Looking back, one of the strangest things about the India-based religious group I belonged to for 35 years, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), is how the RSSB teachings taught that the mind wasn't to be trusted, supposedly being an agent of Kal, the negative power that rules the lower regions of creation.
Yet like all other religions, RSSB was thoroughly in the grip of mental concepts that had no foundation in any sort of discernible reality.
Of course, I didn't realize that at the time, since I was in the grip of a mental concept called "blind faith" that led me to believe that what the RSSB gurus said was true, really was. So even though there was no demonstrable evidence of soul, God, Kal, divine light/sound, heaven, or any of the other entities RSSB claimed to exist, I trusted that with time all would be revealed.
That didn't happen. Not for me. And not for anybody else in RSSB that I knew. Which was a lot of people given how long I was a member of the organization.
So this taught me to be wary of any theology or philosophy that claims knowledge of a supernatural realm, because invariably the proof of that claim is mere words and concepts, not anything substantial. If I want empty promises, it's easier to listen to politicians rather than embrace a religion.
Yesterday I attended a 3-hour seminar that focused on the martial art aspect of Tai Chi. I wrote about it on my HinesSight blog: Why I enjoy Tai Chi as a martial art.
Having spent about 12 years practicing the hard martial art style of karate, and now about 19 years practicing the soft martial art style of Tai Chi, with a bunch of years playing competitive tennis before that, like so many other people I enjoy the physicality of sports and physical activity.
One reason is that physical activity can't be faked. You either can do something physical, or you can't. While naturally there's talking involved in learning a physical activity, a sermon can't be a substitute for it, whereas with religions words and concepts are their foundation.
Recently I wrote about Seth Gillihan's talks about Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Sam Harris' Waking Up app. I liked what he had to say so much, I ordered his most recent book from Amazon.
Here's some excerpts from the book that's called, unsurprisingly, Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Simple Path to Healing, Hope, and Peace. Though Gillihan says he embraces Christianity along with secular Buddhism, his religious approach is pleasingly rooted in reality.
When I first heard the call of my inner self, I thought it was beckoning me to become "more spiritual," as if my ideal self were a disembodied spirit, floating through life unfettered by thoughts and untouched by feelings.
But idolizing our spiritual selves would mean abandoning our minds and bodies and becoming less of who we are. In truth, our spirits are not narrowly focused on "spiritual" things, to the exclusion of our physical and mental realities.
...Our spirit permeates all of our experience and is intimately connected to the rest of us.
...Knowing what is true about ourselves does not need to be deep and mysterious. My wife reminded me of a truth about myself when she encouraged me to go swimming at Cape May. She knew I am happiest when I am swimming; that is one of my truths.
We know mental truth when we practice right ways of thinking that bring us happiness and peace. We can find that truth in our relationship with our thoughts as we see through the endless fictions our minds create that can make us miserable, such as that we don't deserve to be happy and that we aren't lovable.
The cognitive part of CBT helps us to replace these false beliefs with ones that are faithful to reality. We find joy as our mind dwells in the truth.
We experience physical truth when we give our bodies what they need and consistently do the things that bring us alive. We can enact truth through eating nourishing foods, getting adequate rest, moving our bodies every day, spending time with our favorite people, being of service, and doing work that we enjoy.
...We find spiritual truth through being wholly present in our lives because our spirits are always in the here and now of our experience. My swim in the bay was an encounter with spiritual truth as I reconnected with myself and what I love.
As my example shows, mindful presence is not an esoteric experience that's available only to a select few; being in our lives is a habit that all of us can cultivate in each moment.
Our mind, body, and spirit form an integrated whole, intersecting with and affecting one another. For example, our bodies affect our minds, as when we're well rested and it's easier to recognize our negative thinking.
Our bodies affect our spirits, too, as when we step out of compulsive activity and thereby enter into connection with our spirit.
And our spirits affect our minds, as when we focus our awareness on the present and discover that in doing so, it's easier to recognize when our thoughts are telling us lies.
...We are constantly thinking: even if we decide to stop thinking, our minds will keep doing it anyway. It's what they are good at. If they aren't telling us stories in words, they're crafting made-up scenes or pulling up images from our memory banks.
Our minds are actually so caught up in thinking that we don't realize we're thinking.
We assume that the nonstop stream in our heads is something real and meaningful, and we mistake thoughts for actual observations of something true. In subtle ways we probably don't notice, mental events in our brains are fashioning our lives.
...We often don't realize when our mind has shifted from reading us front-page news to reading the op-eds. If we don't recognize our thoughts for what they are and treat them accordingly, we'll live in a false reality of our mind's creation.
That's a great description of what religions offer: a false reality of our mind's creation.