Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Dirty, Dirty of the Spiritual Path

I like to talk about the muck of the spiritual path. The real muck. Not the "oh my knees hurt from this 7 hour, silent meditation retreat" difficulties. Those to me are potentially silly. They potentially are escapist spirituality of the worst kind. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and I'm not intending to devalue spiritual retreats. They offer a very important place in our society, and I encourage all of you to attend a few to get a sense of what it's like to step out of the rat-race of society and experience a much more peaceful way of being with yourself and others.

No, I'm talking about the real muck that's inside all of us. I'm talking about how we deal with these internal issues and change our everyday lives so that we can live in more joy and happiness because we're no longer so caught up in our BS. That's the dirty, dirty of the spiritual path, and we've got plenty of work to do.

No Mucky Corner Left Out on the Spiritual Path
One of the problems that I see in more "established" spiritual paths is an unwillingness to deal with a lot of heavy subject matter. Just about anything that goes on below the belt is either anathema, unwieldy, or needs to be denied in some way. True spirituality embraces everything. So if you have sexual trauma or sexual shame, you need to embrace those feelings. You need to heal that level of yourself, not abandon it for self-enforced celibacy. There are all kinds of ways that you need to heal a sexual or physical issue. The mind, heart, and body all heal in different ways, and while meditation is nice for finding your center, it should be considered a launching point to actually dig into your issues.

Multiple Spiritual Tools for Different Issues
You're going to find out that your issues are deeply intertwined. It's a humbling thing. It's like when you've broken a bone in your body, but you didn't address it. So you compensated with another part of your body, which began to get stressed. Then you compensated with some other parts of your body, stressing those. Then suddenly one of them breaks down, so you're addressing that issue. And you need to, but now you're following the thread back to the source. And each area of you that compensated will need to be healed in its own way.

For instance, you at some point decided that you don't like the color red. You've actually made a big deal out of it by not buying red clothing, furniture, and what-not. You've started the spiritual path; you've started to question the choices you've made without thinking. So you follow this thread back. You try on red-colored clothing, and you're actually scared. Now, it's time to break out the journal to figure out what this fear is about. Maybe you talk with some close friends. You follow this fear back, and you realize that you didn't always not wear red. It started when a friend told you that you looked bad in that color. Now, you're unraveling what that statement was about and why the friend said it. If you're still in touch, maybe you call that person. Perhaps, you're starting to wear red again to work through this issue that you now understand is about fear. And digging deeper it's about fear of social rejection.

Phew...all this from what color sweater you might wear, right?

The Spiritual Shovel Digs It All Out
The above example may seem a little trivial, but I wanted to give you a sense of how intertwined things become in our lives and often built up off of misconceptions and small moments that made us feel uncomfortable. Everything is interconnected, and subsequently, to stand in the fullness of your light and love, you're going to have to dig out all the crap that's sitting on top of that light and love. I like to remind people that spirituality won't take you away from pain; it'll take you through it.

And if you're starting the spiritual path because you think it's going to be all roses and rainbows, you've got another thing coming. The spiritual path won't make your life easier. It'll help you to accept your life as it is. From a profound sense of acceptance, we stop resisting life. In this way, it is "easier," but we still have plenty of challenges in life. We'll still run across unkind people, get honked at on the freeway, and have people and situations that otherwise don't make us feel loved. But the deeper realization that we come to is that the world doesn't hold our approval or love. We do. When we open into that space, things profoundly change.

The Spiritual Escapist: The Next New Drug
Yet still, many of you will hope that you can just surf on retreat high-states all your life. You'll confuse this as an "enlightened" feeling, and you'll be constantly trying to get that feeling back. I believe that this is one of the ways that people define addiction. I mean there are certainly worse forms of addiction to have (heroin, for example), but it still perpetuates a core error in understanding. You're still looking for life to make you happy. You're now thinking that "spirituality" will make you happy.

In it's truest sense, spirituality will make you happy because you no longer will need to be made happy. You'll see happiness as a personal choice even in the most difficult times. But in the everyday world where you're defining one thing as spiritual and another thing as not spiritual, you'll now encounter a new misery. It'll become more and more apparent that fewer and fewer people live in this "spiritual" world, and it can become increasingly easy to isolate from all these "unenlightened" folk who are bashing into things and causing a mess. I'll always say that getting some space from the madness is helpful, but in its deepest sense, spirituality will take you right back into the maelstrom. We use retreats and time in nature to center ourselves, and then we head back in because we're part of the whole. There is no part of this world that doesn't deserve our love and attention.

Developing Your Spiritual Practice and Facing Your Issues
Now's a good time to get a journal (does he always have to mention the journal?) and write out your fears, sadnesses, desires, angers, and all that other crap. Get it in front of you. You may also talk to close friends to get a better feel for your blindspots. I wrote a post about 5 Tips to Find Your Blindspots that you can check out on this link. It's so important to find out what's following behind you. Not everything you can't see about yourself is bad either, and I'm not telling you to ignore all the good and beautiful things inside you. But for the sake of this post, I'm warning you not to get caught up in seeking just "good feeling spiritual experiences." All experiences are ultimately spiritual, and how you choose to be with them will define a great deal in your life. You can allow them fully to come and go, or you can fall back into attachment, grasping, and desire. From that space, you'll always be unhappy (Oh if you have questions about what desire is, check this post out).

Keeping It Simple: Chipping Away at It One Issue at a Time
As you dig down into the core issues that you have, fears et al., you may feel a little overwhelmed. You may want them to all just be over with. You won't be alone in that feeling, but the reason you're feeling these things is that you probably didn't feel them fully the first time around. You blocked them out and repressed them. Now, they're bubbling back up to the surface. It becomes a very interesting practice in learning how to see the issue clearly, experience it without reacting, and then letting it go. Because most issues really are old news. We just got them stuck in our energy bodies and even our physical bodies. So, now you have to let them go without constantly getting stuck on this story about how your father treated you. You're grown up. It's over with. Move on. This isn't meant to sound harsh; it is meant to be blunt and direct. You will most likely find that you're hanging on to a lot of pain because it defines your ego identity, and who are you without that ego? Ah, who indeed? But that's a topic for another blog post.

Digging in the Mud: Cultivating Space for Spiritual Awakening
Digging in the mud is how we create a fertile space for awakening to grow up and bloom. If you don't do it now, you'll be doing it during awakening. A lot of people have to heal and clear simultaneously with the expanding force of awakening. It is, quite simply, exhausting. The more you do to heal yourself and be a more open and loving person, the easier it can be for you if awakening does come. Think of it like having a really messy home right now. There's junk everywhere. Now imagine that you're going to double the size of your house and do major renovations on every floor. Can you think of how much work it would be to be simultaneously cleaning the whole house and renovating at the same time? That's kind of what awakening is like when we haven't faced our issues.

And spiritual awakening shouldn't be a goal in any of this anyway. It can't be. It's not a goal. It's a state of being. Doing your work to heal yourself and clear old issues will bring its own openings and additional energies that you had no idea lived inside you. That's the gift of doing the spiritual work in the dirty, dirty parts of yourself. And that's why regardless of what unfolds for your path, it will always be deeply rewarding to put on your heavy gloves and boots and shovel out all this gunk that has weighed you down your whole life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can a Spiritual Awakening Go Wrong?

I've had this question posed to me a couple of times, because of the tremendous pain--sadness, fear, rage, et al. that many people have to process and heal. Spiritual awakening is a tremendous force to move through the heart, mind, and body. It is this profound realization of what is real that immediately starts clearing out the stuff that doesn't serve us. And it can truly be intense. But can it actually go wrong? Here are some thoughts.

Higher Truth Vs. Truth of the Moment
As I mention in this blog about the two truths, higher truth is something like "everything is love." No thing can go wrong in this space. Everything is unfolding exactly as it should. This includes the Renaissance, Reformation, Dark Ages, and Holocaust. It's a profound space of understanding to connect to this deeper flow where the conditional statements of good and evil pass like ghosts of thoughts. From this space, no. No spiritual awakening can ever go wrong. Nothing can go wrong because there's no longer a judge presiding over everything to evaluate what is right and what is wrong, although in our hearts we know when something is out of alignment (which is a little bit different).

The truth of the moment speaks to the fact that some things and experiences are right for us and others are not. I'm not okay with the Holocaust. I think that anyone who thinks genocide is an okay solution needs to be locked away and healed. There are many things that aren't okay because they actively perpetuate pain and suffering. Murder, rape, and so forth are on that list. And so are some simpler things. There are old ways of behaving in the world that are no longer appropriate for me, and as someone moves through their spiritual shifts, it actually becomes clear what's right and what's not right for someone in that sense of what aligns to their higher truth. In that way, the higher truth I just mentioned becomes the foundation for appropriately seeing what is appropriate or not appropriate, what alleviates suffering or perpetuates suffering, in any given moment.

Feelings, Pain, and Deeper Understandings of Spiritual Awakening
Now with all that said, to say that a spiritual awakening is going wrong is kind of a misconception. The awakening happens, and it lights up all the things in your way to fully embodying your light. Subsequently, people can find themselves in intense pain from emotional to physical ailments, and they can think that that means that something is going "wrong."

And from the vantage point of the truth of the moment, there may be something that isn't right in your process. But in spiritual awakening, you look at it differently. You look at it as, "How can I create space to experience this pain that is coming up in a safe space?" You don't look at it as, "How can I get this f'ing sh*t over with and get away from these awful feelings?" Those are two fundamentally different attitudes. The latter is usually the ego still holding on to what it thinks it's desired spiritual experience should be. But spirituality leaves nothing out. And for much of our lives, we've repressed and stored up an excess of pain that we didn't allow ourselves to feel. Well, the bottle is open ladies and gentlemen. Lots of stuff is going to come up, and you can't rush that part. So when you're experiencing old issues, you need to allow them. Embrace them and let them go. Don't squelch them down. That can slow the process, although I don't think anything is even necessarily going wrong in those cases.

Potential Causes of Concern in Awakening
However, there are a couple of things that I've seen that tend to suggest that someone needs more outside help and more internal allowing/letting go. The problems people face in awakening is almost always (about 90%--because I totally can measure spiritual stuff :) from internal resistance. You're stuck on some ideas about what your process should be like, when you should have it, or if you should even be having it. This thinking can get you stuck because it is thinking that is stuck in ideas and not the reality you are living in. The resulting pain can become excruciating.

So here are a couple causes of concern:
  1. REALLY, really, REALLY intense fatigue. This goes beyond you're really tired from the five marathons that you're running internally. This goes beyond needing to sleep about 14 hours a day. This is going towards non-functionality. Whatever is holding on needs external help to give you the additional energy to push it out because while spiritual awakening can be exhausting, it should not be debilitating, generally speaking. Usually what's being exhausted is the ego, but deep trauma, really old karma, and other issues stuck in the physical, emotional, and energetic aspects of you can be exhausting as well. In these instances, you may need some help.
  2. Despair leading towards complete emotional shutdown. This is the near to the bottom of the abyss. I would say that the ego is holding on here so hard that it is subsequently repelling all external help. The ego may also be so shattered it can't piece anything back together into a semblance of a coherent way of living. Everything has been moved around so much that the individual is quite lost. This is where some edge cases can feel suicidal especially if they have a lot of self-hatred and abuse issues to work through. It is also a place where the individual needs a lot of helping hands.
  3. Extreme rage bordering on self-violence. This person actually has a lot of pent up energy. The first two are situations where the energy has been really blocked out or dissipated in some way. In this one, the energy needs direction, and most likely, its needs a physical activity to release some very deep-seated issues. Physical activities and things like rites of passage can be important for someone in this space to have a deep and physical letting go. As with the other two, this is often an ego issue, although it can easily be some other long-seated karmic issue. The unseen issues that are stuck in people are certainly the hardest to root out at times (early childhood abuse can be one). As I also mentioned, in almost all cases, it's time to get external help to move through these blocks.
You Still Haven't Answered the Question
You're right. I haven't answered the question if a spiritual awakening can go wrong because I think it's an individual question. Everyone has to go through what everyone has chosen to go through. Some people may have chosen a path to awakening that also goes deep into that place of despair. Some people have chosen to find the very bottom of self-hatred. It's horrible to most of us to think of it, but there are deeper truths at work that we cannot see and deeper divine work at play. All I can say is that if you feel like things aren't going well and you don't know what to do, it's time to get help. It's time to find other spiritual tools, healers, friends, and spiritual teachers to boost you through those tough parts. That's true of anyone regardless of how "well" things seem to be going. Sometimes, when things are "going well" and we're having lots of "pleasant" experiences, we're actually avoiding the stuff we really need to dig out.

And you can't compare your awakening to anyone else's. It is so intensely individual, which is another reason why I can't tell you if it can go wrong or not. I kinda don't believe that it can. I kinda believe that when this deep integrity has started moving in us and has come alive that we've already made a big course correction in our lives. Whether we can acknowledge it or not, we're now a lot closer to the truth.

Letting Go of Evaluating Your Spiritual Awakening
In all of this, there's a little ego game going on. The ego is now trying to get spiritual awakening right. It's trying to win at it or something. Stop. Just stop. There's nothing to win at. It will be what it will be. And so long as you've focused on love and kindness to yourself and others, what else could be more important? Nothing, I should think. The evaluation is part of the problem. You don't let go of your mind in this process. You have to retrain it. In so doing, you learn how to better be with pain while letting go of this evaluating function. Feeling pain is the real issue here when people ask about if an awakening can go wrong. Everyone assumes that if they're in pain, then something is wrong. Well, yes and no.

Good Discomfort and Warning Pain

I always like to do a vinyasa yoga example with pain. There's good pain, and there's bad pain. The good pain, which I usually refer to as discomfort, is when you're focused and working an area of your body that is inflexible or weak. There can be a real fiery feeling to that exertion, and afterwards, you may feel a lot better for having done the exercise. The bad pain is when it feels like you're just about to tear open your knee cap. It's warning you that you're going to damage something. So one of the pieces that you have to learn in your spiritual awakening is to differentiate what feels like discomfort that is clearing and what feels like pain that is warning you about doing permanent harm. This, in and of itself, is a blog topic for another time to really explain and talk through. But if you have questions, you're welcome to contact me directly to discuss it more. Just remember that a lot of the pain we experience has been there inside us for a long time, and one of the big ways we make room for the fullness of spiritual awareness is to clear out this junk.

Last Thoughts on Awakening and Right or Wrong
Having said all this, if you don't make space for your awakening, I think you can end up in some really painful and inconclusive places. I describe awakening like a river in many of these posts. If you do the work to give the river some guidance, it is a powerful force that can do a lot to guide your life in return. If you don't, it can overrun the banks and go everywhere, making a big nasty bog. In this place, you get stuck. And the dams that have been holding you back can't get cleared out without enough focused force. Those blocks tend to stay in place if you don't embrace your awakening. Hence, this is a situation where you can find yourself exhausted and in deep despair. It certainly may not be easy to give this awakening banks/guidance at times, and there may be more force and water than you know what to do with. But as I like to remind people, you are getting exactly what you've chosen to experience, and only you can find the tools to guide it. This awakening is meant for you. You know how to be with it and what to endure and what to open up to. Trust yourself if nothing else, and remember that there is always help available when you truly need it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sacred Occupations

A lot of people are looking for something higher and nobler than what they are now doing for work. It's a beautiful part of the global awakening that's happening. It's a response to the deep internal statement of "There's got to be more than this." And there is. There's a lot more than the typical 9 to 5 world that so many people have bought into. There's a lot more to life than any job because jobs don't give our lives means. But the work we do in this world does matter. It does perpetuate a way of life, so what we choose to do to provide a stable means for our survival is important.

Moving Beyond Traditionally "Spiritual" Roles
As many of you know, I look at spirituality as being in all things. It's not that spirituality and people's best intentions are actively being pursued in all things, but at the core of stuff is spirituality. It is essence. It is truth. So we all look for ways to bring that deeper part of us, the best of us out. Certainly from the perspective of higher truth (compared to truth of the moment--check this blog out here to understand my definition), all things are spiritual. But being a chemical weapons manufacturer versus a preschool teacher is a little ridiculous of a comparison to make at this point, and I try to be as practical about these posts as possible. We'll talk about the "sacred" role of the chemical weapons manufacturer another time.

With all that said, a carpenter can be just as sacred as a spiritual teacher. An accountant can be just as sacred as a Reiki healer. What makes them sacred is the intention behind them. What makes them sacred is how you comport yourself in your work. You don't necessarily have to "escape" the 9 to 5 world to be on the spiritual path. If anything, that's probably the world that needs more practical spirituality in it. But you're not trying to convert co-workers at the water cooler. You're being honest, ethical, mindful of your actions, non-reactive in volatile situations, and speaking your truth. That's what changes a regular job into a spiritual job.

The Many Roles We Embody in Life
We play so many roles in life anyway that there are countless ways to bring the sacred into your life. But because our work is such a dominating role (at least in Western Culture) this is where you'll need it the most. It will usually challenge you the most. You'll say things that, "Well, being a sacred plumber is all well and good, but I hate it when this client is yelling at me." Of course. Who wants to be yelled at? But if you can hold a space a non-reactivity to what's going on, it's usually going to help resolve the situation faster. If not, you'll learn more about expressing boundaries with clients so you don't take this abuse. All kinds of lessons and issues come up fast, but that's part of transforming your work into spiritual work. It can be quite tiring, but then again, you've spent most of your life living another way. Didn't you think it would take a little time to re-train yourself to behave in a new way?

And of course, you're embodying other roles and "occupations" throughout your life. Being parents is a whole other job, right? That's not something you can go to sleep on, and if there's one set of roles where spirituality is most needed, it's in the roles of mother and father. Many men and women are getting pushed onto the spiritual path because they happen to have very gifted and spiritually aware children. Despite your best efforts, your kids are calling the shots--or so it would seem. So this too becomes a sacred role to embody and to grow in.

The Traditional "Spiritual" Roles
We all know about the traditional spiritual roles: preacher, spiritual teacher, healer, and so forth. They're beautiful roles. They're important roles, but not everyone who wakes up or turns to the spiritual path needs to walk those paths. Not everyone really needs to drop everything and join the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity. I mean, if you do, that's great. But most often, the biggest changes we make to the world come from how we interact where we already are. If you're a carpenter, you build the homes that stand up and shelter families. If you're an accountant, you help to make sure that finances are transferred ethically. If you're a school teacher, you help students to learn and expand their minds. I could continue this list, but it's always about the "how" in spirituality, and the talents you have been using and sharing to date are very often the talents you'll share in your "spiritual" work.

You can also join the Peace Corps as a fundraiser and find ways to guilt-trip people into giving your cause more money and that would make it the least spiritual practice you could do. In fact, I've seen plenty of so-called "spiritual" people who do lots of meditating and retreats, but they don't carry that practice into other parts of their lives. So when things don't go their way when they're working at a non-profit, they scream and yell and carry on, making everyone else feel bad around them. And of course, we've all seen examples of bad priests and healers. I'm sure plenty of you remember the different Catholic priest scandals involving child molestation. There's nothing spiritual about a priest like that.

Building Your Spiritual Practice and Taking It Into the World
As always, I talk about how you build your spiritual practice in a safe place, and then you have to take it into the world. You may already know that the job you're in doesn't suit you. But before you jump ship, see if you can begin to change how you are in this unsuitable job. Meanwhile, begin to volunteer, get training, or otherwise build a bridge to a new occupation. You may not really know what you want yet, and there's still so much you can learn from wherever you are. So many times, people in Western Culture have this grass-is-always-greener mentality. They just think that if they go some place else that everything will be way better. And sometimes it is, but the key part in all of this is you. You have to build your spiritual practice and change how you choose to be with yourself and how you choose to interact with others. That's how you can go some place else and the grass actually will be greener.

As I said, a sacred occupation can be pretty much anything. It's how you choose to be with it. Are you doing something you love? If you answer, "No," then step one really is to find out what you love to do. That love is sacred. It doesn't matter if you love hauling garbage, negotiating treaties, or wiping up your baby's spit-up, where your love is is where you sacred occupation will be. And of course, your work can change through a lifetime, so don't hold on too tight. Give everything a little space to breathe, and if you are sincere in your practice, you'll begin to find that the perfect job that combines with your sense of spirituality isn't that far from you after all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Is Surrender?

Surrender may be one of the most misunderstood terms of the spiritual path. It comes from Buddhist teachings, and I equate it in many ways to the Islamic term of submission. Submission has even worse connotations in English, so I don't use it very much. In Islam, submission is to God's will, and in many ways, surrender isn't really different. I'm sure philosophers and theologians can have a field day with connotations and minutiae about these terms, but ultimately, that's a lot of mental masturbation. Spirituality isn't something that can be found in minutiae, although it is in that too. Spirituality really is a very simple thing, and subsequently, both surrender and submission are very simple concepts: they mean to accept, let go, and let God.

The Car-Wreck That Is Your Life
Most of us don't want to let go until we're smashed to pieces. Good news. A car-wreck is coming for you. Something tramautic or tragic is often the only thing powerful enough to get our attention and to show us that for how ever hard we've been trying, we're really not in control. But even in a car-wreck, many of us still cling to that idea of control. Mentally, we'll deny the situation. We'll blame the other person. We'll wish it had never happened. We'll threaten to sue somebody--anybody or everybody involved. We'll do ten to fifteen things before we surrender to the reality of it, which is: we're in a world of hurt. Only when we fully accept something and submit to this smoking, steaming, burning rubble that is our life can we make changes to effectively put out the fire and fix things. And of course, because we've been so busy fighting through life and trying to control everything, when we surrender to that reality, we quickly figure out that we have no f'ing clue what to do.

Phone a Friend or the God Hotline
This may be one of the first times we have to ask for help. And depending on how bad things are, we may even start talking to God. It usually only happens if death is looming for some people or some other severe collapse has happened. Here's how the call to God's Hotline goes:

"Dear God. I'm in deep sh*t. Please help!"
"Oh, hey Tom. How's it hanging? I've been working with these people starving in Rwanda. What have you been doing?"
"Ummm, well, I've been trying to make a lot of money and buy this really big house in this really expensive area."
"Oh yeah. I heard you praying for that. How's that working out?"
"Not so hot. Hey, but I really need you to help me out on something out."
"Oh yeah?"
"I think my back's broken."
"In two places."
"I promise if you save me, I'll do whatever you want."

God, of course, knows that is likely to be a temporary plea, but usually, most of us get the help we need. Everyone's life path is different, so I can't really generalize. But you also get the idea about what it usually takes before anyone lets go and lets God.

Profound Acceptance and Opening to Life
Deep surrender to our lives is a profound space of acceptance. We stop putting our filter of what we want onto life, and we fully accept what is. This is amazing because it can transform our lives almost instantaneously. Some of you will wonder if this is awakening. It's more like a teaser, although for some it can be the spark for a deeper awakening. But you will start to see clearly what's right in your life for you and what needs to change. This isn't being thought of in the same ego judgment way. There's always ego in saying something is "right" or "wrong" for you, but that's not a bad thing when it comes from a deeper acceptance of what is. You say to yourself, "Oh this really is a crime-ridden neighborhood, and it isn't good for me. I need to move." You say this now instead of deluding yourself with the idea that it will improve or is improving. You see what things really are the more you surrender your ideas about what you want.

In turn, you also can open to the deeper connections that are available to you in this life. A woman or man whom you really wanted to date may transform into an amazing business colleague, mentor, or student when you surrender to what is actually present in the relationship instead of trying to force it into something else. A lot of things can flow to you when you surrender to the reality that is actually before you. And surrender isn't passive. You can see where you need to take action. It becomes increasingly clear where you need to change and do things. The spiritual path is never one that simply allows itself to be run over by everyone else--although it can look that way to a lot of egos at first. I think Gandhi is a great example of an incredibly active and persuasive individual who understood the reality of India in his times--surrendered to that reality--and then took action to galvanize his country. How powerful was that? Just how powerful might you be? Does that last question scare you?

Submission to God's Will
I know. Ick. Submission. Give it some space and go with it.

Submission is pretty much inherit to surrender (as I said, they're mostly the same term for me). Let go of what you cannot control. There's a deeper flow in life. When we submit to that flow, to God's flow, we can be pulled along. It can make life so much easier, but we still need our paddle. We still must steer our little boats so we don't run aground or hit rocks in the river bottom. It is, however, far easier than trying to avoid the flow (sitting on the riverbank wondering why we never get anywhere) or trying to paddle against it (Are you tired of that yet?). So we learn to accept how things are and submit to these currents.

That said, we also learn how to shift different currents (like Gandhi did). We collect others, and together, we move the currents, then the waves, maybe even the tides (I know I'm weaving in an ocean metaphor and muddying things up). That's how we can create global change. As more of us come together in cooperative partnerships and we surrender to our realities, then can we birth the new reality we want to have on this planet.

So don't think of surrender as giving up. Don't think of submission as selling yourself out to some figurehead deity that you don't even know. Think of these terms as a call to see clearly and a call to the most profound and sacred action possible. Think of them as the first and final steps to letting go of the old and building the world that you've always dreamed possible.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Riding the Energy Rollercoaster: Surviving the Awakening Shifts

I had a request to talk a little bit about the roller-coaster ride that is awakening energy. And it is a heck of ride, and everyone experiences it differently. So, I'm sharing what I've heard as well as experienced. I'm not saying that this is how it'll be for you. If you do have experiences that are different from what I'm describing, I'd love to hear about them to add into the list as well as to get a broader understanding about how people are experiencing these shifts. It helps me as I continue to connect to more and more people. Thank you in advance for any shares that you may offer.

4 Common Energetic Experiences
There's no way around it; it feels like something is alive under your skin. It feels like it has a life of its own, and you feel pretty freaked out as it pulses, ebbs, and shifts around in your body. So many things are going crazy in your mind. Mainly it's along the lines of this: "I'm gonna die!" Well, you're not. You're just in a really big energy shift, and you're currently finding out where all the crap (tension and pain) has been hidden in your body. You've got to face it now. You can't avoid that any longer. Otherwise, this situation will get more traumatic.

With that said, here are four general buckets to put energy shifts into:
  1. Tension/Pain
  2. Pulsation
  3. Waves
  4. Heat
I'll focus on each one in the following paragraphs. But it is important to note that so long as you don't have any illnesses, outstanding health issues, or substance abuse issues, you will be fine. If you do have some of the other issues, then I strongly encourage you to get help for those. Undoubtedly, those issues will be worsened by neglect as your energy shifts you into a deeper integrity with your body and does everything it can to get your attention there--that includes pain (Pain is, after all, one of our greatest teachers).

Localized Tension and Generalized Pain
As I said, so long as there aren't any medical conditions that you're unaware of or avoiding, energy can feel painful. It's not that the energy is hurtful. It's the issues and resistance in your body that's hurting you. The energy is pressurizing it. Energy is like water. It just wants to flow. But if it hits a dam--a blockage--it starts to build. The bigger of a shift you're in, the more that water builds up until the dam is about to break. And then, there's a huge release and a rush as suddenly you feel all of this energy unleashed in you. That part can be pretty intoxicating. It'll last until it finds the next spot in your body that's resisting your shift.

A great example is when many people have lots of pressure on their foreheads. It's not a headache, btw. It's the mind trying to block out the energy. It's often an issue of not believing or being unwilling to believe that you're in a shift. So the pain gets worse. For some it's debilitating, and then it all shifts when you let go. It shifts when you say, "Yeah, I guess I can believe I'm in a shift." And then things flow again, and you're like, "Was that it?" Yep. That was it. Until the next thing comes.

There can also be some generalized pain in whole regions of the body or the whole body. Sometimes for me, those are just growing pains. I'm being pushed and stretched. The energy is most likely hitting multiple little issues in multiple places. Sometimes, just relaxing and allowing is important where with the bigger issues figuring out what they are and what is needed to release them is essential.

Energy Pulsation: The Heart Beat of the Soul
Another way the energy can feel is like a pulse. You can feel it beating in different areas, and it's more than that. It's kind of got a fuzzy, vibrating feel. It's tough to put into words, but you definitely feel like you're being shaken in some very deep way on every fiber of your being. I usually find that sound healing helps me in these moments. If the feeling is localized, I'll find some sound healing on a specific chakra to address it (Thanks Youtube!). Also being around someone who has very strong energy and is very grounded can help.  They can be like a grounding wire because right now, you're the live wire. Other times, I just have to lie down until it calms down, and I no longer feel like I'm being shaken out of my skin.

Energy Waves: WEEEEEEEE!
Then, there are times when you just feel like you're surfing on energy. This can be kinda fun. You can really feel spiritually high. It's not all bad. It's the duration of it that can get to you. Breathing with the waves can help to pull in what's moving through you, and as always with pretty much all energy, letting go into the process is important. Grounding in physical activity, being in nature, being in water, and similar activities can help to let the excess energy that you can't handle go into the earth and, more importantly, out of you. I'm not sure how many of us can absorb all the stuff that we tap into through awakening when we're first opening to the whole shift. Giving yourself tools and times to ground and get out of the higher states is actually really important to sustaining the shift and not blowing yourself on it. Too much of it can leave you kinda freaked out and crashed out. It's like a bad hangover, but ten times worse. So remember to step down out of it.

Heat: It's Getting Hot in Here...
I know emerging energy healers can have a lot of heat in their bodies and especially their hands. To me, that's kinda like warming up the car. Things are preparing themselves for use in that function of being a healer. That's not necessarily always the case. Sometimes, heat is just how your body responds to absorbing lots of energy--potentially more than you're used to handling. So once again, grounding is important, and heck, a cold shower can be a welcome thing in many ways in this situation. It is, like the others, nothing to be intensely concerned about. It will come and go as you continue to shift and open.

Spiritual Work and When to Get Help
The tools that you should be developing will help you to modulate and open up to the energy shifting through you. You need to have a support mechanism or to be developing one. Meditation, a spiritual community, potentially a trusted energy healer, potentially a spiritual teacher, and plenty of other spiritual practices make up a spiritual support mechanism. I know a lot of us going through awakening now haven't had much of a support mechanism, but that will change as the years go by. Those of us awakening are all interested in creating more space for these shifts in this society, and I, for one, want to create a few centers where people can go, be safe, and have their shift without having to worry about what's going on in the world (at least for a little while--this isn't an escape from life; it's an embracing of the spiritual awakening).

With a support mechanism, you'll have the help you need. There's no issue with seeking help, but don't freak out and run for the phone the first time a little energy trimmer ripples through your right arm. Just be with it. I'm talking about getting help from a healer to ground the excess if you can't sleep for four days in a row and are having visions so bad that you don't know what's real anymore. While your sense of reality is shifting (you're actually starting to understand what IS real), being debilitated isn't the point. And if anything, if something is moving that powerfully, it means that you're not integrating the energy well and are overwhelmed. It's always okay to step back a little from the process, and there are ways to do that a little bit without shutting down and crashing.

Hearing From You: Your Energy Openings
Let me know if this explains what's going on for those of you who are having an opening. You can comment or contact me through my contact page. These are what I've heard, experienced, and intuitively know about. The universe is a big place, so I'm sure that some of you have had some interesting stuff move through you that you'd like to talk about. Please also feel free to leave questions (Don't ask about how long this will take--it will take as long as you need it to take. That's just how it goes). Other than that, I'm pretty open. =)

Most of all, just let go. Let it flow.

For some more thoughts on this topic, you can check out this video:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Resisting Empowerment

Some deep thoughts from Susan around empowerment within relationships.

(An excerpt from my journal)

Now I see…the relinquishing of power to another. It goes far beyond the unmistaken example of being in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. Well past the point of allowing the other to make all the financial decisions or what not. Why couldn’t I see this when my marriage was falling apart? It doesn’t matter now. Now is all I have and I have a choice to make this relationship with myself and all others possible.

I never noticed until about an hour ago, 1 am, that I give my power away in the subtle ways that are often overlooked, especially with men. In the past I’ve always viewed it as showing that I care for the other person, when in reality it is anything but true caring. In doing so I am not caring for myself. I say to the other person, “You really need to make that dentist appointment. You’ve been waiting for almost a year.” I don’t feel like I am being “heard” at times. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t express my thoughts, concerns, or needs. However, it also doesn’t mean I should give so much of myself that I am functioning with a half empty glass of energy at the end of the day. Hmmm…I can’t even express this feeling in writing. It almost seems like when I am adamantly suggesting something, I am saying it because I love that person. I’m saying, “Look at me! I care about you! I’m giving you my everything, my emotions, my all, because I love you!”

When looking deeper, I can see the origin of me wanting to give power away, which is fear. My ego suggests that if I participate in the above behavior then the affected relationship won’t change, the two people won’t grow apart, and that love is enough to keep the friendship/romance/family together. Perhaps it is a fear of not knowing what is to come in the future. This can be related to the dentist example. “I am afraid if he doesn’t go to the dentist then he will get a terrible mouth infection that will spread.”

One would think in times of fear he/she would resist and hold onto everything. But isn’t giving your power away also a form of resistance? We are resisting trusting ourselves. We resist trusting ourselves to trust the other person to make a decision. What we don’t recognize is that we need to trust that that person will see the event with a sense of awareness so he/she can make the decision that is best for himself.

We give our power away due to social conditioning laws which state if we don’t sacrifice a part of ourselves then we aren’t loving the other person. Hmm..sacrifice. I’ve done a lot of that, but have also given and taken a lot too. That’s the downfall of relationships (or up-fall depending how one looks at it). We all give and take a little, when we are interacting with a co-worker, friends, or taking care of each other when we are ill. I notice myself still resisting that give/take aspect of relationships. It must always be 50/50. Ha!

I notice the fear I have is resisting such events (as mentioned above). I’m resisting the potential that I may give away my power during the courtship of giving and taking. I tell myself, “I must not give away my power whatsoever in this situation.” But really, it is the fear itself that is putting me in a space to do just that which is what I thought I was resisting. It reverts back to the theory of what resists persists. I was yet again caught in the trickery of the ego coming through the back door.

The only thing I can do to truly care and love is to hold that space to love and nourish the Divine power within. I don’t need to get it or learn about it from someone else. I can only take responsibility for my own happiness (as Don Miguel Ruiz states) and not others. I have a choice.

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, August 15, 2011

Losing Yourself in Spiritual Experiences

One of the things that happens to all of us on the spiritual path is that we have some amazing experiences. We get to connect to ourselves, to moments, and to others very deeply. It's intoxicating. At some point, we wrap up these experiences with the term "spiritual." We begin to segregate out certain experiences as spiritual and others as non-spiritual. Initially, this isn't all bad because I'm quite sure that most people aren't living in integrity with themselves and the world at the start. So to segregate out helping others as spiritual and hurting others as not-spiritual isn't a bad first step, but as we develop our paths, we have to be careful not to get caught up in these delineations.

Spiritual Thrill-Seeking
There is no doubt that having a moment of deep union or connection is awesome. Who wouldn't want to feel that way all the time? It is, however, only a state of consciousness. We all have many states of consciousness through which we move and grow. As we develop ourselves, we learn to accept all of them. The deeper we let go and allow all experiences, the more deeply we can connect with any experience. This is heavy stuff, but a lot of times, we may find that deeply traumatic experiences are sometimes the most "spiritual" or connected. I've had people talk to me about how things get so crystal clear and beautiful even as they are grieving a family member or losing an intimate relationship. In some way, this added trauma forces us into intense presence and acceptance of a moment, and with that can come an opening or even awakening.

But for most people, they get a little taste of something considered to be "spiritual" and away they go running off to retreats, "spiritual" places, or even events like Burning Man, searching for that feeling. In so may ways, we end up searching for a feeling in the external world. But the spiritual experience is always within us. Spirituality is always an invitation to go within.

Wandering Off Into the Wilderness
But social conditioning can be so bad that even when some of us turn to the spiritual path, we go looking for external reinforcement and encouragement. Not all external encouragement is a bad thing, but the only way you ever can really know if you're on the path meant for you is to look within your heart. What does your heart tell you? If you don't know, then it's time to do some work on that area to find out what's in your heart. If you don't do that work, it's easy to be lured off by someone telling you that they're going to give you some kind of experience or an 8-Step Program to Enlightenment in 30 Days. Sheesh. What baloney. No one can give you a path like that. Only you can. Certainly there are many wonderful programs out there with tips and techniques, and if you find one that works for you, then that's beautiful. But you are always the owner of your spiritual path, and the easiest way to get lost again is to start following someone else around and doing everything they say regardless of what your heart tells you.

Spiritual Teacher Phonies and the Subversion of the Spiritual Path
Which leads naturally to the topic of what a phony is. Obviously, we've seen enough spiritual teachers through the news and history who have used their authority to enhance their own status in life in some way. The way they can do this is by you giving up your power to them. You usually do this because you think you can get some kind of spiritual experience, sense of safety, or even social approval by trusting in this figure. However, no true spiritual teacher really wants anything (if it weren't for how this world is set up, most of us wouldn't be interested in donations either--we do this work because we are here to do this work and we love it). Real spiritual teachers don't want to control you or make you do something through fear. They can activate these emotions in you for sure, which is also why doing your work is so important. You need to do your internal work to know where a feeling is coming from and what it is really telling you. Is it telling you something about another person, or is really just some old fear unlocked from your childhood days in relationship to your father? You see. There are some important distinctions to be made, and you can only do those when you trust your heart and own your path.

Coming Back to Center
So, you're coming back from your latest retreat or are all dusty for the Playa from Burning Man, and now you're crashing down from that energy. This is actually the best time to come back to center. This is a great time to sit in meditation and check in with what's going on inside. All this external energy has been moving and swirling, and now, it's time to see where you're really at. Who are you? Do you know? Or were lost in an event and in sensations? If so, then this "spiritual" experience wasn't a finding yourself, but a way to forget what you don't want to be. Was this event a way to forget the life you currently have, but don't want to have? It's important to know how much you're embracing a situation versus running away from another. Too many people come to the spiritual path thinking that it'll make them better somehow. It won't. Not in the way that you think it will. It strips away things. You'll feel like you're losing everything. But truly, you're stripping away all those things that are standing in the way of your center of your True self. This can be confusing for the spiritual thrill-seeker, and as past times go, it's not a bad hobby. But it won't get you what you really want. What you really want is waiting inside you.

Moving From the Inside Out
All spiritual experiences come from within. That's where we are. What happens in the world will please at times and displease at others. That's just how duality works. Some things meet the conditions of our minds as pleasurable; others are considered unpleasurable. The deeper bliss we all can feel is underneath our sternums. It's in our hearts and our souls. From there, we are always in stillness, and we are always in connection with spirit. That's where the spiritual experience that we all truly want is. So as you are enjoying all the amazing events, kirtan chants, meditations, retreats, yoga practices, and what not, just remember that in their truest sense, they are only a reflection of what's happening within. If you want a truly profound spiritual experience, bring your attention and your energy to the center of you. Bring it to that vulnerable, loving, beautiful core of you. As you do this, everything around you from walking the dog to paying your bills can become just as beautiful and spiritual experience as anything else that moves through your life, and you will be able to have it at any time that you wish.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

5 Most Popular Blog Posts: A Year in Spiritual Blogging

It's tough to believe that I've been blogging about spirituality for over a year. Thanks to everyone who has read them, shared them, commented on them, or otherwise supported me in doing this. I hope they've supported you wherever your spiritual path has chosen to take you.

In mini-celebration, here are the five most popular blog posts. Enjoy!

#5 Stopping the Mental Chatter

#4 Why Do You Want a Spiritual Awakening?

#3 Sexual Healing With Your Partner

#2 Healing Desires: The Differences Between Urges and the Need for Fulfillment

#1 Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Abstinence and Self Denial

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spiritual Awareness and Psychic Awareness: Where Integrity Means Ability

One of the big confusions many people with psychic awareness have is around the idea of spirituality. They confuse the awareness and ability to see and know things psychically with spiritual awareness, and the two can be very different. It's an important distinction to make because a number of really psychic people just take the tools they've been given and start hammering away without really being in integrity with themselves and with others. It leads to problems down the road, which I'll delineate. But the first thing to understand is that spiritual awareness and psychic awareness are two very different things, and where we bring them together is where we create a powerful combination to help heal the world.

Spiritual Awareness: Integrity With Self and Others
Spiritual awareness at its core is about integrity. It's about doing the will of the Universe. You don't run around trying to save the planet. That's too linear and biased of a view of what's happening in the world. Instead, you learn to tap into the deeper integrity of the process that's unfolding, putting aside your ego's decision to help, hurt, or manipulate the given situations. It's a profound thing to come into your spiritual awareness and the depth of understanding there because when you do, you see pain and suffering entirely differently. You're no longer trying to eradicate them on some kind of Holy quest which will likely leave you debilitated and exhausted. Instead, you're much more surgical. You sense when you need to intervene, act, or speak out in situations. You also sense when it's time to be quiet, step back, and let things go their course.

This may mean that you're guided to let some tragedy unfold for someone. As many of you know, sometimes the only reason you acted or made a change was because something really bad happened. Something so painful came and taught you how to let go or to change. If it hadn't, you'd likely have continued the same cycles of misery without stopping. You'd still be stuck.

Oh That's Horrible!
It sounds horrible on the page to ever say that you might have "withheld" your help. And that's not what I'm saying at all. That's why your spiritual awareness and being exceptionally clear about what feels right and true to take action is so critical. Because imagine in the above scenario that you help someone who in turn becomes a leech on you. They act out the same cycles of pain because they haven't crashed hard enough to let go. You finally get really upset because this person is draining you all the time and takes your "kindness" for granted. And then you feel bad for being upset at this person that you really want to help. Can you hear all the subtle ego things going on in there? This is still about you making yourself feel good, isn't it? Your help is coming with a price tag. You're looking for some kind of gratification from the world that you can make a difference. Well, you can. But only when you're in integrity with you deeper self and can begin to see the situation clearly.

Coming In With All the Lights Turned On
Some psychics come into this life with all the lights turned on. They've got all these different tools and abilities, but they have no integrity or discernment around them. They're oftentimes not very grounded and can get swept away by situations, energetically disturbed easily, and in general manipulated by both good and bad intentions. The spiritual path isn't about "good" intentions per se. The higher good that knows no opposite appreciates the fullness of good and evil in this dualistic world, and it understands their roles, when to allow something and when to stop it. You're not becoming callous to the world. Far from it. You're very much doing the reverse. It's a profound place to have to watch someone suffer with compassion until such time as it is okay to reach out and help. Usually, that person has to reach out, but even then, if you are connected with your deeper integrity, you'll find times when it still isn't appropriate to help.

All the do-gooders reading this blog post are really upset. The "do-good-all-the-time" mentality is so baked into people's brains that they can't see the bigger picture. Try to step back and see the bigger picture. Try and step back and see what you're really up to. Seriously. Are you really trying to help or do you just want to fulfill some internal need for gratification and self-reassurance that you're a good person? Here's a nasty question: If you could go back in time and stop the Holocaust, would you do it if it meant that the awakening happening today would then not happen?

It's brutal to suggest something like that. It's even harder to appreciate that sometimes humanity needs its pain and suffering in a big way before it is willing to wake up.

Taking a Big Step Back
So, this is a tough pill to swallow, and I'm not necessarily suggesting any answers. What I'm saying is that developing your spiritual awareness will help you to take appropriate action. That's the key. We all do the best we can, but for those of you working in the psychic space, I'd encourage you to take a step back from time to time to check in with your deeper integrity. Check in and clear out any issues in you. If you haven't done this kind of spiritual discipline, I'd encourage you to stop working in the psychic space entirely until you have a practice in place. Your practice keeps you grounded and aware of what is you and what is not you. Working in the psychic realms is a very vulnerable place. You can absorb all kinds of crazy energies if you're not careful, and it's easy to get unbalanced, sick, or lose your mind and sense of self. In general, I encourage most people to focus on living in their bodies, but for those of you who feel called to work out in the ether, you have to build a strong practice or run some real risks of getting into energetic trouble.

Spiritual Awareness and Psychic Awareness: Some Other Subtle Differences
Some other differences include the fact that a spiritual awareness doesn't necessarily mean you have much if any psychic awareness. Some awakened people that I know really don't have much of a sense of those spaces, and they have a very limited sense of intuition. For me, both are very powerful and present, although I prefer to stay grounded in my body and not get caught up in all the things floating out in energies around me. Psychic awareness is a term that I use very broadly, including intuition and going all the way out into astral projection and psychic warfare. It's a wild, wild world, and for those of you with tons of abilities on that level, you can feel overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed suggests that you don't have the spiritual awareness as well as the psychic training to hold what you've got. Just take a step back. If there's a theme here for this blog, it's take a step back. Get your feet set in something grounded, figure out who you are first, and then move out into that space.

Because there's all kinds of things that are pretty amazing that you can do with psychic abilities (it really isn't just about telling the future). But you don't need to run around proving it to yourself or others, and you certainly don't need to abuse these gifts or manipulate others through them. That kind of stuff will set up some really nasty whiplash coming back at you, and it certainly shows that you have no spiritual awareness if you're ever harming or manipulating others. That's the surest sign that you are out of integrity and are heading towards big trouble. So stop. Take a step back, and reassess what's really important. And that's stuff like love. And kindness and compassion. Find that space of integrity and then move back into psychic spaces with a renewed commitment to what is true and real.

For more thoughts, here's a video about the topic:

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Difference Between Healing and Awakening on the Spiritual Path

This may be splitting hairs or it may not be, but I think I'll spend a little more time defining things. It may help to give you an overall sense on what is really moving for you because there's so much confusion and misinformation around spiritual awakening. People really don't know what it is. They don't know what religion is supposed to do, what the spiritual path is about, or why they think they want enlightenment/spiritual awakening. So I'll start with that one and work backwards into this topic.

What Enlightenment Isn't
Enlightenment isn't an extended vacation from the crap of your life. It's not a merit badge that you put on your alter next to Jesus, the Buddha, and Shiva. It's not in any way a Utopia that gives you no more problems in life. It simply is coming into a profound understanding on every level of your heart, body, mind, and soul of what is real. From that space, everything in your life shakes and crumbles, and that's why spiritual awakening looks and feels so traumatic. Depending on how out of alignment you are with your life, everything can get torn down before you can re-build on a foundation of true reality. True reality is stuff like "all is love," "we're all in this together," and so forth. You won't conceptually understand these topics; well, you will, but you will also understand them throughout your being in a way that can make you come to tears. And in that deep space of union and understanding, your awakening flourishes, and your whole life tilts in that direction.

Crumbling and Healing and Opening
For many of you in awakening, healing, awakening, and openings all happen on top of each other. It's a big furball, and hopefully, this will help to tease out these things. While awakening is ultimately in all things, I'm going to be a little more dualistic in my explanation (duality: this is the world we live in that has separation, good and evil, you and me, etc., etc.). So here are a couple of brief definitions. Please substitute the deity of your choice if you don't like the word "God." I know it's pretty loaded for many of you.
  • Awakening: The sustained movement of coming into union with God
  • Healing: The removal of barriers to God
  • Openings: The initial glimpses of God which are fleeting and brief and can be confused with having happened because of a situation.

Awakenings happen on multiple levels and can simply happen. They don't need to have a reason. An opening can be confused with awakening because it's often the first time that you've felt really connected in some way. You have a great yoga session, and your body feels really open. You feel more connected to your body than you ever have. But after the session, the sensation goes away. You can erroneously feel dependent on the yoga session, type of yoga, or yoga teacher for that feeling. Awakening is sustained, so it keeps churning through you 24-7. That's part of why some of you have so much trouble sleeping; the energy has been unleashed and is going to go until it's finished (or you really screw yourself up and get depleted or lost in very healthy habits as a way to suppress the awakening energy and cut yourself off from it. Trust you me, you'd be much better off if you let it finish).

But Healing Feels So Good; I've Never Felt So Connected
For healing, I love to use the metaphor of the broken leg. If you've had a broken leg your entire life, when it heals and you can stand or even walk, it's phenomenal. You're just beside yourself. But it's not running. Healing out sexual abuse, physical trauma, rage, sadness, and so many other issues can make you feel  extraordinary. You're coming into contact with the deeper you that's been buried under these emotions. That's a wonderful thing. You should be very happy to have this feeling, and you shouldn't be reading this blog as any kind of disparagement towards that process. Instead, this post is simply letting you know that you can feel even more full and connected than ever before. At the same time, awakening is not something to strive after. If you're setting the spiritual practice and discipline in your life, addressing the issues you need to address, and healing, then you're cultivating the space for the awakening. And that will come in its own accord when you are truly ready.

Awakening's Fits and Starts
Some of you may be carrying so much pain from your life, past lives, and whatever else that you may actually get awakening in fits and starts. This is different than just having an opening. It's very involuntary. It hits you in the forehead, and you're incapacitated for a couple of days with energy running up and down your body. This doesn't really happen in an opening, although it can. Openings, as I said and in the way that I'm defining it, are much briefer and situation-dependent. Awakening isn't situation dependent, although it can use an opening like a great meditation to try and shoehorn its way into your life. Some of you already know that awakening is very insistent if it wants to manifest in your life (Some of the emails I get are people wondering when this train ride is going to stop too--you really understand this is hardly a merit badge; you're just trying to survive it).

The fits and starts are usually from blocking the energy because of heavy pain and really unhealthy habits (drug and alcohol abuse, brutal workouts, manipulative psychic work, and lots of other things). Healing becomes crucial. Clearing those habits and creating newer healthier ways of being are important to make space for all the energy--to make space for the fullness of you (Truly, you've been living in a shadow of your true self for most of your life). Healing can be excruciating, and for some others of you, you're already in full awakening and are having to work through openings into new ways of being. You are simultaneously healing pain and then embracing the full awakening. It is, quite simply, exhausting. You're going to need a ton of rest and support, and there is definitely no shame in that. But you already know that you're not and never were independent--that illusion should have been the first to go.

Healing Ahead of Time
If you sense that you're headed to an awakening in this life time, I can't encourage you enough to do your work to heal. There will always be lots of healing that happens with awakening. That's just the nature of the beast and the profound power of love and union with God, but doing your part is part of clearing space for awakening to come in some thing of a "manageable" way. I use the term manageable very loosely because you can't control this. You can't control water or air, but you can create loose containers to hold or guide them. And you can get rid of the barriers to those currents.

You already know where the barriers are, and if you want help, you can check out my "Heal" section of blogs starting with this one "Healing a Crisis of Faith" and following the links at the bottom of each blog post. Because you will feel better when you start to move out all of this pain that you've been reacting to and which has been controlling you throughout your life. And there's no way around it once the deeper awakening hits, as many of you know. So take the initiative and enjoy the opening that comes with it. The glimpses of deeper connection may startle you, and one day an even bigger shift may manifest in you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

FACE-OFF Challenge: Follow-Up

Susan offers thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of creating a new relationship with her body image on her spiritual path.

A reader recently suggested that I follow up on a blog that I wrote in December 2010. I made a commitment to myself to not wear make-up at all for two weeks. I called it the Face-Off Challenge. You can read about my initial thoughts about this subject at I never knew the challenge would be so transformational, going well beyond the context of eliminating make-up. It propelled me into a space that allowed me to begin to cultivate the relationship with myself that I always longed for.

Flawless Perfection

I can write many paragraphs about the physical changes that occurred when I stopped wearing makeup. The initial days of this promise seemed more of a burden than I expected it to be. It was difficult being out in society, willingly exposing all my acne blemishes, scars, lines, and dark circles under my eyes. In fact, the appearance of my skin worsened in the first week. Soon after I realized that I needed to be in this vulnerable state to see the attachment I had with make-up and how I am accepted by my family, friends, and society. There was a lot of junk that needed to be sorted through. For the first time I could see the lack of self confidence that I had. I not only had a lack of self confidence, but I was holding onto this idea of being less beautiful or unworthy than others. Why in the hell wouldn’t I want to feel beautiful?

Well, it is easy to attach one’s self to a particular category if you identify with it for so long. It’s too scary to think otherwise. For example, before the challenge I was never able to see my acne as a positive thing. It was ugly and unattractive. I accepted it as the norm, but in a negative way. Forcing myself to expose my acne and blemishes in public helped me realize that the ego “I” was the one who made my acne unattractive. I noticed that I was the one creating the story in my head and making my complexion a problem. This is the point when I noticed I have a choice. Even if society did see my physical image as a problem, I had a choice to make it a problem in my mind or not. I chose to see my acne as not an extraordinarily beautiful or ugly quality, but just as it was. All my flaws make me who I am. My physical flaws make me flawlessly perfect. I wouldn’t be Susan any other way.

Transforming All Aspects of Self
Now although I recognized the duality I was creating in my head, I knew that didn’t mean I should ignore the possible causes of acne. For me, I knew acne was a sign of imbalance. I could have been eating healthier, drinking more water, and doing all the things that countless dermatologists have told me to do. However, I knew I didn’t need to be “cured.” I wanted to find the root of the source of the imbalance. Now that I didn’t have the external factor of make-up affecting my skin, I could focus on the internal factors. This is the point when I was forced to trust my inner body intelligence. With the help of applied kinesiology and other tools, I ended up changing my shampoo, soap, moisturizer, and exfoliating methods to being all natural. I’ve been through the process many times before, but I was coming from a deeper and more honest place this time around.

After a few weeks I noticed the acne significantly diminishing, although it was far from eliminated. I continued further by eventually changing my eating habits, eating more vegetables, less sweets, and drinking more water. Switching my eating habits was difficult at first. (Let’s just say I used to cry as a child from the sight of a small portion of vegetables on my dinner plate). The process continued on to eating less meat. I, the meat lover, not eating meat? Blasphemy! Although I’m not sure if eliminating meat from my diet affected my skin, it certainly shifted my energy level. I would have never felt compelled to do such a thing, seemingly unrelated, without starting the Face-Off Challenge

Slowly, over the last eight months, my relationship with my body has dramatically changed. It is impossible to ignore the energy differences that occur in my body when I eat/drink. The little changes I made in small amounts over the following weeks compiled. I started to feel more energized due to the food I was putting in my body. I was feeling more confident and aware of my body, especially in public. The journey has even overflowed into cultivating a more honest sexual relationship with my self. My level of self-confidence has shifted significantly. Blockages in my solar plexus and throat chakras have been shattered. This resulted in me rediscovering a whole other sense of empowerment I had forgotten prior to the Face-Off Challenge.

Now I don’t even think twice about leaving the house with make-up on. I actually prefer to not wear as much make-up, if any. My skin feels lighter and less heavy. The stares I once thought I was getting from strangers transformed into something different. I noticed that even if I was only making eye contact with someone passing by on the street, I was having a conversation with them and they were with me. I was the one judging my acne and creating a separation from my true self, not them. I had a choice. They were seeing me, because I allowed my whole self to be seen. I was no longer hiding behind a mask.

Having a Choice is Always an Option
Choice. That’s a huge concept that we often don’t use. Most of us are creating extremes in our mind. We don’t recognize we have a choice in everything we do, even if it is as simple as choosing to wear make-up. I’m not going to lie. I do continue to wear make-up, but it is far less than what I used to wear and how often I would wear it. However, I make sure I am aware of the intention each time I put on make-up. The most important thing I keep in mind is that I know I have a choice to wear make-up or not. It is no longer a requirement.

The Importance of a Support Network

When I first created the challenge, I encouraged women through the blog and Facebook to join me on the journey. Many women thought it was a great idea, a small percentage said they would do it, and even a smaller percentage of women stuck with the commitment for longer than a few days (if at all). Putting a conscious effort to do the work, dig through the junk, and remember your true nature can sometimes feel overwhelming. I haven’t heard of anyone else’s experiences from the Face-Off Challenge. It’s not necessary, though, since the challenge is about You and Your journey. That is why it is important to have a spiritual practice and tools to help you along the way, including a support system. Family, friends, spiritual networks, or even co-workers can all be useful means of support during your Face-Off Challenge. My partner and a few close friends were the primary supporting people for me. They encouraged me to keep looking closer at how I was feeling during moments of insecurity. They asked questions and then stood back to give me space as I rediscovered myself more deeply. Just know that if you did decide to start your Face-Off Challenge (or your own variation of it), you are not alone.

My Face-Off challenge was intended to last for only two weeks. It’s been eight months and hasn’t stopped. That’s because this challenge has transformed itself into a beautiful journey. It will never end, because there is nowhere to go to. That’s why it is called a journey. Perhaps it is time to reveal the radiant being that you are, just as you are.

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.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spirituality and Discipline: Dedicating Yourself to the Spiritual Path

For some of you--those of you in awakening--this blog topic is not optional. If you don't discipline yourself to cultivate space and guidance for the immense flow moving through you, you're going to be a mess for a very long time. For those of you still learning about the path, I have to emphasize just how important it is to develop a dedicated practice. The complaints about not having enough time don't work, and especially if you do have a spiritual awakening, then things really get crazy. It's our practice that helps to hold us and guide us through that big shift as well as the turbulence that besets us throughout our lives regardless of awakening or not.

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Meditate...Then Repeat
I think I've implied "discipline" in many of my blogs, but I haven't come right out and said it. The reason is because I already had a lot of discipline and structure internally. A lot of my personal path was to break it down--to break out of my own suffocating control. In so doing, I could let the light of God, the light in me come out, merge, and explode. It was breath-taking. It is still breath-taking. I still have to remember to breathe at times. But that's my path, and it's not yours. No. Most people have the opposite problem. You have so little discipline on the spiritual path that you aren't ready to handle the rigors of awakening. You aren't ready to have lots of intense connection, love, and energy pour through you. You're a river with no banks. The water would run everywhere and muck of everything. Then it would dissipate, and you'd be in the midst of a swamp.

This is what awakening is like for a lot of people.

Cultivating Discipline, But Gently
Discipline, however, doesn't mean that it's time to brutalize your mind-body-spirit or some such nonsense on a quest for awakening. For those of you who now understand what enlightenment is, you understand how ridiculous that mentality is. Because that mentality is trying to "win" at the game of spirituality. But you can't "win" in this game. You can't be made safer by it. You can't be made more likely to get laid by it or get lots of money. No. The wealth of awakening comes from within. It has always been from within. So you may find yourself dirt poor but in so much joy you can't imagine any other way to live. Or perhaps not. Everyone's awakening takes us to slightly different places, but having the discipline in our regular spiritual practices prepares us to go to those places. It prepares us to be able to hold space in those places and not get washed away. It helps us to heal, and it helps us to re-condition a whole lot of mental babble and social conditioning that has cut us off from ourselves.

Spiritual Discipline: Many Practices & Many Ways to Rediscover You
Spiritual awakening is a rediscovery process, not a discovery process. You are rediscovering you. Many of us already had it when we were little kids provided that we had an okay home life. Then social conditioning kicked in, and we developed really strong egos. In so many ways, awakening takes us back to being little kids again only this time we bring the wisdom of embodied truth, awareness, and mindfulness. We don't get stupid and ignorant. Instead, we understand how to play again, and we know what is real, important, and sacred. Stock options are not important. Helping a grieving widow to heal is important. You see the difference? Some of you do, I'm sure. Others are already trying to defend the stock options. But that's fine. See how much money ever really makes you happy and secure. You can go down that path like so many others have, but you'll find nothing ultimately. No one will stop you, however.

With that said, healthy practices are things like meditation, journaling, prayer, chanting, doing something you love every day, yoga, and any way that you embody your truth and stop to give yourself a chance to connect deeply with yourself. There are so many tools to use. I usually break them down by how they work on different chakras. Journaling is great for self expression, clearing the mind, and even connecting to the divine if you really get into the flow (all kinds of amazing information can flow through your fingertips--I know. It's kinda what I'm doing as I write this right now). In essence, journaling is an opening/clearing for the 5th, 6th, and 7th chakras. Lower chakras like things that you do with your body. Physical activities like vinyasa yoga are great for the body to come into deeper awareness. Mindful hugs to loved ones can combine heart chakra awareness with other lower chakras. There's just so many ways to do this path, and none are greater or less than any others. All that matters is that they work for you.

Dedication, Patience, and Tenacity
When awakening hits, I've noticed that the people who really are able to hold it, transmute it, and embody it are the ones with tenacity. It feeds into the dedication, although it may not bring about any more patience. I think meditation is great for cultivating patience and mindfulness. The mind usually screams for 30 minutes solid (at least at first) about how it should be doing 19 other things other than meditating. Over time (or whenever you're ready to let it go), it softens and grows quieter. It doesn't have to though for you to have a good meditation. Sometimes, you start to learn how to be the watcher--to watch the mind scream for those 30 minutes. You start to laugh at it a little too. What is it so concerned about anyway? Because most of the things we worry about don't exist, and discipline helps us to stop running from worry to worry and see what is real. It helps us to not get lost into experiences and sensations, which happens to a lot of people on the spiritual path who consider a high spiritual state to be what it is all about (it's not). Above all else, discipline helps us to create space for something amazing to happen.

After the Amazing Has Happened
But after the amazing has happened and you've woken up, the spiritual discipline you have can be the rock to which you strap yourself to move through the shifts and seas of awakening energy. It becomes so essential to your process of clearing old issues and absorbing even more light--even more of you. Some of you wonder how in the world can all this energy be yours. But it is. It truly is, and then your mind will say, how in the world could I have ever lived so small? But we did, and now we need to keep cultivating the channel for this energy to expand us.

That channel will be broken, and we will have to build a bigger channel. That's how expansions work. We have to be dedicated to our spiritual path or else we can lose ourselves in this process, lost to the eddies and tides of old emotions that are desperately trying to get our attention and our energy back. Fear will float by and try to grab onto you saying that you'll drown without it--you won't be able to pay your bills, you'll lose your husband, all your friends will leave you. It will tell you all these things, and the more that you let it hold on to you, the more you'll start to drown. The very things it tells you it'll protect you from are the very things fear and the other old pains will take you towards.

So keep meditating. Keeping journaling. Keep talking to spiritual people who understand this, or keep searching to find more people to connect with. Stay in touch with your spiritual teacher--the teacher is a field of energy to help support you through this shift and modulate the ups and downs. You can't do it alone, and you're going to have to do it alone. But the discipline of the path you've cultivated will help you to make it through. Between that and God's grace, we are all taken care of.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spiritual Caretakers During an Awakening

I was talking with someone last night, and I was impressed by the good fortune she'd had in finding "spiritual caretakers." This is my latest definition (I know, I should be making a glossary for all the terms I make up), and it's a very different role than a spiritual guide or teacher. The spiritual caretaker is a person who creates space for someone to have their awakening. It's a sacred role, and it's one that probably isn't much talked about. So, now, I'm talking about it and why it's important to find a spiritual caretaker. I'm also talking about it because it's also a beautiful role to fulfill if you happen to be one.

Spiritual Caretaking: Making a Safe Space for a Transition
The initial explosion of light, energy, and general juju is a deafening roar that blows out everything in your life. You watch a lot of your life crash and burn. Things in some aspects of your life come to a grinding halt. The ego part of you is wondering what has gone terribly wrong. Nothing. You were probably going in the wrong direction, and now, you're course-correcting. You are also returning to the center of you, and the outside world will need to be let go of. The butterfly in the chrysalis metaphor is great (yes, they go into a chrysalis. Moths go into a cocoon...I totally did pay attention in science class, thank you very much). You have to go within and go through enormous changes. Eating habits, social patterns, mental constructs, emotional states, and so many things shifts dramatically. It's different for each person, but depending on what you're here to do and how much pain you're carrying, you can be almost completed debilitated.

Nervous Breakdowns Versus Spiritual Awakenings
I'm sure some spiritual teachers would say that there's no difference, but from what I've seen so far, there are some important distinctions between a nervous breakdown and a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening brings so much energy with it that there's a very different feel to it. A nervous breakdown can be the crumpling of an ego that just goes into another ego-state--self-pity, victimhood, and others. Nervous breakdowns may also be a chemical imbalance in the body, and just because life is crappy doesn't mean you're have a spiritual awakening. Not how I'm discussing it today anyway.

Ultimately, any situation can be an excuse to let go into an awakened state, but for this blog post, you have to understand that awakening brings with it a tremendous love of life. The breakdown that follows for people is much more about the dismay of what you're carrying inside or how difficult it appears for you to live in this state of love and bliss in such a dysfunctional world. It may look like depression, but it's much more dynamic on the inside. Only someone moving through an awakening can really know what's going on inside, although those of us who have moved through it can sense what's happening almost immediately.

Getting Support on Your Spiritual Path
This is one of those points where the latter half of the following statement comes in to play, "Only you can walk the spiritual path, but you can't walk it alone." You need support. Plain and simple. Spiritual teachers and communities are great. But you also need a place to live that feels safe, supportive, and nourishing. Your ability to work and earn income the way you did before is probably gone. It really depends on your living situation if you're going to need to find a spiritual caretaker to look after you. Because you probably won't be able to do much for money for a time period, although you never know.

I've seen situations where families become that caretaking lifeline. Close friends will fill that role. And you have to understand that they're not providing guidance. They may not know what to do with you, but they love you and are supporting you in the only way that they can. Others may have been through a process like this or have an appreciation of spirituality. They may simply feel called to support you, but they will otherwise not have much advice. That's not the role of the caretaker. The spiritual caretaker is here so that you have somewhere safe to be to go into the fullness of your spiritual evolution.

Spiritual Evolution: What Is Happening to Me?
Before I get going too far, let's step back for a moment. What did you think this spiritual path was about anyway? Go back to that. It's easy to get lost in the process. You may be hanging on to some spiritual illusions and fallacies. It's important to appreciate all states of awareness. Enlightenment isn't about clinging to a new state of bliss all the time. Bliss comes and goes. That's how all states of awareness are. Enlightenment means that you know what's real. You know that the way your life was doesn't work for you. Now you're re-creating it. The more you consciously re-create your life and assist the energy within you, the smoother it'll go. The more you fight it or cling to ego ideas like "independence," the more beat down you'll feel. It gets pretty miserable along that path.

And sometimes we have to go back down it, which is frustrating when you suddenly know so much. The ego runs in to try and take over the awakening from time to time. It says, "This is how I should feel" or "This is the experience I really want." Good luck with that. That was the same thought pattern that got you into such misery before in life, right? It's best to let it go.

Becoming a Spiritual Caretaker Yourself
Moving to the other side of the fence, if you find yourself called on to become a spiritual caretaker, that's a very beautiful role. Thank you. Thank you for giving someone space to have this beautiful, yet oftentimes messy awakening. The biggest thing to understand is to not take anything personally. What's coming out of someone in awakening is all kinds of energy as well as karmic and emotional gunk. Having your own meditation to simply let go of things can be important when you get ignited by someone in awakening. And trust me, you'll get upset by them from time to time no matter how much you love them. They're in moments of deep change and shift, and they're shifting everything around them. If you've already had an awakening, then this energy will just accelerate you further along your path and towards what you're already working on--that's typically my experience in working with people in awakening. My energy just kinda absorbs what's happening. Sure, I can't really sleep very deeply at night because I'm so amped up, but otherwise it feels good to me.

For those of you who haven't, you may be unconsciously preparing yourself for your own awakening. Being around that kind of energy is a way that your soul can absorb that change energy and start to remember itself. So, someday the person that you're caring for may very well be caring for you. The important part is to not get upset by what's going on or the strangeness of requests from the person you're caring for. Sometimes they'll have bizarre eating requests or be up all night. Give them the space they need to be an emotional wreck, but be there for them when they need a hug. Usually, someone in awakening is very attuned to energy, so they'll be very sensitive to you. That can be unsettling, so don't try to hide or mask your feelings. Otherwise, that will upset someone in awakening even more because they'll either feel confused or lied to. That'll start to shut down your ability to be a caretaker on certain levels.

Sacred Roles Re-Emerging in Society
The role of the spiritual caretaker is very beautiful. We all need help on our paths, and during the initial awakening when our lives are being burnt to the ground, it's so nice to have a small oasis to sit by and rejuvenate before we start carting out the ashes and rubble. I've definitely gone through my own burn down. I somehow managed to intuitively stockpile resources that helped me move through those difficult times, and I can't say enough how hard it is to work a 9 to 5 job during it. You essentially end up putting your process on hold, prolonging the transition. So don't. Don't put it off or wait it out. That will just make the whole thing more painful, and it doesn't need to be. As we all bring forth more of these sacred roles like the spiritual caretaker, there will be less of the need to do so. And the depth and profundity of awakening will have more space to unfold for all of us.
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