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The Power of Free Will – Blog Post #4

The Power of Free Will

     Free will is defined as, the power to act without fate as a constraint. It can be argued that most animals do not have free will (or at least the contemplative free will that humans experience). Animals’ reactions to their environment are based, for the most part, on Darwinian survival instincts. This isn’t to say that animals are incapable of love. Anyone who’s looked deeply into the eyes of a dog, for example, can feel something beyond the dog’s survival instincts. But with respect to choosing one’s destiny, the free will of a dog falls short and is overridden by both internal and external forces (like those of the almighty doggie treat). And although we humans have our own internal and external forces to contend with (like those of the almighty hot, glazed donut), what distinguishes us from our animal kin is an aspect of self-awareness that draws us toward personal growth and conscious evolution.

     It’s important to recognize that we, like all animals, have fight or flight survival instincts as well as need-fulfillment programs within us. These, however, can rob us of our free will. As long as we have unhealthy, unexamined desires that we’ve set on autopilot and fears that we choose to run from without confronting, we will at times be a slave to our inner animal. Without taking control of that animal, the potential exists for us to eat, drink, drug, or stress ourselves to death. In seeing this, we have a choice to evolve… but that evolution doesn’t come for free. The choice to climb toward a higher experience is a choice to leave a lower experience behind. And it’s here that our free will really shines. This involves trading short-term gratification for long-term benefit. That choice - and the realization of its benefits - is what separates us from the mouse who uncontrollably rushes to the mouse trap that’s loaded with cheese. When we spot the trap, we increase our capacity to choose; and when we increase our capacity, we increase our power.

     The tipping point of accessing the power of free will is self-analysis. Focusing on how, in the past, we’ve let our inner animal lead us astray is key. Examining that dynamic… learning from it… seeing how and why we acted unconsciously, we’re then able to set ourselves up for success the next time we encounter a similar, tempting force. The willpower it takes to exercise free will and make a higher choice isn’t won in the moment of choosing; it’s won in the homework of self-reflection that’s done before the moment even arrives.

     At times, this can feel like a futile endeavor. Taking command of one’s unhealthy cravings and limiting fears is a journey rife with failure. But despite repeated failures, the choice to keep trying is the choice that makes your free will endure. All you can do is the best you know how to do. And when that falls short, you begin the next day with a new and improved, ‘best you can do.’ Every time you fall - as long as you don’t give up - you get up stronger and that much closer to sustained success.

     Start small. Pick an undesired habit, and study it. Make it your focus. Ask why you do it. Don’t settle for the topical, pleasure-centered reason; rather, drill down to the real reason... the subconscious reason. And don’t stop drilling until you get an answer that rocks your world. When you throw yourself at this effort in such a way, life will rise to meet you, and help will come to you in so many subtle and unexpected ways.

     It is said that fortune favors the bold. You must be bold to engage the endeavor of knowing yourself, seeing your unconscious acts, and countering your unhealthy habits. But there is no greater fortune than the freedom gained from your ever-expanding free will… and your free will is the spark that ignites the engine of your personal evolution.

( Post comments and ask questions on social media and email links at: www.authormannygarcia.com )

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The Perfection Paradox – Blog Post #3

The Perfection Paradox

     “Perfect” is a word we rarely use seriously about ourselves. Like meticulous mechanics, there’s usually something about our lives that we want to tweak, change, improve, add, or remove. Just when we think we’ve got the perfect balance or set of circumstances, life steps in and prompts us to shift into maintenance, upgrade, or repair mode. There are parts of this process that are quite natural and life-enhancing. Other parts, however, can become obsessive and life-eroding. Two realizations about perfection are necessary to keep us on the healthy side of the concept. The first is that there’s inherent perfection in all of us… right here… right now… as we are. The second is that the unfolding journey of life is what’s perfect… not any apparent destination. It’s easy to get caught, however, in a state of anxiety when we look at life - or at ourselves - and see a picture that isn’t the way we want it to be.

     A photograph is a frozen moment in time. It’s a capture of one small piece of a larger scene that’s unfolding… going somewhere… becoming something. The captured photograph, though, is perfect - just as a captured part of anyone’s process at any given moment is perfect. At the age of 1, burying your face into your food at the dinner table and using mashed potatoes as hair product is wonderfully perfect. Carrying that public dining ritual into your adulthood, however, may present some difficulties. As this example illustrates, perfection is an ever-present state; and paradoxically, it is ever-changing. When we try to stay in the frozen photographs of the past - not letting go of one perfect moment to welcome an evolution of perfect moments - we cause trouble for ourselves. Attachment to past perfections will cloud our view of the perfection that’s evolving all around us and within us. Life teaches us - sometimes painfully - that perfection will not be contained. It will not stay frozen in time. It isn’t something you can box up and stow away. Perfection is a flow that you must learn to live within. And the more unattached to the past you become, the more perceivable and accessible life’s inherent perfection will be to you.

     The ever-present perfection of life has its source in love, which is the only perfect force in life. And despite temporary illusions to the contrary, love’s perfection is within everyone and everything… without exception. Dark times and dark circumstances appear dark to an innocently ignorant perspective that can’t see beyond its small view of its own little world. Nightfall is not the end of the sun; it’s a phenomenon that makes beautiful sunrises possible. This is as true for a solar system’s rotating planets as it is for us. Darkness is not a sustainable state in the Universe, nor is it sustainable in our own lives. When we are open and humble, darkness teaches us, motivates us, and even guides us in ways that are invisible to a mind that is stuck in victimhood. We must be ever-vigilant, though, because the mind is an imperfect instrument of perception - especially when we use it to examine ourselves. The mind can be deceived by appearances and jump to incorrect conclusions - all the while unaware of its own delusional biases and perceived limitations which have been subconsciously adopted over the course of our lives.

     When we reach for a perfect self or a perfect life, we’re just reaching for something we’ve already got. And when we quiet our mind’s chatter, we’ll begin to feel an internal and external perfection that transcends thought and even logic. Once we discover and accept that perfection within us - and that we’re perfect in this moment, exactly as we are - we allow our perfect nature to evolve… blossoming even more… shining even brighter… frame… by frame… by frame.

( Post comments and ask questions on social media and email links at: www.authormannygarcia.com )

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The Absolute Paradox – Blog Post #2

The Absolute Paradox

     There’s an ancient and cleverly self-contradicting, Buddhist saying that goes something like this: “Enlightenment can be summed up in two words: Not Always So.” This playful adage implies that we should use caution before casually using words like… only, every, always, and never. But if – as the ancient Buddhist sages imply – there are no absolutes, then how are we to orient ourselves on the vast and often confusing ocean of life? Is there no “true north” to be found?

     As we gaze up at the night sky, nearly every star in the heavens appears to be in motion due to the Earth’s rotation; every star, that is, except one: Polaris (a.k.a., The North Star). Because our planet’s axis points directly at it, Polaris stays fixed and unmoving – regardless of where you happen to be viewing it. However, from the perspective of a ship at sea being tossed around by winds, waves, and currents, Polaris will appear to move; but of course, the ship’s motion is what gives this appearance. In that metaphor, Polaris represents unassailable truth, and the ship represents our constantly moving minds.

     Every waking hour, we are pushed and pulled by what appears to us as truth. These appearances, however, are filtered through the very biased and imperfect instrument of our mind’s perception as well as the mind’s interpretations about life. How then, in the throes of life, can we keep our gaze fixed (and much less, find) what is reliably unmoving and constant? Two words: intuitive feeling. Truth has a feel to it. Sure, it can also make logical sense… but inevitably, higher truths – when first glimpsed – will confuse and disorient the mind’s limited perspective. Truth is not something we can cook up in a lab. It can’t be created, it can only be discovered. And it’s with the navigational sextant of our intuitive feelings that we’ll make that discovery. The compass of the mind is well-intentioned. But if a compass passes by a large, metallic object (i.e., metaphorical cravings and fears), the instrument goes wild and – as a result – leads you wildly off course. The mind and the compass are both useful instruments. Knowing their limitations and how they can be influenced, though, is the key to safe and effective navigation.

     As we become more in-tune with what feels true about ourselves and about life, we begin to sight immutable truths. For example, spiritual evolution will eventually take us to a vista where we’ll see that love is the highest response to any stimulus. Full stop. When our ego has been thoroughly consumed by our own core essence of love, this principle becomes as obvious and incontrovertible as saying that Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. But that kind of crystal clarity rarely happens without experimentation; and it is through experimentation that we discover what’s functional and sustainable. Our preconceived notions about what we think is true can then be replaced by what we feel is true. And how is it that we can hold onto this feeling? One word: humility. Humility attracts truth like a magnet… and humility is accessed by surrendering the machinations of the mind to a flowing openness of the heart. It is this openness that keeps the mind teachable and makes the mind aware of its own delusions and misperceptions.

     When we fully engage the process of feeling for truth rather than thinking for truth, perhaps we will discover unmoving, “North Star” absolutes… in particular, with regard to the power of love. It’s worth noting, however, that in 13,000 years, a slight precession of the Earth’s tilt will result in our planet having a new North Star… the star Vega. And while the ancient Buddhist saying, “not always so” is applicable to astronomy, is it also applicable to the timeless principles of love?
Perhaps not.

( Post comments and ask questions on social media and email links at: www.authormannygarcia.com )

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Welcome – Blog Post #1

     Welcome to this ongoing blog about topics in the book, A Glossary of Life – Deeper Meaning Behind Our Common Words. As I stated in the introduction of the book, none of this material is being offered to tell you what to think, but rather, to prompt you to think. This is an invitation to engage controversial concepts about life, death, and truth… and to hold those concepts up to the light of your own experience. To do this authentically, a degree of openness (along with equal parts courage and humility) is required. Openness is really just a willingness to be wrong… to see further than you’ve seen before… to welcome new insights that elevate your perspective. But higher perspectives of the spiritual kind are only genuine when they are felt as true… not just thought of as true.

     Whether discovery is scientific or spiritual, it can never be obtained for free. Surrendering old perspectives and once-treasured beliefs is the fee for progress, growth, and further enlightenment. Life itself is engineered in a way that urges us to explore the unknown. We are each gifted with a creative spark that wants to know and experience itself as more. And with that experience comes the thrill and fulfillment of unraveling the mysteries of life. This thrill, however, never ends because mystery is an inexhaustible force of life; and the unraveling of one mystery immediately leads to another… and another… and another…

     Along this never-ending expedition of discovery – if we’re not careful – our accomplishments can cause us to slide into an arrogant mindset that believes we have it all figured out. Thankfully – about 2,400 years ago – the Greek philosopher, Socrates was thoughtful enough to offer future generations a profound insight when he said, “If I am wise, it is because I know that I do not know.” Embracing the noble humility of his words, I look forward to engaging your questions and comments. May we learn from each other… and may that learning never cease.

Cheers,

-manny

( Post comments and ask questions on social media and email links at: www.authormannygarcia.com )