Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cultivating Patience on Your Spiritual Path

I'm sure that plenty of people are resonating with this topic already. You're like, "Why isn't what I want here already?" That's exactly what I'm thinking! Why can't I have what I want right now? All the time.... Hmm, sounds pretty needy, doesn't it? What is this insatiable wanting? What is this continual desire? Is it ever really happy?

One of the things about cultivating patience is that you get to watch your desires. You get to see what they're really after. If some goal or pursuit is what you really want, patience will enrich it. It will allow you to appreciate the journey you are on instead of doing 100 mph in the school zone and potentially hitting someone along the way. So much of our lives can get lost in this impatient rush to get some place, and then when we're there, how long are we really satisfied anyway?

Discovering Your Answers and Your Patience
Creating your questions is important. If anything, I hope this blog post is an inspiration to question. For some of you, this may be the first time that you've ever really questioned your life. Some random Hippie friend of yours emailed you this blog, and you're like WTF? Who is this guy? What is a spiritual awakening I know. It's weird. Just go with it. But since you've made it this far, have you ever questioned why you're in a hurry? Do you know what you're trying to get? Do you know what you really want? How can you be in a hurry to get somewhere if you don't even know where you're going?

I know. It's an unsettling list of questions. It will only get worse from here.

Patience Shows Up to Force the Issue
Well, it's not really that patience shows up to force us to learn how to be patient, it's that we break down. We get in a car wreck; we get severely ill; we end up in some position where suddenly we have to be patient. We have no other choice. We're just sitting in a thrashed car on the middle of I-80, and there's nothing to do. The paramedics are on the way. Your car doors are smashed shut, and you're going to need the jaws of life to pry you out. That's what happens when we don't cultivate patience beforehand. We get to cultivate it when we don't want to. We have no other choice.

This is also when the spiritual path usually starts for someone. Only when most people have been smashed to bits do they ever even think that they might be the cause of all the pain and suffering in their lives. I wrote about the path of pain and suffering in a previous blog, and this can be the turning point for many people. It's not the end of pain, but it can be the turning point when someone realizes that they are far off course. For others, it can be so painful that a brief glimpse of awakening can happen when someone finally lets go of everything to really see life and what's real. This is mesmerizing and overwhelming because you see so much beauty, and your mind is screaming in the background that everything is a mess. The reverse side is when someone dissociates and becomes a complete zombie because they can't handle their world. That requires deep psychological treatment. The awakening part usually turns people into amazingly alive, passionate, kind, and loving people. It's a pretty big difference.

Speed and Patience: The Relativity of the Mind
Of course, life already moves incredibly quickly these days, so you have to consider the subjective judgment going on with the mind. In the 19th century, it would take several months to get a letter out to California from Virginia, I think. Now, I can get an email from a friend there in--well--whatever amount of time my friend decides to reply. It can be within minutes, maybe seconds. That's amazingly fast. But the mind is a finicky thing, so it can find ways where it's still impatient for a reply, completely discounting the whole fact that it used to take months to pass messages. I would encourage you to question where you think parts of your life are going to slow. Are they really going slowly? Or do you have unreasonable expectations about how fast things should go? Why do you need them to go faster? Why can't you be comfortable with this pace?

Furthermore, the ego mind is always trying to control stuff. Lack of patience is often very much a frustrated form of control. A part of you is saying, "This should work the way I want it to work." Yeah, right. How often has that really been the case in life? Life doesn't work the way we plan it to or want it to. Sometimes things seem to go our way, and then we build stories around that, which lead us to believe that we're in control. And then you're in a wreck on the freeway and that illusion of control is exploded--and possibly your car too.

Help on the Spiritual Path
I think that we all need help on the spiritual path. Myself most certainly included. Friends, well-wishers, supporters, long-lost relatives, spiritual teachers, spiritual community, and whoever else we can string together can all play an important role in developing our path and developing our patience. There's really no where to go. All you've ever needed is within you, so STOP! See what is around you. See what's following you and what's been trying to catch up to you. Sometimes, we kind of outrun our lives, assuming that we're not actually running away from our lives.

The honest truth is that no one can give you patience. You simply practice letting go of the outcomes that you want. You let go of where you think you need to be and who you think you need to have in your life. As I always like to stress, this doesn't make you a dormant monk sitting alone for hours waiting for God to knock on your door. The spiritual path asks us to take appropriate action for what we want in our life, but what we want is different from what we are. And what we are is already perfect. Sometimes having a little bit of patience gives us space to realize that and let go of the things that we wanted. Sometimes, we realize that wanting was never anything more than trying to get what we already have.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Misadventures of the Noble Lightworker

For those of you unfamiliar with the new-agey term--lightworker, a lightworker is someone who helps people to heal through spirituality, psychic work, energy healing, and a variety of different tools that fall under those broad topics. There's quite a few of us out there, and there are more springing up every day. I'd probably argue that many people who are selflessly working to help the environment could fall into that category, but there's so much ego and politics in the way, that it's tough to make any kind of generalization out of it. When people get into who is right and who is wrong, the truth almost always suffers.

In any event, there are lots of lightworkers, and a lot of them have some pretty amazing tools. But too many of them get started using the tools before they really understand them. Quite simply, they burn out. I get more and more burned out lightworkers contacting or connecting with me these days, and so I'm dedicating this blog post to them as well as writing it for future healers, spiritual teachers, and others so that you can be mindful and a little more dedicated to growing your path smartly.

Crash, Burn, Ow: What the Hell Went Wrong? (Crap, Did I Just Say Hell?)
You were going along so swimmingly. You had tons of people for your Reiki healing. You had tons of people seeking you out for mediumship or psychic divination. You had lots of students coming to you for your spiritual counsel or teaching. And then it stopped. Money started drying up with that too, and suddenly, you're desperate and wondering if you have to go work at MacDonald's to make ends meet while living with 3 roommates. Obviously, something has gone amiss.

The biggest thing that I've seen so far is that many lightworkers have a very incomplete spiritual path. I don't equate a spiritual path with being able to psychically see things, heal people, etc. I consider a lot of that stuff as just tools. Many times people confuse having that awareness with having a spiritual awareness. While spirituality is in all things, psychic awareness is its own element. It's its own tool. It can be used for good or evil. You can help someone to see something stuck in someone's aura, or you can do nasty stuff to others through that awareness. It's a terrible thing to say that, but some people do that (and there are some heavy karmic consequences that come with that kind of abuse). It illustrates the point that it's a tool, however.

Rebuilding and Rethinking Your Spiritual Path
Some of you even had a profound awakening, and you thought, "Wham-o, I'm good to go. I had the awakening." The awakening is like the initial spark (or bonfire for some of us) to show us what's true and real in life. We still have to do the work to clean out the crap that we've accumulated in life. Many people run out the door with this little light, and they start giving it away to all those that they can. It's a beautiful thing, but without your own practice to ground and hold you. You start to get tired. You get used. You get resentful. It catapults downhill from there until you're back in your initial room surrounded by all the crap you didn't clean up. Pretty soon, you are so overwhelmed and upset that you hate your gifts and want to forget the whole matter entirely.

But you also know that you can't do that. So you feel stuck. It's time to stop and rewind. If there's any kind of advice I seem to be consistently giving, it's that: Stop. Just stop. Gather yourself. It's time to review where you're at. You obviously don't have much of a foundation, and it's time to look at where you came from and what you forgot.

The Shadow Side of Lightworkers
Immature lightworkers think that they have no shadow side. They think that the awareness they have has somehow freed them of it, or if they constantly give to and help others, that they'll somehow avoid or drown out any of the shadow elements in themselves. I've already blogged about the shadow, and you can find more about my thoughts about the shadow side on this link. Simply put, we all have a shadow side. It's the part of us that we don't commonly show in society. A big piece of spiritual work is looking behind us to see what is following us. We don't get rid of it, but we accept it fully. We embrace it as best we can, and we do our best to know when we're acting out from that space or when someone is reacting to that part of us.

The avoidance of that shadow element catches up with the idealistic lightworker, and pretty soon, all the shitty little parts of themselves are manifesting in argumentative, strange, weird, or otherwise upsetting and unsettling clients. That's right before you shut things out, and that's when everything goes dead. Those unsettling clients are helping to point to your issues that you've avoided. If you want them to be less unsettling or to complete their work with you, you now have to do the work you've forgotten on yourself.

The 12 Step Process to Spiritual Rebirthing...Again
You're like, "Haven't I been here before?" Probably. But we all have our cycles of growth and learning. Time to come back to square one. Time to dig up that issue with your father that you've avoided. Time to take apart the idea that you have to be constantly giving. Remember that despite being part of this infinite vastness, you're still human. You still need nourishment and support from the outside world. No one gives all the time. Everyone has to take time to rest and rejuvenate. If you have done the spiritual work that you need to do, a little rest will go a long way, and you'll be back in shape working with lots of clients in no time.

But I've got a suspicion (judging by my inbox over the last several months), that a lot of you haven't done the internal work that you really need to do. So now's the time to get to it. Now's the time to reinvigorate your yoga practice, re-start your meditations, start journaling, re-commit to a spiritual teacher, find a new spiritual community, or something else that only you know. You do know too. That's what's really pissing you off right now. It's not this wordsmith spiritual teacher in California writing this blog. It's that the inner you who is yelling and jumping up and down saying, "Yes, yes, YES! That's what I need to do." And all that resistance is your ego fighting back, thinking that it's arguing with my blog. Whoops? Did you think you might have transcended that ego thing? Nice try. Try again.

I Don't Really Have a 12 Step Program for Spirituality
I know the earlier subhead had 12 steps, but in truth, we all have a different numbers of steps we have to take to re-align with ourselves and begin to re-meet ourselves on the spiritual path. For some of you, you'll be meeting yourself on the spiritual path for the first time. It may be jarring to realize that all the psychic awareness really had nothing to do with spirituality. It's like all my height doesn't make me an NBA basketball player. Sure, it makes it easier for me to get to the rim in a basketball game, but until I set up the discipline and focus of practice, all my height really does is make it easier to get stuff on the top shelf. So I encourage you to take 12 steps back (haha, I worked the number 12 in anyway; I'm so good. ;).

Step out of your work with others for the time, or do your best to minimize it (before the universe minimizes it for you). See where you need to grow. Sometimes, it's simply a knowledge base thing. So many lightworkers have no business sense whatsoever, so a business class is as much a part of deepening your spiritual path as clearing out a past life issue with scarcity. If it makes you feel better, consider the business class as strengthening your first and third chakras. Whatever works for you. It's all part of the same spiritual game. What you're aiming to do is to create a space in your life that supports you so that you can support others ethically and lovingly through your gifts and talents. If I haven't implied it already, I believe all these talents are so amazing. I think the depths of psychic awareness is truly awesome, and it can be used to help so many people. Ultimately, that's what these gifts are here for. They're here so that we can help each other live more happily, lovingly, and free of suffering. If you haven't been using your gifts responsibly, that's also another big reason why your life may have suddenly had a seizure.

To truly be a clear vessel, you need to find all the things that are blocking you from love, happiness, and freedom from suffering. In so doing, you'll be able to help people more than you'd ever dreamed possible.

Today's picture comes from my student, Jenn. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spiritual Awakening and Transitional Relationships

Relationships were a popular topic at the meditation group that I was at last night. Whether it's spirituality or general dating advice, relationships are kind of a perennial topic for people. When I use the term, however, I am typically speaking much more broadly than the romantic/sexual relationship, which is the common understanding of the term. I use the term relationship in reference to how you view yourself to how you spend time with your dog to how you are sitting on a bench. "Hello, Mr. Bench? How are you today?"

Seriously though, there are many kinds of relationships, and there are all ultimately transitory.

Accepting the Ever-Changing Nature of Relationships
If you are able to have the exact same relationship with someone, I think you need to be committed. No one stays the same. Only the mind's illusions and mental games can convince you that someone is the same for many years as well as convince you that you're the same. Everyone changes, and all of our relationships change. My grandmother commented in reference to her marriage that there have been ebbs and flows, good times and bad times. That's 60 plus years of experience right there peoples, so I think she knows what she's talking about. She most certainly doesn't have the same relationship with my grandfather that she had in her twenties, and subsequently, it illustrates the most important fact that we all have to accept about relationships: they'll change.

Transitional Relationships and Evolving Relationships
I'm writing a little bit more for those of you in awakening, but this still applies to everyone. The difference seems to be magnitude. Sure everyone has transitional and evolving relationships, but when someone wakes up, it feels like everything goes faster, bigger, harder. It's like earthquakes. A 4.0 earthquake is very different than a 7.0 earthquake. Sure, they're still both earthquakes, but one of them is really knocking some shit down.

So what do I mean by transitional and evolving relationships. Here are my latest definitions (as many of you know, I'm constantly making stuff up. These definitions will probably only last for about a week ;).

  • Transitional relationship: This relationship helps you to transition from one point in your life to the next. It's really meant to be a bridge and to dissolve once you've been guided/helped to this next point. Holding onto it will bring great pain as well as stop you from continuing on the journey unfolding for you.
  • Evolving relationship: The evolving relationship has multiple cycles of beginning, middle, and completion. A person will come into your life, and they'll be there for a week, month, year, or some other timeframe, and then that person will leave. When they come back in, the relationship is very different, so in a way, it really feels like starting new, although there will be something of a foundation from your prior connection.
Your Personal Evolution on the Spiritual Path
All these relationships are sacred--well, ultimately, every relationship is sacred, but let's not hide out in ultimate truth right now. These relationships are helping you through a major spiritual transition. That's their purpose. I've had more than a few of these relationships. Personally, I really love the evolving relationships because when the person cycles back into my life, we're able to meet at this new point of connection. The people who've done that with me really enrich my life, and it's so much fun to see a whole new corridor of connection open up in my life. Usually, those people who do this in my life have been doing their personal work to expand and grow themselves. I haven't seen others who aren't working in such a dedicated way on their spiritual paths cycle back into my life. Those connections typically come to completion.

As I said about the transitional relationships, you should consider them to be a bridge and nothing more. You're not using them. Most likely, you're being a bridge for them wherever they are going, and you'll certainly notice when those relationships are done. You won't feel as connected anymore. Obstacles and barriers crop up in your relationship. Finding time together (as friends, work colleagues, lovers, etc.) becomes more and more difficult. And when you are together, you find that you don't want to be around that person much anymore. It's time to let go.

Letting Go of Relationships that End on the Spiritual Path
The great truth in life is that all relationships end. People try to stretch them out and immortalize them in this way or that, but that's not how life is. I'm sure that in some way it's another projection of fears around death--fears around things ending. But those endings are important. They help make space for new relationships to spring up in your life. In no other area is this quite so hard for many of us, but we have to learn to let go. Let go of the relationship for what it was. Let go of the idea of the relationship and all the ways that we cling to it. Let go of trying to replace it; no one will ever be what that person was to you ever again. And that's okay. Letting that sink in can be a lifetime of work for some of you, but that's okay too.

Arising of New Relationships and the Movements to Longer Term Relationships
When you wake up, everything kind of explodes for awhile, but that's temporary. One of the things that I'm always impressed with is how the very profound and established spiritual teachers are so grounded and solid. They've passed through the fire, and they've grown their roots through years of dedication and discipline. I'm not super into saying that you have to meditate this way or that way, but I do strongly encourage everyone to have some kind of regular dedicated practice. Find something that works for you, but be diligent with it. You have to unwrite all kinds of social conditioning crap that is making you live trapped in your own skin, and that's why discipline is so important. You're cultivating a flow internally that allows you to flow in life, but you're not simply flowing all over the place wherever the currents take you (although for some of you, you've chosen that life path, and that's fine. We all make our choices).

And so, the great teachers show us that as we develop our true relationship with ourselves, the shifting of relationships around us can start to subside. It really depends on your path and where you're headed. It's different for everyone. But in my own life, I feel this shift from the transitional nature of my life over the last 4 or 5 years into a more established, deeper grounded space. I've been watching how some of my relationships that I've made are now growing roots and moving deeper into connection. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of, but I find that where it was clear what some of the transitional relationships were about in bridging a gap, that I'm not yet sure what some of the relationships now in my life will evolve into. But I'm sure they're here for a reason, and I know that I have a lot of space for that evolution--not holding, trying to withhold judgment, and giving things time to grow.

I encourage you to do the same. Let go. Be with the gifts that people offer you, and know that the right people are always in your life--even if they're pissing you off enough to help you make a much needed change. You are right where you're supposed to be in this moment, and you have all the relationships you need to have.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finding a Relationship with my Voice

Susan describes a recent realization about her voice on a hike in Oregon.

Following one trail after another, not knowing where the next one will take me. Within moments I knew Mt. Tabor would be a refuge for me when I need grounding and clearing. I come to yet another intersection of paths to the right of me after about 30 minutes of walking. My mind tells me to keep heading straight, but my heart says otherwise. I take the right turn and find myself thankful to have followed my intuition. My eyes are guided to the view of a small cluster of trees. Despite the cloudy day, a few sun rays are able to pierce through the leaves as if they were highlighting the small meadow of grass and wildflowers below. The trees seem to be strategically placed as if they were forming half of an arc. The calming and protecting energy of the scene continues to lure me forward until I feel the need to drop my backpack and take a seat in front of the three giants.

I nestle my bottom into the ground as if it cradles me like a saddle. While softly gazing at a yellow flower at the base of a tree, I notice the trees for what they are. The trunks are steadfast and confident of their strength, yet the branches move effortlessly with the wind. I am immediately reminded of the divine strength within me, yet the need to stay flexible and willing to flow.

After a few moments of appreciation, my hands are guided to scan the energy of my body. The sensory receptors of my palm immediately perceive the cool energy of my throat and solar plexus in comparison to my other chakras.

Without hesitation, I start to chant. An awkward and soft higher tone comes from my mouth then transitions into a lower tone. I stop and look around in embarrassment. Where did that come from? More importantly, why in the hell am I singing funny notes in the middle of a forest like a hippie? I look around to see if anyone heard. No one was in near proximity besides my dog. I continue to sing, “ahhhh” in various tones, noticing how each tone resonates with a part of my body. The embarrassment lightens up within a few moments. My voice remains soft.

An image vaguely comes to my mind as another tone is emitted from my mouth. I am sitting in the corner of my closet once again. Tucking my legs close to my body. The door is shut. They are fighting again. Yet another argument that will lead to a divorce that never happens. Curse words, threats, hateful things that should never come from a human mouth vibrate through the walls and into me. I know the neighbors can hear. My bedroom closet frequently became my sanctuary as a child in order to escape. I start singing hymns that I had created with my imagination. I immediately start feeling connected and protected. I know He is with me. I continue singing louder and louder. At some point I don’t even remember where I am at, and I feel distant to the situation at hand.

“Shut the F*** up!” my father screams at me while banging on the door. The authoritative shout wakes me from my trance and fear resides once again. He was a saint to me despite witnessing a few moments of madness throughout my life. A moment of silence occurs between him and my mother. They continue on with the never-ending verbal war.

I do not remember singing much after that besides in places I was allowed to such as a church choir. The few voice lessons that I received were soon forgotten. I remember a sense of pure joy that illuminated my being when I sang. I was not the best singer by far, but people definitely noticed the physical change when I sang. Of course I didn’t understand what they were talking about at such a young age. My mother used to proudly tell her friends how much I sang as a baby. I would sing instead of crying myself to sleep. Everyone knew I was awake in the morning when they heard me singing in my crib. As a kid I would put on talent shows for my parents.

Years have passed, and although I have transitioned to a physical expression through dance, my voice remains subdued. I speak my mind with most everyone, but only truly open up to a few people that I trust. Even that is changing now. When I do speak, it is often soft and sweet. However, when I am at work, I tend to speak with confidence. I am terrible at debating controversial subjects. I figure the other person is already attached to their opinion, so why bother. Many times, especially with authoritative men, I will only speak my Truth when I have finally reached my limit and am forced to do so. My relationship with men has changed drastically, especially in the last 2 years, but I know I need to be able to speak my Truth at all times with all people.

This recognition happened all in a matter of minutes while sitting in the meadow in front of the three trees. My hands scan my whole body once again. As my hands reach my throat I put them closer together and push the negative energy away from my body. I do the same for my solar plexus region. A slight clearing sensation follows.

My walk on Mt. Tabor was only about 1.5 hours although it felt as if I was there all day. Gratitude comes to mind as I end this blog. Gratitude for having this moment to write, gratitude to dance, gratitude to know that I can now give myself the freedom to express myself once again through my voice. It may stir up past trauma, but that is the very reason why we have a voice. Our voice is a tool to communicate not only with others more clearly, but communicate with ourselves in a more honest way. I finally feel I can start singing again. It may not be pretty, and it will most likely feel awkward at first. One thing that is definite though, is that when I do start singing…It is going to be loud!

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Understanding Your Projections and How They Block Your Spiritual Growth

I know that I make up a lot of definitions, and I always encourage you to comment on blog posts or contact me with questions or clarifications. I think clarifying definitions is probably something we should all do a lot more of in general. It would go a long way towards clearing up potential misunderstandings. So often words do not carry the same meaning for different people, and that can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and frustrations.

But one term that I'd like to spend some time teasing out is the term "projection."

Projections: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Others
I don't know where I first started hearing this term, and I can't remember when I first started using it. When I use it, I mean that you are projecting an idea or set of stories onto someone about what you think are or want them to be. It's a kind of box that we put people into, and then we expect all of them to fit in this box. You could also consider it a lens through which we see people, but the lens only shows certain parts and hues of others.

This happens the worst in romance, I think, but it is relevant to all of our relationships. You probably can think of an instance where you were dating someone, and they seemed absolutely awesome. They just glowed for you. You couldn't find anything wrong with him/her if you wanted to. Then one day, that person did something: ran a redlight, punched someone out, lied about something, or did something that otherwise stopped you dead in your tracks. You're like, "I never thought s/he'd do something like that."

Whoops. Your projection--your story about who that person is--just got broken.

The Wide Range of Projections
Of course, it doesn't mean someone did something bad to break your projection. Someone could do something very nice, and it would be just as jarring if your projected story on this person is that they're heartless and cruel. Then that person donates a million dollars to a charity, and you're floored. Of course, your ego is quick to rush in with a fix on the projection. You'll say, "Oh well, he's just using that as a tax write-off" or something to that nature. Because you wouldn't want to admit that you're the story-maker here or that you just might not see the whole picture, right?

Still it goes on to more benign situations. You see the kind, sweet 6th grade teacher to your son partying like a rock star out at bar. Your football star son suddenly professes an undying love of Emily Dickinson poetry. Your high school sweetheart who was a total ladies man suddenly becomes interested in men. I could write this list for a very long time, but you get the picture.

How Projections Inhibit Your Spiritual Growth
Projections are a problem because they aren't real. They're just stories. They're ways we categorize people and put them in boxes. It's how our egos make themselves feel safe in the world. Now, it's not to say that certain definitions aren't helpful, and a lot of people buy into their own categorizations. You're a stay-at-home mom, so you go and do things that other stay-at-home moms do to feel included. There's a lot of power in living within your categorization. Almost all of us saw this in high school with all the cliques that formed up: jocks, nerds, music geeks, skaters, and so on. Remember when it was a big deal for someone from one group to talk to someone in another? Ooo, the scandal. =)

Of course, it kinda sucked that there was this scrutiny to talk to someone in a different group. You probably didn't feel as free to connect with some people as you would have liked, and this is precisely the problem with projections. You're limiting and confining yourself to certain ways of being with others and with yourself. One of the greatest discoveries people can make is when they start to expand their own views of others and see more of what's right before them.

Discovering Your Projections and Breaking Them
Okay, so do you follow me now? You've got a lot of stories about others, which are built off of the big story you have about yourself. While I typically like to focus internally, let's deal with your outward view for now. You can pick a couple people in your life and journal out who you think they are. You may be right on a lot of points, but the idea here is not to get stuck on those points. We are all so much greater than any set of stories, ideas, or bullet points. As you go, it may be interesting to see what topics and conversations fill up the lion's portion of your conversations. Those are usually the ways that we further reinforce the projections and the story about the relationship that you're having.

I like to talk about how relationships have their own intelligence, but that intelligence can't really come forth until you get some of the projections out of the way. It's like in some of those romance movies where two people are absolutely in love, but one person has a projection about the other as being only a friend. The great revelation in the storyline is when the projection breaks, and that allows the two to join in a romantic relationship (which most likely is filled with a whole string of awful projections, but that's Hollywood).

Deepening Relationships on the Spiritual Path
It's always amazing what starts to step in to a relationship when we get these projections out of the way. In many respects, it allows both people to start to change. It may mean some relationships end, but others will evolve into deeper spaces because you're not trying to hold onto someone in some way that doesn't suit them. Parents often struggle with this as their children grow up. They try to hold onto their projection of their baby girl as a Starburst chewing, jump-rope-hopping 10 year old. But she's 18 now, and she's got a boyfriend. Other big milestones are on the way, and you'll want to be there for those. You have to let go of who she was to embrace who she now is.

In committed long-term relationships, this is a powerful tool as well, and you may be surprised what pain points surface. You may tell your partner (if your relationship is strong enough to handle it--I hope it is) some of the things that you see about them, and you may find out how wrong you are about a number of things. It may even be a relief for your partner to feel like s/he no longer has to be a certain way for you or that you can see that you were wrong about something. It makes space for more intimacy because it makes space for more of the fullness of a person to be present in a situation.

Don't Throw Out the Baby With the Bath-Water
Not all of our stories are useless, but they need to be put in their place. I have a story getting projected on to me by people--that of the spiritual teacher. It's useful because people know what kind of advice and help I can offer, but it's also enormously problematic because people don't really know what a spiritual teacher is because of a long history of abuses. So it's often one of the first projections I tackle with students to break down who they think I am. Heck, for some of you, you might be a little surprised at how loud, profane, and down-right ridiculous I can be if you ever met me. You're like, "But his blogs sound so serious and loving." Well, maybe not. I think I've sworn a couple times in past blogs, but you get the picture. I am so much more than a term like "spiritual teacher," and you and all your relationships are so much more than any set of words, stories, and ideas. As you come to know this and make space to see the broader context of the people around you, your whole vision of your world will start to shift. Undoubtedly, you'll see things you've never seen before. Prepare to be surprised.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Intimacy without Intimacy

A poem by my student and friend, Susan. 

Latin: “De”

Meaning: “Away”

Reaching out to the vastness slightly beyond my fingertips.

I might as well be a camel in search of water,

Of course I do not know it is already stored in a safe place.

Almost there.

Once I have it, then I will need nothing else. I will be fulfilled. Finally.

If only it were not so close yet beyond me,

away from my grasp.

Almost there.

If only I…

If only he..

If only she..

If only this…

If only that…

So far away.

Latin: “Ire”

Meaning: To Travel, To Go

I can feel the heat of the pavement rising up and into the soles of my callused feet.

Why does this journey have to be so long?

My mind exacerbates the situation.

Feeling the weight transfer from my heel to the ball of my foot with every step.

Traveling onward, the ground supporting me, kicking up dust and debri

Along the way.

“Desire”: To Travel Away From One's Self

To think, feel, talk, and act in desirable ways without seeing the illusion behind it.

What an elusive way for the ego to enter through the back door of my mind.

I desire this event to happen,

this person to act,

to satisfy my mind,

even despite the temporary outcome. Not that bad, right?

There’s always a next time. A next time for the ego to continue it’s non-evolutionary cycle.

The more desire is grasped, the farther it pulls me away from knowing my Truth.

It fuels the need to disperse my power to everyone else, but through myself.

The understanding of one’s intimacy without needing intimacy.

The pressing search through the desert has ended.

The water of life has been found within.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Engaging with Sexual Desire on the Spiritual Path

I'm pretty sure that my approach towards sexuality on the spiritual path will seem "unorthodox." Of course, most religious traditions in Western Culture have almost no approach to sexuality, so this shouldn't be surprising. Most of the time, the approach is total denial of sexuality, which to me is totally dysfunctional. Many of you who have been reading my blogs know that I'm very pro-sex, whatever that might mean. I suppose it means that I acknowledge that human beings are sexual creatures. This shouldn't be a revelation, but because of the denigration of sexuality in this society, it may be for some of you. Just as we all have urges to eat, connect with others, breathe, create, and much more, we all have urges to have sex.

Urges and Desires for Sexual Connection
I've already blogged about the difference between an urge and a desire on this link. I encourage you to read it to understand my approach to this topic. There's a very different thing going on with an urge to have sex or have a sexual connection than the the desire to do so. The desire is putting its sense of fulfillment in an experience. An urge doesn't have expectations around it. It comes and goes from its own impulses.

Subsequently, much of the work around sexual desire is about figuring out what you think you're going to get. People spend countless hours devoted to finding romantic partners as preludes to sexual connection. So, you're obviously looking for something. There's a lot of different things that go into this topic. Some people want to feel connected, but others just don't want to feel alone. Do you see the difference there? The latter is acting out of fear, so already, there's an additional element being brought into the bedroom. The former is a little cleaner, but perhaps, that person can only really feel connected through sex. That can make all other types of connection and intimacy seem inferior. There are a lot of issues that get caught up with sexuality, and then after a long slow simmer and stirring, they get turned into that desire. And the desire says, "I will only be happy when I have sex."

Unfulfilling Sexual Connections: When the Bedroom Is a Warzone
I've mentioned two issues, but the number of issues that get drug into the bedroom can be extensive. The unworked out issues from past lovers, fears around performance, fears about intimacy, desire to connect in only specific ways, sexual abuses, and so much more fill up the bed until there's really no room for love and intimacy. Subsequently, tons of people have terrible sexual experiences and often come to several conclusions, including:
  1. There's something wrong with their partner (And maybe there is)
  2. They need more experience (And maybe they do)
  3. They don't really like sex
  4. Sex is evil
I don't really believe in the last two, and the first two are pretty irrelevant. While this post isn't so much about how to have great sex with your partner, it is important to say that who you choose is important. But it's even more important to know who you are in your own sexuality.

Building Your Own Personal Sexual Practice
I've talked a lot about this, but fairly vaguely. There are a couple of elements that I use and suggest in creating a personal sexual practice. It helps to move the space beyond masturbation and into the spiritual sexual realm. There's nothing wrong with masturbation and just getting off, but because of what I'm talking about in this context, let's take it up a notch.

What you need: Space. You need space for privacy to explore yourself. All of yourself. So much of the time, sexuality gets focused on very specific regions, but you are much bigger than that. I encourage you to bring attention to all areas of your body and to do so focusing on a sense of loving kindness and service towards yourself.

What goes on in the heart. What goes on in the heart opens up a lot of other spaces for experience, pleasure, love, and energy. This is equally true for guys as gals. Guys like to forget their hearts, but part of this shift in consciousness is a remembering of that space. So dudes, you got emotions; this is a great space to start to feel them. Ain't nobody here to judge you, and if you do feel judged, you know exactly what dude is doing that.

What to do. It's different for everyone, but I encourage people to focus on relaxing their bodies through breathwork as they self-stimulate. Taking the breath all the way down in the very base of you is a powerful practice. It's the start of opening up to energetic channels in your body that allow you to move and cycle the orgasmic energy throughout your body. Further along, you'll learn how to simply allow it to go where it needs to go and trust in the intelligence of that energy (and it is very intelligent in going where it needs to go).

What you can't do. You can't get into controlling the experience. You're going to have to let go of trying to achieve specific experiences. I encourage people to think of this in terms of guiding the experience and not controlling it.

This is a whole other type of control for guys, but stopping ejaculation is important until they can really understand how their energy moves and how to replenish it. Men are built to send energy into women to create life. That's the procreative process. However, since this process in this blog isn't about creating children, it's important to understand that men can get really depleted as they start a regular practice (ideally daily or every other day). Learning to separate orgasm and ejaculation can be one of the first mind-blowing breakthroughs that pretty much any guy can have with his sexuality.

Understanding Urges and Cultivating Ownership of Sexuality
A lot of people don't feel "horny" enough to have a sexual practice every day, but I think most sexual teachers will tell you that that often has to do with mental preconceptions as well as lack of work in that space. A lot of people's sexuality is pretty dormant if not repressed, so urges towards sexual connection are often over-looked or are being unconsciously compensated for with other actions. It's probably buried pretty deep. Perhaps, working out has been the compensation for when you start to have sexual urges. Since you haven't been expressing your sexuality or haven't felt comfortable doing so, that became the way that you blew off some steam.

The beautiful part of developing your own practice is that you begin to fully own your sexuality. You begin to understand how to bring the male and female energies of yourself together. The power around that in your orgasm is immense. I was working with a student who recently discovered the power of her own orgasm. This is an incredible thing because it illuminates to us that we truly have all of our greatest fulfillment, love, pleasure, and energy within us. But nobody can really tell you this. You have to experience it.

Sacred Sexuality Deepens in Yourself, Then in Partnership
To come into sexuality without the desire or demand for fulfillment from a partner is a profound place. It moves sexuality into the space of love and service. This service isn't servile; it's a deep honoring of the beauty of another as well as honoring the gifts that s/he has to share with you. It also takes you out of a sense of scarcity around connection. You feel so completely connected with yourself that to take a partner becomes optional, and when the urge comes, it's clean of guilt, shame, fear, and many other things. Sure, nothing is perfect, but you'll know that there's a big difference. And so will your partner.

One thing I would like to add in is that this isn't about burning out or purging desires through lots of sexual experiences. Have lots of sexual experiences within a meaningful and loving framework, but don't try to overcome desire. I see some methodologies going on out there that think if you just "do it" enough that you'll burn out the desire. It'll be gone, and you'll be free of it. Maybe that works for some people, but I think it's crude. And it can be abusive to the space because it's trying to control the situation and achieve another "desired" outcome. The deepest kinds of sexuality truly are those where the outcome is secondary to the process. But then again, isn't that the deepest truth to the spiritual journey anyway?

A Last Word About Sexual Shame
Because of how badly sexuality has been treated by some religions and this culture, it's important to encourage you to journal out or talk with a devoted partner about the issues that come up that block you from feeling sexual, exploring your sexuality, and achieving orgasm. Shame tends to be the biggest one, but there are others. All I can say is that in anyway that you reject any part of your being, you are not whole. I can also say that the profound confidence, love, and internal connection that you can have with yourself is a life-changer. So much creative energy can move through you, and you may have no idea just how far you can go into personal intimacy. It's a deep ocean. Find your water-wings and head out, and as you do, I'm sure that you'll find someone who can swim out with you too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Deepening Integrity on the Spiritual Path

It's a given that you won't be perfect on the spiritual path. I don't know what perfect means, but I think a lot of us have some kind of definition running around in our heads that we're consistently resisting and/or trying to achieve. It makes life painful. We're never what we think we should be, but as we wake up, we begin to drop into a deeper integrity with ourselves. What does that mean? Integrity is simply how we honor and our love ourselves as we are. It's also a place of truth and honesty, so we seek to be as honest with ourselves as with others. We don't want to hurt anyone, and we want to love everyone to the best of our abilities. As we wake up, we begin to understand how deep of an integrity we need to hold to truly be in alignment with our souls and our purposes.

Honesty: Still as Spiritual as Everything Else
If you can't be honest with yourself, you'll never really be honest with anyone else. Everything becomes a house of cards if you can't look at yourself and be truthful. It's an equally hard and soft thing, the truth is. On the one hand, you'll be able to accept yourself exactly as you are. If you're a really heavyset person, you'll be able to fully accept that this is your body. But if you do need to lose weight to be in integrity with how your body really wants to be, you'll have to be equally honest with yourself. This isn't the self-blame path. You're not saying, "Oh I'm such a horrible fatty." It's more like you're saying, "I've got some weight to lose." It's much more of a statement of fact, and if anything, it's said with genuine love. Because you don't want to hurt your body. You want to be in optimum healthy--whatever that looks and feels like for you.

This is being honest with your body, but that honesty and integrity bleeds into everything else. You'll know when you're speaking honestly, and you'll know when you're acting honesty. It's all important. You'll also begin to develop an awareness about where your ego has stepped in and is trying to get something out of a situation. You'll start to feel how un-honest and untruthful that is. You'll have to stop.

Spiritual Awakening and Your Enhanced Sense of Integrity
One of the shocking things for many people as they wake up is how out of integrity they've been for most of their lives. I'm convinced it's why quite a few people can have this amazing experience and immediately want to run back to bed and pull the covers over their heads. Seeing just how unkind and dishonest you've been to yourself and others can be shocking. Your deeper sense of integrity comes forward, and it points out so many things that you've done and are doing. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel like you're the only one who now has to live up to really high standards. You may feel the pain you've inflicted on others and yourself really acutely. There's a lot that can come up. It's all normal, but it can no longer be avoided.

The point is not to go into self-blame (another ego game). It's not to think of these as some kind of set of impossible rules that only applies to you. It's about coming into integrity in each moment and doing the best you can. As I started out in this blog, you won't be "perfect." You'll make mistakes, but they'll be a Hell of a lot better mistakes than when you were letting everything slide before. Before, you'd lie and say you like doing something to make someone feel better. Slowly, this poisoned relationship after relationship because you weren't expressing your heart. Or you'd manipulate lovers to do only what you wanted to do. Now you feel the shame and guilt of all the ways you didn't honor them. And it gets worse from here.

Forgiveness: One of the Deepest Kinds of Integrity
Whether you feel you've awakened or not, you're going to get a lot of practice at forgiveness. As many people point out, forgiveness is not forgetfulness. You're not giving yourself or others a free pass per se for doing dishonest or hurtful things. You are simply acknowledging what happened, having compassion for it in whatever way you can, and letting it go. You may even need to make amends as part of the process of earning your own or another person's forgiveness. It's important that whatever needs to happen happens. You'll know in your heart what you need to do, and that may scare you. But that fear serves to lock you up in the pain that has already gone before. You don't need to suffer anymore, and forgiveness is one of the deepest and kindest soothing balms of the spiritual path through which we heal old wounds and scars. Nothing lasts for ever--no pain or shame or burden is meant to last for ever. Only the ego is trying to drag them on into eternity, and you can let that go.

The Ease of Honesty and Integrity on the Spiritual Path
I think my dad had an old saying that he always tries to tell the truth because it's too hard to remember all the lies. What I take from that bit of wisdom is that it's just so much easier to say how you feel than to be making something up to protect something or try to please someone else. There's a deeper relaxation that comes with this integrity that makes it quite easy to be with. It doesn't mean every situation that will come to you in your life will be easy. Instead, it means that you can be much more relaxed, at peace, and in your true personal power because all your energy is in the truth. It's not being divided with these other ego agendas. It allows the moments to unfold more naturally, and in general, it makes you someone others will typically want to be around or connect with. If someone doesn't like your honesty, then you may do well to let them go because most likely they're caught up in their own lies. You can't fix that. You can only do your part. You can only ever do your part.

Issues Arise and Pass Away
Being in your truth is a powerful thing. Holding this integrity will shift a lot of things in yourself and others. Issues will come up, and you'll be able to address them directly. If you haven't liked something, you'll find the strength to say so. You'll find the strength to make changes, and you'll find the strength to love more deeply and compassionately than you've ever done. It's an amazing thing to drop into that deeper integrity that you hold. And we all hold it. It's not something new. It's something buried. The spiritual path leads us to uncover it and recover it from the lies and debris of life. As you do, your life will change, and you may soon see what it means to truly live your life in integrity.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Love and Relationships on the Spiritual Path

This is following up in the vein of the spiritual awakening and instant connections blog post. One of the amazing things about awakening is how easy love becomes. It's not a new evolution of love. Rather, it is a returning to what love already is. It's everywhere. It's in us and all around us, but we've been taught otherwise. We've been taught that love is scarce and requires an immense checklist before allowing someone into that space. Many of us have been taught that love really only exists between a man and a woman in a long-term, romantic, and sexual relationship. And there's no end in sight to the number of failed relationships as people try to cram love into that one form. Love is much bigger than that--much more alive and flowing, and so this blog post is an offering of my insights around just how big love can be.

Stop Looking for The One
I would be happy if I never heard the terms "the one" or "soulmates" again. Those of you who who've been reading my blogs for awhile know that I have a very different definition around soulmates. Actually I have a couple. :) But the main one is that there are a few people out there that have an incredible charge for you, and you have an incredible charge for them. They don't have to be the opposite gender or whatever your gender of preference is for romance. And they don't have to be romantic partners. Sometimes, it's much easier if they're not. But when you come into each other's lives, everything starts to shift. You push each other further on each other's soul paths.

This can mean that your soulmate absolutely pisses you off. You are driven to distraction because this person hits all of your issues so hard. Those issues are the things standing in the way of your full opening. Those issues are all the places where you hold back or can't connect. And they're in the way of you doing what you need to do in this lifetime. Conversely, you're likely applying the same pressure to your soulmate, and so in the very small confines of the old terminology around soulmates (one and only, til death do us part, yada yada yada), it will likely blow up. Not necessarily. But it's a lot of energy and change to hold in a relationship. You need a really strong foundation to hold it and a lot of space for both of you to grow. And I'd also encourage you to consider that you may have several different soulmates in your life.

Love Blossoms in Many Relationships
As for "the one," that's just a lot of pop culture crap. It's also the ego trying to make it's life some version of "perfect," which is an illusion that will invariably be blown up at some point. To say that in a world of 7 billion people, you only get one "perfect" person for you is nonsense. Love moves in much broader circles. It also has it's own rhythms for romance. Romantic love, to me, is only one flavor of love. Think of love like ice cream. Sure vanilla is great, but there are other kinds. There's brotherly love, sisterly love, the love of team-mates or colleagues on a journey for a goal, fatherly love, motherly love, and quite a few others. You can fill in the blanks. These extend past families. Brotherly love can be held for a dear friend. Just as motherly love can be held for someone else's child. You simply love and honor that child in that way. There's no other agenda.

I have expounded upon love before. Love shows up in any relationship. You can have it with your boss at work. If you're still operating under the notion that love is only romantic, then this doesn't make sense. I encourage you to expand your frame of reference around what love is; you're blocking out most of it.

The Start of a Love Awakening
One of my favorite stories that I share about my own path is kind of a pre-awakening moment regarding love. It was June 2007, and I happened to be reviewing my feelings about love. I think I'd counted off on my hands the total number of people that I loved or thought I would love. I barely got onto the second hand. I said to myself, "Well, that's stupid." I called up a friend and told her that I loved her shortly thereafter, and the rush of energy that came through me was amazing. I was at a workshop the next day and was completely "spiritually high off my ass." While I don't like to tell people to seek altered states or to consider them inherently spiritual, there certainly are some moments that knock your socks off. It was amazing; I doubt I'll ever have one quite like it again as years of bottled up love came out of my heart and into my awareness. It was beautiful, and it continued the opening that would really climax in August 2007 for me.

Your Love Awakening and Opening to Vulnerability
Love and vulnerability go hand in hand. So does awakening. It's all intertwined in a flow of energy and depth and intensity. It's all really beautiful stuff, and you can have it in this instant. In the instant you let go of your criteria (needing to make a situation safe for you to open is a big one), you can have love. Love has no criteria. It doesn't need someone to be perfect, have a great ass, make a set amount of money, have straight teeth, blonde hair, or any kind of personality. It simply is, and it allows you to connect deeply with anyone in your life.

Love is also really smart, and when two people are fully open, the right relationship forms naturally between you. Too often relationships are manipulated by the ego trying to get what it wants. I'm sure that many of you have tried to turn something that needs to be a friendship into a romantic relationship. I'm also pretty sure that many of you have resisted romantic or sexual relationships and tried to cram that into friendships. In all the ways that fear steps in, love is stunted, and your energy and your life grinds to a halt. Then, the old questions come back: "Why do these types of people keep showing up in my life?" They're reflections for you to see what you're missing. If they have hard hearts, then they may be showing you how your heart has hardened. The only way to love is to open. It just doesn't work any other way.

Moving at the Speed of Love
Love is also instantaneous when you don't get in the way. I know that lots of people want to believe that it takes a long time to open up and fall in love with someone, but that's purely ego. It's trying to manipulate the equation. Certainly, long-term relationships take work to stay clear and in integrity. That's part of living in this world, but love is the easy part. If it's not, then--as Rumi says--it's time to find all the barriers that you've placed in front of it. Because most of what we feel happens inside of us.

Now, take it from me, I've had some AMAZING connections with different people, and so I can tell you that there is a lot of energy that can pass between two people or multiple people (as I said not necessarily in a romantic context). But for the most part, the amazing love that we experience is simply us. It's simply emerging inside of us. I've had moments where it feels exactly the same as being in love happen while I'm working on a freelance project at my computer. It's an astonishing feeling, but it certainly has nothing to do with my project.

Trusting Your Own Love
Somewhere along the way, I think we all stopped trusting our hearts. We got into this delusion that somehow closing our hearts protects us. It doesn't. It makes us cold, callous, and isolated. It's a horrible place, and from that place, we do horrible things to other people. I would encourage you that if you are having trouble opening your heart, find one thing you can do each day that you love. It doesn't have to be anything special. If you love gardening, spend 15 minutes with your garden. If you love painting, spend time painting. If you love playing with your children and their toys, then do that. Anywhere your heart is fully into something, that space of love opens further and changes your life.

Afterwards, you can pay attention to when it starts to close. When do you feel the need to protect it? Can you lean into those situations a little more? Can you stay open a little longer? This doesn't mean taking abuse. In fact, an open and loving heart won't tolerate cruelty in any form for very long. You'll find that love is as much about loving yourself as loving another. And if you keep staying open, you may be amazed at how your life suddenly transforms.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Is the Spiritual Path?

I feel like a part of my spiritual knowledge slate has been rubbed clear by that big magic eraser that is called God or life or the Universe or the Goddess. It's a funny thing to say after so many "informative" blogs that I've written as well as an ebook. But in oh so many ways, we all return to the beginner's mind--that clear, ungrasping space that honors what it does not know and that there is much yet to learn. Yet in returning to this space, there's this deepening understanding and appreciation that there really isn't anything to learn at all. We have all the deeper wisdom and knowledge that we ever need within us. Sure, we'll learn more information throughout our lives, but true wisdom? We have that already--we've always had that.

Starting Over a Thousand Times on the Spiritual Path
So, I'm joining those of you who have just started or don't know where to start on your spiritual path. I'm right here with you. I know nothing. Again. I have plenty of facts. Plenty of tips and techniques, but somehow, they feel relatively useless to me. So I'm starting over again. Re-examining where I am and where my path is, and of course, the spiritual path is exactly where it's always been--right under my feet.

A lot of people want to know where the spiritual path is. They want to do something to earn it. They want someone to give it to them, but you already have it. Sure, you may not have been paying much attention to it until recently, but it's been there. In some ways, it's probably guided you to wherever you are now. But to really engage with the spiritual path is to set an intention to do so. It's to set an intention to connect with your deepest self and to follow your heart.

The Heart Illumines the Path to the Soul
I don't know how anyone can feel like they're on a spiritual path if their heart is not in it. You can go to all the meditation retreats you like, but if this is not what's in your heart, why are you doing it? Suffering through endless silent daylong retreats until your knees scream in agony, what are you doing? Is this truly what's in your heart? Or are you seeking yet another fulfillment?

What the spiritual path is not is a way to get your fulfillment. You have that already. But if you think "enlightenment" will now bring you all the happiness and bliss you can stand, you're in for a real shock. I believe it's a Zen koan that says, "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water." You won't have the same perspective on your life after enlightenment or awakening, but life will carry on much as it did before in the basics of what you have to do. And if you made yourself miserable and forced yourself to do lots of things that you have no love of, then I doubt you'd even get to the doorway of enlightenment save through the final, ultimate giving up of the whole thing. In that moment of total letting go, then that awakening that's already in you would come through, and you'd be something like "Oh, I didn't need to do all this stuff anyway."

Building a Spiritual Path
But don't let me give you the impression that there isn't any work to be done on the spiritual path. As a teacher I was listening to at Rudramandir in Berkeley was saying last night, there's a lot of work and discipline that goes into creating a framework to hold this space. You have to start tuning yourself to a new frequency--a new way of being. So some things will be painful, but when they're a labor of love, you won't suffer. Suffering is the prolonging of a painful moment through stories that we have going through our minds. People can turn the spiritual path into a path of suffering much like anything else, so you also have to come to the path with no particular goal in mind. Awakening is not the goal. Being completely in the moment is.

Spiritual Awakening to Each Moment
In this very moment, you can awaken. That's the truth. For anyone else to tell you that you have to meditate 30 years to get there is a total lie. In your heart, you know this to be truth. For any teacher to tell you that you have to get some energy transmission or anointing from them before you can awaken is also a complete falsity. Spiritual teachers just help you clear away the delusion so that you can see where you need to go. Last night's teacher said that "guru" translates as a "dispeler of darkness" not a "bringer of light." Because you already have that light. And that light wants to get out. Making space in your life through a spiritual practice and your intention to bring spirituality into your life can allow that light to come out at any moment.

Being Afraid of Your Own Inner Light
Marianne Williamson is pretty famous for her words about how we fear our own inner light. I still think that's really true. I can see in many people's faces this kind of awe that they shed on spiritual teachers. They think they're being overwhelmed by the teacher. They're not. They're being overwhelmed by themselves and that deeper part of themselves that is waking up in the teacher's presence. To use the tuning fork metaphor that I mentioned earlier, the teacher's vibration is striking a chord with the student. The student's soul is responding, is remembering. I love to frame awakening as a kind of remembrance. You already know all that you need to know, and that can be frighten initially to your ego. You start to realize all the ways that you haven't acted in integrity with who you are and that your whole life is about to change to come into alignment with the true you. But it ultimately will take you where you really want to go; it will take you where your heart wants to go.

The Spiritual Path and Taking the First Step to No Where
You are always right here. Taking a step and then another step, you may stop and see that you are still right here. It's almost like walking on a treadmill, but not quite. You will feel amazing qualities opening up within you because the path that you are on is taking you within you--to all the amazing stuff you've locked up inside. The spiritual path lies within you as it always has. Meditation, spiritual sexual practices, journaling, praying, yoga retreats, breathwork, spiritual teachers, spiritual community, and plenty of other tools are great helpers to build space for you to live an intentional, conscious, and loving life. But they are just ways to turn you back towards yourself. When you connect deeply within, that's when the real spiritual path begins.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Susan shares her recent cross-country journey and thoughts about what it means to come into union/marriage with one's true self.

I am standing in front of the mirror, preparing for the events of the day, once again. Today feels different though. It’s the day of my birth; rebirth. I begin sliding the brush through my dark brown hair. Suddenly I see a woman that is much different from the one I saw exactly a year ago. A different kind of beauty reflects back to me. The moments of concentrated preparation make me feel like a bride before her wedding day. After a few more moments of contemplation, I then realize that this day is hardly ordinary. This day will count as the marriage ceremony to finalize the unity of myself. A calm smile comes to me followed by laughter.

Within hours I find myself, the bride, walking barefoot down the aisle which serves as the Medicine Wheel at the Mesa Creative Arts Center. To feel each rock’s edge against the sole of my feet is almost uncomfortable, yet grounding. It will be the last time I will be able to share in ceremony with my friends in Pittsburgh for awhile. People from many different aspects of my life gather to celebrate the summer solstice. As each moment passes I become more confident that I am here for another reason.

The drum beats immediately unite with my pulse as the ceremony continues. A sense of unity overwhelms me as I hear my voice intertwine with the others of the wheel while we chant Lakota songs of thanks and praise. The conch shell is introduced. The vibration of the shell rapidly flows through my body targeting my heart chakra like a bullet. All is let go.

Tremendous love and support wraps around me like a blanket as the ceremony continues. Brad and Kate, the facilitators, decide to sing a Native American song that was sung at a wedding not too long ago. I don’t know what the words mean, but they seem like they could be vows to my self. I feel the words as the breeze of the air flows by me. Tears begin to stream down my cheeks for the first time during ceremony. An intense and indescribable feeling of unity within myself becomes overwhelming. I feel that every chakra, every part of my being, is ignited. This is what it is like for me to be living in the embodiment of who I am.

The reception consisted of each person presenting me with a candle and a wish for me as I continue to travel on this journey. I connect with each person in a unique way, even with those I only met that day. A friend came up to me during the evening’s festivities. He knew me shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh. I haven’t seen him for almost two years, yet we always managed to keep in touch using the Internet. As the largely built biker dude towered over me, he looked down on me and said something profound. He spoke from his heart and said he saw the terrible pain in my eyes and I let go of that. He continued on by saying, there is no longer pain in my eyes, but only joy. Looking back, I can understand what he meant.

The honeymoon started two weeks ago and will never end. I drove over 2,500 miles by myself with my life partner, Eric, leading the two car caravan to our new home of Portland, Oregon. My trusty sidekick and pooch sat beside me, guiding me as well. As the chaos of moving settled with each passing mile, I realized the journey within myself would continue to go on far beyond reaching our destination of Oregon. We are settled into our new home and creating our own type of spiritual community. Although I am just starting to feel somewhat settled, I am constantly required to take a moment to step back and re-center myself throughout the days. Despite the many changes and uncertainties of living in a new city, new home, with my new self…it all seems right and just how it should be. Being in this moment, watching it pass into the next as I transition is humbling. The moments remind me to be patient. This marriage may feel blissful at times and incredibly dark in others, but will never fall short as long as I remember I am all that I am and have all that I need.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spiritual Awakening and Enlightenment

I figured now would be a good time to make a brief explanation of terms that I use. When I'm writing, I typically stay away from using the word enlightenment because I feel like it's been given a limited purview. Primarily, it gets linked into Buddhism, and with the way a lot of people seem to think about it, enlightenment is a purely mind-based experience. For me, this is too narrow of a term, and when I do occasionally use the term "enlightenment," I mean it in a much more holistic sense--encompassing the heart, body, mind, and soul. If I'm using it, I'm using it synonymously with "spiritual awakening." However, I respect that this is term that a lot of people are already bringing a lot of additional meaning to, so I usually just use the term "spiritual awakening."

The Broadness of Awakening
I think "spiritual awakening" has enough flexibility that someone from any religion or spiritual practice can connect with the idea. It's not just something that happens in Buddhism. Generally speaking, I think it can speak to Christians, Jews, Wicca practitioners, Tantric followers, Taoists, Hindus, Muslims, and many more. Maybe not. Language is, after all, a limited tool, but I can talk about the limitations of language another time.

Quite simply, spiritual awakening can come to anyone through any tradition. No tradition has a lock on one path to awakening, and any tradition that claims to be the only way to God has really lost their way. God didn't create so many spiritual traditions and religions to booby-trap the spiritual world around us. God created them to encompass the many different experiences and path to return to God. It's like a big choose your own adventure, but all ways lead back to God. You can't do this wrong.

Enlightened Bodies and Hearts
As I said, I don't use the world enlightenment very much because people only tend to think about enlightenment in terms of the mind. An enlightened intellect is important. It knows when to get out of the way and how to hold space that go beyond the reaches of our rationale and ability to understand. The mind is indeed a very limited tool. Where people have gotten lost is when they think that it is the ONE AND ONLY tool. Subsequently, anything that doesn't fit within their ability to rationalize, they discount and denigrate, blocking out a lot of life. Because a lot of life simply doesn't fit within our abilities to analyze or perceive through just our part senses. Which is why part of what the enlightened mind does is learn to simply accept the vastness and unpredictability of life and that it can't know everything.

Along with that, the mind learns to accept that the enlightened or awakened heart and body have their respective languages and processes. So much moves for me when my heart moves, and it almost invariably drives that thing inside my skull crazy. Many of you already know the old saying that "The Heart has ways the Mind will never know." It's true. So too does the body. The body learns and communicates through touch, action, movement, and such things. It's part of why I'm a big fan for everyone to get some kind of conscious movement practice (yoga, dance, etc.) as well as a personal sexual practice. The body understands these things. You can feel lots of love, and you can know the truth about love. But when the depth of love hits down into the fabric of your body, everything really changes in how you act with yourself and others in the world.

The Integral or Embodied Awakening
Lots of people are using terms like "integral" and "embodied" around awakening. Quite simply, it means this integration of heart, body, mind, and soul. The enlightened mind can talk a good game, but if you don't really feel your truth in your heart and understand it in your body, then you aren't embodying your awakening. Some people will see hypocrisy in what you're saying. For instance, it's like saying cigarettes are bad for you, but you still smoke. You're aware of the truth, and you can talk about it. But in your heart, you still feel like you need them to feel good about yourself, and you obviously aren't listening to your body when you're coughing up half a lung from of smoke. For you to awaken in this situation, cigarettes stop being an emotional support, and you can truly physically feel how bad they are in your body.

This becomes true of a lot of other things as well. I seem to end up in conversations around bread. Maybe it has to do with gluten, but a lot of us as we awaken more fully really want nothing to do with bread. It doesn't feel good going through the digestion. I know it sounds odd, but it's true for quite a few of us (and some of you are probably nodding your heads or saying, "Oh, is that why?"). Nonetheless, this is part of the body awakening and actively telling us what it does and does not want to eat.

Anyone Can Be Awakened/Enlightened
It's so important to remind everyone that anyone can awaken. This isn't only for really smart people (which is another reason I don't use the term enlightened much--it makes it sound like you have to have book smarts to attain that space of awareness). This space of awareness is always within you. Everyone has it. It really is a big letting go process. Let go of all the layers of expectations and desires and fears. Let go into that space that you truly are. It's a scary shift for the ego, which is watching someone take all its toys away. But you never needed all those toys to begin with. Actually, they became burdens that you tripped over or tried to constantly preserve from damage. They made you expend a lot of energy for, ultimately, very little in return. The ease and effortlessness that comes with awakening is beautiful. You don't have to be anyone other than who you are. And you are perfect.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Undermining the Facade of the Spiritual Teacher

This topic fits nicely into the series around the shadow side of our lives. Ultimately, we all have a spiritual teacher--it's that person sitting a couple of millimeters under out sternums. We spend a lot of our lives looking outside for inspiration, but that truth that we truly want and crave is within us. With that said, there are a lot of spiritual teachers who can help to inspire you to turn inwards. It's a beautiful and sacred duty, and it's one which I'm honored to be able to perform. But there's some tricky stuff going on out there, and one of those things is this facade of being a spiritual teacher.

Looks Can Be Deceiving on the Spiritual Path
About the time people start trying to "act spiritual," you know something is a little wrong in the situation. There's nothing wrong in aspiring towards being positive, being kind, and being peaceful in all situations. But there's a big difference between getting caught up in "always" being a certain way and being human. We're all human--especially spiritual teachers. Especially is probably a little bit of hyperbole here on my part, but my God, some days it just feels like I have to do soooo much to be clear. So many emotions to be with and honor: sadness, rage, envy, and the whole lot. To deny those pieces will only force them to show back up in my shadow, and I don't need to grow that thing out any longer.

Yet many spiritual teachers get caught up in a new box--this image of the spiritual teacher. They've probably seen too many iconic pictures of great spiritual leaders laughing and what-not. It feeds into this idea that they were always happy, and subsequently, you should always be happy. And you should always be soft-spoken. That seems to be mixed in with it. You should also be very still if you meditate, and you should be super-focused on whatever is going on. You should never yell or get angry. And on and on, if you see a spiritual teacher trying to do this, you might consider running away.

Shadow Side Spiritual Teachers
Then there are some spiritual teachers who teach in the vein of embracing the shadow, and that's a whole other level of things. It can be a little confusing for a student if the teacher isn't really good in explaining boundaries and that in embracing something like "rage" that you don't get lost in it. You have to learn how to ultimately release the blockage that is fueling it.

But more directly, I'm speaking to the shadows of spiritual teachers and their unworked out issues. It draws in the very students and people they need to face it. But if the ego has set up shop again, then the spiritual teacher never owns their piece in the dynamic. The ego likes to consider itself sufficiently transcendent that it's not playing a part in what it draws, and "oh my goodness, here's another woman with severe mental illness. That can't have anything to do with me. I'm enlightened." Nobody is issue free. We all have our stuff, and spiritual teachers can't get stuck in denial of that truth. Sometimes, teachers will still know it's there and still be acting them out--I'm sure a number of friends can get me on this. As I said, we all have to do the work and just be without trying to be something or someone that we saw on a book jacket once.

Honoring Imperfection in Our Spiritual Leaders
The flip-side that generates this interesting desire for spiritual teachers to appear flawless and "perfected" is a culture that looks to leaders to be that way. How many times does a scandal ruin a politician's career, for instance? (Politicians are people too, btw. Politician: it's just a word...with way too many connotations attached to it.) Somehow people think bestowing the title of "Senator" on someone has made them transcend their foibles. It hasn't. Neither does becoming a "spiritual teacher." Most spiritual teachers I would not even put in the "category" of enlightened. Those that are understand what a ridiculous category "enlightened" is and how ridiculous it is to try and present a spiritual teacher facade. It's another ego. Pure and Simple.

Staying Humble and Exuding Love
I think the best of us just work on being humble and exuding love. (I like the word "exuding" right now :). Once again, this doesn't mean a spiritual teacher is always loving. A spiritual teacher knows how to use emotions like any other tool depending on what a student needs. But ultimately, they love you. They love you and hold space for you to discover your inner spiritual teacher. When that happens, the illusory student-teacher dynamic can dissolve into friendship.

I think that if there are warning sides that a spiritual teacher is using a facade it's that they're always "trying" to say the right thing or be the right way. I think what I've noticed in the really amazing teachers and masters is this sense of relaxation. They really have nothing to prove. They have no need to control you or make you do anything. Come and go as you please. It's really of no consequence to them because they're just being who they are. They are just being.
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