The Magic List

Recently my wife introduced me to the show My name is Earl. It's a hilarious show with an interesting premise about Karma and lists. On a side note I am glad I discovered this show now, as opposed to a few years back, as I can happily indulge in bad accents, which this show definitely provokes.

But what has interested me most is the concept of the list, and Karma holding the main character to fulfilling the list. The character needs to make up for all the bad things he's done so he can live a good life. It's simplistic in a way and the character's choice to do it is based more on a selfish desire than a genuine wish to make up for harm done, but he changes as time goes on.

I don't necessarily think I'd go and create a list of every bad thing I've done, but I do think there's some truth to the notion that how you live your life creates what comes into your life. For a long time I lived a very chaotic life. Some of that was due to circumstances I had no control over initially, and some of it was due to my own choices. I wouldn't say it was a bad life, but it was chaotic and as such I encountered a lot of chaos as well. Then eight or so years ago I started doing internal work such as the elemental balancing ritual and meditation to work through the internal chaos. And as I did this work, I gradually found that my life started to change. Less chaos, more stability, and more realization of the impact my actions had on others and myself.

Continuing to do this work even now has shown me that it is possible to change your life, but to truly change you must be willing to examine in depth and take responsibility for your choices and the consequences of those choices. I am not an enlightened person and I have definitely made my share of bad choices and mistakes and hurt some people along the way. I'd never deny any of that, for the denial of such things denies an essential part of my life and identity. But even as I don't deny my choices, I also don't deny that I've made some good choices and had some positive impact on others through those choices. Most important however is the continued work to recognize and release myself from reaction so that I can make choices from a well-considered, conscious place of mind, body, and spirit.

A magic list might just be what some people need to change their lives, but genuine change must occur at the core of the person, through a realization of what the person can become, as opposed to some nebulous force that holds you accountable to change. If changed is prompted by an external force is it really genuine? Only if that change brings with it a realization on your own part of a desire to change yourself because you recognize a need to be responsible to yourself and others for your actions. Transformation starts from within and manifests outward in the way you live your life and in what kinds of situations you encounter as a result of your actions.

I can't say I'm a good person. Then again it's not necessarily my desire to be "good." (whatever that is). I can say, more and more, that I am a person of my own conscious choices and that I am content to live with the consequences of those choices, even when those consequences aren't favorable. I couldn't have said that 8 years ago. It's the conscious choices you make, both internally and externally, that speak to your identity and its expression on the world. You don't need a magic list or Karma for that...but what you do need is a willingness to hold yourself accountable and make your choices based on values you have chosen as opposed to ones provided to you by someone else. Move beyond your reactions...embody the life you want to live, based on the values you've chosen. That's magic...living life on your terms.

Need and desire can be spiritual

"When we think the solution to our unhappiness can be found in the external world, our desires can only be temporarily sated. Not understanding this, we are tossed this way and that by the winds of desire, ever restless and dissatisfied. We are governed by our karma and continually plant the seeds of future karmic harvest. Not only does this mode of action distract us from the spiritual path, but it also prevents us from finding satisfaction in our daily life" -- Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche I was thinking about what's written above the other day as I was walking around the Hawthorne district in Portland. I'd just come out of Powells (a bookstore) and I realized that while I'd enjoyed going into the store and looking at the books, I'd also felt a sense of dissatisfaction, a recognition that nothing I could purchase would be anything more than a distraction, an illusion. I might temporarily fulfill a desire and enjoy doing so, but I would still have to come face to face with the underlying reality that whatever I got was only a temporary distraction from that desire, and it would come back to remind me that it needed something more.

Since then I've also been thinking how much desire and attachment actually anchor a person into living life, providing the drive that people have to live, and I consequently wonder how much the valuing of the spirit over the material world is just another desire, another sign of dissatisfaction expressed in trying to find some spiritual answer that will take away any sense of need a person has.

Seems to me that need and desire are spiritual in and of themselves. Without the need or desire for something, would we strive so much for our goals, our projects, our ideals, etc.? When we determine that something is not spiritual, aren't we just creating the dualistic divisions that cause Karma? I find the subtle hierarchical beliefs about the spirit vs the material to be the most dangerous because in trying to divide everything up we also end up labeling it and using that labeling to create the dualistic tension described as karma.

If satisfaction is to be found, it must be found in our ability to make peace with our desires by accepting them as gateways to spiritual experiences that also allow us to perceive the material world as the manifestation of the spiritual. Instead of dividing, why not just experience it all?