When pleasure and comfort are at the top of the value hierarchy, mind and body inevitably decay. I have repeatedly experienced this and I have slowly learned to de-elevate the importance of these two things in my life. This is extremely challenging because pleasure and comfort are the two things the ego attaches to more than anything else. They aren’t easily transcended.
My goal isn’t to transcend these things. It is to learn to live with them and not to be taken down by their power. The ego fundamentally values and moves toward experiences that feel good in the moment. If there is no vigilance in this, amplified destruction unfolds. Rather than fight against them, I am learning to outsmart them.
Mastery must involve this very principle: Both forces for good and forces for evil exist inside me. If I have any prayer of self-knowledge in this lifetime, I can’t ignore the evil and I can’t operate outside of it. Instead I will work with it. The Tao Te Ching and martial arts emphasize this teaching: When a martial artist is attacked, they are encouraged to move with the direction of the attacker and then redirect and transform that energy for their own purposes.
So it is with the wants and needs of the ego. If I am to seek pleasure and comfort, I must gradually elevate the standards of my definition of pleasure. By using my will and imagination, I create a circumstance in which the pleasure I seek is not something that comes immediately. It is something I work toward.
If we look at every desire imaginable in life, we can find the element of pleasure present in some capacity. This says to me that pleasure isn’t inherently bad. We just stop way too short of the bliss we can experience through knowing ourselves and knowing God.
My mind wants to be comfortable. Daily I make choices revolving around bringing more comfort into my life and cushioning it with a sense of safety. My literature teacher in college said to me once, “You are never safe.” In fact safety is quite an illusion. But it is an illusion on which the entire phenomenal world depends.
Why? Once the mind cultivates an experience of happiness and security, it automatically conspires to maintain those comfortable situations for itself as long as possible. It is an awe-inspiring and powerful trick the mind plays on us every day of our lives.
Did I find the person I want to be with? Great! I will marry him and make him “permanently” mine. We can entertain our illusions as long as some outside force doesn’t interrupt them. As long as he and I are both alive and healthy, the illusion works. It may work for weeks, months, years or even decades. We may get to spend the next seventy years together.
Eventually though, we will be separated. I will be left with the task of releasing the false sense of permanency that my whole life depended on up until that moment. This is something I think about often. On the one hand I am extremely fortunate to have the luxury of thinking in this way. I found someone who brings me so much happiness that I get to contemplate the day we will no longer be together.
Many years ago I decided I would do everything I was humanly and extraterrestrially capable of doing to live a meaningful life. If I found the person who brings me so much happiness, I wouldn’t just ride on the relationship for the rest of my life. Instead I ask myself, “If I lost Michael tomorrow, what is the intangible and eternal thing he has given me? How can I derive energy from the intangible aspect instead of the finite?”
Being in a relationship with Michael brings out the best part of me: contentment. I found what I was searching for. I learned how to become settled in myself by experiencing divine love through him. This is enough.
If the emotion of contentment can be produced at all, and if it has been produced in my life, it is something I can take refuge in for the rest of my life. The pure essence of contentment has nothing to do with Michael and I’s relationship. It is an ever-existing quality in the cosmic substance of creation. I simply needed to evoke it into life for me. If we were lost to each other tomorrow, I would thank God for the rest of my life He gave me Michael even for one day. And for that I can dedicate every pleasurable experience we have together into awakening divine contentment to life.