The End of Suffering

By Zach Van Houten

Suffering is one of the constants of life. It may be more acute for some than it is for others, but fundamentally it is shared by all beings.

What should our attitude be towards suffering? Should we despise it? Work with it? Deny it? Medicate it? Blame others for it?

Buddhism teaches that there is a path one can take (the Eightfold Path) that leads to the end of suffering. It is a very prescriptive concept of how we can take practical steps to overcome this ever-present aspect of our existence.

Christianity, especially Catholicism emphasizes the redemptive nature of suffering.; and how trials of many kinds can produce perseverance (James 1:2-4). The example of Christ’s passion is given to show what compassion and bravery looks like in the face of intense suffering.

Theodicy refers to the conundrum theologians face when they try to explain the reason God allows suffering. It is no easy matter to explain away, for example: rape, mutilation, torture, genocide, etc. It is especially difficult to hold that there is an all-powerful, loving being who is watching it all unfold and refusing to intervene to prevent the worst of events from occurring.

I personally find the idea of a all-powerful, all-loving being controlling and governing the world to be a relic of ancient thought, and a needlessly anthropomorphic way to view reality. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when considering the volume and severity of suffering on this planet. Something is obviously missing from the equation.

There are much more sophisticated philosophies regarding the true nature of existence, which can account for suffering in a more rational way. Once we remove the idea of a cosmic being actively controlling it all, we find that it is much easier to see that suffering is simply built into reality itself, not programmed into it by an outside agent.

We may not like that suffering exists, but it is much easier to accept that it is just a brute fact of life, much like physics is a facet of nature. Now the question remains, what is it’s purpose?

The idea of purpose is a tricky one. Because it implies intentionality. Rather than asking what the purpose of suffering is, I prefer to ask ‘how can we work with suffering?’ This gives us agency, and pushes us to form our own conclusions about what it means to us personally.

My life has involved a lot of suffering. I have struggled with depression for almost a decade, and even before that I was never what I would describe as happy. I had enough outlets when I was young to distract me from getting fully depressed, but at some point those distractions stopped working. Then I was faced with suffering in it’s raw form. Not just in myself, but in the world. It was like a car crash you can’t look away from.

I am doing much better now than I was in the first few years of depression. At the time it felt like the world was shaded gray, and I don’t remember any feelings of happiness. Just numb and dull, with a perpetual heavy, sinking feeling in my chest. It was truly hell for a while.

I learned to manage this, and over time worked up the energy to make life changes and grow. Life got a lot better. I still had a lot of emotional and psychological issues, but I was channeling my energy into productive things more than before.

I had decided when I first got depressed that I didn’t want to medicate myself. I wanted to beat depression. I wanted to understand it; to learn the mechanisms of this thing so that I could not only heal myself, but also help others. This journey has honestly made me a much better person than I was before I got sick. I believe that it has refined me. And though I am far from perfect, I feel extremely proud of the growth it has produced in me.

I feel that when the Buddhists talk about the end of suffering, it isn’t merely about suffering being bad. It is more about the completion of suffering; when it exhausts itself.

The truth is, most of the people I deeply respect have experienced a lot of suffering. There seems to be an initiation into the depths of pain and despair, which produces powerful and compassionate human beings.

In Buddhism the enlightened mind is likened to a diamond. Diamonds are formed by intense pressure in the heart of the earth. In the same way, we cannot be made beautiful unless we undergo testing and trials and traumas. The late Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh referred to this truth when he said “No mud, no lotus.” And having been a peace activist in his home country during the Vietnam War, he had seen a lot of suffering firsthand.

I would never tell another person what suffering should mean to them. Their suffering may be too great for me to comprehend, and too tragic for me to properly empathize with. The way we choose to handle suffering is personal. But there is one thing that is obvious: by choosing to accept and work with our suffering, we increase our ability to grow as human beings and to develop our souls. This, I believe, we carry with us, beyond this lifetime.

Thank you for reading.

Photo by THÁI NHÀN from Pexels


Don’t Be Like Me

By Zach Van Houten

I don’t want you to follow me. I want you to find your true path. The inward yearning you have will lead you if you trust it. Your fate will be an expression of your soul. I wouldn’t want to interfere with what you are becoming. I accept you just as you are.

You can learn from me if you want. Take what you like about me and discard the rest. Use me as a mirror for yourself. Dialogue with me if you want to work out your ideas, or if you simply want someone to listen and empathize.

There is no need to be triggered by what I write or say. My thoughts are my own, and reflective of my very particular journey and my individual perspective. They don’t have to be your thoughts, unless you want them to be.

I wouldn’t want a world full of people like me. It would be hell. There would be too many tasks uncompleted, or done poorly. My limited skillset would not be enough for the world. We need people who are fundamentally not like me. And we need a lot of them.

I want my friends and family to know I appreciate them as they are. When I become judgmental or narrow-minded, I don’t intend to. I just sometimes get frustrated and project that onto other people. In the end there is so much I gain from others, it is amazing.

When I look at the world, it is easy for me to judge others for their failings. Especially those in the public eye. But who am I to judge? Could I do what they do? Do I know what their work requires of them? No. I can’t know the situation. It is not my place to assume I could do better than them.

Are my values superior to the values of others? No. My heart dictates what I value, and I am devoted to the service of those values. They are for me, not for everyone. Some may share my values, which is wonderful. But the world would fall apart if everyone valued the same things I did.

My life is a work of art, and every day it is being created. It is unique, and personal, and amazing. I am lucky to be in love with it. Not because it is easy, but because it is expressing my soul. And that is where true beauty emerges.

How could I imagine the work of art that your life is becoming? I want to appreciate your soul as it grows and expresses itself in a unique way. I don’t want to take your paintbrush away. I want to honor your creative process.

I want you to be able to find inspiration in my work, if it speaks to you. That is the joy of expressing myself. To be authentically real and see what happens. Welcome to my gallery!

Thank you for reading.

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels


The Sunny Side of Nihilism

By Zach Van Houten

Merriam-Webster defines nihilism as:

a: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless
\\ Nihilism is a condition in which all ultimate values lose their value.
— Ronald H. Nash

b: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths


Now could there be any value to a viewpoint such as this? Does it not seem a little bit… bleak?

I would argue that, despite the reputation it has garnered, nihilism is more or less the pessimistic Western version of an Eastern spiritual tradition known as zen. What is seen as tragic to us, with a slight shift in perspective and emphasis, is actually great freedom and liberation.

Nihilism is considered to be the implication of Friedrich Nietzsche‘s declaration that “God is dead“, and the aftermath of the destruction of belief in traditional religion in the West. The picture painted was very tragic. Contrary to popular opinion, Nietzsche was not himself a proponent of nihilism, but rather a prophet predicting it’s arrival. He predicted the horrors of the 20th century quite accurately, as in his own view, a natural consequence of the collapse of religious ideals.

Nihilism extends beyond simple rejection of religion to a deeper mistrust of all societal values and concepts. The nihilist gazes at the horrors of life and doesn’t provide an excuse for it. He or she does not see hope or deeper meaning, just the brute facts of the situation. This outlook is deeply related with the depressive tendency.

So, if this philosophy is so depressing, what good could there be in it? Well, I would argue that nihilism is in some ways the dark before the dawn for the spiritual/philosophical seeker. The end of the line for all buffers against the cold reality which faces us.

Society is built around a sort of repression of the hard truth that everyone will suffer and die. Life is a constant uphill battle, offering no clear answers to why we are here or what we are doing. Some people happen to have a sunny disposition and are able to repress these aspects of life and enjoy their time. But for many, if not most, the actual experience of living is not easy at all.

Before we can find true freedom we must first take complete responsibility for our beliefs and ideas about life. Nihilism involves a ruthless deconstruction of false ideas and fake positivity. It sees through the futility of human concepts in the face of mortality. In the end everyone suffers and dies. What point is there to it all?

Buddhism shares a similar focus on suffering and death. Buddhists believe that life is full of suffering, and that the only way out is the attainment of enlightenment, or liberation. Everything changes, and grasping onto anything will only end in suffering. So the Buddha taught his followers to learn nonattachment: the art of dying before you die.

Society wants you to follow its rules and play its games. It convinces you by appealing to your sense of morality and reason. Yet the values of society are often superficial, and not well thought-out. Nihilism, in it’s rejection of societal values, has a degree of wisdom, as ultimately, all external values have to be dropped in order for a person to become completely free. A liberated being does not base their morality off of society, but rather their own inner sense of compassion and internal moral compass, which can’t be put into rigid doctrines.

Zen buddhism is an attempt to throw off all conceptual knowledge and return to the simplicity of the human heart. It involves a deep trust in the compassion and wisdom of our true nature, rather than the distrust of nature that society has instilled in us.

Zen is a means of transcending the idea of meaning in life, instead preferring direct experience. In this way it is similar to nihilism, except that nihilism is more of a response to loss of meaning, whereas zen is focused on transcending meaning. Seeing things as they are is the goal of both approaches. The main difference is in the actual experience of this meaninglessness. For zen buddhists it is an ecstatic experience to reconnect with their true nature apart from mental concepts. Nihilism does not seem to offer such consolation.

Zen Buddhism is practice-based. It is rooted in the practice of meditation, and the contemplative lifestyle. And in this way it is a fully formed way of life rather than a philosophy. It is based in a worldview which is fundamentally optimistic about life after death, even though a zen buddhist would be very reluctant to speculate on such topics. Nihilists on the other hand tend to be pessimistic about the possibility of life after death and spirituality in general.

So in conclusion, nihilism is for many a symptom of a deep spiritual need. A yearning for the transcendent, which cannot be filled by external ideas and moral injunctions. Zen buddhism on the other hand shares a lot of the same deconstructive tendencies with nihilism, but offers a fundamentally positive, practical, and optimistic path forward. I am not a zen buddhist per se, but it has been a fundamental part of my spiritual path, and may offer something of value to anyone with nihilistic or depressive tendencies.

Thank you for reading.


Why I Don’t Have Faith In Politics

By Zach Van Houten

There are few things as essential to being human as politics. Any time there are groups of people cooperating together, there arises the need to make group decisions.

The necessity of making collective decisions can lead to a great deal of tension. The hatred between left and right has been getting worse it seems, and the internet seems to highlight this.

One thing is certain: politics is one of the things that defines the internet. Increasingly so as participation in organized religion declines. The void left by religion seems to largely be filled by political participation. Although it isn’t exclusive to the non-religious by any means.

Here is where I want to make a confession: I no longer have faith in politics.

Is believing in politics a bad thing? Who am I to say? I can only comment on what I have found is healthy and unhealthy for myself, and what my own personal journey has taught me. It would be profoundly ignorant for me to say others should follow my example. We need people to engage in all areas of life, and humans tend to be specializing creatures. So what works for me is mostly reflective of how I am learning to contribute to the world. Others will contribute in different ways than me. That is healthy and normal. Still, my views may be helpful for someone who is still forming their worldview. That is who I write this for.

I have many friends on both sides of the culture wars. Over the last six years or so I have tried to balance myself between the left and the right in order to dialogue with people on both sides and understand where I am on the spectrum. For the most part I find myself lacking a political home. In terms of temperament I tend to be more similar to leftists, but when I actually break down the ideologies that drive both the left and the right, I find I don’t really trust either of them.

And the third category, libertarians, I consider to be for the most part a non-factor in the culture wars. I resonate with libertarianism and anarchism on certain ideological levels, and also don’t in certain ways. For the most part this subset of the population has yet to be a major force in the culture wars so I am not going to really comment on them in this post.

The Moral Calculation Problem

The number one reason I do not have faith in politics is what I will call the problem of moral calculation. What I am referring to here is related to philosophical ethics. In order to make good decisions, we must start with good philosophy. Most people have never delved into ethical philosophy, yet want to claim things are “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad” without any clear understanding of what those terms mean, objectively.

Philosophy is rooted in how we think, in terms of language. A good thinker is precise with their words, and has spent much time considering what words mean to them, and the process by which he or she arrives at logical conclusions. If you are not a good philosopher, you will not be a good intellectual. It is that simple. Because philosophy is the art of thinking.

In ethics there are three main branches: deontology, consequentialism, and virtue ethics. Virtue ethics doesn’t really give us any detailed guidance on decisionmaking, so I won’t spend time on it (although I recommend reading up if you are interested).


Deontology is much more closely related to the political right than the political left. The basic idea is that morality comes from God, and that our moral decisions should be based on Divine revelation. This makes a lot of sense if you are someone who happens to be religious and believes that Divine revelation is not only possible, but clearly defined and applicable.

While I consider myself spiritually inclined, I do not believe it is at all obvious that we have received direct revelation from an all-powerful, all-loving being, nor that said revelation is clearly defined and applicable. A honest read of the Bible gives me the impression that Christianity is a amalgamation of many different things, and that it isn’t as cohesive as many on the right would have you believe.

Does that mean that the Bible is not applicable today? No I would not say that. I just think it lacks the coherency that I would expect from a book touted as being the end-all, be-all of ethics and spirituality. I understand that deontology is not restricted to Christianity, but in the context of American culture, this is the only real application of this current.

The most damning argument against deontology is an ancient one, put forth by Plato, known as Euthyphro’s Dilemma. Essentially the claim is that we can only know that God’s commands are moral if we have a predefined sense of what is moral. And if we have a predefined sense of moral we must admit it did not come from God’s commands but was prior to it. Some people counter by saying that certain commands are moral because God commands them. Which I find to just be a veiled appeal to authority, or might-makes-right philosophy.


Consequentialism is more closely related to the political left, although both the left and the right appeal to this in discourse. It is the common language of ethics in the 21st century. Even deontologists tend to claim that following Divine revelation leads to better outcomes than not.

As the name suggests, this branch of ethics is based on predicting the consequences of any given action, and choosing the most favorable outcome as a guide to our decision-making. We use this all the time in our lives, and it is essential to making decisions as a rational being.

Yet, it has it’s limits. This is where the problem of moral calculation comes in. Let’s say you want to make a good decision. You would have to 1) have a clear understanding of what a positive outcome looks like, and 2) a plan to carry out a series of actions to create the conditions for this outcome to become a reality. This seems simple enough, right?

Well, on small scales, yes. If I want to bake delicious cookies, I would merely have to know what a delicious cookie is like, then find a recipe and bake it. Presto! Delicious cookies are made. I carried out my plan and it brings joy to my friends and family who eat the cookies. I foresaw the consequences of my actions and took the steps to make it a reality.

Let’s raise the stakes. What if you didn’t just want to do good for a few people, but actually wanted to do the absolutely moral thing? Because at the end of the day, when we say something is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, the underlying assumption is that the action is either a net positive for the state of the world or a net negative for it. Otherwise, is the action really moral or ethical if you don’t know whether it will lead to a positive outcome for the world?

In politics this dimension of ethics is especially apparent. Everyone will tell you how irresponsible or damaging someone else’s ideology is. How deranged, out of touch, and dangerous it is to hold certain political views. And from a certain perspective this makes a lot of intuitive sense. I mean, the obvious example would be Nazi Germany. Who wouldn’t agree that that was bad? I know personally I would never support such a regime.

Yet we must remain objective, because the appeals to your emotions are what the political machine feeds off of. Most people are so afraid of being perceived as immoral that they will posture themselves in any way to avoid the appearance of moral ambiguity. Yet the hard reality of life is that nothing is really as it seems.

To make a moral calculation requires an understanding of all the variables involved in a particular situation. Which instantly brings us to a frustrating truth: it is impossible to account for all of the variables involved in any decision.

There is a concept in chaos theory called the butterfly effect. It essentially is a mathematically derived idea which tells us that it is impossible to know the effects of an event over significant amounts of time, because the variables compound, creating all sorts of unexpected, seemingly random consequences as a result. The name comes from the observation that an event as small as a butterfly flapping it’s wings could actually cause a major change in weather patterns over a significant period of time.

We could think of it like this: if you choose to go to the grocery store, you will necessarily shift the flow of traffic on the roads you drive simply by your presence. This small shift on the roadways could theoretically lead to a traffic accident occuring that you could not possibly foresee. Or let’s say you cut someone off, and they get angry. They then go home and take out their frustration on their wife, which causes the wife to realize they are not right for each other, which causes a divorce, which affects the lives of the entire family, rippling out further and further into time.

These are just minor examples of how small, non-deliberate actions can set off chains of events unknown to the actor. Now imagine how much more consequential and multi-variabled political decisions are. It is a calculation nightmare.

Furthermore, there is the problem of values. Not everyone values the same things, and values often conflict. It isn’t so simple as ‘always tell the truth’, since most people would lie to protect those they love from serious harm. Because care in many cases supercedes honesty. It also isn’t clear that freedom is always good, because the freedom of one person may cause harm to many others. And ultimately all laws are curtailments of freedom.

If you study ethics seriously, you will find that no one has come up with a real clear theory of moral calculation that can withstand scrutiny. The factors involved in any decision in life are endless. It is actually impossible to predict the full effects of any given action. So why do we pretend that we can?

Simple. It is a myth that society operates under to maintain order. This order isn’t necessarily good or bad. It is just moral order. It provides a sort of consistency to society. It is to some degree an essential delusion for most. But I believe that those who are capable of seeing through the delusion of righteousness have a chance at greater personal freedom to live their lives according to their personal values rather than those given them by society.

Another difficulty in moral calculation is separating fact from fiction. Again, things are not always as they seem. And in politics this is especially true. The degree of corruption and mind-games being played is astounding. Propaganda is essential to politics, and anyone who has watched corporate news should by now be painfully aware that there are people who will intentionally lie in order to push an agenda.

Most people are not specialized or well-versed in the topics of national policy. Democracy has taught us to believe that our opinions are important which to some degree is true. But it also leads to a false confidence that we can actually understand the complexities and nuances involved in issues ranging from geopolitics to macroeconomics, and lately even virology. These subjects are, for the most part, beyond the scope of the average person’s ability to understand. This includes myself.

Another thing most people won’t touch with a ten foot pole is the proven existence of powerful secret societies and secretive government agencies which work behind the scenes, unaccountable to the public. Just do some reading up on the history of Skull and Bones (see this CNN video about them). Research the CIA’s mind control program MKUltra. Look at the history of NASA and the Nazi scientists we adopted (see Operation Paperclip). Before you dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist, have the basic decency to at least check the links and see if these things are properly documented public knowledge or not. Then make your own decisions.

I don’t pretend to have a clue what goes on with the elites behind closed doors but there is plenty of evidence that the world of power is very weird. And most people won’t acknowledge it because they are afraid of how crazy it all seems and how acknowledging it may make them look crazy too. It also makes it so much harder to actually trust the mechanisms of power once you see that they are likely corrupted.

The Deterioration of Dialogue

Another reason I prefer not to engage in political discourse is because it makes people defensive. Want to see someone shut down? Bring up political views different from their own and play devil’s advocate. In most cases you will see a significant drop in the degree of openness and warmth in the conversation. People on average just don’t know how to separate their emotions from their ideas, so to question their ideas and beliefs is to set off a chain of emotional reactions. I find this tiresome personally.

What I really desire is to have conversations of depth about what is truly important. Which for me, lies much more in the spiritual and psychological domains. Politics is an endless source of strife and cultural warfare. It sucks people dry. Look at anyone deeply involved in politics and I can assure you it has taken a toll on their emotional well-being. I know from first-hand experience as a former political junkie.

How do we really improve the world? First of all, I have no damn clue. It isn’t at all obvious my actions will be a net positive for the world. But I do know that what resonates with me most at this point in my life is heart to heart and mind to mind connections with people in love and honesty. Do I still have a desire to help people think better? Absolutely. But do I need to change others? No. I just want to be authentically myself and let the chips fall where they may.

Control is an illusion. And politics is like crack for a control freak. Letting go of our expectations of life allows us to open up to the experiences of this imperfect world. It will never be as good as we want it to be, no matter what anyone tells you. The healthy and rational response is to get used to that imperfection and find some way to give back to the world that resonates with your soul. It should feel right internally. Give up the need to get externally validated by a ideological tribe. Screw what others think. Live your own values with integrity.

In conclusion. Politics leaves most people feeling mistreated and abused. Helpless and fragile. Heartbroken and enraged. Is it worth it? For some, it may be. And it may be necessary to have people engage in it. As I mentioned earlier, each person has to follow their own heart and do what feels most right to them.

Thank you for reading.


The Universal Body of Christ: Diversity Reconciled in Unity

By Zach Van Houten

Within the Bible there are many passages which speak of a reconciliation of humanity to God. This is often understood in a concrete, and historical sense, based on a literal interpretation of Scripture. I am not interested in diving into all the reasons I do not read the Bible literally, as those discussions get tedious. If you consider all or even most of the Bible to be literally and historically accurate, that is your prerogative. It is not my job or my intent to persuade you that is not the case.

I believe approaching religious texts subjectively is really key when it come to receiving insights from them. I have rarely found inspiration in factual, historical details. Truths seem to hit home emotionally when we relate with a story or a passage personally. When we can see in it a pattern which goes beyond the particular story, it causes us to reflect on our own lives. It helps us connect our spirituality with the particular circumstances we find ourselves in today.

The Body of Christ was a metaphor used by the Apostle Paul to help Christians understand their essential unity as the universal Church.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work…Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6,12,27

This theology of unity expressed through diversity is a principal that extends beyond the limited conception of Christianity as a sectarian religion, and hints at the broader unity of all existence. For if God is understood to be all-pervading, then we can start to understand that while Christianity was meant for the church, it’s revelations are a part of a much bigger story which is now being understood not merely through the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, but also through the inspiration received by many different religions and world philosophies.

To see this larger story we need a wider viewpoint. Our goal is not to make any statement of absolute truth, it is more to point to our human interconnectedness. To our longing for hope, and our faith in power and intelligence beyond ourselves. This is a timeless story and can be seen everywhere if you have the eyes to see and ears to hear.

How is this unity revealed? Well, first we have to look beyond the appearance of the world, and get in touch with heart of life itself. The word we use for this heart of life is Love. It binds us to one another, and fills us with such energy that we write about it, sing about it, live for it and die for it.

Love is experienced when we sense this unity deeply. And to sense the unity demands that we see through our individual differences, to perceive clearly. I will use the word ego here to represent our unhealthy preoccupation with individual differences, in comparison to other people and the world at large.

When we are able to let our guard down and open up to another person, to a group, or to life itself, we experience a love which over the centuries has been associated with concepts such as God. To be in deep relationship with reality, with existence, is to be in the most Divine relationship possible. Nothing could be closer to our own being.

The way we live out this experience of loving connection varies according to how deeply and broadly one has established relationship with existence, and how the circumstances of life and our psychology have formed us. One tool we can use to understand this expression of personhood is called the Enneagram.

The Enneagram has become quite popular among Christians, which makes me super excited that we will finally be able to understand the Body of Christ in a more true way. To see that every person expresses attributes of God, although for some this love is locked away and not always visible to the naked eye.

Ultimately I believe all people are held together by love at the core of their being. It just may be that for some, we may never see that part of them, and they may never be conscious of it themselves. The Enneagram gives us a tool to look more deeply at ourselves and separate out what is sinful from what is holy. That is, what reflects selfless love and service versus what manifests as dysfunction and disharmony.

For example, my Enneagram type, Five, is known for expressing cerebral, perceptive and innovative aspects of God. While at our most dysfunctional we can indulge in extreme isolation and arrogance. We can manifest schizoid tendencies and delusional thinking. Yet we also can be visionary and insightful when in healthy relationship.

I would encourage you all to look into the Enneagram, and consider if you relate to a particular type. Ask your friends and family what type they think you are. And most importantly, pray or meditate on the topic and see whether or not the Enneagram or another personality type system can help you see through the smallness of your ego. Because the point is not to worship your individuality, but rather to learn how to see your own limitations and then surrender them. The more we see through our own PR, the easier it is for us to serve humbly. All our gifts belong to the universal Body of Christ, and we can find peace by getting in right relationship with the Whole.

For more on the Enneagram, check out this article: https://religionnews.com/2017/09/05/what-is-the-enneagram-and-why-are-christians-suddenly-so-enamored-by-it/

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Non-Violence As A Lifestyle

By Zach Van Houten

Non-violence is not just about abstaining from physical violence.

It is also a commitment to the ideal of non-violent communication.

These are obviously ideals, and sometimes life puts us in non-ideal situations. And the commitment to these ideals does not give us the right to look down on those who do not adhere to the same values.

But peaceful communication, what is called in Buddhism “Right Speech”, is a step towards a more harmonious world. This means we seek to listen deeply and compassionately to all, even those we deeply disagree with. We strive to share love with all, even those considered unlovable. We seek to avoid harsh statements and mockery of others, seeing all people as worthy of respect by virtue of their existence.

To those undergoing persecution and trials in this life, we support your dignity. And we know that suffering often leads to violence. I do not support violence but I support human dignity. Those who are capable and privileged to use nonviolent means, should consider the gift of nonviolence as a approach to the achievement of peace. We should accept all beings on the basis of the inherent dignity of Being, and from that place work to achieve peaceful ends with the least amount of harm caused in the process.

We cannot pursue peace until we have released the hate we carry in ourselves, and commit to the process of internal and external healing.

Blessings 🙏☸☮


Healing from Polarization

By Zach Van Houten

We need HEALING from the political, social and spiritual division we are experiencing, as well as the corresponding apathy that is a natural byproduct of a lack of collective vision. It is time to recognize that among those leaders we have historically looked up to, only a small minority have transcended the polarized states of mind that foster and feed on a fractured society. We need NEW leaders who are psychologically mature (both within and apart from institutions) but before we can get that, we need a more self-actualized population. It is clear that the way we have been doing things is not working, and that is reflected in the bipartisan dissatisfaction with the political and social reality we face (even if we point the finger in different directions).

The main underlying current among pretty much all of us (myself included a lot of the time) is a sense that “I know what is right for the country and the world, and therefore I have the right to be angry that the world does not conform to my preferences”. Life never asks what we prefer. Life shows up as it does, and requires us to adapt or suffer. Those are always the two choices.

Now how do we adapt to this sort of situation?

We adapt by opening ourselves to different perspectives, by learning and getting outside of our comfort zones, engaging with people of diverse backgrounds, because this is an era of DIVERSITY and integration of people who hold incredibly disparate worldviews and perspectives, shaped by their unique life experiences.

We adapt by learning to refrain from framing issues in terms of absolute right or wrong, and absolute certainty about matters that we know are too complex for even the greatest theorists to completely provide a account of. The world’s problems can’t be solved by lines in campaign speeches. The world’s problems are not simple. Cross-disciplinary study is crucial to developing a proper framing. Most of the negative and harsh political comments suffer from lack of nuance, isolating a particular irrationality of the system as if it exists in isolation. Whereas the truth of the matter is that the postmodern world is infinitely complex. Down to the very fabric of our reality, physicists can’t even pin down the fundamental material that constructs our world. From a mathematical and physical enigma, can certainty be found? I think we have certainty in the WRONG THINGS.

We should have certainty in what we know to be absolutely good: love, peace, harmony, honesty, integrity, patience, etc.

If we do not commit to and base our lives around heart-based values and attitudes, we will perpetuate suffering. No matter how intelligent we are, the world will one-up us with another layer of undiscovered complexity. Causality and ontology and epistemology are not simple matters that the casual observer can discern the details of, at least not without a deep dive into oneself.

We will heal when we end our addiction to blaming anything outside of ourselves for the situation we find in the world. All that matters is what you and I individually choose to embody and enact in ourselves. That is all we can control in the end.

Photo credit: https://www.pickpik.com/photography-person-two-trees-disc-shot-assassination-attempt-44055



By Zach Van Houten

On this new episode of Living The Path, I am joined by Dan Coburn, author of the blog Interspirituality (https://interspiritualliving.wordpres…). He joined me to discuss Christianity, Buddhism, and the wide world of interspiritual dialogue. We also got into personality typology, and how that plays into the differences in approaches to faith and belief.

Living The Path is a podcast about nondual spiritual awakening and how it transforms our daily life. Available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and more. If you enjoy the show, feel free to subscribe to stay up to date on the newest episodes. https://www.buzzsprout.com/841069


It Is Already Here

By Chris Jordan

Whatever we are seeking we already have.

We spend our energy to replicate a sense of well being we remember. Sometimes it’s from childhood. Sometimes it’s from a period of time where things went our way and we felt unstoppable.

We work hard to set up the conditions so that the feeling might come back and stay.

What we don’t realize is that the work is unnecessary.

Whether it was a person, or an object, or something we loved doing and were passionate about, the object in question only solicited that inside of us.

Which means it was already there. We already had it. We always have, and we still do.

Whatever God has granted to us, our soul or consciousness, whatever the label may be, it is pure.

It does not want. It doesn’t have need. It just is. It is given continually without request, without work, without struggle.

We observe the thoughts of want and need and experience it. We grasp for what we believe we lack.

If we think we lack something we are afraid and will resist life, causing ourselves more pain.

If we know we lack nothing and stop resisting we free ourselves from the pain and can experience what we’ve been seeking.

This is not abstract. It is just so mind numbingly simple that it’s hard to believe.

I believe it is because we think that for something to be profound that it needs to be complicated. However we all can remember moving times in our lives that brought us to tears, and it usually was because of simple gestures of love.

We believe that good things must be worked for. Did you work for your parents love? Perhaps you did, but it didn’t need to be that way.

More than that, what you are, how you are made, the essence of your being gifted to you is pure divine love.

Stop struggling. Stop worrying. Simply be and know that you have everything already, and give and receive with generosity and gratitude.