Monday, October 31, 2011

The Many Meanings of "I Don't Know"

"I don't know" is such a fascinating phrase. It has so many uses: some good, some bad. We use it in so many different scenarios to express different things, and at times, it can offer such a profound statement of truth that it makes your brain swirl. But I think it's important to begin to pay attention to how you use it. There are all kinds of sayings about learning to know what you don't know. And of course, it's a very powerful thing to know what you truly know--what you truly understand. And furthermore, it's a great big issue when you don't know that you don't know. You know? :)

So, here's a blog post off into the world of knowing and not knowing and some ways to view it and understand yourself.

Several Underlying Uses of "I Don't Know"
Below are a couple of the core reasons we say these three particular words.
  1. Lack of information. There's a topic that we aren't sufficiently informed about, so we don't know the answer. Example: How much rocket fuel does a spaceship need to get to the moon? I don't know.
  2. Avoidance of doing something that feels difficult. Very quickly, "I don't know" becomes about avoiding something. Example: Should I stay with my abusive spouse? I don't know.
  3. Statement of truth. On a very deep level, there's a lot that we never really know. The mind tries to put everything into a comfortable category and structure, but even driving to work each day brings with it new-ness and unexpected happenings. Example: How long will it take you to get to work? I don't know because what if there's a car wreck?
  4. Avoidance of your obligation to yourself. This is a particularly interesting one. Similar to the second one on the list, "I don't know" gets used a lot as a way to avoid what we actually do know. Usually, it's because we don't like the answer. Example: How long will this awakening last? or What do I love to do? I don't know (In truth, you often do know these answers when you listen quietly to your inner knowing, but I don't know is often a way of saying you don't like the answer).
Step One: Releasing and Relaxing Your Mind
For many of you who are still trying to act like you know everything, "I don't know" is a powerful initial mantra. No, you don't know what is a good stock investment. No, you don't know how this relationship will work out. No, you don't even know that the sun will rise in the morning--this could be the day when it decides to go supernova, and kablammy. We live in a world where every day and every moment is a chance for rebirth, and just about the time we forget that, something happens. Kerplewy! You've got appendicitis. You thought you knew that today was a regular work day and you'd go to Monday Night Football with your buddies, but instead, you're sucking down apple sauce in a hospital bed and living on cloud nine from whatever painkiller they just gave you.

Inherit to step one is saying that you don't know what is going to happen in the external world, and surprisingly enough, your body is part of that external world. Anyone with nerve damage knows that the body is pretty separate from us. Your mind can tell you to lift an arm, but without the nerves working appropriately, it can't move. That's part of the difficulties many people have with aging. They thought that they "knew" their bodies, and in many ways, they thought they had control of them. Then, things stop working. Many people get very angry, but it's best to let go and say, "I don't know how long my body will work."

Step 2: Humility and Living Within the Unknown
I've found that the more I give myself to the unknown of the external world, the more empowered I am. It may seem like a contradiction, but really, I'm wasting so much less energy trying to force the world into a place of predictability and safety. I'm wasting so much less energy trying to convince myself that I have any clue about what's going on. It's a very humbling space to be in, but it is not a stupid one. You are not giving up any of the powers of your intellect. In many ways, you're breaking down a lot of projections that you're putting on the world, which heightens your perceptive abilities.

For instance, you always knew that the couple down the street would be married forever, and then one day they get a divorce. You're really confused. For some reason, it blows up your whole ideas about what couples will have long-term marriages. But really, you've just had a projection get blown up, and you're being forced to admit how much you don't know. Especially in terms of the future, there's so little that we can even really know, and when we no longer try to fit things into an intellectual framework, we actually see situations more clearly since each one is unique and individual to itself no matter how similar it appears to other ones.

Step 3: Claiming Your Knowing
But at the heart of this, we're claiming a different kind of knowing. We're claiming our inner knowing. Our inner knowing can be very clear, and this is where "I don't know" is a cop-out or avoidance of our truth and what we're here to do. In this way, those 3 little words are the ways that we are scared and hiding from ourselves. Many people say that they don't know what work they love to do, what relationships they like, and so forth. But you do. You really do. You are just afraid of the consequences. Perhaps you actually think that you know what the consequences are, which shows just how confused people are in the world. So on the one hand, you say you don't know what's in your heart, and on the other hand, you're afraid to follow your heart because you think something bad will happen. But you have no idea what will happen, and only you can ever know what's in your heart and soul. We are such a mixed up people. We absolutely have to claim our knowing of ourselves. And in this space we have to let go of the phrase, "I don't know."

Step 4: Allowing Your Knowing to Emerge
I'm not going to tell you that your deepest knowing will emerge over night just because you said, "I've decided to know myself." I mean maybe it will. Anything is possible, and spirituality doesn't require time. Awakening to your true knowing doesn't require time. It comes in the moment when you fully let go of all the crap that you've got standing in the way. So, it can come at any time, but while you're here, maybe it's time to starting digging out the garbage. Maybe it's time to look at all the ways you've given up on yourself and sold out what you know is right to do for what is convenient, socially expected, or seemingly safe. This is part of all the spiritual work that I'm constantly talking about, and certainly as you tune into that knowing that's always been there, you're going to find more work to do to live in integrity with God and yourself.

Step 5: The Balance of the Known and Unknown
Eventually, we work towards a balance of the known and unknown. It becomes clearer and clearer what we can know and what we can't know. This is a powerful place of being, and it helps us go a long way towards living in integrity with ourselves and in the fullness of the present moment. If you fully know that anything can happen, doesn't it make following your heart that much easier? I hear lots of people say, "Well, I'd love to do this, but that can't make me any money." And truly money isn't even at issue. At stake is the sense of safety and survival that money offers, but what if that's all a lie?

And it is.

You have no idea if doing this thing you love will or won't make money until you do it. Certainly, there are no guarantees, but most of us are living in an illusion of safety anyway. Like I mentioned with appendicitis, there are so many ways the lives that we think are safe aren't safe at all, and if we are really miserable in this "safe" life, what kind of life is that to lead anyway?

So I encourage all of you to trust your own inner knowing. I encourage you to go inside and delve into that space to find your own truth, and meanwhile, I encourage you to let go of trying to know or predict the outside world. It is always changing, which is exactly why there's always an opportunity to manifest that which you know is truest to you and your life purpose. With so much change and energy in the air, anything truly is possible, but you already know that, don't you?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Grow Your Garden

So this is obviously not a horticultural blog, but since a lot of people like the sandcastle metaphor that I used with the ego recently, the garden will be my metaphor for spiritual awakening.

Cultivating Your Spiritual Path
I specifically named my ebook, "Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening," because in the truest way, all we can ever do is make space for this deep shift to happen in our lives. You can't force an awakening, and even if you could, you'd be surprised at the costs that are associated with it. I am surprised by all the people who tell me that they just want to wake up. It's like saying that all you really want is what is in the box over there. It's an unmarked box, and you have no clue what's inside. And then some people get what they thought they wanted and are in deep and utter shock when the find out that the box is empty.

But along the way, we can all prepare for engagement with awakening. We can make space for it because I think it is more like a garden than anything else. Almost everyone who awakens has been doing some kind of spiritual work with the few exceptions where trauma launches someone out of their dream-state. I've had people tell me that they don't know why they're going through shifts, but for the last several years they've been reading spiritual texts, doing meditations at their home, and chanting kirtan. It makes me roll my eyes a little bit because doing this kind of stuff is amplifying that energy inside you and making space for something to bloom. It's like being a gardener who isn't paying attention to the seeds s/he is planting, but this tends to be still a rare phenomenon.

The Garden and Its Demands
For most people, they are the garden, and they've got a lot of un-tilled, un-irrigated, and rocky soil. With so much stuff overgrowing everything, there's no place for awakening to take root, and if it does, you're having to rapidly weed, dig, irrigate, and fertilize. Ask someone who has moved through awakening, and they'll tell you how beautiful it is and how much work it is too. So, I think it's great that awakening doesn't usually sneak up on anyone because most of us have an awful lot of work to do. And as I tell my students, I want you to have the easiest transition possible. That doesn't mean that your transition is easy, but if you've been working to pull out the weeds of self-doubt, the rocks of anger, and roust out the moles of fear, there's so much more space for awakening to grow (I know, I'm have a lot of fun with the metaphor--seriously, just imagine your fear as a mole to hose out of a hole. It makes it a lot more fun).

The Benefits of Early Work on the Spiritual Path
The benefits of this kind of work are a happier life and living with less fear and discontent. Even if you don't have a big awakening, you'll be happier with your life. In many ways, not everyone needs to have a big spiritual awakening. For some, it'll be enough to not lie so much. For some, it'll mean having a better temperament or being less afraid to follow their hearts. Doesn't that sound pretty good? I should think so. You don't need to have your whole world turned upside down by awakening to live a beautiful life.

When Awakening Doesn't Take Root
Of course, some of you have been doing the work to prepare your garden, and you've scattered seeds all about. But the sun is not shining. The sun is God, and only God decides when to shine to coax forth those seeds into life. You can water, fertilize, and weed all you want, but you can't force an awakening to grow. So you can meditate, chant, journal, serve humanity, and spend time with spiritual communities and teachers, but that doesn't mean an awakening will strike. Awakening shouldn't be something you expect anyway. Consider that this is like an unexpected visitor whom you've been preparing for over the years. You can't make the visitor show up, and you can't know the timing. But you can make space so that when s/he does, you're ready.

To return to the gardening metaphor, you can be ready for things to grow by having the tools to harvest what comes. But you can't force it, and ultimately, you should be on this path and doing the spiritual things that you're doing because it's what feels true in the moment, not because you're going to get awakening as a kind of reward.

You Can't Measure Your Peach Tree Against Someone Else's
And then something sparks, and you realize you have to change the orientation of your whole garden. You thought you had a pumpkin patch, but in the middle of it is this beautiful peach tree just starting to grow. Now you have to adjust and learn about how to nourish this tree. Some of us have a sense of what's growing and what may sprout, but if you don't, you have to learn to be flexible. Something beautiful is in your life, and it wasn't what you expected. So you change. Life is change anyway. Perhaps you should have seen this coming too, but nonetheless, you've got to learn how to take care of that peach tree.

And then your friend next door has an oak tree growing in her garden. You're not really understanding your process yet, so you may get angry. Why does she have an oak tree? It's so much bigger and more important. But it's not the point to compare awakenings. Everyone awakens in their own way. Everyone has different work to do. Perhaps your peaches are to nourish many children through your teaching in a kindergarten class. Each peach you offer is symbolic of the love and nurturance you offer to young children in their early stages of life. Is that not important? The big oak tree may shelter dozens or hundreds of others on their own spiritual path under her boughs, but that's simply because it's what an oak tree does. It's her path and her gift. It also requires her to learn about the challenges specific to being such a magnificent and prominent display of spiritual awareness while the peach tree draws much less attraction--good and bad. So in this you both have beautiful awakenings, and they should be appreciated as they are and never compared.

Finding Your Plot of Land
The best thing you can do to get started on growing your garden and making space towards awakening is to get started. You'll probably find a lot of weeds and work to do first. This may be disappointing, and if you have awakening already started, you've got some work to do just to make space for it. You'll know how much you need to do. In your heart, you've always known how much you need to do, but you can't really allow something to grow without nurturing it. Otherwise, things get stunted and twisted and very unhealthy. A lot of love needs to go into this garden, but with care and diligence, you may be surprised at what springs forth inside of you and what it grows into.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Post-Awakening Challenges: The Lost Gray World of Apathy

I've got a lot of groundwork to lay before diving into this topic. First off, this is a topic specifically for people after a big spiritual awakening. This isn't for people who are generally disconnected with their hearts or still living in the teenaged-angst space of knowing that this world is screwed up, but not knowing how to change it. This also isn't depression and not meant to speak to chemical imbalances. This is speaking to people who have awoken and touched deep divine connection, and now you're learning how to embody that truth on every level from your nose hair to your heart to your pinky toes.

You've likely had a lot of stuff shift already in your inner world, which is also likely to have shifted a lot in your outer world. You may feel exhausted a lot as you feel yourself being completely re-structured from the inside out. It's a very profound place, and it requires a ton of self-care. I wrote about how spiritual self-work becomes self-care  in an earlier blog in May 2011. It's an important distinction because after the awakening, you know there's no place to go, nothing to do, and nothing to earn. But you also know that you're not internally complete, so you have to learn how to care for yourself or else you get lost in the gray, indifference of apathy.

Nothing Matters Anymore; All Is the Same
Apathy likes to set in after this big shift and before everything is really settled in to complete your shift. Here are a couple of reasons why:
  1. Depletion. You're so energy-tired that you don't have the energy to do anything, and you become indifferent partially because the ego part of you that's still clinging to control feels so defeated. That ego hasn't fully let go yet, and that's blocking the deeper connection that nourishes you.
  2. Split. You're still trying to live in two worlds. Your old self wants one thing. Your new/true self wants a different thing. It makes everything look unappealing, and you become indecisive and indifferent because of this split.
  3. Multiple Deep Healings. When your awakening is healing so much in you, each part may need a different type of activity, shift, or healing. You may only have energy for one because of the state you're in, so bringing some gentle focus for one area of yourself to be healed may help to keep you from being so dissipated.

As the old ego is released, we can tap into a deeper flow that helps us to feel connected at all times. In many ways, this specific kind of apathy is a disconnect. It's a sign that we need to find a way to re-connect again.

Self-Healing and Healing Practices Needed
Another way to look at this post-spiritual awakening timeframe before everything settles into you is to look at it as being a car with one engine out of you and a new one about to go into you. It's really hard to do anything or go any place. A part of your ego probably thinks it still needs to be doing something, and as I mentioned, the ego is still clinging to control. It becomes extremely evident where we are still trying to hang on to our control because it becomes an intense energy blockage. We are getting in the way of the deeper flow that is now freely moving through us--or at least trying to freely move in spite of whatever we're doing.

This is very different than what happens for most people before awakening. Before awakening, self-work is critical for most people. You haven't opened yourself up, and many ideas around what "openness" are in spiritual circles are actually very immature. Just gushing your heart out towards people is silly and often shows your own needs and desires to help or be validated versus actually being sensitive to the deeper needs of the situation. Certainly, there are worse hobbies to have, but in this instance and many others, doing your own spiritual work is critical to create space for awakening to germinate and bloom. After that, the type of self-care and healing that is needed is very different, although there is some overlap. But you have to bring that energy inwards and not be depleting yourself through old, unhealthy ideas about "helping." If you cannot help yourself, you cannot help others.

Deep Wounds Requiring More Connection
Oftentimes, people come to the spiritual path because nothing else can heal them. Everything else leaves them wanting and still feeling the hurt inside them. When awakening arrives for them, it begins to clean out these old injuries, which can require a tremendous amount of love and energy. The more deeply hurt someone is, the more help and love the individual often needs to clean out these wounds. It's not that you can't do it by yourself, but a lot of times it's nice to not have to be the patient and doctor at the same time, depending on the issue. Physical abuse, rape, and other heavy issues can require a lot of energy-work, and having a dedicated healing practitioner, psychologist, and/or other helpful healers can be a tremendous support as you rapidly release negativity, pain, and toxins on psychological, emotional, physical, and psychic levels. During awakening, the whole clean-out is going on.

Lost in the Grayness
What's particularly strange about this space is because of how much it feels like the polar opposite of bliss and deep spiritual connection. It's almost trying to masquerade as a kind of really messed up enlightenment because everything just feels equal and equally uninteresting. It also feels like there's nothing that you can really do right, so why do anything. Everything feels gray and unsatisfying in a very deep and upsetting way. To offer a frame of reference, the enlightened part feels like everything is equally beautiful, and there's no wrong way to live your life. So, they're two very different spaces, and sometimes, you simply have to be with that deep apathy. And sometimes, you have to find some kind of energy healing or Source connection to replenish you. And sometimes, you have to dig down a layer into the ego that's still trying to hold on and practice letting go further.

It really depends on what's going on for you, and sometimes in the grayness, things are particularly messy. A lot of you have multiple issues being cleared at once, and with parts of you not fully letting go, you can't keep yourself connected to Source appropriately. Bringing your focus on one thing to heal at a time may be helpful to make a process that can feel overwhelming a little bit more tenable. It's not that you can manage your awakening exactly, but awakening energy is very smart. I've found that I can hold "conversations" of sorts with my energy to help it know what I need. But in turn, I've found that there are times when I have to make space just so it can run and do what it needs to do.

Finding Your Way Out of the Fog
For the many shifts I've had, I've eventually come back out of the fog. Especially when there's a general "upgrade" to my awareness, I suddenly am interacting with myself and others in a new way afterwards. It requires renewed work with the outer world to manifest these new connections, and it often ushers in a time of letting go of some relationships and receiving new ones. It's much similar to how I've described our egos as being sandcastles in my How to Build Your Sandcastle blog. An old self has been washed away, and a new one is being born. Embrace it. Know that it is temporary, and another wave will wash this one away too. But that's okay, and the grayness that comes won't last. But be good to yourself and be kind. Surround yourself with a loving support network to help yourself through these days, and if nothing else, just give yourself space to let go and trust the process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spiritual Survey: Your Feedback Kindly Requested

I'm still in the early phases of manifesting my spiritual teaching, which is a way of saying that I'm still figuring all this stuff out. I'd love to hear from you about what types of programs and topics you'd be interested in hearing about. It's great information for me to tailor some of what I do to your needs. It really helps me to see how to grow with you when I get your input. Part of that will also inform me as to what regions, states, and countries to visit as I go along, and of course, I'll need all of your help to start setting up those visits as time goes.

Below is my survey. For those of you who have already filled it out, thank you! Your input is much appreciated, and I appreciate the input for those of you who will fill it out shortly.

Spirituality with Jim Tolles Survey

Monday, October 24, 2011

Daily Spiritual Practices in Love

At the heart of any spiritual practice is...well...the heart. How can you have a spiritual practice without love? I see some people try. They get lost in the machinations of their minds. They are trying to think their way to enlightenment and are caught up in philosophical tenets and meditative practices never turning inwards to that most essential piece--love. Or perhaps, it only is some kind conceptual love that they turn to. It isn't the whole body kind of love that shakes you to the innermost you. But that's where we're all ultimately headed, and that's where I'm helping you go today.

Self-Love: The Space of True Love
We spend so much time focusing on getting love from the outer world. And how's that going anyway? Maybe some of you have had fleeting moments of it, but how long do they last? How long before your current partner does or says something that doesn't feel like love? Then you're dissatisfied. Already a part of you is looking to find a new, better partner. Maybe he or she will give you the love that you need and deserve. But it does no good. So long as you do not fully love and accept yourself, you will never find a partner who can make you feel the way that you yearn for. Ultimately, it is never our partner's job to fill us with love; only we can fill that space. And when we do that, then the love that does come from our partners, families, friends, and well-wishers may fill you to overflowing. Which leads to another topic about expanding our capacities to hold love, but that's another topic for another day.

A Daily Practice in Self-Love
Subsequently, the first daily practice that I want to talk to you about is a focus on offering love to yourself. This is more than random acts of kindness. If you're not comfortable with love yet, feel free to work on doing small, simple things for yourself to build up to it. But of course, you ultimately can't be with love until you face it head on. And the best place to do that is in the mirror.

I would encourage you as part of your daily practice in self-love to look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I love you."

See what comes up.

I already hear it now from many of you reading it. You're thinking:

"That's stupid."

"Why should I do this?"

"Enough with the touchy-feely crap, I want answers."

Oh but what are your real questions anyway? When you boil down a lot of them, you come to core things like "Am I deserving of love?" For many of you, your answer is currently, "No." You don't feel deserving of it, and that's why you've gotten lost in the pursuit of others--friends, lovers, partners, and even successes in sports and business--to give you love or its watered down version, which is called approval. Your search has failed repeatedly, and only by turning a blind-eye to reality can you stay in the really unhealthy relationships you've been in. For you, stopping and facing the mirror will be profound. It may be profoundly difficult, which is why I always encourage you to write down in your journal the emotions and thoughts that come up when you say, "I love you" to yourself. No one else has to know about this exploration except for the person who is saying and hearing those words.

Practicing Your Loving Words With Others
Now on to a different phase: offering love freely to others. This may be a challenge because you may never have said, "I love you" to someone else without expecting them to say, "I love you" back to you. That, my friends, is not love. In its deepest way, love requires nothing from anyone else. If you say those three words that seem to give so many people heart palpitations, then do so freely. Start with people in your closest circles. See if you can do it at least once a day with the fullness of your heart behind those words. This isn't, "Ok. Bye honey. Have a good day at work. I love you." The love barely even made it into that sentence before your partner was out the door, and s/he was probably already not there with you in her/his heart.

No, see if you can bring some intentionality to it. And see what comes up for you. How does it make you feel? How do you perceive your partner to respond? It doesn't have to be a partner either. It can be a close friend or family member, but find someone. If you truly don't have anyone with whom you can open your heart, then this is first step in building your daily spiritual practice in love. So many people think that spirituality is this far off thing that happens at retreat centers or monasteries, but creating strong, loving relationships is all part of becoming a more deeply loving and interconnected globe. Love starts with you; not with a revolution in Iraq.

Expanding Your Circles of Love
I know. It's a big day for the use of the word, "love." You must be thinking, "Jim, what's going on with you over there?" Just love. Nothing special. I've found that there are times when I've really let go into myself where I spontaneously feel love. I've had those moments, ironically, where I'm sitting at my computer working on a freelance project, and this wave of love washes over me. It's very beautiful; it's part of what happens for all of us as we open hearts. We begin to find that love isn't a localized thing--it isn't dependent on having the right circumstances with the right people. Love is truly unconditional, and the more we practice bringing love into our lives, the more it simply appears at many moments of our lives--unbidden and unchained to the situation.

In that vein of thinking, I encourage those of you who feel strong in self-love and in offering love to those close to you to begin to bring more people into your hearts. Find more people with whom you can simply say, "I love you." Your love isn't meant to be a limited thing, and if you are truly opening your heart to the spiritual path, this will feel like a natural progression. And while it may feel like a natural progression, you will likely find more challenges. You will feel challenged to explain yourself at times--sometimes that's good; sometimes that's bad. If you find yourself being defensive about offering those three words, you need to explore why you need to defend it. If you find people misunderstanding your words, then you need to learn how to open your voice more fully to help them understand. For sure, not everyone understands love. For many people, love from the opposite gender means one thing--an invitation to romance and sex. While love is certainly in those things, it is far greater. It's more handy than a Swiss Army Knife and just as good at getting out of sticky situations with misunderstandings. So, trust yourself. And trust that when you feel the words arising in you, that it is the right time to say them.

Opening Into Love Brings Forth the Natural Intelligence of the Heart
As you develop your daily practices in love, you'll feel yourself shift. You'll feel your heart start to open and that saying, "I love you" becomes less and less of a big deal. It's a statement of fact. It's not an invitation to anything, and it's not stuck in one kind of definition. From that openness comes a fluidity that allows love to create and bring many new things into your life. What they are will be up to you and your path, but I do know that where we're all headed is where only love can take us. So much hate and fear has clouded the world, and so many people don't understand what love is. It doesn't matter how well you do or don't understand love because that understanding resides in your heart, and your heart can always get bigger.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Clearing Out the Physical Sludge on the Spiritual Path

It's always amazing to those of us who are allowing the full embodied awakening to happen just how physical it can be. I know that there are more than a few pages and groups out on the Web dedicated to "Awakening Symptoms" and what-not. I don't really like the terminology. It makes it sound like you have a disease. Cheating others, bad-mouthing others through gossip, getting in fights, defending your ego by bashing another's sense of self worth--that's a disease. Awakening is the healing part of it. It's more like you just said, "Hey, my right foot is broken." And like the coyote from Looney Tunes which only knows something is wrong once he's noticed it, we suddenly realize how bad our foot hurts. So if anything, think of awakening as a very big rehab session, and you're in it for as long as it takes to heal.

Why Is This So Physical?
The spiritual path leaves nothing out. So to really be opening into this space is to accept this energetic shift on all levels. Can you tell me where energy stops? If the whole universe is simply energy in motion, where does it stop in you? Do you really think it could just stop with your thoughts? I think there's so much ego entering the spiritual path these days that a lot of people think just that. They think of enlightenment/spiritual awakening as a new concept. Once they understand it, then they're done. Voila!

But it's not a concept. Well, at least that's such a small tiny fraction of awakening, that's it's silly to even associate it with a concept. Except that concepts help us to understand and from that understanding, we make space to allow the shift. That's one of the most important parts of this process--allowing. At each influx of this energy--this You energy--it goes deeper. It almost feels like starting over again because you feel so raw and vulnerable. With that, you have to let go deeper. You have to accept more of your true self back in. You have to let go of all the ideas that you have around how this experience should go, and then you have to let go of the process of letting go because the construct of a practice may even begin to get in the way after awhile.

Trusting the Natural Intelligence of the Awakening Process
This is another reminder that spiritual awakening isn't really a process. It's the process of changing our lives that's a process. We are so used to mechanically doing the same types of things and having the same types of reactions that we have to change all of that. In many ways, awakening is more like a total hard-drive wipe. You are erasing all these old patterns that cut yourself off from yourself and others. Then you have to download new programming. The more you fight it, the more painful it gets.

Your body memories have to be changed too, which is part of why this is so physical. In many ways, you have to allow the natural intelligence of this process to do it's work. The body doesn't think like the mind. When and how it releases and lets go is still a little bit of a mystery to me, and I've moved through a lot of stuff for about 4 or 5 years now. Sure, yoga and other conscious movement practices are extremely helpful, but I can't tell you if I need to sit in chair pose for the next 4 minutes to burn out something. I'll have senses of where in my body I should work, but it's not always the work that allows it to let go. Sometimes, it's the work and then the relaxation later on. Sometimes, it's just forgetting about the whole process and sunbathing in the park for the day. Only the deeper intelligence of the process truly knows.

Deepening Your Intuitive Practices
Many of you already know that I'm all about cultivating your intuition. You can't get very far on this path if you don't because so much falls outside the realm of the rigid rational mind. If you're new to using your intuition or how I talk about it, check out this link. Your intuition is the best way to tap into your deeper intelligence to figure out what your body needs as you clear out a lot of the karmic sludge that's bound up in muscles, bones, and cells. This stuff runs so deep that it makes you weep. Sometimes, the body simply feels like a store-house for centuries of family shit, and guess what? You're the person now shoveling out most of it. It's not that you can or should take ownership for all the ills of your family, but there's a lot that we all carry. All of it has to go, and trusting your intuition around what you need to release it will make this much easier on you physically.

Physically Unbearable Moments
This post seems to be focusing on the physical, so if any of you have questions about emotional karmic sludge, feel free to post a comment or message me directly through the contact form. Anyway, this process is just a radical shifting of everything, and wherever your issues are located in your body, you may feel intense pressure and pain around it. Now, here's my big caveat: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE use all tools at your disposal when dealing with physical pain. Don't get so lost in the idea that this is a spiritual thing that you don't see an MD. MDs are great. They can do all kinds of wonderful diagnoses and surgeries and so forth. I am not a fan of overly New Agey-thinking that believes Western medicine is just stuck in the rational mind and should be avoided. Every tool from Ayurveda to sound healing to psychic surgery to laproscopic surgery is here on this planet to help you. Use them all. Especially when the pain feels unbearable.

I will tell you that for issues that are predominantly from a spiritual shift, if there's pain, you're holding on. You may not even be consciously holding on. I appreciate what a chiropractor once told me about involuntary muscle clenching. Voluntary muscle usage is when we use our muscles to do something like make a fist. Involuntary muscle clenching is when a muscle doesn't stop holding on. In so many ways, karma is like that, and we go through waves of energy that wash in to loosen some of it up, clear it out, and then a new wave comes to get more of it. It does this until there is no longer a blockage--no longer a holding-onto--and the energy can run through you as a clear conduit for the divine.

Becoming a Conduit of Light and Love
Ultimately, you are being transformed heart, mind, and body into a conduit for the divine. It's a beautiful purpose, and there are ways where there's absolutely nothing that you need to do in this process. And there are times when there's a ton that you need to do. Only you can know that, and only you can allow this karmic sludge to leave you. Consider this like a major house-cleaning/going-out-of-business sale. You're letting go of everything. This can be a scary thing, but as a teacher once said at a meditation group I'd been attending, "The divine will ask everything of you, and in return, it will give you everything."

Have faith in the process, and let go.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meditation Basics Webinar in November 2011

My next free webinar will be coming up on November 16, 2011 at 10am PST. It's called, "Meditation Basics: Meditation Fundamentals and How You Can Improve Your Practice." It's meant to help beginner, intermediate, and advanced meditators.

Beginners get some fundamentals and ideas about how to set intentions and orient their practices.

Intermediates get some ideas about how to try new meditation styles or change up their practices.

Advanced meditators get reminders on how to return to the beginner's mind and release expectations of their practices.

You can register for this free meditation webinar on this link.

I look forward to sharing some tips about meditation with you. It's my hope that it'll help to enrich your practices.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Sexuality

In this compilation of blog posts, I'm offering thoughts about probably one of the most under-appreciated aspects of mainstream spirituality: spiritual sexuality. It isn't about finding some new way to titillate yourself (although it can be amazing), and it certainly has nothing to do with denying or abusing aspects of your body. Spiritual sexuality is ultimately about oneness and experiencing that oneness within your own energy body as well as potentially with a partner. Spiritual sexuality can be enjoyed deeply, lovingly, and profoundly with or without a partner, and I know that idea is a revelation for some of you. In general, I often encourage people to start their practice with themselves to go deeply and heal all levels of separation and issues in themselves before bringing in a partner. But before I really get talking, here are the blogs where I like to start people in orienting to this incredible space that we all can enjoy.

It's All About Sex

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Essential Spiritual Awakening Advice

Okay, the first two compilations of blog posts this week were aimed at people still developing their path and creating space for spiritual awakening. Here are a few posts that I really like and wanted to highlight for those moving through awakening.

Hold Onto Your Hats, Kiddos--Here Comes the Next Awakening Wave

Blog #1: How to Build Your Sandcastle

This is a recent blog post, but I really want to highlight it. It's one of my favorite recent blog posts because it acknowledges something we all know, but don't want to admit--nothing lasts. That includes our sense of self, which is meant to be a much more fluid thing that we generally allow it to be. So enjoy this blog post as you consider how you will build your next "sandcastle."

Blog #2: Permission and Forgiveness in a Spiritual Awakening

I love this blog because it's so important to learn how to forgive ourselves as well as to ask for permission to be in other people's lives. So many of us have forced our way into situations or have allowed our boundaries to be infringed upon. This blog talks about how spiritual awakening makes us extremely conscientious of what is and is not in integrity with who we are. Spiritual awakening brings with it pretty intense understandings all at once, and it can take a lot of forgiveness and re-adjustments to align with this deep and profound integrity. Let me know if you have questions on this one.

Blog #3: Facing Your Ego's Death

This is a great post to help those of you who are still tied in to your old ego. Sometimes it feels like you are dying, but you're not. It's your identification to your ego and all the old things in your world that did not serve you. It's pretty intense in these moments, which is why this post is so important. You have to start re-creating a new sense of self--a new spiritual ego. This post offers thoughts around that and how to let go of this old way of being that no longer serves you. Well, it probably never really served your true self, but it worked for a time. Now it has to go.

Surviving the Awakening...The Road Goes On
Spiritual awakening doesn't really end. The ups and downs calm down a lot, however. You're steadying the flow in your life. You're not coming to an end point. It's important to recognize this as you move through your awakening. You can't just "get it over with." That's not what living your life is about. It's about coming into the deep recognition that all of life is change. So you will continue to "awaken" after a fashion your whole life. You'll awaken to each new moment. And each new moment will be brand new and fresh as you continue to cultivate space for this awareness. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nourishing Your Body and Soul

I'm always concerned about how little attention the body receives on the spiritual path. So many spiritual traditions get lost in more esoteric rituals that the body can become an afterthought. In some traditions, it's some kind of evil thing to be transcended or abused. I think that's ridiculous. Our body is as much a part of our spiritual path as anything. I mean, can you have a spiritual path on Earth without having a body?

So don't go beating yourself up, and also, don't get lost in pleasures of the world. There is a beautiful balance to be had, and here are a few blog posts aimed to help you discover that balance within you.

Eating to Live and Living to Eat
For these suggested posts, I'm focusing on food. Eating disorders abound in life as well as fasting too much on the spiritual path. There's a time and a place for fasting, but first of all, it's time to pay attention to your body to figure out what foods it needs for nourishment.

Blog #1: Healing Bad Eating Patterns and Habits

Part of what I like about this post is the comment about admitting that you don't know why you eat what you eat. You don't, do you? How many of you have even considered why you eat the foods you eat. It's just what got served in your family or in the restaurants around you. Now, you need to pay attention to what those foods are doing or not doing for you. It's how we bring awareness to our nourishment.

Blog #2: 6 Tips to Healing Bad Eating Habits

I like this blog because the tips are so down-to-earth. I do my best to keep the advice in this blog relevant to everyday life. Not everything translates perfectly to the page, but this post is about as real as I can get anything. If you can't find a tip in here that can help you, I'm going to wonder how committed you are to making changes for yourself. Because on this path, you have to make a commitment, and not everything you will do will put a nice taste in your mouth.

Blog #3: Awakening to Your Food: Enlightening Your Diet

I like the re-emphasis of choice in this blog post. Understanding how make the choices you make around food is very empowering, and you really can become extremely in-tune with your body to know what foods are right for you right down to specific times of day for eating them. Enlightening your diet is really about listening to your body. It's not about doing what other people say. How can anyone but you know what is right for your body?

Empowered Eating: The Spiritual Path of Nourishment
I just really like the alliteration in the above subhead--empowered eating. Isn't that some ridiculous jargon? Ah, who cares, right? You get the point. Take power over your eating habits and connect with you body's needs. You'll be amazed at how good you will feel.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quieting the Mind

I've now been a spiritual teacher (officially anyway) for a year. And I have written A LOT. If there's one thing that has surprised me the most, it's how prolific I've been this year. I've written something like 190 blog posts, and I've written my ebook, "Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening." I've also talked to over a 100 people in some shape or form, beit Skype, in-person, email, Facebook, or some other form about spirituality. It's been amazing and intense.

For this week in particular, I'm taking a look back and am posting blogs with links to older posts that you may not have read. Very few of you will have read all some hundred odd posts, and the unfortunate thing about the blog mechanism is that old stuff gets buried easily. So here's the first of a couple posts, and this one is a collection of posts about quieting your mind.

Bringing Inner Silence from the Back of Your Mind to the Front
People's heads are full of noise. I've blogged about this before, and it's been one of my popular topics (that and sex--don't worry, I'll have a collection on sex and spirituality soon). In so many ways, the mind's constant noise is one of the big problems people have on the spiritual path. Below are several blogs that can help you.

Connecting to Your Mind and Recognizing a Problem

Blog #1: Stopping the Mental Chatter

This was one of the first blog posts that I wrote that got really popular. It's a great doorway into the overall discussion around the mind noise that so many of us have. I highly recommend it if you're early in your path, and even if you're not, it's a good doorway into how I discuss the topic (which can be helpful if you're new to this blog and my teaching).

Doing the Work to Heal Your Mind's Paranoia and Chatter

Blog #2: Over-Thinking and Over-Analyzing: Healing the Frenetic Mind

This post is another one of my favorites because it starts to break down this assumption we create believing that we are our minds and our egos. That can be a revelation for a lot of people who have never considered that their brain is just a set of patterned functions much like a computer. Until we choose to change the programs, it's just going to keep doing the same things. It doesn't necessarily even have to be an over-thinking mental program--any mental program just runs what it runs. It knows what it knows until we add in different patterns and change the old ones.

Awakening to the Quiet in Your Head

Blog #3: Awakening the Mind: The Intellect Knows Its Place

This is a really beautiful blog. It's more of a sense of where this path goes in quieting the mind. It's a little less focused on cultivating tools to achieve it. Ultimately, you don't achieve much on the spiritual path. Starting is important, but over time, the real truth of the matter is there is nothing to achieve. How can you achieve stillness when you already have it? Subsequently, in this blog post, it's sharing the revelation that the quiet mind is still very active and aware and curious, but it no longer runs constantly. When it is out of balance, you've also developed a new ego self that can see this and more calmly address those old patterns that may show up from time to time.

Many Ways to Inner Quiet
These, of course, are just a few ways to move towards inner quiet. The are many ways to do so. You are welcome to ask questions in the comments or message me directly if you like. Be well. Be at peace.
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