, just as bad are those who repress emotion. On the surface they appear calm, but underneath they are seething volcanoes.

   As we outgrow the excitements of childhood and the passions of youth, we must become reasonable, stable, and calm.

   We must gracefully give up the pleasures of youth and become stable and measured in our ways. Most importantly, we must learn to give up resentment, the emotion of pride. As long as we think we are entitled to it and exercise our “right” to indulge it, we must suffer its destructive effects on self and others.  

   We must wean ourselves of emotion. I know this goes against the grain. We have all been taught that emotion is normal and we have been encouraged to cheer and scream, get angry and upset. We have been taught to drum up emotion to spur us on the victory over the other team. But when one team wins, the other is bummed out.

    We must find the way to remain naturally calm—not by becoming cold and unfeeling, nor by repressing. We must learn how to be steady: reasonable, and gracious in all circumstances, and cheerful most of the time.

   Though we be people of peace, sometimes life requires that we act boldly, even with force. But what prevents many of us from acting decisively is the fact that we are paralyzed by the emotions of fear, or else we are afraid of speaking up because the emotion of anger makes our words come out wrong. Paradoxically, by being timid, we actually embolden  wrong.

   If you can learn to meditate with the right intent, you will soon discover that you have been an emotion addict. Proper meditation will help you stand back and observe people, places, and things with calm objectivity. You will discover that it’s not necessary to build up a head of steam to act. Without excessive anger or emotional blocks, you’ll be free to be truly productive. Proper meditation will also help you stand back from the fantasy in which we become immersed when we become emotional.

   You will discover that another emotion—resentment—has affected and perhaps even ruined your life. Resentment is a sneaky high, one that involves secretly hating others and rejecting good. It makes us bitter, hostile, and guilty.

   Every emotion has its backlash. Because emotion is an extreme reaction, it bypasses the center. It swings us to one side, and then to compensate, our bodies swing us to the other. That is why the high is always followed by the low. And the emotion that has the worst backlash of all is resentment. It leads to self hatred, morbid thoughts, depression and bitterness.

   Therefore, it would behoove you to consider whether you should take advantage of your “right” to get excited, upset, or resentful. Consider the consequences of your indulgence.

   In a moment of anger, some of us have said something that we regretted the rest of our life. Others of us, basically decent, are troubled by the thoughts we have when we are resentful and angry. We don’t know how to control our emotions, so we bottle them up, clam up, become a doormat, and eventually become sick from the repressed emotions.

   By practicing the proper meditation, you can learn how to stay calm in the moment of stress. When the moment has passed, you are free to express yourself, without excitement or resentment. And what you say will be truthful and neither too harsh nor too mild.

   Many of us are capable of being calm when dealing with work or business matters, but when it comes to our own personal lives, we get upset and blow it. This is mainly because of the emotion of resentment, which leads to extreme subjectivity. Resentment and upset throw us into emotional thinking, where we tend to dwell upon the negative and wallow in misery.

   Once again, the right attitude (one of wanting to know the truth and being willing to acknowledge our own wrong) coupled with the proper meditation will permit you to calm down and begin to see the forest for the trees.  Life will not be boring. It will be quietly exciting. You will know the delight of discovering and realizing truth. You will joy and sweetness. And you will know peace. Not the eerie peace of separation from Reality and God, but the peace of reconciling to conscience and becoming a friend of God.