What does it mean to enjoy a boundless, abundant life? That’s the question many a philosophical sage and mystic has ventured to answer. It’s been said before: life is meant to be lived! Unfortunately, far too many of us walk around fairly spiritually dead. Why is that?
The world is certainly no paradise, that’s for sure. Things happen that cause us pain. And people do things that hurt us. We try to cope with life’s slings and arrows as best we can. We build defenses. And we develop various strategies for dealing with others (i.e. personality styles). (For more on this see: Personality and Character Disorders: A Primer.) In the process, our hearts begin to close. It seems like they have to. For in this world, they’re far too easily broken. This takes some of the life out of us.
Living a more boundless, abundant life takes a real leap of faith. Folks leading such a life have set all their fears aside. They dare to live more fully resting peacefully in the present moment. They’re not haunted by the past or anxious about the future. But as we’ve been discussing, our appetites and aversions can easily enslave us. Of course, it’s natural to shy away from what hurts and to be drawn to what pleases us. But a life governed by the pursuit of comfort and security breeds a type of spiritual emptiness. A more vast and wondrous existence awaits those who allow faith and not fear to rule. (See also: Life Beyond the Pleasure Principle.)
Heeding the Commands
We’ve been talking about the “10 commandments” of sound character development. They represent the crucial life lessons we need to embrace and master to be psychologically and spiritually healthy. And they’re far more than a list of dos and don’ts. Rather, they’re a set of practices that can propel us toward a more boundless, abundant life. Moreover, they all work together. They represent a kind of cooperative dance of growth. Each builds upon the other.
To be sound in both spirit and character you have to know your worth. And you have to know whence it derives. (See also: Cultivating Healthy Self-Worth.) It also helps to step outside yourself and see the bigger picture of existence. (See: Outgrowing Natural Egocentricity.) Knowing how interconnected everything and everyone is gives you a broader perspective. And seeing things accurately, without bias or self-deception helps clear your personal growth pathway. (See: Character Requires Revering Truth.)
The Next Commandment
Next week we’ll begin discussing the 6th “commandment” of character. That commandment has to do with mastery over our impulses and how to achieve it. The series on this commandment will serve as a prelude to discussing perhaps the touchiest subject of all: our human free will.
You can read more about all the commandments in Character Disturbance. But I’ll be spending a good deal of time both of the upcoming commandments, because of their importance. To refresh, here’s the 6th commandment:
Be mindful. Think before you act. Be master of your impulses.
Psychology’s official manual of mental illnesses lists a cluster of “impulse control disorders.” Sadly, far too many folks these days lack internal controls. They act on impulse, without thinking things through. Sometimes, they act first and think later, experiencing after-the-fact regret. Of course, by then it’s too late. Sometimes they simply act unthinkingly with no regret. That’s because they lack a sound conscience. T
These days, we have medicines that can help a person exercise better impulse control. But there’s simply no substitute for sound character. And to develop that we have to cultivate mindfulness.
A Paradigm for the Age
We live in times when far too many appear out of control. Fortunately, we came to realize some time ago how intrinsically interconnect our thinking patterns and actions are. This is the heart of the cognitive-behavioral paradigm. And it’s the preferred method for dealing with the character-impaired. (See also: A Primer on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.)
What we think and believe really matters. And how we think matters a lot, too. We can say a lot of things about what we believe. Talk, as they say, is cheap. But the attitudes we really hold are best reflected in our actions. So it matters that we get our thinking straight. And it behooves us to be as fully aware as possible. That’s the heart of mindfulness. And we’ll be talking a lot more about mindful self-control in the coming weeks.
I’ll have some announcements soon on the new direction for Character Matters. The program will be going to an all “podcast” and “spotcast” format. But we’ll still have provisions for folks to ask questions. And we’re working on a way for real time commentary as well.