What it is not
VINEETO: The reason I said that there is a remarkable difference between feeling harmless and actually being harmless is because it is easy to assess one’s happiness by checking if I am feeling happy whereas many people may feel themselves to be harmless when they are not experiencing feelings of aggression or anger against somebody. Yet they are nevertheless causing harm via their thoughtless ‘self’-oriented instinctual feelings and actions, something that all human beings are prone to do unless they become fully aware of their instinctual passions before these translate into vibes and/or actions.
It was about a year into my process of actualism when I became aware of how much my outlook on the world and on people had changed in that my cloak of myopic ‘self’-centredness began to lift and I no longer saw the world only ‘my’ way and my judgments and actions no longer revolved around ‘my’ interests, ‘my’ beliefs, ‘my’ ideas, ‘my’ ideals, ‘my’ fears, ‘my’ desires and ‘my’ aversions. Consequently I have learnt to judge harmlessness by the amount of parity and consideration I apply to others whom I come in contact with, both at work and at play, and not by merely feeling myself to be harmless.
RESPONDENT: Can you say more about this? I usually feel harmless but have been thinking lately that I somehow still do harm simply by not paying attention and applying parity and consideration to others with whom I come into contact. How did you do this more and more? And how did you notice that you’re still harming someone even if you don’t have feelings of anger or aggression or the like? And how do you know it’s you harming them? Can you give a few examples? I’m finding it possible to consider this matter more now that I’m happier as its given me breathing room to be less self-centred, but it’s a pretty new subject to me. What keeps your mind on being considerate? Is it just a close scrutiny on the feelings and passions that arise? Are you more perceptive of others because the feelings and passions that are now arising are diminished so you’re naturally more attentive to other things as well, like what’s going on with other people?
VINEETO: Sure. When I met Peter I was full of good intentions to make our living together work, i.e. to be as happy and peaceful as possible, but I had continuous clashes of opinion with him, frustrations of foiled expectation, hurt feelings and revenge of hurtful remarks. I realized that in order to be able live with Peter in peace and harmony I had to sort out a lot – my beliefs, my ‘truths’, my loyalties, my gender ideas, my problems with authority and all other sorts of feelings.
I remember well the first evening when I looked at Peter and saw him as just another human being – not as a partner, a mate, a member of the other gender, a lover, a sexual object, a valuable addition to my circle of friends, and not as someone who would approve or disapprove of me – simple another fellow human being. Suddenly the separation I felt was gone and there was a delicious intimacy, as ‘I’ was no longer attempting to force him to fit into ‘my’ world.
I was astounded and shocked by this experience, being outside of my so familiar ‘self’-centred and ‘self-oriented skin, because I realized that never before, not once in our 3-months acquaintance, had I been able, or even interested, to see him as a person in his own right. I was shocked at how all of my perception and consequently all of my interactions were driven by what I wanted, what I expected and what I believed him to be and how much I was therefore constantly at odds with how he actually was. From then on I paid as much attention as possible to become aware of situations when my feelings, beliefs, expectations and general attitude were standing in the way of recognizing another person, first Peter and later anyone I came in contact with, as equal fellow human beings, as persons in their own right, who live their own life, follow their own goals and aspirations, have their own preferences and tastes, and also, have their own set of morals, ethics and beliefs.
The reason I am telling this story is because this experience was the beginning of a slow and wide-ranging realization that as long as I live in ‘my’ world – made up of ‘my’ worldview, ‘my’ beliefs, opinions, feelings and survival passions – I cannot help but struggle to fit everyone into ‘my’ world, as actors on the stage of ‘my’ play, so to speak, as family and aliens, as friends and enemies, as ‘good people and ‘bad’ people. And not only am ‘I’ busy trying to do this, everyone else – all six billion of us – are equally struggling to fit everyone into ‘their’ world.
It then comes as no surprise that being actually harmless is out of the question – until ‘I’ more and more leave centre-stage, stop resenting being here, stop being stressed, take myself less seriously, take notice of other people the way they are and start enjoying life.
VINEETO: [..] I have spent many years exploring therapy groups and spiritual feeling states and it was quite a challenge to slowly wake up to the fact that feeling is not identical to actuality – in fact, feeling has nothing to do with actuality. In the past I might have felt harmless but was nevertheless quite harmful in that my ‘self’-centredness inevitably caused ripples in other peoples lives. I found that while I might have felt that I valued peace, I still instinctively acted in attack and defence mode. While I might have felt that I was willing to sacrifice my ego for a higher cause, I was actually cultivating humbleness as a means of soul-istic ‘self’-aggrandizement, and so forth.
Through the rigorous and persistent process of actualism, I slowly learnt to extend my attention beyond what I thought and felt, i.e. my ideals and passions, so as to become aware of the tangible effects that my thoughts, feelings and actions had on the people around me. I discovered more and more that feeling myself to be harmless and actually being harmless were two completely different things. This process of distinguishing between feeling and actuality is the key to actually becoming happy and harmless compared to merely feeling happy and harmless.
VINEETO: [..] When I made it my goal to become harmless, in the early days I sometimes felt toothless, castrated and helpless, particularly in situations where I felt I was being ‘wronged’ or I was being treated ‘unjustly’. But once these feeling subsided and I looked at the situation as it really was, I could see how silly it would have been to waste my time passionately fighting other people or riling against the beliefs, morals or ethics of other people in order for ‘me’ to be right or for ‘me’ to feel justly treated. The simple act of becoming aware of having antagonistic and/or indignant feelings inevitably caused me to look at my own ideas and ideals of what I thought and felt was ‘right’ and ‘just’ and ‘fair’– after all the only person I need to change, and can change, is me.
Oh changing others
VINEETO: [..] You might also have observed that pointing out a fact that pulls the rug from under someone’s precious belief often raises their hackles and as such is considered to be an act of aggression in the believer’s eyes. Whilst I would not choose to take someone’s beliefs apart in ‘real life’, as you call it, this mailing list is up front about being a non-spiritual mailing list and has been specifically set up ‘to assist in elucidating just what is entailed in becoming free of the human condition’. (From the welcome message to the Actual Freedom mailing list) As such this list is the very place to openly question and actively investigate all of the spiritual/philosophical beliefs, worldviews and psittacisms that pass for wisdoms and truths within the human condition so as to be able to make a clear-eyed investigation and assessment of the facts of the matter.
When I first came across actualism I went through a phase of enthusiasm where I wanted to share with my then-friends from my spiritual years that I had found the solution to my life-long quest for peace and happiness, a quest which I assumed was the same for them. At first, I naively thought people would be as pleased as I was to hear about an alternative to the well-worn religious/spiritual path – but no, none of my former friends who I talked to was in the least interested in questioning their precious beliefs, let alone entertain the idea of abandoning the safety of the spiritual path, and setting off in a completely new direction. At first I was flabbergasted by their disinterest in actualism, but with increasing attentiveness I began to understand my own doubts and fears and saw it as an ingrained part of the human condition that one wants to avoid changing one’s own life but invariably either wishes or even demands that other’s should change.
In short – I learnt to keep my mouth shut about abandoning beliefs, about becoming happy and harmless and about ‘self’-immolation and consequently the people I meet nowadays rarely feel threatened by what I do or say and therefore rarely treat me differently to everyone else. Mostly they are far too concerned with their own lives to even want to know what I am doing, let alone ‘test’ my harmlessness.
(The rest of that correspondonce by Vineeto, linked above, is an excellent read; the author may get to make notes of them in future, but do give it a read now)