Whenever I have a Grand Intuition about something that really is obvious, I'm never sure whether (1) I deserve to be honored in the Great Hall of Enlightened Beings or (2) laughed at for not realizing sooner what I should have understood long ago.
(Personally, I'll go with #1, but I can't argue with someone else who favors #2.)
The core of today's Grand Intuition is the title of this blog post: When you're sad, be sad; when you're happy, be happy. It's an emotional echo of some familiar Zen sayings.
Chop wood, carry water.
When hungry, eat. When thirsty, drink. When sleepy, sleep.
Probably what got me to pondering this today was a slightly delayed reaction after listening to part of an interview on Sam Harris' Waking Up app yesterday. Harris spoke with a woman who said that equanimity was a central pillar of spiritual practice.
I didn't listen long enough to learn what she meant by equanimity. I'm assuming that this refers to remaining in a more or less steady calm emotional state no matter what happens to you: good things, bad things, neutral things.
This is in line with what the Sant Mat teachings I followed for thirty-five years as a member of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), an India-based spiritual organization, taught.
Lust. Anger. Greed. Attachment. Egotism.
Those were the five deadly sins RSSB books and speakers warned against. Each has an emotional component. And in my current state of mind, each seems perfectly fine to me. They're simply a part of being human.
Sure, it makes sense to keep emotions within certain bounds. But those bounds are pretty damn loose.
For example, lusting after someone you find attractive is how relationships, and marriages, often get started. Forcing them to have sex is out of bounds. Otherwise, lust is a natural feeling. Ditto with anger, greed, attachment, egotism, and every other feeling/emotion.
What I realized today more clearly than ever before was how, even though I'm no longer overtly religious, I still carry around vestiges of the religious teachings that were such a big part of my life for over three decades.
One vestige is how I've been considering that meditation and mindfulness were supposed to help me not get very upset when something went wrong in my life, nor unduly attached to the pleasure I feel when something goes right in my life.
In other words, I'd bought into that whole equanimity thing, albeit semi-consciously.
Suddenly it hit me that life would be a whole lot simpler if I took a different approach. Be sad when I feel sad. Be happy when I feel happy. Be angry when I feel angry. Be ________ when I feel _________.
Again, not crazily emotional. Not emotional in a way that harms anyone. Just honestly emotional, embracing whatever I'm feeling at the moment without wondering, "Is it OK to feel this way?"
Yeah, it sure is OK. In fact, I've been feeling especially good today, because it feels like a weight has been lifted from my emotional shoulders. For a long time, more than 50 years, I've felt a need for self-improvement.
Simply being the person I already was -- not good enough.
I needed to meditate every day, read spiritual books, write spiritual books, improve how I related to other people, be kinder, more loving, less prone to negative emotions, you know, all that stuff the self-improvement/spiritual realization proselytizers tell us is necessary to truly be a Decent Human Being.
Which mostly is bullshit. Yes, if someone has a serious psychological problem that prevents them from functioning well or being satisfied with life, that points to a need for improvement.
But the notion that we need to become anyone other than the natural human being we already are is entirely false. When you feel good, feel good. When you feel bad, feel bad. Likely neither feeling will last very long. Embrace each while it lasts.
No pressure to become your "higher self." For one thing, there's no high or low when it comes to being human. For another thing, you aren't a self. You're simply you.