Recently, I experienced what might be called a spiritual awakening. This guide is my attempt to unpack all the assumptions that led me here, as simply and as specifically as possible. The goal is for other people to try it and hopefully get good results. Please feel free to distribute this document as widely as you like, via Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. I’m not after any kind of recognition here, even though recognition is always nice. What I’m after is the transformation of society itself, one individual at a time. If these rules work for you, please help. If not, forget about them, no harm done.
1. Discard all useless assumptions. And I do mean ALL. Everything from what you should eat for breakfast to what you always wanted to be when you grew up. Only the useless ones, though. If you reevaluate them and realize you agree with them for a good reason, then they're not useless assumptions, they're useful ones.
2. Spend as much of your time as possible doing the thing or things that leave you feeling both happy and fulfilled. They normally involve creating something. The capacity to create is what it means to be made in the image of the divine.
3. Read more. About whatever it is that interests you. Fiction is great, but reference makes you better. Whatever your interests are, find books about them that look incredibly cool to you and then devour them. Same with documentaries and audio books.
4. Accept your darker nature. You can never get rid of it, it's an important part of you. The trick is just not to indulge it too much or too often. But even so, there is such a thing as doing the wrong thing for the right reason, rarely.
5. Whatever your art is, do it every day. Always try to remember that art is about expressing an idea, so do whatever it takes to express your idea as fully as you can. Collaborate with other artists, even if their media are totally different from yours. Together you will find a way. Don’t be afraid of losing control of an art project… instead, be afraid of missing out on another creative person’s valuable input. Also, take as broad a view of the definition of art as it takes – computer programming, law, medicine, graphic design, and architecture all qualify, if done with feeling. That’s the biggest secret of good art – while technique is important, passion is far more important. That’s why young kids can draw or paint pictures that can really touch an adult, even though they may look simple or even crude.
6. When making any decision, ask yourself, "Will this make me more or less awesome?" Always choose whatever will make you the most awesome. You are already have a talent, maybe several. But relentless improvement is the goal. Become the best you that you possibly can, and then be that self all the time.
7. Assume you don’t know what other people are thinking or why they do what they do. People make up all kinds of stories about what happens to them. Usually those stories are partially or completely wrong. So given that fact, it's always most productive to look at things in the most positive way possible because that tends to produce the best outcome. Never ascribe malice to someone's motivations when stupidity or ignorance works just as well.
8. Judge by the results you get. Especially with this document. If some or all of these rules don't work for you, then discard them. If you feel like something’s missing from this document, then add it. If you do add one, please put your email address in it, so that others can report their results to you.
9. Speak your mind when something wrong is happening. Better yet, always speak your mind all the time, unless you're trying to avoid creating drama. Never forget that if you don't say something, there may be nobody else present who's willing to even consider the possibility of being a whistle blower. If you see hypocrisy, shove the person's face in it. You have a choice, every minute of every day, of whether to be a hero, a bystander, or a victim. "Hero" is naturally the most awesome choice of the three, so choose that one whenever possible.
10. Assume everything that happens to you is a message from God/dess (however you conceive of him/her/it). There is no such thing as coincidence. Everything that happens to you every moment of every day is intended to teach you something. But you have to pay attention in order to see beneath the details to the truth that's waiting for you to pick it up. Tearing down boundaries in your mind between different interests or disciplines, like i mentioned before, along with taking everything as a message from God will lead to your art being brilliant. and also to you realizing that you can do anything you set your mind to (which, believe me, you can).
11. Reexamine all your favorite books, movies, music and TV shows for what they're trying to teach you. You like them because your unconscious mind and/or God wants you to see one of your blind spots or to learn something important.
12. Stay humble and sane by being of service and never taking anything at face value. You can still make mistakes just like any human, regardless of how "enlightened" you think you're becoming.
13. Practice magic, however you understand it. Daily. Make sure you practice both “high” and “low” magic. High magic traditionally concerns itself with uniting with the divine for its own sake, while low magic is about getting real-world results. Neither is “better” or “worse” than the other, they’re just different.
14. Creating art is alchemy. Art is not just creation, it is also the vehicle through which we transform our personal lead into gold.Hence, drama therapy and art therapy. And like alchemy, art allows us to turn our personal lead (suffering) into gold (beauty).
15. Art is philosophy is shamanism is psychology. All of these pursuits involve holding up a mirror to society so that it can see all its metaphorical warts and blemishes. You may face scorn or ridicule for being a free thinker, but that only means you’re on the right track. Socrates, maybe one of the first of us, called himself a gadfly – in other words, “I will sting you as many times as I have to until you wake up.”
16. The "Yes, and..." rule from improv. Yes opens doors. No closes them. Unless you have something really important to do or the suggestion is actually dangerous, say yes to it.
17. Many people will be inclined to read these rules, nod their heads, and then sit back and forget about them. If you want to avoid this, print them out and keep them in your pocket. You can refer to them throughout your day if you need to. Eventually they will become intuitive, which is the point of all this. You will still experience sorrow, loss, loneliness and suffering in your life, but you can always come back and center yourself by reading this document and thinking about which rule you might have followed better. Usually there will be one. If there isn’t, figure out the mistake you made, then make up your own rule that might have prevented it, and add it to the end.
18. Pay attention to your passions. Let your enthusiasm flow freely. The key to this entire system is living in the moment and expressing your love to everyone and everything. And when you let yourself gush about whatever inspires you, other people will naturally want to help you with your project. Authenticity makes the “hard sell” completely unnecessary, because relating to people’s humanity leaves everyone feeling empowered, where treating someone as a means to an end creates resentment and exploitation.
19. You are only as good as your word. Keeping it makes you powerful; breaking it makes you powerless. Do all you can to keep your word or promise at all times. When something happens that renders you unable, be sure to call the other person and let them know so that they aren't relying on you. Conversely, never give your word that you'll do something unless you actually intend to do it; otherwise, it's a broken promise waiting to happen. Most importantly, always keep your word to yourself, even if it means being forced to break a promise to someone else that isn’t life-or-death. If you don’t know yourself that things happen when you say they will, then the rest of this system won’t work for you.
20. Addiction is what happens when people try to soothe their soul with artificial fulfillment or joy. It is also the same thing that ancient people called “idolatry”: placing something material above the pursuit of the divine. Many people find wisdom in sex, drugs, food, TV, movies, or even business. It's only when you confuse the messenger for the message that it becomes a problem. Life is not about consuming as much TV or sex or food as you can; life is about finding your purpose and helping others to do the same.
21. Separation is an illusion. God is not separate from you, and neither are other people. This is why helping others helps you, and why making yourself more awesome helps others too. The drop becomes the ocean, and the ocean becomes the drop, but they are both still water. In Africa this called "ubuntu", which means "I am who I am because of who we all are". Duality is an illusion also – it’s completely possible to be funny and serious, or masculine and feminine, or rational and intuitive, at the same time. Experiment with doing so and you’ll see.
22. Every conversation is an opportunity, both to teach something and to learn something. Every person you meet knows something that you need to know. Every person you meet also needs to know something that you consider obvious. Share often, and listen even more often.
23. Have faith in something. It doesn't have to be religion, but it does have to be something that tries to help others. Some popular non-religious choices include freedom, equality, love, women’s rights, the scientific method, positive psychology, libertarianism, socialism and art therapy.
24. Find your purpose. It is more complicated than you think, so normally you will only find pieces. But eventually you’ll put them all together and you’ll know exactly what you’re on this earth to do. You’ll know because when you start doing it, the universe will conspire to help you. It will feel like coincidence, but in reality there is no such thing. A good place to start is here: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? What about in high school or college? Why? Alternatively, what are your favorite things to do and why do you enjoy them? Whatever your answer turns out to be, find a way to do it as often as you possibly can. Turning it into a business is the easiest way, and our economy is transitioning to a creator-based one, so the time is now.
25. These rules are intended to provoke a state of permanent mindfulness. Some belief systems refer to this as being a prophet, a bodhisattva, an enlightened master, or a self-actualized person. The label doesn’t matter, though. What matters is that the world needs more people who are truly Awake. If these rules worked for you, then spread them to your friends and please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share what results you got. Together, we will transform the world, one soul at a time.
26. Practice detachment from outcomes. This may be the hardest thing in this entire guide, but it is also the most valuable. The only thing that lets you truly be in the moment and enjoy your life to the fullest is not caring about whether you succeed or not. Failure is not only okay, it’s completely expected. Whoever told you otherwise – and I’m sure there were many – they are probably still unhappy because of their assumption that failure is somehow wrong or bad. This is the first assumption you should discard when you adopt rule 1. Doing so will set you free. Detachment can sometimes make a person seem overconfident, so guard against this with rule #12.
27. As you begin to internalize these ideas, you will notice unusual things happening to you. Things that you may have no rational explanation for. Some people call this the law of attraction or the “blue pill”, but again, labels are unimportant. The important thing is this: Even hallucinations are not a problem as long as they aren’t maladaptive. What this means is that if you see a spirit and it tells you to do things that seem noble and helpful, there is no problem here. It’s only if you see something that wants you to do wrong or evil things that you should question whether you need medication. Never lose sight of this, because many people are very afraid of the non-rational, and they will try very hard to convince you to go back to sleep.
28. Trust your intuition. If you feel like you need to do something but you can’t explain why, DO IT. Immediately, without delay, if at all possible, but otherwise write it down and do it as soon as you have the opportunity. If you feel like a situation is dangerous but aren’t sure how you know this, exercise caution. Intuition is what happens when your brain processes information that you aren’t consciously aware of noticing. Part of the function of your unconscious mind is to protect you this way, so listen to it. This also relates directly to Rule #10: When you take an interest in God/dess, eventually the interest becomes mutual and you start getting information. This will feel very strange at first, but your discomfort only shows that you are still sane.
29. Forget what you think you know about time. Time appears linear to us because our culture tells us that it is. If we were ancient Navajos or Hindus, we would believe that time is a wheel. In actuality it is neither of these – all things throughout history are happening simultaneously, just as all beings are not really separate. It’s just as easy to receive information from a future self as it is to remember something from when you were a child. Maybe easier, since memory fades but the future never does.
30. Look at your weaknesses and improve upon them. They are opportunities to learn new things, just like every experience you have. You may never be great at these things, but you can almost always learn to be good enough that they are no longer actual weaknesses. This makes you more awesome.
31. Meaning is not in things but between them (or beneath them). Whatever your favorite book or movie or food or store is, always remember that it is not valuable in and of itself. Rather, it is valuable because it helps pull you into the moment, so that you can experience your life more fully.
32. Humor is crucial in an absurd universe. We live in a world of Tea Party “Christians” who support war, greed, and hatred, Israeli “Jews” who think it’s okay to put Palestinians in concentration camps, and terrorist “Muslims” who ignore the sanctity of human life in favor of blowing up people in God’s name. It’s just as absurd as it is sad. While I think God probably cries about all these things, I also think the smaller stuff can be amusing. We are, in essence, God’s reality TV: while human drama usually feels vitally important in the moment, in retrospect it’s usually pointless. Humor unites people and cuts through defense mechanisms and anger, which is why it’s such a good choice to defuse a potentially toxic situation.
33. Many books, classical music, documentaries, and intelligent TV promote mindfulness. But there’s also a lot of crap out there. The best way to tell the difference is to notice whether what you’re reading, watching or listening to is making you think, or whether it’s just entertainment and nothing more. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment for its own sake, but always remember that a mind needs good books like a sword needs a whetstone. (That’s a favorite quote from one of my favorite intelligent TV shows.)
34. Practice mindful eating. Loving animals is incompatible with eating factory farmed meat (or any meat, depending on how you look at it). Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, and Discordianism (at least) all include mindful eating practices, and for good reason. Also, the factory farm industry is largely responsible for greenhouse gases, antibiotic resistance, and the spread of meat-borne pathogens like salmonella and E. Coli. You simply cannot be an ethical person and continue to eat meat that is contaminated by torture, disease and global warming. And really, why would you ever want to? Also, you will be amazed how consciously choosing compassion three times a day tends to change you over the course of the next year or two. Naturally, choosing to eat local, naturally raised meat or no meat at all is up to your own conscience. You can also practice mindful eating by eating to make hunger go away (rather than to feel full) and by putting down your fork between bites. This will also tend to produce weight loss.
35. Other people are different from you, and that is wonderful! Life would be boring if everyone were the same. Always remember that if you go through life expecting other people to react to things the way you would, you are usually going to be disappointed.
36. Losing touch with this system from time to time is natural and probably inevitable. This is why you should keep a copy with you for easy reference. Consult it a few times a day at first, just in case, but later on you should only need it if you’re feeling blocked or upset.
37. Always stay grounded. Humility helps, as mentioned above, but so do mundane tasks like cleaning your house, doing laundry or washing dishes. You can always think about lofty ideas about religion, philosophy, art or science at the same time. Many traditions warn about the possibility of madness from or addiction to the blissful states that mindfulness makes possible. The body is no less important just because the soul is evolving. Mens sana in corpore sano. (“A healthy mind in a healthy body.”)
38. Add your own rules as you discover them. Every person is different, and these are only the assumptions or truths that worked for me. We don’t have to agree on all or even some assumptions about how the universe works in order to be friends or learn from each other. Nobody likes an echo chamber, but nobody likes a contrarian either.
39. Get to know some animals and see how they surprise you. Any pet owner can tell you that animals, particularly (but not only) the more complex mammals like dogs and cats, have not only preferences and emotions but a real capacity for genuine love. They are like children, in that their love can’t not be pure, trusting, and unconditional. If your pet loves you, he or she will think nothing of jumping in front of a car to save you or digging you out of ten feet of snow. And cats, while smaller, have been known to stay up all night meowing when they find an abandoned baby in an alley. (Real example.) You can even “catch” a yawn from them, and they can catch one from you too. Michael Jackson used to say that he saw the face of God in every child; I see the face of God in every animal. You can too.
40. Practice happiness activities daily. These include such deceptively simple acts as singing, dancing, reading, creating art, meditating, taking a walk in the park, playing with your child or pet, visualizing someone you love, or contemplating death. Only a few minutes a day can make a huge difference to your mood, and that in turn will enrich the lives of everyone you meet.
41. Irrational fear, embarrassment, shame, and guilt are the most useless of emotions. Society has programmed them into you in order to make sure that you're a good little worker bee. But society needs you to break free and innovate much more than that, even though most people don't realize it. Be unreasonable and never let other people tell you that you can't. You will know you’re succeeding at this when you experience genuine tears of joy unexpectedly.
42. This is a journey, not a destination. Mindfulness (or enlightenment, if you prefer) is a process, one that lasts a lifetime and possibly beyond. You will never truly be "done", because there are always new layers of self-imposed limitation, fear, and doubt to peel away. These rules are designed help you avoid needless suffering, and hopefully eventually to get you to the very first step of this journey. That's all they could ever do: create a context in which mindfulness will tend to arise on its own. They won’t change you so much as they’ll help you clear away whatever in your life doesn’t fit. Beyond that, all the succeeding steps will be intensely personal (and thus, probably very difficult to explain to most other people). That is normal and something you should expect. But if someone expresses interest in your personal journey, offer them these rules as an aid in starting theirs.
43. You deserve to be happy. So do other people, of course, but you are the only person you can ever hope to control. If you notice yourself starting to feel happier when working on these principles, that’s by design. Try not to question it too much. Many of us have been taught that we should be afraid of success, but like conformity, that ideal benefits only those who want to keep you asleep.
44. Explore altered states of consciousness. As many different ones as you can. Try the “hot” states that come from activities such as drumming, dancing, spinning, exercise, tantric sex, or self-flagellation. Try the “cool” states from meditation, lucid dreaming, “sub space”, even alcohol or a sugar crash. You will start to notice which states appeal to you most and what wisdom you gain from them.
45. Other people's reactions and judgments are not your problem. While you should always apologize if you’ve been inconsiderate, people who get uncomfortable because you’re making changes in your life that don’t directly affect them need to learn to mind their own business. Listen to their criticism anyway, thank them for it, and then feel free to discard it if it’s not useful.
46. Keep a calendar and a to-do list. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, use that. If you prefer paper, that’s fine too. Either way, while it’s possible to be mindful all the time, no one can practice mindfulness about every single detail in their lives. We’d all spend so much time remembering appointments and tasks that we’d have hardly any brain power left for actually doing anything. Calendars and to-do lists free your mind to contemplate important things instead, which is why they’re essential.
47. When you want something, act as if it’s a given that you will get it. This is one of the principles of “The Secret”, but news flash: That movie and book were successful because their system works. It’s vastly oversimplified, but it’s true that when you ask the universe for something in the right way, it will tend to figure out a way to give you what you need. Expecially if you’ve already started making your plans as if you have it.
48. The best time to use these rules is during or right after a crisis. Suffering naturally causes us to reevaluate our beliefs. This is why so many people seem to change careers after surviving a car accident or learning they have cancer. So if something devastating has recently happened to you, great! That willl give you a head start on rule #1.
49. Sometimes confrontation is the absolute best solution. When forced to make the choice between being someone’s friend by staying silent or by potentially hurting them, only you can know which option is wiser. But if hurting them might mean helping them overcome drama or an addiction, it is usually worth the risk. If you express your concern gently and with compassion, it will usually lead to hugs or tears rather than shouting. Compassion is like willpower or a muscle – in order for it to grow, you need to exercise it regularly.
50. Tell the truth, but cushion it as much as you can. Brutal honesty has its place, but most of the time the other person will appreciate a little tact. You can tell your friend privately that you think she might have a drinking problem - there’s no need to shout “You’re an alcoholic!” in front of all their friends and family in order to make your point. If the gentle approach doesn’t work, you can always get more help from other people who also see the truth you do.
51. Practice delaying gratification. When you feel you need something right away, ask yourself why. Is it actually a need, or is it only a want? If it’s a want, use it as a reward for finishing a project. There’s no need to eat dessert before dinner; there will still be plenty of dessert when the time comes. And it will always taste better if you’ve eaten your broccoli.
52. You’ll notice certain signs when you don’t really need this guide anymore. First, the ideas for new projects will start coming, and you’ll feel compelled to write them down. You’ll also get insights about your own behavior or about (for example) what the deeper meaning of your favorite film is. You may lose the ability to be forgetful, except when you’re tired or stressed. Then, as you start working on making whatever you’ve had ideas for, people will come into your life who can teach you skills you’ve always wanted to learn (or always been bad at). Likely, there will be things they want to learn from you also. Finally, you may notice a subtle shift in your consciousness. Especially if you’ve been diligent about rule #44.
53. You can never escape your own bias. Neither can I. While I’ve made every effort to make this guide as universal as I can, there will inevitably be mistakes or blind spots. I started out as a very rational and disordered adult, and then learned how to listen to my intuition and impose order on my life. It’s possible that if you’re very organized or intuitive already, some of these rules won’t apply to you. In that case, consider doing the opposite of the rule. It may help you improve upon a weakness.
54. Others are as afraid of you as you are of them. Most of the time, when you think someone is upset with you or doesn’t like you, you’re misinterpreting their own signals of discomfort. Unless you know the person very, very well, you have no chance of figuring out what they’re thinking. In any situation where someone seems cold or distant, make up three stories about why that might be the case. You can start with the negative one if that’s where your mind naturally goes, but come up with a positive one and a neutral one also. This will show you that your mental explanation for any situation is entirely your own choice.
55. You will make mistakes. Don’t repeat them. This may sound obvious, but too many people seem to focus on feeling guilty instead. Repentance doesn’t mean beating yourself up, it means resolving never to do such an unwise thing ever again. That’s what really makes a difference anyway.
56. Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of justice. Sounds cheesy, I know, but like mindful eating it’s an opportunity to program yourself to be more compassionate. Give a dollar to that homeless person, even if your mind wants to judge them. Forgive someone when you both know they’re in the wrong. Compassion doesn’t cost you anything, but it’s an enormous gift to the other person. Love shared is love multiplied. So share yours.
57. Abandon negative talk. Most people call themselves dumb, stupid, or a bad person multiple times a day. Quit it. Life is hard enough without you convincing yourself that you’re worthless. The same goes for negative speech about others – even if you know the gossip is true, how does spreading it serve anyone? It’s fine to warn someone about a toxic person, but you never know why that person is the way they are. Part of being compassionate is assuming that most “bad” people are actually just misguided or in pain. And speaking ill of others only diminishes you.
58. Ask for help or support when you need it. From family, friends, teachers, a therapist, or even me. If you have questions about the intent behind any or all of this guide, my email address is in rule #25. Just realize that I’m not a guru – I’m only a fellow student who’s been following these principles a little longer than you have. I’ll offer advice if I have it, but I’ll also be honest if I don’t know the answer. You should be skeptical of anyone who does otherwise, because they likely know far less than they pretend to. Addiction to a guru does happen sometimes, when people confuse the messenger with the message (see rule #20).
59. Check your bank account balance every day. Even if you think you know what it is. This will help you avoid embarrassing and potentially very distracting money issues. Nothing holds us back from self-actualization like not having enough money for food or shelter.
60. Connect people who need to know each other. When someone needs help with something, put them in touch with someone you know who has the knowledge they need. If you don’t know such a person, you probably know who to call to ask.
A note: I am not a Buddhist. People today, particularly Americans, seem to think that Buddhism has a monopoly on enlightenment. Most Buddhists admit that they don’t. Not that it matters much, but the principles in this document came to me through sources as varied as Jungian psychology, psychodrama, the Principia Discordia, chaos magic, Jewish mysticism, religious studies, personal development courses with Landmark Education, Usui Reiki Ryoho, role-playing games, improvisational acting, and writing classes. This is because my own intellectual vanity made it easier for me to figure out this information by solving the puzzle of connecting all these different disciplines. But how you get here doesn’t matter to anyone but you; what matters is what you do next. Eliphas Levi put it best, in one of the longest sentences I have ever actually liked: “Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the darkness and strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of old temples and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, in the monstrous or marvelous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the cryptic emblems of our old books on alchemy, in the ceremonies practiced at reception by all secret societies, there are found indications of a doctrine which is everywhere the same and everywhere carefully concealed.