Vibin' Like a Sage: Overcoming the 5 Barriers with Grace
The pursuit of inner peace and serenity calls for a deep understanding of the barriers obstructing our path to Peace of Mind. To this end, we can learn from the wisdom of those who have transcended these barriers. A critical step in this journey is the practice of "Noticing," which allows us to recognize the five barriers to peace of mind and tap into the sage-like qualities within ourselves. By exploring the teachings of various philosophical and religious traditions, we can uncover the connections between their core principles, learn to “Vibe Well” by navigating the challenges posed by these barriers, and ultimately cultivate a life of balance, resilience, and harmony.
Seeing through problems to the situation:
Before we get in to the exploration of the barriers themselves, it’s crucial to Notice that, in life, there are no "problems" as such, only situations. Some situations can be improved, some can be degraded, and some are beyond our control. The “problems” arise when we are uncertain about where a situation fits and need to discuss it with another to figure it out. The concept of reframing problems as situations can be transformative, as it shifts our focus away from negativity and towards solution-oriented thinking.
While talking with others can be helpful, it is not always possible or effective. This is where understanding the five barriers can help us run internal diagnostics on our own, enabling us to better navigate difficult situations. By recognizing these barriers within ourselves, we can pinpoint the source of our distress, and adopt strategies for overcoming them.
The fools first and last practice is Noticing:
“IT is Eternally Here and Now, I Am Me, and IT will ALWAYS be bigger than Me” -Upaya
Peace of mind serves as the bedrock for our emotional well-being. The practice of Noticing emphasizes the importance of consciously acknowledging our emotions and thoughts. By staying present and aware of our feelings, we can recognize their influence on our actions and choices. This awareness fosters peace of mind, allowing us to navigate life's complexities with grace and wisdom.
While the idea of being present and aware of our emotions may seem obvious during moments of reflection, the true challenge lies in maintaining this state of mind amidst life's difficulties. This is where learning to overcome the five barriers to peace of mind becomes invaluable.
The Five Barriers to Peace of Mind:
Trying to present an exhaustive list of all the ways humans can find to suffer, would be as futile as trying to name every single color. With this in mind The five barriers to peace of mind are not meant to be a complete list of human problems; rather, they represent something more like the primary colors of human suffering. By understanding these basic causes of distress, we can better investigate our internal states when faced with the overwhelming combinations of barriers.
Overwhelming desire can lead us to the hedonic treadmill, constantly chasing pleasure or material possessions, ultimately distracting us from "man's Final End". The way of overcoming this barrier is to realize that wanting a positive event is a negative feeling, while accepting a negative event is a positive feeling. The prototypical example of Lust might be someone "dating" a person they cannot stand out of attachment to a few fleeting moments of pleasure. Developing mindfulness and recognizing the impermanent nature of material possessions and pleasure can help us overcome the barrier of lust, fostering a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Repressed and unacknowledged anger can manifest as spite, often resulting in passive-aggressive behavior or lashing out at the wrong person. Awareness and honest acceptance of one's emotions is the way over this barrier, and insights from the book Radical Honesty can be useful in this regard. Practicing open communication, expressing our feelings in a healthy manner, and seeking to understand the root causes of our anger can help us let go of spite and cultivate a more harmonious state of mind.
Procrastination and laziness can hold us back from reaching our full potential. Sloth can manifest in various ways, but the way of overcoming it always boils down to acquiring and maintaining an internal locus of control. This involves recognizing that we have the power to take charge of our lives and make meaningful changes. By setting clear goals, breaking tasks into manageable steps, and fostering a “wholesome discipline”, we can overcome the barrier of sloth and unlock our true potential.
We can often find ourselves distracted from the present moment by a preoccupation with particular events in time, and this gives the barrier of Worry a bipolar nature. When we are overly preoccupied with events in the past, this is called “Depression”, and when we are distracted with anticipation of possible events in the future, this is called “Anxiety”. Worry can feel overwhelming, but the way over this barrier is to let ourselves worry and then transform that worry into concern. We can do this by realizing that being Worried about ‘there and then’ always happens Here and Now. By focusing on what can be done in the present moment, we can lower tension and take action instead of remaining paralyzed by fear. Practicing mindfulness, grounding techniques, and cultivating gratitude can help us shift our focus from worry to proactive problem-solving.
Living in bad faith involves deception, dishonesty, and a refusal to confront reality. The distinction between Good Faith and Bad Faith deserves a discussion in its own right, and you can find the beginning to that discussion Here. In short, Bad Faith is always specific and particular. It can manifest in various ways, such as self-deception, denial, or adopting a victim mentality. Jean-Paul Sartre’s insights on bad faith argued that individuals often deceive themselves to avoid the responsibility and anxiety associated with making authentic choices. This highlights the dangers of having too much faith in particular things, similar to the Hindu idea of becoming free from Maya, or illusion. Good Faith on the other hand, is always general and based in the concepts of reason and consistency themselves. To overcome the barrier of Bad Faith, we must cultivate Good Faith. Living in Good Faith involves striving for honesty, integrity, and personal growth by acknowledging our limited perspectives, being open to new information, and recognizing the importance of engaging with a diverse range of opinions. This belief fosters a sense of interconnectedness, humility, and awe, encouraging us to remain curious and open to the unfolding mysteries of the omniverse. By embracing the uncertainty inherent in existence and striving for a deeper understanding of the world, we can move beyond Bad Faith and develop a more authentic and fulfilling life.
While it's easy to understand the importance of Peace of Mind with a clear head, it's crucial to remember that when faced with one of the barriers, we often don't have a cool head. The barriers themselves will make foolish ideas occur to us, so the key is to Notice the barrier for what it is, and then to do Nothing.
"Boredom is cleansing for the Spirit because 'Boredom' is what 'Peace of Mind' looks like to someone without it." - Upaya
Most people can see this wisdom for themselves, and by simply allowing a moment to be honest with ourselves about facing a barrier, we can admit that we would rather be 'bored' than actively spiteful or worried. This highlights the importance of Noticing and doing Nothing to create the space for the turbulent mind to settle.
It's important to note that Peace of Mind is not the ultimate goal in every situation, as wonder, curiosity, challenge, joy, and love are also essential aspects of life. However these emotions are transient and fleeting, while peace of mind provides a stable foundation upon which to build our lives. Wonder can spoil into Worry, Challenge can spoil into Bad Faith, and Joy can spoil into Lust. By building our home in Peace of Mind, we're still free to go out and wander, explore, and enjoy ourselves, but when the stormy weather approaches and the Five Barriers loom, we can return simply and contentedly to our home in Peace of Mind, knowing it provides us with the stability and resilience to face whatever challenges come our way.
How to Vibe Well:
The popular idea of "good vibes" is a bit misguided. You cannot have positive without negative, they go together, and this is the source of the confusion. People who think that “good vibes” means they must always stay positive tend to enjoy the positivity at first while it’s around, but then they think the world is falling apart at the first sign of negativity. If you realize that “good vibes” has nothing to do with whether the wave is positive or negative, but everything to do with how well you ride the wave, then we start to see how one can always have “good vibes” …or more accurately “How to Vibe Well.”
Facing Negative Waves:
When confronted with challenges or negativity, it is crucial to approach them with courage and honor. Instead of avoiding or denying these experiences, we must confront them head-on, learning from them and growing stronger as a result.
Embracing Positive Waves:
When we encounter positivity and good fortune, it is essential to approach them with humility and generosity. This means acknowledging that our successes are often the result of a combination of factors, including the support of others, and being willing to share our good fortune with those around us.
To maintain a harmonious life, we must learn to balance our emotions, thoughts, and actions with a chaotic and ever changing external context. This requires developing self-awareness, practicing mindfulness, and continually striving for personal growth and improvement, knowing life will have its ups and down under even our best efforts.
“The fool who persists in their folly will become wise” -Blake
Sages from various religious and spiritual backgrounds share a common wisdom deeper than their cultural differences. Us fools are those who stumble over the five barriers, and "Wisemen" are those who are afraid to appear foolish and avoid the barriers in an attempt to maintain a comfortable existence. However, the Sage is the one who has learned from their foolish experiences with the barriers and developed the ability to overcome them with the grace of an olympic hurdler as they arise. The Sage is an ideal that represents those who have discovered the path to joy and inner peace.
“Naturalists have the most realistic expectations, Pantheists give the most practical advice, Monotheists tell the most inspiring stories, and Polytheists throw the best parties…
...But the “sages” from EVERY religion are still more like each other than they are like the people from their own culture . There is only one way to be Joyful, but everyone finds their own way to be miserable lol” -Upaya
To "vibe well" as a Sage is to maintain a balanced and positive attitude, facing negative experiences with courage and honor, and embracing positive experiences with humility and generosity. A Sage is a universal concept that transcends specific religious or spiritual backgrounds, encompassing figures such as Saints, Bodhisattvas, Yogis, and Stoics.
Exploring different theistic approaches allows us to see the unique insights offered by sages from these different traditions, and the layer of existence explored by these different approaches (For a full discussion on the layers of existence, please see our Foolish guide to ontology.) However these approaches need not be mutually exclusive, and many Sages draw wisdom from multiple sources. Although we'll be discussing various theistic approaches, such as Naturalism, Pantheism, Monotheism, and Polytheism, it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge the term "Theism" itself. Borrowing a page from Schopenhauer, we should recognize that the concept of "Theism" is actually a Western invention. These categories, while useful as starting points for discussion, should not be seen as definitive or exhaustive in capturing the essence of different belief systems. For instance, Hinduism can be viewed as both distinctly polytheistic and profoundly pantheistic.
By using these Western constructs as mere stepping stones, rather than rigid classifications, we can begin to explore the rich tapestry of human spirituality and wisdom. Sages from all backgrounds, regardless of their theistic affiliations, share a common understanding of the human quest for inner peace and harmony. As we navigate the complexities of existence, their teachings converge to reveal a balanced, fulfilling life that transcends cultural boundaries. So, while we playfully employ these categories to kick off our spiritual investigations, let us remember that they are only an initial attempt to grasp the vast diversity of human thought and belief. In the end, the wisdom of sages encourages us to face negative waves with courage and honor, and to embrace positive waves with humility and generosity, transcending the limitations of any particular theistic label.
The Buddha did not seek to create "Buddhists"; he aimed to inspire more Buddhas, individuals who would find their own path to enlightenment. Similarly, Jesus did not preach a focus on labels like "Christian"; he sought to inspire individuals to embrace the Holy Spirit within themselves and take responsibility for their own spiritual growth as "Christs" or "Saints" in their own right.
Philippians 2:12-13 “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” -Paul the Apostle
This section will delve deeper into the different theistic approaches - Naturalism, Pantheism, Monotheism, and Polytheism - We will look at their shared wisdom as well as their unique insights and practices for overcoming the five barriers in our pursuit of "vibing well."