“Don’t burst my bubble!” We hear this all the time, as if keeping our belief bubbles intact was a good thing. Well, increasingly I say, “Burst my bubble!” I want my erroneous beliefs to be deflated, as regards religion and spirituality at least.
I add that last qualifier because 100% unvarnished reality likely would be too much for me to take. Like everyone, I hold onto delusions that help keep me afloat. For example, I do my best to avoid looking too closely at myself in a mirror. Wrinkles, gray hair, and unwhite teeth aren’t so obvious from a distance.
So my belief about how I look is quite different from my actual visage. I know this to be true, because I recently deleted several digital photos of myself that my wife took from uncomfortably close range. As soon as they appeared on a computer screen my index finger leaped for the “delete” key.
Too much reality can be painful. Men only want to hear a single answer to the question, “Was it as good for you as it was for me?” Women aren’t looking for unalloyed honesty when they ask, “Do you think this dress makes me look fat?”
However, when it comes to spirituality I really do want my belief bubble to burst. I can say this with some confidence because I’ve been pricking away at my own bubbles for quite a few years now.
“I am a member of a special spiritual group.” Pop.
“My guru is God and will make me just like him.” Pop.
“The course of my life is being guided by a higher power.” Pop.
“If I have a sip of wine I’m a sinner.” Pop.
“There’s only one way to meditate, the way I’ve been told.” Pop.
Some or all of the above statements may be true, but I no longer believe them to be true. Lacking certainty, I hold these beliefs in abeyance.
These are just some of the belief-bursts that have transpired in my psyche. It’s been like when I put a bag of Paul Newman’s organic low-fat popcorn in the microwave and set the timer for two and a half minutes: nothing happens for a while, but once the popping gets going, it rolls.
I used to believe in belief. It felt good to believe that my religious beliefs were better than other peoples’. I recall standing in line at a movie theatre, feeling exactly like someone standing in line at a movie theatre, when I remembered to do my guru-given mantra.
Instantly I thought to myself, “I’m special. I’m unique. I’ve got a spiritual practice known to only a few.” I stood straighter. I looked at the spiritually impoverished human beings around me with proudly compassionate eyes. “Ah, I have something they don’t. How fortunate I am not to be them.”
Now I pray, “God, whatever or whoever the hell you are, burst my belief bubbles and lead me not into self-righteousness. Blessed be reality.”
My believing now is centered around the notion of pressure. This isn’t something I believe in as much as I feel. I no longer like the feeling of being inflated more highly than the surrounding world. It takes too much effort to keep my ego-pump running all of the time.
Once I read on the Internet how members of my spiritual group, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, considered themselves Technicolor people in a black and white world. That’s a telling and accurate image. It is true for virtually all types of religious people, though, not just a few.
Marxists consider that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. So does religion. For the religious goal is exemplary: to know God in so far as this is possible. This means breaking down the barriers that currently stand between our current condition of spiritual ignorance and the reality of God (note: for me “reality” and “God” are interchangeable).
A belief bubble is a barrier. It has to burst before we can be in direct contact with what is really real, for a belief—by definition—isn’t undeniably true. There has to be an equalization of pressure between our individual consciousness and universal reality. Only then, goes the mystic theory, can we know the truth that sets us free. The seeming paradox is, we have to free ourselves of our false beliefs before this can happen.
Reality is all around me. It has to be. What else could be omnipresent? Even if this surrounding substance turned out to be nihilism, then that would be reality: meaningless nothingness. We can’t avoid reality.
Except, we do. At least, we try to. The abstraction-addicted, intellect-infatuated, belief-befuddled human mind has evolved a capacity to hold reality at bay and study it at arms length.
Such is a great ability when what is being studied can be grasped as something separate from ourselves, for this allows science—which aims at knowledge of the physical world—to make progress.
Such is a terrible drawback when what is being studied is the essence of our own self, rock-bottom ultimate reality, for this prevents religion—which aims at knowledge of the spiritual world—from knowing the source, God.
Given how many ideas I spout out here at the Church of the Churchless, it’s probably hard to believe that I’m doing my best to deflate my metaphysical beliefs. But I am. It’s just that my “best” is pretty crappy, because I still like to feel puffed-up.
Sort of. It’s becoming clearer to me that keeping myself puffed up is a wearying job. Beliefs have a way of collapsing without constant care and feeding. That’s why believers go to church, read holy books, and pray that they’ll keep the faith. Ergo, keep believing.
A bubble of belief needs to be constantly pumped up or it deflates. I used to put a lot of time and effort into keeping my bubbles nice and firm. Shapely. Well-defined. Increasingly (and crudely) I’m embracing a “fuck it” philosophy, alluded to semi-seriously in a previous post.
Meaning, if my belief loses air and I can’t keep it afloat, so be it. I’m not going to get out my belief-pump and waste a lot of time and energy getting the pressure back into it. I figure that if it can’t hold up on its own, it isn’t worth maintaining. How much work does reality take to keep in good working order?
Zero. The laws of nature never need to go in to the repair shop. So my attitude toward religious beliefs is, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.” I’m looking for what lasts, not for what needs constant care and attention.
My meditation is a lot more relaxed now. I’m not pressing so hard to get somewhere or to be something. My intention is to let go of what I believe and simply see what flows in to replace those beliefs. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s something.
Regardless, it’s more real than the belief bubble I’ve been floating around in for my entire life. I’d rather spiritually sink to the depths of reality than float around in my own ethereal conceptions.