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Spiritual Floundering
by Art Ticknor

Bob Cergol made a presentation at the June 2011 TAT Foundation weekend gathering titled "Disciplined Commitment on the Path." He didn't know if he was going to be able to make it there, so he asked me to substitute for him if necessary and provided some notes he intended to use:

  • NOT acquisition through disciplined effort
  • BUT subtraction through disciplined commitment
  • How one lives that commitment is a unique challenge to each seeker
  • State of mind / states of perception are key [explore]
  • Mistaking awareness as belonging to the body-identity leads to erroneous conclusions
  • Commitment: sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose ("a man of energy and commitment")
    • The act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action

I gave some thought to how I might approach the topic as a substitute speaker, and one of the first items that popped into my consciousness was the key statement in Richard Rose's teaching that definition requires comparison. That led me to considering the opposite of commitment, which could be termed floundering.

I think you may agree with me that most of us … myself, anyway, as I'm sure you'd agree if you know my history … exhibit more floundering than disciplined commitment. So we must believe, at some deep or at least obscure emotional level, that floundering is preferable to disciplined commitment. Otherwise we'd be exhibiting more disciplined commitment, wouldn't we? Therefore, to get a bead on why disciplined commitment might be to our advantage … in support of Bob's talk thesis … I thought it would be good to look into the arguments for floundering (that we must be convinced are preferable). Here's what I came up with:

search button Argument for floundering #1: I don't know what I want.

  • I'd spent a dozen years of "conscious floundering" from soon after college graduation until I met Richard Rose at age 33.
  • I felt what I wanted but I didn't know where or how to find it.
  • I even had words for it: missing purpose or meaning in my life.
  • And I termed the recurring bouts of it coming to the surface as identity crises although it amazes me now that I made that unconscious connection.
  • When I met Rose, he rang a bell inside me that I didn't even know existed. It showed me a novel direction in which to look and even words to label the sought-for prize (becoming the Truth).
  • This was the second direction-finding event in my life … the first being when my girlfriend announced that she was pregnant. We were both 18 at the time, and that announcement lighted my first consciously chosen path.
  • If you "don't know what you want" it may be because you're unwittingly trying to imagine an absolute state of satisfaction, which is impossible … imagining it, that is.
  • What the mind needs is to find the direction to look & faith in the possibility of acquisition.

Argument #2: I'm afraid of making the wrong choice (looking foolish, burning bridges, being trapped, and so on).

  • If you're afraid of black cats, and if one crosses the road in front of you, you can:
    • Remain transfixed. For example, you may conclude: "I can't meditate because it may cause a repeat of panic or depression I've experienced."
    • Retreat and hope for continued travel at some time in the future.
    • Try to find a detour.
    • Face the fear and proceed.

Argument #3: I can't (or won't) give up X (pot, booze, sex, whatever) which, despite what you say, isn't clouding my mind.

  • We may not be able to "give up" an addiction.
  • But the step of resisting until we see that we're powerless to give it up may take us to the point of acceptance, the intuition that something bigger than our computer-brain is running the show of life, and turning our life over to that inner benevolence.

Argument #4: There's something else I have to do first.

  • This is our old friend procrastination.

Argument #5: I'm not capable of disciplined commitment.

  • And this is our old friend rationalization:
    • That is, "the provision of plausible reasons to explain to oneself or others behavior for which one's real motives are different and unknown or unconscious," from the for medical definition.

I'm sure you could improve on those arguments and add some more. But as I went along that thought-train, it occurred to me (bam!) that we flounder when our satisfaction or dissatisfaction is lukewarm.

We flounder when our satisfaction or dissatisfaction is lukewarm.

Here are the cars in the train that followed that "lukewarm" aha!

baby sleeping

  • Great satisfaction, on the other hand, encourages sleep, which is less active than floundering … or at least less conscious.
  • Great dissatisfaction encourages action,
    • Which may manifest as disciplined commitment on the path,
    • Which may take the form of introspection, or
    • Conscious noticing of the mind attempting to zero in on what we really want … the feeling … and what will satisfy the want:
      • Concrete objects of satisfaction at a superficial depth (a new car or a new mate, for example).
      • Abstract "objects" of satisfaction at a greater depth (status, love, and so on).
      • The only possible "object" of absolute satisfaction at the intuitive level: knowing what we are at the core of our being.

Some possible antidotes to floundering:

  • Active waiting, which may be the same as or very similar to conscious noticing.
  • Praying, which is a form of conscious noticing or listening for an answer with a question or problem in mind.
    • I'm not expert in praying.
    • I once told my friend Bob Fergeson that I only prayed when I felt myself backed into a corner, being convinced that I was supposed to do things by myself. He responded: Don't you feel you're always backed into a corner?
    • The best prayer, in my opinion, is a simple recognition of the possible existence of an inner self or higher power.
  • Determine to see our thinking or behavior patterns change.
  • Accountability, when we desire it enough to ask for it.

Something to try that might reduce floundering:

  • Think about what really gives your life purpose,
    • Which is equivalent to feeling your deep longing.
  • Ask yourself throughout the day: "Is this activity in service of my purpose in life?"

"When we feel our life has meaning [I'd substitute the word direction], we have faith in an optimistic future and faith in ourselves or others. And faith is at the heart of a spiritual life." – Margaret Wehrenberg, The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Depressed and What You Can Do to Change It

"Taxi Waiting" Geri's Art World

Note: Anger at the universe for not providing what you think would make you happy – this is like playing Master of the Universe and then railing at the universe for not going along with the game. You're trying to substitute your brain-PC's insignificant computing power for the universal mega-computer's capabilities. "I know what I want to make me happy, and God's not providing it."

Note: I had a long dream, the last dream of the night before waking up. The final scene shaped up like this: there was a taxi that had been waiting out front for 2 hours … all I had to do was collect my suitcase and head out the door … but delay kept piling on delay as people came into the room, one more item needed to be taken care of … frustration. Floundering. Frustration.

See also Intuition and the Search for Authenticity by the website author.

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