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The Rules We Live By
by Serge Kahili King

Many people spend their entire lives seeking to know the laws or rules of the universe, so I've decided to save them a lot of time by giving them out now, for free. Be forewarned that this is based on a shamanic view of the universe in which everything is alive, aware and responsive.

The Universe and everything in it has three aspects: Spirit, Body, and Mind. Each of these aspects has its own rules. The better we understand these rules the easier it will be for us to grow, to heal, and to have a good time.

Spirit has one rule only: "Experience existence." That's it. No conditions, no shoulds, no limits. And no avoiding it.

The Body only has two rules: "Seek pleasure" and "Avoid pain." Since the way to do this is not always clear under all circumstances, the Body will sometimes move toward pain in order to experience some associated sensory or emotional pleasure. This would be like climbing a mountain for the pleasure of the view, working out for the energy benefit, or undergoing surgery to get well. Sometimes pleasure does not seem to be an option, in which case the Body will try to move toward the least available pain. We can see this in people who drink themselves sick to suppress emotional pain, people who stay in bad relationships for fear of having none at all, and people who commit violent suicide. Then there are those who move away from pleasure for fear of an associated pain, such as people who avoid success for fear of criticism, those who believe that pleasure is a sin punishable by God, and those who believe that pleasure makes you weak. For the most part, however, it is easy to note that all spontaneous, intuitive and subconscious behavior follows the rules of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

What about the Mind? Hooboy! The Mind is a rule-making fanatic. It makes rules - lots and lots of rules - about everything imaginable. It makes rules about language, rules about religion, rules about behavior, even rules about the Universe. And when it wants something badly enough, why it goes ahead and changes the rules. So we have hundreds of languages around the world, hundreds of cultures based on their own ideas of right and wrong, hundreds of ways to relate to God, hundreds of scientific theories about hundreds of subjects, hundreds of countries with their own variations on political systems, hundreds of thousands of laws governing behavior in different societies... you get the idea. Ask anyone's opinion about anything and what you will hear are the rules they live by. They may call their rules opinions, beliefs or facts, but they are only rules, some inherited, some borrowed, and some made up.

Breaking rules is tricky. Just try to break the rule of Spirit. Non-existence does not seem to be an option. And when you try to break the rules of the Body you usually get severe and immediate physical or emotional consequences. The Body wants its pleasure and fears all pain, so woe to the Mind that tries to alter its natural inclinations without good reason.

There are consequences to breaking the rules of the Mind, but they depend on which rules are involved and who else is involved with them. You can break a legal law with impunity if no one else is around, unless you confuse legality with morality (they do coincide, occasionally). If you break a moral law, one that you've accepted as your own, when no one else is around, you'll probably punish yourself. You can break the rules of language, but you risk being misunderstood. You can break the rules of science any time you want, as long as you are not seeking a grant, but some things may not work the way you want them to. You can break the social rules of your group, if you don't mind being cast out.

I don't recommend breaking rules. I recommend using the rules of Spirit and the Body, and playing creatively with the rules and rule-making talent of the Mind. With rules of the Mind it's much easier to make different rules than to try and break old ones. Rules that are not used any longer just fade away. You can make up any rules you want about anything you want (I'm not giving you permission; this is just something anyone can do). You can make different rules about how you think and how you feel, and what is possible, and what you can do, and about what the past means and what the future will bring. The rules you use affect your behavior and your experience. Change your rules and your life will change. Maybe it's time to examine the rules you live by, and to create some new ones.

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