Because our minds are so incredibly complex, they are easy to manipulate and control, often without our say so. Further to the stories I shared in an earlier blog, at the Christian camp, I did eventually succumb to the ‘holy spirit’ one evening. I have vivid memories of finally collapsing during a prayer session with a course leader, shortly before fluently reciting some mumbo jumbo that came to me. Although it was a very enlightening experience for me and something that prolonged my rhapsodic affair with my adopted lifestyle, I also vividly recollect that I willed myself to collapse on the floor and I purposefully and knowingly mumbled what was coming out of my mouth. I just chose to subconsciously, temporarily erase those thoughts from my head every time I tried to convince people to join the club.
I have no contempt, whatsoever, for anyone who chooses to worship a God or higher being with whom I have no affiliation; that is their choice. For me, the problem arises when they decide to force their beliefs upon unsuspecting individuals. All religions stem from a moral basis, so if a sect decides to embark on warfare, mayhem and harm in a bid to somehow promote their cause, they are not only going against the doctrine they apparently represent, they are destroying the fundamental peace of life to which everyone should be entitled. People get so brainwashed with these ideas and before long they are causing the destruction of the lives of bystanders. But how do we stop it?
I became completely focused on the religion I had been taught at the camps, although I didn’t benefit from the good bits. There was one, single, underlying reason why I became transfixed and dependent on God, and that was fear. Fear of what might happen to me if I didn’t believe what I was being told to believe. I was taught to be afraid and because my mind was so supple and open, I foolishly let my inner self believe everything I was being told by the course leaders. My life was dictated by fear.
As I saw it, there was no better system for keeping control, back then, than Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The habits and behaviours this entailed became my way of trying to remedy a bad thought – by compulsively carrying out another activity to take my mind off it (this will be covered in much more detail in a later blog but do message me if you have any questions before). By leading my life in this way I could ensure I didn’t upset God, thereby not partnering up with Beelzebub. It was easy. It made sense.
I was petrified of upsetting this God who apparently loved me so much, or more prominently, of siding with the devil who was always out to get me and lead me astray. Yet, obeying what I was taught at the Christian camp was going to set a lot of limitations on my life. I couldn’t listen to all the music I used to frequently play. I couldn’t read certain books or watch certain television programmes. If a friend of mine said anything that opposed the leaders’ views, I ended up telling them how they were upsetting God. I’m sure you can all recall from school, when someone says something hare-brained to a popular kid, you side with the cool one and renounce the idiot – this fear and the things it compelled me to believe and say was the very reason I struggled with popularity at school. By the time I left school, I was old enough to understand the implications of such preposterous talk but it took me until I was prompted to leave to realise this, shortly after propelling a firework into a dormitory, which I guess could have been my way of trying to show the world that I was no longer a deadhead.
The Bible and the course leaders told me that the number 666 was evil, which added yet another angle of despair to my already pretty hectic thought-processing. It saw me trying to avoid any situation which might be linked to a solitary six, because that was only a couple of sixes away from the apocalyptic 666. How I managed to lead a vaguely normal existence, I do not know. With the evil sixes and the ‘sordid’ activities in which I was no longer allowed to participate, I tried to create ways of living an easier existence in order to manipulate my life around these constraints. Things naturally evolve and as the OCD got its hold on me, I began to develop it further. I completed tasks in cycles of numbers, so if the sequence ended anywhere near a six I would have to do the task again in order to steer clear of the devil. I then started having to do things in even numbers, to make sure I got back to the same position I started at; but six being an even number threw a real spanner in the works because I also needed to keep away from that dreaded number in order to complete the task successfully. So, it took a lot to keep me satisfied.
It is worth mentioning at this point that as messed up as I once appeared to be, I was still pretty content with my life, I just didn’t know anything different. Only through acceptance and self-love have I managed to successfully rise above everything that was bringing me down. It’s also not that hard to achieve when you know the path, which, again, will be discussed in later blogs.
Ghosts were my childhood nightmare. I was absolutely petrified of anything to do with death and evil spirits. My fear was almost certainly instigated by my time at the Christian camp and didn’t right itself until after I stopped attending. I don’t think I ever saw one but I certainly convinced myself that every obscure noise I heard in the night, when I was sleeping at my parents old farmhouse in the deep, dark countryside, was a chilling ghost. Of course it wasn’t, but I thought it was, and so nights weren’t quite as relaxing for me as they are now. I remember always wanting my friends to stay over because I figured I was much safer if somebody else was in the room. Why is it that some people do see ghosts though, yet there is no conclusive evidence that they exist?
Fear has incredible potential for completely altering your sense of reality. It was my fear of God and the devil that prompted me to seek refuge in the Christian camp’s teachings, which induced the all-encompassing OCD that prevented me from living a normal existence. The worst of it is that I don’t think anyone close to me noticed the awkward, methodically instigated rituals that I used to perform, because I was acutely aware of how strange they were. Even my familiarity with the confusing, arcane roots of the problem didn’t have the power to convince me to put an end to it, because I was so afraid that something horrific might happen if I was to stop. If my fear of a God I was told about when I was thirteen dictated the remainder of my childhood and made me collapse on the floor chanting obscure words, laugh and cry my eyes out without so much as a single drop of alcohol involved, it seems highly conceivable that other people’s lives can also be completely transformed for the worse through whatever they may have been taught to fear.
In just the same way as an utmost belief in a positive outcome will make success far more likely than if you doubted it ever happening, if you are that afraid of ghosts and you have that much belief in them, chances are you most probably will see one when you are shivering under your duvet and peeking out to watch it lighting up your room. The brain is a masterfully powerful instrument, and thoroughly dependent on your belief system but there are indeed two sides to every coin. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things you should be afraid of, like killer sharks or violent psychopaths. Realistically though, they are tangible things you can hopefully try to avoid. Fear helps you to achieve that; fight or flight is a naturally occurring response. So I’m not telling you to not be afraid of those things. It’s the fear of illusive, mythological teachings of which you need to be wary.
Whatever your fear, it effectively incites a strong belief of its own. Bearing in mind the power that fear can have, think now of the power the same feelings could have on a positive scenario. Transfer the strong belief, minus the fear, to a warm, loving and enlightening situation and you will have developed a connection with your inner, higher self, that can only enhance your life. Believe, with the same fervency that you fear failure, that you really can study excruciatingly hard and learn enough to pass the exams that will help you achieve your life’s ambition. Believe, instead of feeling helpless, that you have the ability and drive to set up a homeless shelter this coming winter, in order to give the less fortunate people in your local area a step up to help themselves. Whatever you put your mind to, with enough belief, you can achieve it. I am not talking about a strong desire, either, I am talking about a categorical, implicit, forthright, head-over-heels belief that you will be able to achieve something. The slightest doubt will not make it an easy path to follow, so research the criteria and the challenges you need to confront, know that you can do it and push. Absolute and final. You do obviously have to be vaguely realistic with your goals, if you are currently clinically obese and the next Olympics are in a couple of months, it’s pretty unrealistic that you’ll achieve your life goal of winning a gold medal in the cycling. Within reason, anyone can do anything. Belief becomes knowledge that can be trusted and on that basis, you can finally admire yourself.
After revisiting my youthful years, the religious indoctrination to which I was subjected at the Christian camps, and looking at how open to new ideas my evolving mind was, it became apparent to me that it is much harder to change a grown man’s mind than it is to develop it from a young age. Everyone within the teaching world knows this, which can explain why most children who are brought up within a certain religious doctrine generally stick with it until they reach an age to think logically, for themselves. That’s how mindfulness and meditation are so different, there is nothing illogical about it, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
I’ve shared with you the benefits of meditation, which will have hopefully brought home to you the impact it can have on absolutely anyone. The Dalai Lama knows this full well, stating that ‘if every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.’ So what then about teaching it to the young and seeing the effect it can have on flourishing minds?
I wholeheartedly want mindfulness meditation to be taught to the young for its positive benefits; I don’t, however, advocate any prompt that potentially scaremongers the young into believing in it. Neither can I, for one second, support any whimsical discipline that will implant and ignite ‘God-given’ superiority over anyone else on this planet – a notion which, in itself, creates war.
A school board in San Francisco, was looking for ways to help the troubled teens that attended classes within the area. After much deliberation, they decided to implement a programme called ‘quiet time’, whereby the children were given two fifteen-minute slots a day in which to quietly practise transcendental meditation. After four years of running ‘quiet time’ the results speak for themselves. Within the whole school, there was a 79% decrease in suspensions, a 93.8% increase in attendance, and an increase of four in the grade point average.
Obviously it’s good to know about religious beginnings but maybe slide that across to the history class and swap religious education for meditation? I’d love to think that this blog will change the lives of everyone on this planet and before long the world will be free from war and I will have won the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m not holding my breath. If enough open-minded people do read this, though, and understand the importance of self-love, then maybe they will be able to recommend the addition of meditation classes to all schools. If that happens, just imagine the possibilities.
In the Is God an Illusion? book that I mentioned in an earlier blog, Leonard Mlodinow, the stubborn atheist, remarks that scientists employ ‘precise objective measurements and precise objective concepts for good reason’ and that they seek to ensure that their ‘measurements and concepts are not influenced by love, trust, faith, beauty, awe, compassion etc.’ What he fails to ever recognise, however, is that those exact feelings are what humanity depends on to evolve into a more enlightened species.
He’s right to highlight the necessary absence of these feelings and traits during experiments, because explanations must be guided by truth, which cannot be what we inwardly want to hear with peace and love as our benchmark. We don’t want the results of an experiment to be influenced by the invisible thought processes of the scientist but we equally shouldn’t want some of the essential elements of what we need in life to be swept under the carpet in favour of hard science. I’m not trying to prove to anyone that there is a God. I am, however, providing conclusive evidence that spirituality, or maybe just mindfulness, is here with us, it works, it’s evident through its effects and there are no scientific experiments that can falsify its presence.
I haven’t made up the stories that have put me where I am today, they’re not fantastically mystical like a large proportion of religious texts, so I have written them down in the hope that more people will take note of my progress, adopt a similar attitude and then slowly make the world a better place. It’s not a magic pill by any means, it takes dedication, hard work and most importantly, belief. Science has proved a lot of things that have not only helped to advance the human race phenomenally but have also helped develop our understanding of how we first arrived on this planet. Science shouldn’t, however, try to brush under the carpet the presence of a tenet that has helped and continues to help hundreds of thousands of people every single day – and nor should we do this to religions.
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