Thomas Merton’s way of life

Thomas Merton was a catholic writer and mystic, a trappist monk, and a pioneer in interfaith communication, specially with Asian religions and philosophies. Recently I have found a proposal about way of life, written by Merton, in the form of ten rules. Yet Merton was a monk, I think this rules can be applied to every person that are searching for a happy, joyful and fullness in their life, so I’m sharing here them, with some short comments of my own.

1. Meditate. Search for a meditation technique that fits your personality. Or, alternatively, be contemplative for a while in Nature or at home, alone. And do it daily, almost for a half an hour.

2. Live ethically. Try to make your life a positive contribution for people. Work ethically; if you can’t, consider to change your work. Don’t worry too much for money and successful career, at last, all these stuff are secondary. 

3. Live responsibly. You always have to know who you really are, who you are to be and what you are to do. If you don’t, then stop, think deeply and wait until you know it.

4. Have dreams and or goals. They give you the strong needed for surface the difficults of the daily life, and give you long-term perspective.

5. Work your mystic side. Enjoy art and music. Expand your sense of self, achieving higher states of awareness. The greater sense of self is achieved through losing yourself first.

6. Be intimate with Nature. Take daily note of the sky, the Sun, the Moon, the stars. Observe and be astonished with plant life.

7. Be partially a monk. Adapt any variety of monasticism to your life. Read deeply, study. Enjoy and honor the good food, the community.

8. Search for bliss. Not only for temporal happiness, entertainment, possessions, etc, but bliss. Think you are now in the right place doing what you must to do.

9. Develop your philosophy of life. Don’t follow the crowd, be free. Take the road less taken. Think about what you really are and want.

10. Learn form the spiritual traditions. Is not needed to join or believe, just learn. Find insights and meditations methods, and try them. Don’t separate secular from sacred.

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Thomas Merton (image from Wikipedia)

 

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To be grateful is always the right way?

Lately, in some blogs, Facebook pages and other sites, as if they had agreed in say the same thing at the same time, I have read about to be grateful with all the things that life sends to us, because all is for our well, for our learning and improving, etc etc. Frequently, this idea is showed together with other ideas, like acceptance and forgiveness. Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree. Is not the same at all. Let me explain my point of view.

Acceptance and forgiveness 

My life, like many other, have been a hard one, I’m not special, no need to explain details now. I have learned to accept it: we can’t control our lives, bad things and good things happen, and with both we can learn life lessons, true. And I have learned to forgive: resentment is a powerful poison, it can damage ourselves even  more than the events that originated the resentment; moreover, many times people damages us without bad intentions, they do wrong actions due to ignorance, not due to evilness. And lately my own ego has become weak, so is difficult to harm me with words. But, to be grateful with a bad life is something absolutely  different, from my point of view.

A bad teacher

Let me tell us a short history. When I was six years old I had an old teacher, this old man believed in an ancient idea about teaching: “learn to read, needs to bleeding”. Scare, right?

800px-La_letra_con_sangre_entra

A teacher punishing their students. Francisco de Goya, 1780 – 1785

That teacher used to physically punish their students, scaring them. I never forget a beating I received with a half-meter measuring ruler wood, due to my wrong answer replying their asking about some classification of triangles! The fact is, at the end of these awful year, my marks was excellent, so he achieved his aim: to force that little children to learn. For years and years I had bad feelings for that teacher, I hated him indeed. He was a cruel guy. Of course, now I have forgiven him: he only believed his way was the right one. And I have accepted the events. But, may I be grateful with him, or with the beatings? Must I be grateful with him? I think I must not. If I do it, then in some way I’m giving him some agreement, and this is awful, their methods are entirely objectionables without any doubt. So I think I must forgive, and accept, but never be grateful, for principles.

A bad life, Karma issues?

Life is another school, and we can have good and bad teachers too. We can learn from both, true, but, must we be grateful with bad ones? Sure there are better ways for to learn. Maybe some of the readers now are thinking about Karma: “well, there are people with really a lot of suffering in their lives, but is a consequence of their bad Karma for sure, so they need to clean it for achieve the peace in futures lives“. Of course, of course, but then, Karma are playing the role of my bad teacher, so I can’t be grateful with the consequences of bad Karma. So again, I can accept it and forgive it, but I never can be grateful with pain, suffering, etc.

A higher point of view

But there are light at the end of this post, trust me. So, let me explain a second short story from my own life experience, a story that started to change my life, driving me to the spiritual path.

My beloved mum died at forty-six years old, in an unfortunate accident; I was present in that time, and I was not able to help her. I have to say that she was a lovely person, who had a sad life: her dreams had broken, and she could not enjoy the life as she deserved. So her premature death was the final point to a unlucky life. Due to all this things, I felt in desperation and depression, which lasted almost two years.

In these sad days, sometimes I climbed a little hill, near to home, and looked the city for a while, searching for answers: Why? Why this ugly accident? Why her? It was a big city, about 1.500.000 inhabitants. I remember well the sirens of the firefighters, the police, and the ambulances: I could hear them almost constantly, in one side or another side of the city, people needs help, people are ill, people are dying, without stop.

Barcelona de nit

Source: http://www.marianyka.com/ , thanks for sharing Marianyka 🙂

One of these days, more exactly, a night, I became very angry… with all; the world was a crazy, cruel and ugly site. All seemed to me unfair a lot. And, if there was a God in somewhere, seemed to me He must to was a bad God. Then, with all my energy, I looked up to the sky, and mentally I said to God something like this:  “we are nothing for you, less than an ant, but your behavior is a bad one, very bad indeed, you gave this sad life to my mum, if I could be at your level, I would give your deserved“. I threw this thoughts towards outside with all my energy, all my bitterness, all my angry.

12-angry-men

That night I had a dream, a lucid one, you know, these dreams in which we know we are dreaming. A very tall man, dressed with a black tunic, with a long white beard, and a severe face, was in front of me. Then, he opened his arms and I started to fly toward his body; in this moment I was afraid, because I was awareness, and I thought “Oh my God, maybe this dream makes me crazy, I don’t like it at all“, so I crossed my arms protecting my head, and closed the eyes…

I felt some strange feeling of welfare, while I still was in fetal position, closed, but not so closed for don’t feel that it was something nice outside. Slowly, I began to open my arms and eyes, and then I saw light, but, what light! Impossible to describe it. I only can say that that light gave me welfare, maybe the light was pure welfare and goodness. So I opened myself, letting the light bathed me… the feeling of welfare grew and grew, wow! So I “jumped” into the focus of light, searching more and more. Then, the light was so intense that my body disappeared, in fact I disappeared, dissolved for the light, only remains a little point of self-awareness, I only was a point thinking “I am” within an ocean of pure light… and then I woke.

That pure light have the power of clean up any sorrow, any suffering, nothing negative can live in front of it. Maybe it was the answer of God due to my inflamed thoughts? Who knows it? But, this is my conclusion: no need to give thanks for bad things in life, there are a high awareness which can dissolve all the pain, when we achieve these state, nothing can harm us.

By the way, there are a scene of a cartoon movie, “Prince of Egypt”, that remembers me the pure light of my dream: when Moses was in front of the  burning bush, and God shows him His power.

Oneness of the self

About ten years ago my father-in-law, in that time a seventy years old man with basic level of studies,  ask a question to me, not an usual question, but a deep one:

"I was educated under Catholicism thinking, the religion teachers said us: God is omnipotent and omnipresent, He is in all the things, animated and inanimate ones, around you and within you, and He is in all places at the same time. But, when I see the iniquities of the life, as starving children, young people dying due to cancer and so, this teaching becomes too hard to believe for me, because how a omnipotent and omnipresent being can let this evil events be? If this being really exists, then He must be evil too, for to allow this bad way  be, or, otherwise, He can't be so omnipotent and omnipresent. What do you think about?".

In that time I can’t answer anything, although my first thought was “the question is raised in so simple terms, too simple in fact, I think the reality must be more complicated, but I don’t know enough about it for answer this direct and simple question”.

Well, I don’t forget the question, and now I wish to share here a possible answer; unfortunately my father-in-law can’t to know it because now he has a mental disease due to age. My answer have made combining modern physics science and mysticism. Maybe the reader think that is a strange combination, even a incoherent one; in such case, I must say that is a topic already covered, see for example The Tao of Physics. But here I will not follow any book. I must say now that I don’t pretend at all to give here some kind of “demonstration”  about God existence, my aim is only to show that, it He exists,  His omnipresence, omnipotence and goodness is compatible with all the disasters, evil events, etc. of our life. And I will not use any religion or faith, but science and some old mystic claims.

Now  there are two points for explain: the first we must consider is our object-oriented mind, and the oneness of the reality. The second, the oneness of the self.

Our object-oriented mind

The mind always works with stuff,  tags and properties. Thus, for example, it divides humanity into countries, religions, races, political systems, etc. It also divide existence into past, present and future. This approach is necessary for the mind to analyze the differences, identify concepts, related things, etc. So, for the mind, all are objects, classes of objects and properties.

Non-fragmented physic reality

Both the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics work with a treatment of reality as an indivisible whole, although the two theories make it in different and incompatible ways, but both indicate that physic reality is an indivisible whole. And more importantly, this “everything” encompasses our mind! The observer and the observed are not independent, are part of a single whole. Currently this is not philosophy, it’s science.

So, the object-oriented mind can not understand this oneness physical reality: it crashes trying to understand the concepts of non-separability and non-absolute time. Perhaps science have reached the limit beyond which the object-oriented mind, so well that we have been given so far, is proving to be insufficient to understand reality. And here we have the first important concept about our question: if a being like God exists, He must be beyond our object-oriented and limited mind, indeed, He must be as physic reality is: non-fragmented, oneness with the Universe. So indeed, He must be omnipresent, because the reality is.

Oneness of the self

“Everything you consider as being me, you, him, her, and that, everything is One”
Advaita Vedanta (XIX century)

“My nature is harmonized with that of Buddha. There is no duality, but unity and harmony: Satori”.
Yoka Daishi: The singing immediately Satori (Zen Buddhism)

“Do not ask if the Principle is in this or that, it is in all beings.”
Chuang Tzu, between the fourth and third centuries before J. C.

“My Self is God, not another I recognize that my God Himself.”
St. Catherine of Genoa

In the mystical experiences of peoples, cultures and different eras we find a similarity in the description of a mystical state in which one experiences the “identity” of all minds together and with the “supreme mind “. Also religions like Zen , Sufism , Taoism , Tantrism , Christian mystics , etc. . have similarities in this regard.

This similarity between people of different races and religions , separated by centuries and even millennium and far distances, and with little or no relation to each other or know each other, is really striking. In fact, the finding of this regularity is itself a scientific fact.

So let me assume that all these mystics was right, and there exist such consciousness state in which we live the unity. As we show before, such state can not be related with our normal mental state, which is fragmented by his own nature. Is more reliable to relate it with some “universal consciousness”, a state of connection with the whole, without fragmentation, as physic reality indeed is.

So, at this time, we claim:

  • The reality is all-in-one, without fragmentation; that reality includes our minds, of course.
  • There are many persons that have experienced mystic states of oneness with all, like the reality is, beyond the normal states of the mind

Thus our question can be answered in this terms: it is wrong to consider there are, in one side, a God, and in the other side, there are humans beings that suffer without any help of the supreme being, because from the “point of view” of God, all is one, that is, we and Him and the whole creation are one. Is our object-oriented mind that fragments the reality and drives us to such wrong concept.

For to show better the relation between us and the whole that I imagine, let me show a metaphoric similarity, using a well-known physical object: the light.

Nature of light

Physics science shows us that light expands from its source, like a balloon that inflates, filling all the space; the spherical waves are continuous, so with enough time each point of space is filled with light. In fact, light is an electromagnetic field; here, “field” means space, indeed, all the space without exception. Light is in all the points of the space. We can not talk about “this portion of light that is here or there”, but light is filling in all the space. That’s similar to our image of the reality beyond the ordinary mind, not fragmented.(Image from http://www.ualberta.ca)

Screenshot from 2013-10-06 21:03:27

But when light reaches matter, it can happens that light becomes trapped for matter, but not all the light, only part of it. In such cases, light becomes fragmented in units named photons. Every photon is pure light, its nature is the same as the whole, but becomes trapped for the matter.

The metaphor is: our normal consciousness works fragmented, as photons, but its true nature is as light, filling all the space. Moreover, mystics says that the nearest image that we can have of God is … pure light! So we can go more far with this metaphor thinking that God (or Self, or reality, or others names the reader prefers) is like the pure light, and our little individuals consciousness are like the photons: temporarily trapped into the matter, ignorant about its true nature.