Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mental Anguish

There are several ways within Christian Mysticism to extinguish mental anguish. Here are some

  1. Pray to Jesus, acknowledge that there is a place within you that you cannot reach, that is causing mental/spiritual anguish, acknowledge that Jesus can reach this place and ask him to fix it for you. If this works it will be like the calming of the seas, it will happen quite quickly
  2. If (1) does not work then you should accept the suffering of the anguish as God’s will at that point in time. Pray to Jesus to abide with you in the suffering, This can also produce profound effects.
  3. Sometimes mental anguish is due to thinking about your own shortcomings. In this case you can pray to Jesus by acknowledging your sinful nature. That is, acknowledge all the ways that you miss the mark, over and over, and how these failings are due to limitations that are built into you and beyond your reach. This can also produce a sudden and profound calm (Tolstoy wrote a short story about this). It should be noted that this method could be dangerous for some people and should not be used if you have problems with depression. This method is also very misunderstood both within Christianity and without. The point is NOT to beat yourself up. The point is to face your limitations and to be OK with them, at peace with them. The anguish comes from trying to be more perfect than you are. The goal is humility, not perfection
  4. Sometimes mental anguish comes from dealing with the behavior of an enemy, a person or sometimes a group or institution. In this case it can help to contemplate the issue in terms of Noetic Warfare. 

Choose Joy

Living an enlightened or holy life involves making a choice to do so. This choice needs to be made over and over again when you find yourself not doing so. Making the choice results in an experience of joy, compassion, and freedom. In Buddhism this experience can be understood as the cessation of suffering (from the 4 noble truths). In Zen, the experience of sudden enlightenment is one's first clear conscious experience of doing this.

There are two parts to this way of life, the first is having the experience along with an understanding of its causes. This is the realization that it is possible for you to choose this. The second part is sometimes referred to as stabilization in Buddhism. In this part you practice making the choice over and over and in different parts of your life. Although the choice seems obvious, this is not very easy. This stage is marked by a mixture of struggle and joy. It is a struggle because in any given situation we are likely to go with our old way of processing the information and forget that we have a choice. The religious life, understood in this way, is about creating a lifestyle where it is less likely that we will forget, i.e., by having lots of reminders and avoiding things that we know will distract us. Also, the choice will not always result in the experience. When the choice does not result in the experience (known in Christianity as the dark night of the soul) it is important to make the choice anyway.