There are many people in this world that I admire. But there are few I admire more than musterbators. These are the people who must be what they can be. They’re the spiritual gangstas, the cosmic bad asses, the dis-illusionists.
Some of you have already joined the elite ranks of musterbators as a result of an epiphany or a life crisis or a 12-Step program or curiosity or just a natural drive to be your best. Some of you may hear the call through this post. Regardless, all are welcome.
Musterbators have been kickin’ self-delusion ass for millennia, but it wasn’t until 1943 that psychologist Abraham Maslow gave them the gift of a socially acceptable moniker. He called them self-actualizers.
In his famous Hierarchy of Needs, Maslow put self-actualizers/musterbators right where they should be: at the top of his needs pyramid. That’s because they have met their need for water, food, shelter, belonging, self-esteem, and have gone on to bigger and better things.
It needn’t be all-consuming work to become a musterbator. You can keep your day job and still climb to the top of the pyramid. A guide and fellow musterbator that I recommend for your climb is spiritual writer Adyashanti. His book The Way to Liberation has provided wonderful handholds for me as I continue to scale the pyramid on my way to the top.
Below, I have summarized his three core practices that are the ropes, harnesses, and crampons for your climb. I have added intentions to the list because they’ll nourish you on your ascent.
Now, let me help you climb.
Begin your ascent with an intention
Starting your day with a written intention is one of the most powerful ways to give your day meaning and purpose. It is a guiding principle that steers you through the day ahead. It is not what you’re going to do but how you’re going to do it. It’s a goal of who you want to be as you respond to the demands of your day. I’ve done some of the work for you by providing you with a Weekday Intention that you can receive automatically. (See the end of this post to begin receiving them.)
Use inquiry to challenge your “truth”
This is going to sound paradoxical at first. But inquiry is more about discovering who you are not than who you are. It is about fearlessly looking at the ideas, beliefs, and opinions that you have adopted, often unknowingly, into your life. It is not about answering your questions but questioning your answers. And it requires fearlessness. Basically, it’s about challenging your own bullshit.
The question that we ask in practicing inquiry is simple. Yet, it requires willingness and great courage: “Do I know with absolute certainty that this current thought, belief, opinion, interpretation, or judgment is true?”
Adyashanti’s question is about Truth. As survivors of our own addictive shipwrecks, we know the power of honesty. After all, it was the tool we used in our stepwork that revealed to us just how insane our lives had become. It is also the means by which God performed the greatest miracle in our lives—and that is saving it.
So it is with that same honesty that we ask the question: “Do I know with absolute certainty that this current thought, belief, opinion, interpretation, or judgment is true?”
But when do we ask it? As I tell my clients, it’s the moment when you feel yourself tightening—when you suffer a disturbance as the BB says. It’s in that exact moment that you stop and drop the question.
By doing this, you can begin stripping away your old, repetitive, negative patterns and open yourself to what is often a new perspective. Look at your own life and see if you can identify painful experiences that happen to you again and again even when they involve a different cast of people. Then drop the question into the pain.
We can also use inquiry about statements. For example, a popular one is “The only constant is change.” So I begin by asking myself if I can be absolutely certain that idea is true.
When I challenge the statement with the question, I can see it is true as it relates to outward appearances. In nature, rivers change landscapes. In my home town, new businesses have changed its character, and in my life, time has caused my hair to gray. But is it absolutely true for me inwardly? Have I changed how I respond to life? And to that I would have to say, “Not entirely.” Inquiry helps me identify the beliefs and behaviors that are carryovers from my drinking days that still cause me suffering. Whether I’m working with clients or with my own issues, the results of inquiry can then become the subject of another of the three core practices: contemplation.
Open yourself to inspiration through contemplation
According to Adyashanti, contemplation is the art of holding a word, phrase, idea, or belief in the silence and stillness of your awareness until “it begins to disclose deeper and deeper meanings and understandings.” Inquiry is about actively challenging things whereas contemplation is more about passively reflecting on things.
You can take the topic of change from the inquiry work above and use contemplation to reflect on an inner change that you want to make. When first practicing contemplation, it is suggested that you begin small by focusing on words and phrases. For example, if you wanted to use the Serenity Prayer to contemplate change, you may choose to just focus on the phrase “the courage to change the things I can.” Hold that phrase in the silence and stillness of your awareness and let the wisdom flow from it like tea from a steeping teabag. This is contemplation.
Re-energize your ascent with meditation
According to Adyashanti, meditation is the art of allowing everything to simply be in the deepest possible way” by letting go “of the effort to control and manipulate our experience.”
To me, meditation is like bathing in being. It is my spirit immersed in God’s spirit. It is about surrendering, about effortlessness, and about openness.
So we can take the wisdom that we have learned from our contemplation of the Serenity Prayer and sit with it in meditation. Adyashanti says, “In meditation, you are not trying to change your experience; you are changing your relationship to your experience.”
When meditating, it is recommended that you use a chair or cushion in a place that is free of distractions. Relax, let go of the concerns of the day, and “just be” with the wisdom revealed to you in contemplation.
Putting it all together
In your daily schedule, try setting aside time for these core practices. A half-hour is all you need. I recommend starting your day with the Weekday Intention. Then use the intention as the focus of one of the other practices. On Monday, you may choose to pair the intention with inquiry. On Tuesday, pair the Weekday Intention for that day with contemplation, and on Wednesday pair that day’s intention with meditation. Then decide which core practices to pair with the intention on Thursday and Friday. Rinse and repeat.
Regardless of how you implement these practices, they are powerful tools in stripping away your old patterns and social conditioning and guiding your ascent to the top of the pyramid where you will be greeted by other enthusiastic musterbators.
To begin receiving your Weekday Intentions automatically, go to blog.rjhandley.com and click the follow button and enter your email address. For more about the power of intentions, go to https://wordpress.com/post/blog.rjhandley.com/518
If you’d like to be free of your addiction, please contact me at ValuesBasedRecovery@gmail.com. I work with people who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction as well as behavioral addictions such as food, porn, and gambling. I work with clients in person or on the Zoom live video platform.
RJ Handley, Addiction Recovery Coach