Sunday, December 06, 2015

nonsectarian laying down

Music blares its creators and listeners' beliefs, sentiments, and desires. It's a valuable means to increase comprehension of them. At the moment, the song I'm thinking of is "Lay It Down" by Sanctus Real. I heard it recently while I was around some Christians. Its cheery, repetitive, banal style doesn't fit my customary tastes—its undisguised Christian references even less! But I concede its rhythm is energetic and on balance its lyrics aren't as off-putting as might be expected.

As I hinted already, it caught my attention because of the information it conveys: a common psychological application of the underlying beliefs. Aside from the incredibly dubious supernatural viewpoint wrapped around it, its core message of laying down tensions, i.e. nonconstructive thoughts, is a sound therapeutic strategy. Its advice to its listeners can work. In general, laying down tensions can facilitate well-being.

That benefit is obtainable despite the all too evident failures of phantoms which happen to be integrated in any instance of the strategy's description. It's not required that these phantoms ever convincingly—objectively, extraordinarily—"pick up" whatever was figuratively laid. In effect the phantoms' entire role is passive. They instill enough calm reassurance for the sake of performing the strategy. They symbolize the guarantee that everything won't spin out of control as soon as one human ventures to worry less.

Phantoms of different shapes fill the role of tranquilizing different believers, like different keys in different locks. A believer may be coaxed into laying down their tensions onto particular gods. But another may lay down their tensions onto saints, or ancestors, or fuzzily outlined cosmic forces. All of their preferred caretakers can be adequate for each of them, although they might be reluctant to admit that. It's a relief to lay down a stack of books onto a table, whether or not the bearer happens to like their table in a rustic or modern furniture style.

Along with these diverse subgroups is my subgroup of explicitly laying down tensions onto nothing. Uncoincidentally, the limited kind of regular nonsectarian meditation which I've written about in past entries is a structured exercise of laying down. It's similar but certainly not identical to some kinds of prayer. It doesn't have prayer's distracting voiced or unvoiced verbalizations (I don't employ mantras either). But like prayer it does have the periods of quiet, watchful contemplation, which invite perceptive insights to arise in any subgroup of belief.

As a result, I can agree with many of the typical recommendations. No concept of a phantom is essential to: taking a moment to "just" breathe, not dwelling on minor violations of unrealistic preconceptions, stopping early before intensifying a negative stimulus through ruminating on it again and again, paying closer heed to now, attending to the next task instead of obsessing on distant future tasks, affirming that past mistakes are unchangeable but can be prevented from reoccurring, facing one's own emotions as opposed to fleeing or fighting or ignoring, accepting unalterable limits of control over realities outside oneself. I realize that my restricted agreement is a lousy compliment; I'm exclusively granting the worth of the bits that are compatible to my viewpoint. "To the extent that your counsel can be made to overlap with what I think, it's effective."

On the other hand, I have misgivings about two typical recommendations. The first is the brusque command to be "strong". By itself it's not elaborating on what being strong consists of. It might easily reinforce the peculiar belief that some feelings are weak, some are strong, and the weak category can be vaporized and prohibited through potent psychic force. This proposed "method" clashes with the rest. Long-term it hardly works well. The laying down of feelings hinges on candor about the contrary feelings' very existence! Strength isn't shown by, nor does it determine, the brain's output of spontaneous desirable activity. Arguably, those managing more troublesome patterns are by necessity showing greater mettle day by day.

The second is the rule to lay down every urge to quit. Realities are complicated, so the rule is appropriate sometimes. Setbacks will appear. Hope will waver. Quitting shouldn't be done impulsively. The danger is interpreting this rule too rigidly. Often, the positive gains of quitting are dismissed too quickly. Quitting might free the exploration and exploitation of superior options. Past decisions aren't owed unbreakable allegiance or unending investment. The costs and returns of something might change. Refusal to quit might be the equivalent of self-inflicted harm. Quitting should be less stigmatized, if it's after carefully weighing upsides and downsides. For some, their unreflective mulishness is exactly what they should lay down.

Yet these two are less problematic than a worser risk of laying down tensions onto phantom recipients: using that act as an excuse for permanently abandoning any linked responsibilities. If those recipients are considered supremely capable and willing, then not turning over responsibilities to them would be negligent. Thankfully, most of the time, few really do this completely. After they lay down their tensions onto their phantoms, maybe accompanied by a relieved comment of their confidence in the phantoms' unspecified assistance, they proceed to do the best they can. If they don't, they shouldn't be surprised when everyone else scolds them for it. Laying down doesn't entail lying down.

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