One of the most potent of spells or enchantments that can bind you into the matrix is to live under the compulsion of always having to imagine getting more in the future. Under this spell, you become a donkey forever hypnotized by an imaginary carrot just up ahead. The carrot, the ‘more,’ that ever glitters in your mind’s eye like a ring of power, could be many things–sex, money, power, fame, looks–often the imagined more is a vision of that more perfected life just up ahead, the one in which you have realized your ideal weight, made your first hundred million, and have an amazing lover with whom you live in a house featured in Architectural Review… The phrase in the cigarette ad–“Imagine getting more…”–is meant to encourage you in the profitable belief that cigarette smoking leads to getting more sex. The warning label, black and white and boxed in, reminds the alert mind that what you will be getting more of is cancer. What you get more of when your eyes are bedazzled by the imaginary carrot just up ahead is more cancer of the soul. Your vision, your consciousness, is misdirected away from the present moment where it could have more power and life right now.
Most people on the planet experience scarcity in one or more key areas of their lives. Some scarcities are related to needs and others to wants. Common areas of perceived scarcity include money, physical resources, social status, youth, looks, sex, physical health, fulfilling relationships, inner resources, and meaningfulness. Most lives involve strange and tense combinations of scarcity and abundance. For example, a tan and sleek billionaire walking off the tennis court might be dying of a famine of meaningfulness. Our vision of scarcity is often highly distorted and one-sided. Perceived scarcities range from delusory toxic wants to what would be genuinely fulfilling if we had more of it.
Scarcity comparisons with other people are almost always unreliable and highly distorted. Typically we compare our area of most irritating scarcity with someone else who seems to have that area filled to overflowing. We never look at the whole portfolio of scarcity and abundance in the other’s incarnation. We can’t look at it, we’d have to know how their whole life turned out. We see tall, handsome Christopher Reeve galloping on his thoroughbred horse, we don’t necessarily see up ahead where he gets tossed to the ground a quadriplegic and goes through a life phase of horrendous scarcities as he becomes more soulful and compassionate and discovers new forms of fulfillment.
‘Imagine getting more’ and ‘envious comparison’ are intertwined spells that bind us into neurotic suffering. These spells promise fulfillment in the future but create hollowness in the present.
Hollowness is the mindset of the ringwraith as it withers the present while it forever reaches toward that glittering precious just up ahead. Hollowness is the state of one who forever reaches toward the future to be filled up.
Don’t wither the vitality of the present by looking at it with the eyes of scarcity and victimhood. All too easily you can build a reality tunnel defined by your view of the present as the time of scarcity before you have an abundance of money, or before you have the perfect lover, the perfect body…whatever you covet getting more of. This is the time that counts right now, this time with its strange and tense combination of scarcity and unrecognized abundance, the time that gives you everything you need to work within the present moment. Break the spells, become disenchanted and more powerful, work with what you’ve got right now.
Before we get into some ways to deal with the negative thoughts and feelings that afflict so many people, we need to know what does make people happier and to understand that we must first quickly reveal the secret of life.
The Secret of Life
In the 60s, aspiring young travelers set out to ‘look for the meaning of life.’ Unfortunately, as someone once pointed out, they got the question backwards, because it is life that asks you in a challenging tone: “What is your meaning?” and you had better be able to supply the answer. Meaningfulness is what we need far more than survival; and anyway, as Don Juan put it, “There are no survivors on this Earth.” Or, as a wise older man once told me, “Don’t do anything you won’t remember well on your death bed”—a razor-sharp way to cut out the trivia and superficialities to get at the meaningful marrow of life.
Concentration camp survivor/existential psychologist, Victor Frankel created a whole school of psychology (logotherapy) based on the innate drive for meaningfulness. The ones who could psychologically/spiritually survive the camps, Frankel observed first hand, were the few who could find meaningfulness in their experience. A frequent theme reported by those who have had transcendent near-death experiences is a revelation of a deep and unexpected meaningfulness in even the mosaic of small, seemingly unconnected experiences of life. Also revealed during many NDEs and other mystical epiphanies is that this plane of existence is something like a school where we signed on for extremely challenging learning experiences.
This brings me to what I believe are the two sides of the ‘Secret of Life’ magic coin. The first side is self-development—to grow, develop, evolve, become more self-aware and conscious in every way possible. This innate will toward self-development was apparent in you even when you floated in the dimension of the womb-world. The other side of the magic coin is to help others, especially with their development. There it is, both sides of the secret of life. And notice that, unlike so many other things in life, this magic coin is always available. But don’t take my word for it, go to the East and seek out a guru (who will probably hit on you and want you to sweep up around the ashram for twenty years), do whatever you have to do, but this is the secret of life that works for me and feels solid. I would also like to point out that the life stance I am espousing here in this guide is not my original fabrication (much though my narcissism might want to take credit for it), but is largely based on my 30-year study and practical application of the I Ching, the five-to-six-thousand-year-old Book of Changes, on which Taoism (and much of Eastern philosophy, martial arts, medicine and culture) is based.
And the I Ching doesn’t want you to have faith in it (uncritical belief) or doubt, but recommends an open, neutral stance. Take what resonates with your inner truth sense, what works for you, and leave the rest. Returning to the two sides of our secret-of-life coin, notice that self-development and helping others are two sides of a single, integrated whole. But the first side, self-development, is the foundation, and it is only by developing yourself that you have the option and capability to help others with their development. In fact, from the point of view of the I Ching, you have only one obligation in life, which is to get your relationship to yourself right. Fulfil that obligation and your relationships to others, to time, money, sex, power, food, mortality, career, politics, and the universe will all take care of themselves. But neglect or distort any part of your relationship to yourself and all these other relationships will accordingly be distorted and diminished.
At the heart of healthful relationship to yourself is a stance known as ‘inner independence.’ You (but not necessarily your ego) are the center of your own vortex, your own ever-changing equilibrium. Whenever you fall into dependence—grasping for Precious like an obsessed Ring Wraith, your center collapses and you become an enslaved puppet of the Babylon Matrix. A classic example of this is grasping for the ‘hottie’—that all attractive person out there burning holes in your mind like Sauron’s one ring to bind them all. Quentin Crisp put it this way:
The consuming desire of most human beings is deliberately to plant their whole life in the hands of some other person. I would describe this method of searching for happiness as immature. Development of character consists solely in moving toward self-sufficiency.
Codependence or inner independence? The first step on the path of seeking another to complete you is a supreme betrayal (the betrayal of your own soul) so don’t be surprised if betrayal remains a central theme of that path.
The Inner Marriage of Yin and Yang
Getting your relationship to yourself right means working to evolve the inner marriage of yin and yang, feminine and masculine within yourself. Get that right and as a whole person, you have the ability to have spiritually transforming, life-affirming relationships. Look to another person to complete you, however, and you become a wraith forever grasping for a Precious that forever eludes your grasp.
And of course Precious doesn’t have to be a hottie, it can be consumer goods, money, power, career, or whatever the Babylon Matrix can tempt you with that you believe you can’t live without. But I particularly mention the hottie because this ravenous craving, which most of us know so well, is a pillar of the Babylon Matrix.
In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes states that before we were in our present, gender-specific bodies, we were spherical beings containing both genders. Jealous gods, wishing to punish and disempower us, fractured our spherical bodies so that we would lose touch with our androgynous inner wholeness. In this weakened state, we were easily conditioned to follow gender stereotypes which reinforced the ravenous delusion that we needed sexual/romantic union with others to complete ourselves. Break the power of that ancient ruling ring (which in the darkness binds you) and you reclaim your own center of power, self-actualization and ability to love others as a whole person.
At the center of relating well to others, cautiously moving outward from your center of inner independence, is the I Ching principle of meeting halfway (Hexagram 44). Less than halfway would be, for example, to neglect others to whom we are connected by inner ties. More than halfway would be, for example, giving unasked for advice, proselytizing, self-important intervening, lifeguarding others, etc.
Even in the course of a conversation, one needs to apply this principle of meeting halfway by keeping attuned to the moment, aware of the subtle minutiae of openings and closings in the other person. With the openings we advance, with the closings we retreat and yield space. When the other transgresses, invades boundaries or comes at us with false personality, we should never go along with it, should never do anything that compromises our inner dignity. We should withdraw energy from the person who is coming from their false self. This can mean anything from breaking eye contact (a withdrawal of energy), ending the conversation, or in some cases, going our own way for a lifetime.
Psychic Filters and Inner Voices
Speaking of our thoughts, we need to watch them constantly. We need to recognize that different voices, often generated by distinct subpersonalities, speak in our heads, and we need a central, witness personality that observes those voices/subpersonalities without becoming them. Hexagram 27 reminds us not to nourish ourselves on negative, unnourishing thoughts and fantasies. Yes, that’s easier said than done, but there are psychic filters that are guaranteed to catch all the psychic allergens (the negative thought forms) that all too easily pervade our inner world. We’ll call one of these the ‘tone filter.’ As you listen to the voices of your inner world (or the voices in your outer, interpersonal world) refuse to believe any voices that aren’t calm, compassionate and centered. Listen to them, understand where they are coming from, but don’t become them, don’t identify with them or believe them. If a voice is nagging, carping, bitter, mechanically repetitious, whining, angry, self-pitying, hypercritical, etc. then it is not to be believed! By tone, you can easily distinguish the voices of false sub-personalities and the still, deep voice of the Self.
This leads us to wonder if some of this may have been helpful for Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We will never know. But, we can learn from the lives of those who appeared to have it all but still chose to end it and be kinder and wiser with ourselves.