Commitment to being (a player) in the Game of Life

unlocking the potential for kindness, compassion and wisdom


Parents, school, religion and culture imbue young people with dim understandings of what life is all about. There may be little clarity for answers to fundamental questions about the journey from birth to death of the body, that visible container within which the sense of self travels. Why are we here? What are we to do? Why should we do it? What is the path to success? Is that the path to happiness?

Consider that individual suffering can be present in a variety of areas, including physical, psychological, emotional, financial and more. Decisions and actions can be both visible and invisible in attempting to cross the chasm between suffering and happiness.

The above existential questions about crossing this chasm are answered differently across the varied sources that may be identified for guidance. Consider a framework that integrates ancient spiritual disciplines with contemporary psychology for those who seek answers to these questions. Call this framework the Game of Life. The principles for being an effective player in this game can change unexpectedly. This is because individuals encounter an unending variety of new situations and challenging circumstances in their unfolding life journeys.

Consider the possibility that the Game of Life has multiple levels, like that of many digital games. Discerning which moves bring more likely progress enables discovery of the relevant principles for success at a given level. When apparent success or even mastery at one level is achieved, the individual progresses to another level. That new level may present elusive new principles and moves for success. This often creates a confusing transition from one level to the next. The understandings, intentions, moves and capabilities that worked in the past may no longer bring success as play of the game continues at the new level. Transitions stimulate the need for fresh cycles of growth in awareness and capability.

These growth and learning cycles at each level in the Game of Life can be parsed into four aspects that were clarified in a previous article: awareness, clarity of intention, alignment of intention with action, and observation/witnessing of results.

Consider a higher order variable essentially important for each growth cycle at each level in the game. Call this commitment. What happens when commitment is applied to the Game of Life? This question can be answered through direct experience. Authentic commitment accelerates progress through the multiple growth cycles that arise, if attention is paid to results followed by reflection about what might have brought about those results.

But what is commitment? And how might it be examined? Commitment to being a response-able aware player in the Game of Life can be parsed into three aspects: diligent, opportunistic and creative commitment.

Diligent commitment can include: 1 the time and focus of attention devoted to meditative practices that involve mindfulness, breath awareness, concentration/focus and movement; 2 clarifying intention aloud and in writing; 3 repeating intention silently and aloud while sitting, standing, and in rhythm with repetitive movement; and 4 witnessing and reflecting on whatever results appear to arise in the process of crossing the chasm.

Opportunistic commitment includes unexpected opportunities that arise and are acted on to practice mindfulness, concentration, kindness, compassion, and visualizations for the dissolution of suffering and the reach for happiness.

Creative commitment includes new opportunities that are created to take action for the realization of intention, the dissolution of suffering and a concomitant increase in kindness, compassion and happiness.

Examples from a recent unexpected and noteworthy series of events over several hours in a single day was described in a previous article. Additional reflections below about these events further clarify varieties of commitment.

Diligent Commitment

The dharma wanderer has been combining repetitive movement, regulated breathing and aspirational mantras several times a week on a marine trail that runs along the border of Monterey Bay. The idea of consciously breathing in rhythm with running as a meditative practice was introduced to him four decades ago in a book, now out of print: The Zen of Running. This practice was further developed through training in Sanskrit mantras repeated during vigorous movements of kundalini yoga. It was refined over a period of several decades as a psycho-spiritual practice using English language to enhance commitment to a wide variety of challenging objectives that included career, relationships and health.

In each case, suffering and struggle precipitated application of the practice in the reach for success and the search for happiness. It was further refined more recently through training in Tibetan Buddhist mantras that have been diligently used for more than a millennium with the expressed purpose of dissolving suffering and the unruly ego that was contributing to it.

This practice requires concentration to repeat mantra silently or aloud and regulate the breath in rhythm with movement according to the body’s oxygen needs [see Ready For Better Method for a detailed explanation of the practice]. This concentration practice builds connections in the brain between visual, speech, motor coordination and respiratory functions. These enhanced brain connections enable increased awareness of momentary insights that arise unexpectedly, as well as the perception of actionable guidance to mitigate and dissolve suffering.

There was an important caution stated in the previous article. This practice builds personal power that can become ego-food and contribute to arrogance. These by-products can contribute to suffering in the Game of Life. The antidote to this risk is to choose decisions and goals that are win/win for oneself as well as others, and eventually extend the domain for consideration to all beings and the world.

Opportunistic Commitment

The previous article described several unexpected opportunities to be of service in two distinctly different ways. Curiosity about a highly unusual proliferation of parked vehicles on a residential street above the Asilomar Conference Center had led to inquiring about the conference to a stranger while driving by the center’s entry point. The answer of “EcoFarm” was then temporarily stored in memory. When the dharma wanderer’s walk/run on the marine trail approached the ocean-side entry for the conference grounds (which was the usual turn around point for returning home) the idea of entering the conference grounds arose in awareness. He chose to act on the idea, expecting to gather more information via an EcoFarm conference brochure.

He was directed to an unusually large rectangular tent where he discovered a wide variety of exhibits. Most of them were personally irrelevant. But the Farm Aid exhibit got his attention because of a distant relationship with Joe Brewer, a brilliant and charismatic leader in the reforestation and earth regeneration space. The dharma wanderer took advantage of this opportunity to make a brief elevator pitch for Joe’s capabilities and expansion of workshops in the Americas. He did something similar at an even more unexpected exhibit, this one manned by the Peace Corps and focused on agricultural development of family farms, often in impoverished rural areas.

The elevator pitch for Joe at these two exhibits was an opportunity to take local action. This action arose from the intention to contribute to the dissolution of suffering caused by climate change. There was a chance, however small, this action might help expand the areas for reforestation and earth regeneration activities. Briefly embracing the Peace Corps rep who had been a volunteer in Ecuador was an opportunity to share a temporarily open heart in resonance with their apparently mutual intention for the dissolution of suffering.

When he left the conference grounds and returned to the marine trail, he had noticed a sad looking older white haired woman with an even sadder meme in large letters on her sweatshirt: “Make Life Suck Less.” The unusual meme had stuck for a moment in his awareness. As that visual input had incubated, after passing her for several steps, he had spontaneously turned, caught her attention, and made a suggestion for sending light out her heart and the top of her head for protection of the local area. They had also embraced with a temporary hug. The hug of two strangers brought an unexpected happy moment of shared loving kindness.

At a metaphysical psycho-spiritual level there seemed to be no I/me/mine operating in the critical moments that unexpectedly appeared for taking spontaneous action. Instead, the universe appeared to be operating through the dharma wanderer’s physical vehicle, his container of consciousness. The awareness that arose was not especially rational. Instead, it appeared to arise intuitively as a result of intentions he had previously clarified repetitively in writing and aloud, especially during movement.

Creative Commitment

The previous article included two instances of creative commitment using a visualization practice. Both were centered on a shouting altercation with a local hiker who was observed stepping on protected plant life. After he exited the yelling match, the dharma wanderer had continued his planned walk/run on the road above the trail. As he regained composure and control of his anger he had begun talking aloud to himself in an adaptation of a practice called self inquiry. He had probed aloud his own responsibility for the altercation, inquired aloud about what might have been a kinder approach, and then expressed aloud what would have been a more effective approach. This served as personal reprogramming for more effective anger management in the future.

Even so, the emotional residue of the altercation had arisen in his awareness as he engaged in his usual post exercise yogic stretching routine at home. The idea arose in his awareness to encircle his own body in blue light emanating from his heart. After doing that, the idea of using blue light expanded to include the recipient of his anger. He imagined blue light emanating from his heart and encircling an image of the young hiker who had been the target of his anger. In the standing portion of his yogic routine, he took deep breaths and on each exhale imagined the day’s stored negative energy moving down through his body and exiting his feet, thereby grounding it out. These two visualizations and the grounding practice were intended to physically, psychologically and energetically dissolve that day’s toxic emotion.

The above incidents that arose unexpectedly over just a couple of hours in a single day can also be viewed as examples of synchronicity and serendipity arising from alignment of intention with action. [See previous article for a more detailed discussion.] The above examples of commitment illustrate a variety of practices for the dissolution of suffering and the ensuring reach for happiness. Why might they be effective?

  • psychological explanation for their potential effectiveness is they operate at the level of cognitive reprogramming. By enhancing the practitioner’s focus of attention and access to more extensive whole brain functioning, helpful insights and guidance can arise in awareness.

  • metaphysical or energetic explanation of effectiveness might consider the practitioner’s brain as both a transmitter and receiver of information that travels along energy waves. Projecting one’s intention through vocal and visual meditative practices sends these vibratory signals out into the universe. They are reflected back to the practitioner in meaningful but unexpected opportunities for action. Movement amplifies the power of the signal that is projected and increases its likelihood of being reflected back unexpectedly into the practitioner’s reality.

  • spiritual explanation of effectiveness might center on the practitioner’s heart. A variety of spiritual disciplines and religions abound in their declarations about the beneficial and contagious value of an open expressive heart. Actions arising from an open heart can have healing effects. An open heart has been known to absorb the suffering of others and contribute to their healing.

  • transformational explanation of effectiveness might suggest these and related practices contribute to a transformation of individual consciousness into a more powerful human system for the dissolution of suffering. Mindfulness and concentration practices can diminish individual ego and increase whole brain functioning. Vibratory expression of intention can be amplified and returned unexpectedly.


    A direct test of these growth and meditative processes can enable the opening of individual hearts to manifest the realization of human potential for the dissolution of suffering and the cultivation of happiness. As these processes deepen their effects, moments of knowing of what to do and how to do arise in awareness. This contributres to gratitude for having a precious human life. This can awaken the desire to be of service using the knowledge and capabilities developed during an individual’s life journey. Ancient spiritual disciplines might characterize this unfolding process as wisdom presence arising.




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