By Scott Shaw
It is very easy to fall into the pattern of Magical Thinking. This is particularly the case for those of us who walk upon the Spiritual Path.
Spirituality goes hand-in-hand with the belief there is, Karma, a cosmic order to the universe, and that you may call upon mystical ethereal beings, God, or even the essence of the Buddha for assistance in times of need. Though this mindset has certainly been a byproduct of spirituality, this style of thinking is much more detrimental to the individual on the path to realization than it is an aid. This is primarily because of the fact that people who turn to this level of consciousness continually relinquish control of their lives to undefined, intangible, beings.
When one holds the belief that they may call upon these mystical entities for assistance, when life is not going according to desired plan, they separate themselves from the ever evolving perfection of the universe. At the heart of Zen is accepting the perfection — everything is as it should be. Thus, by desiring things to be different than they are, you are choosing to separate yourself from Zen.
Moreover, when one calls upon these mystical beings for assistance and the undesirable patterns of life change, they believe that a miracle has occurred and that they, through prayer or mental focus, have caused life to be altered. On the other hand, when assistance is asked for and is not received, the individual becomes angry that their prayers were not met.
Where your prayers answered or not answered or was the perfection of life simply allowed to take its course?
Each person who delves into this realm of consciousness does so in their own unique manner. There is not an exact, singular, method for coming into contact with the ethereal realms. Prayer has certainly been a vehicle, as has visualization, and, in fact, crying, yelling, or screaming to God. In each of these examples, the person who is performing the action is basing their yearning upon desire - desire for things to be different than they are. As The Buddha said, "The cause of suffering is desire."
Each religion delineates their own set of standards and definitions to these entities. However, each religion generally details that the belief of another religion is mere superstition - their belief is the only belief - their faith, the only faith.
What we can conclude from this is that belief and faith to one person is superstition to another. Thus, the basis for Magical Thinking is not based in the realms of absolute certainty.
Many proponents of various forms of spirituality dictate that you should expect good thinks to happen to you — visualizing that the money you need will come, the parking space will be there when you arrive, or the person to help you will miraculously appear in your time of need. Though this is a great form of positive reaffirmation and cannot be criticized, most people take this mindset to the next level and become angry when their desires or needs are not fulfilled. Thus, this practice robs them of internal peace.
The next level of mental focus which is commonly employed by the individual who follows the path of Magical Thinking is to focus upon what they want to the degree that it is brought into their lives. The great modern India sage, Swami Sivananada, detailed that for those who practice this type of Magical Thinking they may, in fact, receive what they desire but they will be controlled by the Devis (ethereal goddess) for their entire life and never be able to break away.
Certainly each spiritual tradition and teacher approaches the subject of Magical Thinking with separate conclusions. What can be deduced, however, is that Magical Thinking removes you from the moment. It takes you away from relaxing into the fact this universe is perfect. If it were not perfect, how could all the inter-linking elements of creation be functioning in such a universal harmony. If the universe is in a function harmony, you as a human component of this universe must also be function in unseen accord. As such, everything which happens to you, whether you experience it as good or bad, is occurring for a reason and leading to a greater good.
If you can embrace this knowledge then you will understand that even the experiences you viewed as negative have lead you to the point in your life where you are today. Without them, you would not be the person you are.
If you hold onto the subjective negative of any experience. Then, you allow it to control your mind for as long as it holds a place in your thoughts. Thus, the conveyor of this experiences maintains control over you indefinitely.
On-the-other-hand, if you witness the perfection, seeing all that is and all that has occurred as a pathway leading you closer and closer to realization that you have freed yourself from the concept of good and bad. Thus, not only are you free from the controlling hands of desire, but you are not bound to "Desire Consciousness," which make you demand that things be provided for you, given to you, and manifested upon your visualizations and prayers.
Living free from desire for things to be different than they actually are, you have left behind the need for Magical Thinking. Leaving behind Magical Thinking you enter the Here and the Now. The Here and the Now is where Zen is experienced.
Let go and know...
This is a chapter from the book:
Zen: Tales from the Journey
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No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.