Chapter Seven: Virtues on the Path

On the path of deepening our consciousness, there are many virtues to embrace. Virtues are moral standards that guide how we conduct ourselves. They teach us how to love, serve, and embrace others. This chapter is about some of the virtues I feel are most important.  Within the virtues listed below are many hidden lessons. I encourage you to take some time and ponder each one. What do they mean to you? Do you have other virtues that are important to you?

The Seven Virtues Explored in this Chapter

1.         Curiosity: Exploring with innocence

2.         Courage: Abandoning fear

3.         Constancy: Showing up and never giving up

4.         Temperance: Mastering self

5.         Silence: A space within to experience inner peace

6.         Beneficence: Charity that benefits the community

7.         Love: The glue that holds the universe together

Chapter Seven

Virtues on the Path

Positive Affirmation: Today, I am willing to love, serve, and embrace the world with curiosity and courage.

On the path of deepening our consciousness, there are many virtues to embrace. Virtues are moral standards that guide how we conduct ourselves. They teach us how to love, serve, and embrace others. This chapter is about some of the virtues I feel are most important. They are qualities I have embraced during my best and worst times. Within the virtues listed below are many hidden lessons. I encourage you to take some time and ponder each one. What do they mean to you? Do you have other virtues that are important to you?

The Seven Virtues

1.         Curiosity: Exploring with innocence

2.         Courage: Abandoning fear

3.         Constancy: Showing up and never giving up

4.         Temperance: Mastering self

5.         Silence: A space within to experience inner peace

6.         Beneficence: Charity that benefits the community

7.         Love: The glue that holds the universe together

Curiosity

Curiosity is our ability to let go of what we know in order to explore the unknown. One of the wonderful qualities of curiosity is that it leads us into our imagination, which is yet another virtue to explore. Accessing curiosity calls for us to suspend our beliefs and look deeply into our surroundings. Following our curiosity leads us to greater knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. If we stay within the confines of what we know, we will keep circling around what’s already in our minds. Judgment is a destructive force that stifles curiosity, causing us to relinquish our questions because when we hold a judgement, we assume we already know. When we are curious, we seek more knowledge or experience than we currently possess. Curiosity calls us to embrace innocence as we discover and rediscover our life.

We generally process information by starting with what we know and then filtering it down to what we don’t know. Psychologist E. J. Gibson created the concept of “bottom-up processing,” which works in the opposite manner. It starts with what we don’t know and then works its way into what we do know. Great philosophers brought forward some of the deepest wisdom using this process. Bottom-up processing is challenging, though, because we must suspend our minds and dive deeply into our curiosity.

Bottom-up processing utilizes our senses and draws us into the silence within to discover the answers we seek. I employ this style of processing in my writing. First, I ask myself a difficult question, such as, What is the nature of my soul? This is a question my mind cannot answer. After I ask the question, I remain silent and wait for an answer to arise within me. When the answer comes, the real work begins as I try to validate and bring logic to what is often a puzzle of a response.

Descartes said, “A substance minus its attributes cannot be known to the human mind.” Thus, our curiosity invokes a search for attributes that might not be readily visible. Being curious causes us to go deeper in our search for answers to our questions. Curiosity has led to many adventures and unexplored roads— in the silence, in my mind, and the world—that I would have never known about had I not been curious. Curiosity also stimulates our creative abilities, for it teaches us to let go of how our limited minds see and perceive the world. Being an artist is about looking at the world and reflecting it back in a way that others might not see it. We are all artists in this way, capable of learning more about ourselves and the world and using that new knowledge to grow. The question to answer is, “Are you courageous enough to explore your curiosities?”

Courage

We can choose to use courage to overcome our fears. This simple act gives us the strength to move forward in challenging situations. Holding fear or worry is the mind taking ownership of our body. Worry and fear disempower us; courage empowers us, amplifying our spirit in the process. In turn, we are better able to accomplish our dreams and goals. At times, courage calls for us to stand our ground, while at other times, it calls us to get up and move. Either way, it helps us let go of our preconceived ideas about how we think an experience will or should unfold so we can get the job done.

Courage is not only facing the unknown with bravery and valour. It’s the willingness to meet what we know to be our fears.

Courage is often found by staying present with the moment and breaking down what we need to do into small chunks. Any large task begins and ends with a series of small steps. Most of my greatest achievements began with courage. It taught me to let go of my fears about tackling big projects. If I limited myself to what I thought I was capable of achieving, I would have missed the opportunities I’ve had to reach my potential.

By adding faith and courage together, the two become an unstoppable force that supercharges our ability to do what we didn’t think was possible. We never know how far courage can take us until we choose it. Courage grows in us and makes us stronger each time we use it. If we think we need more courage than we possess, the willingness to be courageous is usually enough to get us through any difficulty and reach the goals we are striving to accomplish. Even small amounts of courage can help us rise to our greatest potential. Once our courage becomes greater than our fears, we begin to take control of the mind and live the life that’s purposely ours.

Consistency

With consistency, we reach the end of a task with the same spirit and enthusiasm we had in the beginning. One of the keys to consistency is finding joy in the act of doing. When a task is only about the results it yields, we sometimes miss the joy of performing it. Life is full of duties with delayed rewards. For example, writing a book is a delayed reward, and consistency is the right mindset for getting it done. At the same time, if we can remove ourselves from needing to achieve our goals, we allow the magic of creating to reveal itself. Nothing crushes consistency more than putting expectations on what we want a future moment to be. Goals are a good starting point for beginning to move a creation into the world. A goal may be the minimum we can achieve, but our ultimate potential often lives far beyond any finish line or quitting point. My experiences have taught me that sometimes my nudges to do or achieve my goals are more about what I discover on my way to the goal than actually achieving them.

The mind continuously tracks progress because it works in a linear fashion. The mind also tracks our perceived wins and failures. A little bean counter lives in our mind, running a tally of our interactions, ticking away, keeping score. As soon as this inner accountant thinks we haven’t made enough progress, it stands up and makes a formal announcement, often in the form of a criticism: “You haven’t accomplished anything in three months!” It is sometimes enough for us to give up and throw in the towel.

Our bean counter tracks more than just our progress. It tracks who we owe and who owes us. It stores all kinds of information about our friends, family, and partners. At any moment, the bean counter might stand up and give us a report. The problem is that our bean counter only sees black and white. For example, if the last two interactions with a clerk at a store were less than satisfactory, the bean counter might need to rip a strip off the clerk the next time. It might not know that the clerk just lost a child or is experiencing a medical crisis. The irony is that as soon as the bean counter learns about the clerk’s difficulties, it might roll back the last three complaints and give a credit or two before stepping in again. It is never satisfied. To help stay consistent, we need to fire the bean counter, stop counting our failures, and find joy in what we do.

Consistency is about showing up and not giving up. If our mind is in a different place than we are, only part of us shows up. To be consistent, our mind, body, and soul need to be equally present.

Failing is part of success. We often end up succeeding because we have run out of options to fail.

Temperance

Temperance is an old virtue that typically refers to self-restraint, but in the context of this book, I lean toward the Greek meaning of temperance which is sôphrosunê (so-fraws-a-me), which means self-mastery. Plato devoted the dialogue “Charmides” to exploring the meaning of sôphrosunê. In “Charmides,” the one who has temperance possesses these four qualities.

1.         Quietness

2.         Humility

3.         Doing one’s own business

4.         Knowledge of self

  1. Quietness

A common trait among the conscious people I’ve met over the years is a beautiful quietness to their presence. A person who has quietness is content with him or herself and is free of the restless nature of seeking self-improvement for the acceptance or praise of others. Their spiritual quest is directed towards their devotion to serving the Divine and deepening their relationship with God.  As I expanded my consciousness, I reached a point where my inner wisdom revealed that a great deal of the self-improvement I’d been seeking was only an effort to refine my ego. Now, this isn’t necessarily wrong—refining our personality helps us get along better with others because we sometimes don’t see how our quirks disrupt others and the environment around us. However, the soul’s true nature only comes into focus as we continue to let go of what we are not. Our “original condition” is perfect and doesn’t require any adjustments.

Embracing the silence within saturates us with quietness.

The thoughts that drop into the mind are always quieter than the voice that talks back to those thoughts. When we stop talking to them, the mind becomes less noisy. If two people are talking and one is louder than the other, it will be noticeable how quiet a room gets when the loud talker stops speaking. When we stop talking back to the thoughts dropping into our minds, it’s the equivalent of silencing the loud talker in a room. By resting in the quietness of our spirit, we change our vantage point. We gain clarity about what’s happening around us and also what’s happening within us. Learning to reach into quietness helps us master ourselves. It moves us into a state of being that enables us to respond to life instead of reacting to it.

After a new client comes to me for a tattoo, I have noticed that the first session is much different from the last one. Often, when the client arrives for the first sitting, I can feel them spinning inside, like there’s a grinding noise around them. In the past, I would join with the client and start spinning as well. As I learned to stay anchored in the silence, I could see how it changed the client’s experience. By the end of the first session, the client would be much calmer. If I remained anchored in a quiet space for each session, they would start to align with that peaceful feeling. And by the time we reached their last appointment, there would be a noticeable overall change.

  • Humility

Humility is the complete acceptance of self and others, regardless of limitations. Humility abolishes the commentary in the mind that overindulges in pride about our successes. When we are in balance with humility, our shortcomings cease to chisel away at our self-worth and self-acceptance. On the other side of the coin, humility is our ability to keep our successes from “going to our head” by managing our thoughts and emotions. Humbleness keeps others and the voices in our minds from inflating our sense of self-worth; it sees equality in the eyes of all the people we meet, recognizing that no one is more important than another. One of the defining qualities of humility is that it draws people closer to us.

The opposite of humility is arrogance. It’s great to have self-confidence, but the problem with an arrogant person is that if you take away the things that inflate their ego, they might fall apart. To be boastful or to exaggerate our importance throws us deep into the forest of our minds. Without humility, we not only diminish our connection with others, but we diminish our connection with God.

There is a great deal of talk about how to handle failure. However, it’s also essential to handle our successes with humility. The right balance of humility allows us to manage the ups and downs of our experiences wisely.

Confidence lives comfortably in humility, whereas the closest friend of arrogance is insecurity.

  • Doing One’s Own Business

By tending to our own business, we free ourselves from living another’s purpose. We become far too busy with our own life to worry about another’s. Learning to take care of our own business keeps us focused on living our own life—whatever others may think about our activities is none of our business. Allowing the thoughts of others to occupy our minds draws us away from our focus and robs us of the precious energy we need to fulfil our unique purpose. Seeing the big picture is important and practical, but doing our own business should always be our primary focus.

By humbly fulfilling our role, we accept our duties with grace and keep the focus on ourselves. When we continuously show up for our own lives, we will grow and succeed. Keeping our focus on ourselves allows no room for envy. Letting envy cloud our mind moves us away from our purpose. And if another person becomes envious of us, it’s a sign that he or she isn’t attending to their own business.

  • Knowing Oneself

The most important aspect of temperance is self-knowledge. Not to be confused with knowing our preferences and dislikes, this is about knowing our relationship to God and who we are on a soul level. Our preferences only point to what our ego prefers. Knowing the true self has nothing to do with the mind and everything to do with knowing the silence within. It means being clear enough in heart and mind to hear and follow the path laid out in the silence. Following the Will of our soul’s purpose is how we project ourselves into the world. As we continue to live our purpose, we get to know deeper aspects of who we are.

Acting on the guidance we receive from the silence challenges us to set down what we believe to be our limitations and moves us into a place of living our potential— which usually far exceeds our goals. A goal is generally what our mind wants or hopes we can achieve; our potential is always far greater. And by following the wise instructions that arise from the silence, we start to know ourselves, and our potential—our purpose—becomes clearer.

                                                            Silence

The silence within moves us into the experience of inner peace. We don’t search for peace outside ourselves; we rest in our peace as we move into the silence. Within the silence, we build temperance, embrace curiosity, build tolerance for consistency, diminish our fears, build courage, and develop a relationship with love. All of this happens by the grace of God and our willingness to enter the silence. The silence within is the fabric that makes up the soul and eventually dissolves back into God. The time we spend there wraps God’s presence around us.

“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.”

– Thomas Keating

Within the silence, we meet our true selves, void of the layers we have covered ourselves with. We take this journey many, many times until the silence becomes a place we seldom depart. At times, the silence might appear to bear no fruit, but this is never the case. Entering the silence is much like coming in from the cold and standing by the fireplace. The faster we shed the layers of clothing, the quicker we get warm. Coming to the silence works the same way. If we approach the silence with a mind full of chatter, we absorb less of its qualities. Peel off those layers of thoughts and emotions so the power of silence can warm your soul.

Beneficence

Beneficence is an act of charity that benefits the community. One of the greatest gifts we can give is our time and devotion to charitable acts. Serving our community for the greater good helps us understand each other on a deeper level. When we give for no reason other than to benefit our community, we put love in motion.

During my time with the Ishaya monks, a common phrase I heard was, “Service is the high road to experiencing unity.” Serving others moves us into unity consciousness, because hidden within our charitable acts are kindness and compassion. We hold no motives or personal gain in genuine acts of charity. For in true service, we give what we can to better society. I’ve always admired the following two quotes:

“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”

– Shirley Chisholm

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

– Albert Einstein

There is a great deal of wisdom in these quotes. Along with the wisdom they impart, we find humility and gratitude. As we learn to unwrap the present moment, we begin to realize the gift of life and the privilege of being here on earth. We become more inclined to give and serve versus trying to take everything we can. When our need to give outweighs our need to take, we discover the true secret of life. I could tell you how much this has given back to me, but it would be more meaningful to experience this directly in your own life.

Love

Love is the glue that holds the entire cosmos together. We start by embracing love as a virtue; the more we embrace it, the more profound its meaning becomes. On the surface, love is patient, allowing us to be compassionate and bring understanding into difficult situations. As we travel down the path of love, the path of love widens and deepens until love becomes an absolute truth and a way for us to explore and live our lives.

When love becomes our guiding force, the omnipotence of God fills the footprints we leave behind as we travel down our path.

Love is far greater than all of its attributes combined. The duality of love falls away as we keep moving deeper and deeper into it. Patience is the opposite of impatience, and the opposite of compassion is cruelty. Love, however, has no opposite because it is Divine, rooted in its own power. To experience the power of love is a gift and a privilege. We honour the gift of love by sharing it with ourselves and others. When we transcend the duality of love’s attributes, we begin to dissolve the layers of our soul. By holding the essence of love as we engage our lives, we begin to radiate a clear reflection of the Divine.

Tools to Deepen Your Experience of this Chapter

  1. Spend a day each week practicing one of the seven virtues.
  2. Take some time to explore what each of these virtues means to you.
  3. What have you learned from your experience of these virtues?
  4. Make a list of other virtues that are important to you, then review what you have learned from them.

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