I had a long discussion with a student-turned-friend about living life, and he told me he'd become a big fan of Byron Katie. Her goal is to teach people how to end their own suffering, and she describes her own discovery here:
I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.
Katie's general idea is that all suffering stems from a belief in untrue thoughts. So, if we can eliminate untrue thoughts, we'll be free from suffering. The way in which one can accomplish this is through the four questions Katie lays out. So, take something that makes you unhappy, and test it:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
One example might be "My mom shouldn't have put so much pressure on me." Is it true? Sure. Can you absolutely know it's true? Well, maybe, maybe not. How do you react? Pissed off, resentful, poor self esteem. In short, pretty horrible, pretty unhealthy. So, who would you be without this thought? Well, let's see-- I'd have a better relationship with my mother, feel better about myself and generally feel more free.
And lastly, what if you turned it around? My mom should have put so much pressure on me; I shouldn't have put so much pressure on me; I shouldn't have put so much pressure on my mom. Depending on how heavy the issue is, this thinking could make your brain explode. In a good way, hopefully.
So, my friend says his new outlook is that an ideal life means connecting, really engaging fully, with reality. That, if you want to connect it with spirituality, then reality ('what is') is what we are trying to understand and connect with. That if God is all the laws of the world (gravity, time, space, limits), God is reality, and reality is God. Here is a free excerpt of her writing, if you're interested.
I know this may seem blasphemous and out-there for some, but I think it's interesting to ponder. At the very least, it gives nice blueprints for how to ask the four questions here (instructions) and here (a worksheet) and how to forgive someone here.
Peace of mind for everyone.