Thursday, March 31, 2011

Accepting the Unacceptable

An intensely vulnerable and beautiful blog post from my student, Susan.

(Before you read what is to come, I would like to thank Tara Brach for sharing her words on Radical Acceptance. There is a specific part of the talk that helped me accept a recent event in a profound way. I chose to listen to the audio talk only days before having this experience and not knowing why I chose to do so until now. I’d also like to thank all of my other teachers, including Jim, for helping me trust and know myself and my intuition. Tara Brach’s Web site is located at www.tarabrach.com).

I finally arrived at my destination. It’s been a long afternoon. Up until this moment, I surprised myself at being able to stay in the present moment (What a good ego I have). It wasn’t the forty-minute commute that bothered me or being redirected to three other buildings downtown before coming to the building that ended up being conveniently located diagonally across from the parking garage all along. I visited this building a year ago when I didn’t know what was going to come of my life. I am in a much different kind of space now, but the same type of uncertainty lingers around me. I find comfort in the uncertainty, unlike before.

Here I am sitting across the desk of the young man who is to help me. I am confronted with the past once again. No one else but me would notice the symbolic meaning of all the penguin pictures and trinkets that decorate the man’s desk to liven up his cubicle. The sight of it allows me to smile at the aversion that is arising within.

Within five minutes I am given the unfortunate news. Emotions build up against the dam which is my ego. I politely thank him for his time and stand up to leave. I can feel the pressure of the tears building up in my eyes. I quietly exit the room.

Within a matter of moments, I find myself leaning against the inside of one of the restroom stalls located adjacent to the room I just exited. The tears begin to flow uncontrollably down my cheeks. My breath is shallow and weak. There are so many emotions coming to me; I find it difficult to identify them all. I feel like I lost control.

My breath deepens and I spontaneously ask myself, “Can I be in this moment just as it is? Can I accept this moment just as it is?” My breath deepens more. As quickly as my ego says “no” the innate wisdom within me responds with, “yes.” I let the tears flow. Then I try to feel the tremendous anger within me. I do the same for the other emotions I am feeling. It doesn’t seem to help. Then I realize in order to be in this moment I not only have to feel it, but I have to consciously welcome it. The tears are still flowing, and I can taste the salty flavor of them on my lips. With the side of the bathroom stall continuing to hold me up, I clutch my purse as well as the email from my lawyer to my side. My hands spontaneously come together in prayer form. I bring them towards my forehead and gently bow. More anger comes to me initially. Then suddenly the anger begins to dissolve. I am almost surprised. I recognize and physically bow to the sadness, the lonesomeness, the resentment, and any other negative emotion I am experiencing one at a time. For the first time I can truly feel each emotion as it peaks and fades. It is a part of me and shouldn’t be judged. The physical act of performing the practice seemed foreign, but comforting at the same time. It helped, and I didn’t know why. Perhaps I had never tried to do such a thing before while experiencing these emotions at such a high intensity.

My breath begins to deepen and become more regular as I exhale forcefully. Softening. The tears slowly cease. This time, I know I can accept this moment instead of just saying it. A peaceful knowing embraces me as I unlock the bathroom stall and see the reflection of my red eyes in the mirror before me. I am thankful to have this experience. Truly thankful.

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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Are Not Alone

One of the many feelings that many people who are waking up on the spiritual path have is the sense of being alone. It's one of the many tricks of the ego, which considers itself a separate entity. It's one of those funny aspects of waking up that there's still this quality of being half asleep. So you get it. And you don't get it at the same time. You feel connected to everything and everyone, but you feel isolated and completely on your own. I think this is where spiritual community helps to ease the burden of the transition and to help reinforce this important idea: you are not alone.


Waking Up Is Hard to Do
Until you've actually had that huge hit of energy that sends you spinning into awakening, a lot of this won't make sense. You're still in your ego-mind, and that's fine. You are a separate being, and you aren't influenced by anyone. You can control your destiny, etc., etc. This blog post isn't for you. You are still a frozen bubble locked into the icy pond of unconsciousness. There's nothing wrong with it. There are many people still in this space. Instead, I would point you to the Starting Out section on this blog to begin to build a framework for what I'm discussing.

For those of you who are waking up, you do know how much hard work is involved. It's not because awakening is hard. It is making sense of everything in a way that allows you to live in the world in a new way that's still hard. It won't always be. I see this round of people waking up as the next wave of trailblazers to create structures and spaces for future people waking up to do so more easily. In many ways, that's part of my work. I'm blogging and teaching so that others can have a little bit easier of a time with this until such time that awakening is like puberty--it's just an understood transition that happens to everyone (although in all honesty, I don't particularly think puberty is handled well, but that's another blog topic for another time).

Connecting With Others on the Spiritual Path
I'm a broken record playing the same song about the importance of spiritual community. Over and over again, I'll repeat; you need support. You need support from others who've walked this path, and rest assured, there are lots of people who have walked it and are walking it. My inbox is a testament to this truth as more and more people contact me. At this time, in the grand scheme of Internet Web properties, I really don't get much traffic. So, I've been impressed how many people have contacted me. I can feel the momentum of the awakening consciousness in the world, and like a newborn, it is cranky, scared, and feeling really alone.

In the same way that you care for baby, you have to learn to care for yourself. You learn how important it is to rest and take naps and speak lovingly to yourself. This is not the "No Pain, No Gain" path. That's part of the old ways, and truly, pushing too hard will really be upsetting. So can not pushing enough. It's frustrating, I know. But you have to find a balance, and finding that balance with the support of others can really help.

Making Inroads on Your Path Alone-Together
There was a quote that I saw awhile back that I can't remember the author of. It roughly went like this:

You can't do this alone,
And no one can do this for you.

That is the spiritual path. There is much that you'll have to face in the spaces of silence within you. They may not be silent either. They may be noisy and loud, but still, it's where you have to go. But yet, without the connection to the divine and usually a lot of community help, you won't go very far on this path. As an isolated, separate individual, we don't have that much power and energy to move through our boundaries. God and community are those extra surges of energy to break through the barriers and connect with our true selves within us.

I speak to and hear from so many people looking for community. They are not sure where to find it, but I think that when you really allow yourself to open up, that it's usually not that far away. Certainly, you have to look. You can't expect that everything will drop in your lap, but some of it will. That's part of the paradox of life. You have to let go to receive. You have to aspire and work to receive as well. You have to give to receive. You have to do the opposite of what you want to get what you want (well, to a point. Remember this is all being done in loving kindness). And you have to do exactly what you want to get what you want.

It's a little muddy. It's a little confusing. But you're not alone. It's already perfect. Just let go, and pretty soon, you will find your community.

Thanks to Arran Edmonstone for today's picture. You can see more of his photography on this Flickr link.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rebirth and Dreaming the Unthinkable

My student, Susan, talks about dreaming the next phase of her spiritual path.

Perhaps when one thinks about the subject of rebirth they may initially associate it to a particular religious belief. Some people believe in being spiritually reborn via a prophet or messiah. Other religions believe in reincarnation, and hence being reborn in another life. My view on rebirth is of a different one, different from the past that is.

I feel that I’ve been through multiple rebirths throughout my life so far. Physically changing is a type of rebirth as we progress in age. There is also a type of spiritual rebirth. I would not be the woman I am today without my foundation in growing in the Lutheran church. Those tools were used so that I could form an initial connection with God. Through much time and shedding of false identities, I am now able to have an even deeper connection with God (Spirit) and therefore myself. The connection I have with God is deeper than I could have every imagined. Rediscovering the connection could have only happened through inevitable change, which is rebirth.

As we go through the changes of life, we lose our imagination at some point. We forget that life is like a pallet of colors to choose from, and we can create whatever we want. Most of us forget to dream, often leading us to settle for the next best thing. Some people never stop dreaming, though. At the same time, many of those dreamers believe all they have is “dreams,” and they don’t have what it takes to make it happen. Some feel forced to let go of their dreams because society doesn’t support it.

For me, fear kept me from pursuing my dreams. For so many years I had the fear of failing, either failing myself or others. However, I know that as long as I stay true to myself and follow my intuition I can do anything but fail. Perhaps the path won’t lead to where I anticipated, but that would also be for a reason. I also had a fear that I wouldn’t have a support system to help me along the way, especially if I moved to a new city. With help, from my precious teachers, I know that there will always be a support system. Some relationships will join me for the ride either physically or by afar. Other relationships will need to be let go until they cycle through again. Many relationships will arise wherever I am. As long as I am being myself and radiating my own positive energy then it will be supported by the same energy and love.

I have been encouraging others to dream the unthinkable and without fear, not knowing I need to be cultivating it just as much. Through the next few weeks I plan on writing more in my personal journal and seeing what I can dream up, no matter how unrealistic it may seem. My spiritual rebirth has allowed an empty canvas to be placed in front of me. I don’t know what the end result will be, but I do know I plan to use many colors.

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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Refining and Trusting Your Intuition

I've already talked about intuition/inner knowing before, and in this context, I really am speaking to people who have been practicing with it and are working with it as it brings in more and more information. If you are new to engaging with your own intuition, I recommend the What Is Intuition and Using Your Intuition blog posts.

But This Seems Crazy
You always know when you're hitting the edges of your mind and your ego when you start labeling things "crazy" and "weird." I've learned how to accept a lot. In essence, the first, next, and last steps to working with intuition is acceptance. So long as things are for the betterment of humanity and coming from a place of honesty and love, just accept what you're intuiting and go with it.

Going with it is essential. Enough of us have stories of when we had an intuition and we didn't trust what we knew and then we got into all kinds of trouble. After awhile, you come to rely on your intuition implicitly because you start to see that the consequences of not doing so are tremendously bad. You also will have quite a few experiences of things going better beyond your expectations, and those too will give you more and more reinforcement around why your intuition is critical.

Intuition in Action: As if I Needed Any More Reinforcement
Those of you who know me, know that I trust my intuition. In some ways, I can seem enigmatic to people about why I do or do not do some things because a lot of it comes from intuitive knowledge. My closer friends simply know that I'm trusting my inner guidance, and most of the time things, turn out really, really well because I do. The story that follows is one my more powerful affirmations of my intuition.

I had just really gotten into conscious dancing last spring, and there was a huge dance gathering that was going to happen up in Nevada City. I had about 5 different people mention it to me, including my best friend at the time who wasn't even involved with any of this stuff. Usually, that's a pretty big critical mass for me to go check something out, but I had a feeling that I shouldn't. I had a feeling that I should stay close to home. So I did for most of June, and then one night coming back from a dance class, my stomach was feeling really cramped. I tossed and turned all night, and the intensity of it grew and grew until I was in the emergency room by 9 am. Turns out, I got appendicitis, and thank God that I was only 13 minutes away from a hospital. If I had gone to Dance Camp, I'd have been far away in Nevada City, and who knows what might have happened then.

Origins of Intuition
This is yet another example for me just how important it is to trust that inner knowing. I can't imagine what would have happened if I was in Nevada City. Because of this trust, I was quickly taken care of via laparoscopic surgery (minimally invasive surgery, which would have been what I wanted), and I was in a place where my father could come and look after me for awhile. I don't really question the origin of this knowing. To me, it feels so integrated with my general awareness that it doesn't feel like it comes from outside me or is a distinctly different voice. I simply know that the more I trust it, the clearer I am about how to be and act in the world.

Intuition Within Spiritual Awakening
After an awakening, your intuition may be about the only working mechanism in you. It's actually very clear immediately thereafter because everything else just got blown up. The problem comes when people try to reach back to use old ways of thinking and being because they don't know how to be in this intense space of the unknown. They start bringing in that other stuff which blocks out the intuition again, so right after awakening, they're becoming intensely confused again.

Obviously, this is a big problem. As a teacher, I can tell when someone is in awakening, and my way of being with them is very different than with someone who is just finding their way. When someone is in awakening, I'm usually saying something like, "What do you think you should do?" I can't direct them, nor should I. The point of the spiritual path is to find, know, and be your truth. Subsequently, the question is designed to turn the person back towards themselves and their inner intelligence. Usually, just holding a space of loving presence and unconditional acceptance goes a long way for them to let go of their remaining self-judgment and find their answers. It can happen really quickly in the conversation. Then the intuition gets even more important because soon that person is off going down a potentially brand new road and all the sign posts and markers are different. It's why meditation and taking time to nourish yourself to stay clear are so important.

Refining Intuitive Knowing
Above all else, practice and trust are really the keys to refining your intuition. I would also emphasize that intuition has nothing to do with emotions. A lot of time people will say that "I have this feeling," but the clearer the intuition, the less emotional charge comes with it. Fear can be wrapped up initially with intuitions because so many people can't accept this knowing. The lack of mental acceptance triggers a fear of the unknown that tangles up with the intuition. This is why coming to know our fears and doing the work to clear space inside of us is so critical. If you don't, it makes it that much harder to hear important messages.

It's also important to mention that we do ALL have access to intuition and deeper knowing. Some people are especially good it. It just comes natural, while others have to practice more. It's kinda like sports that way. Some people pick up a basketball and can do all kinds of things; others have to practice a lot more. Regardless, we all have this space of inner knowing, and with practice and clarity, it becomes a critical compass to finding what's right and true for you in this life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cultivating Faith in My Personal Intelligence

My student, Susan, talks about some of her latest self-discoveries amidst this tumultuous time in history.


Living in Chaos
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you probably know there has been quite a bit of chaotic energy moving around recently. To some people, they feel a sense of clarity in their lives or a natural high. For others, like myself, they may feel "off" and not quite in tune with the surrounding world. Nevertheless, whatever is going on is forcing us to adjust and evolve. For centuries humans have been able to evolve with all the events that the universe brings due to one big thing--our personal intelligence.

We are continuously adjusting our schedules throughout the day, some more than others. Many times, it is just a matter of wanting to change the daily routine. Perhaps it is just another ordinary day. For some reason you decide to drive a different route to work only to find out later that day there was a car accident along the very same route you usually take. Or perhaps you suddenly switch your plans and attend an event not knowing until later that you would have a profound experience. All of these events can have perceivably "good" or "bad" connotations attached to them. Nonetheless, these are the events that can help us grow on our spiritual path if we are aware of them. These countless events are products of us following our personal intelligence. The tricky thing is being aware of it.

What is My Personal Intelligence?
Someone recently asked me what the definition of faith meant to me. I immediately answered by saying faith is having trust. Trust in what? Without a thought I blurted out, "Trust in myself." Where did that come from? In the past I would have surely stated faith is having trust in God, my family, and my friends. I now realize that although many associate faith with a religious belief, it cannot be such. Beliefs are an aversion to cultivating true spiritual awareness. All they do is form a separation from Creation as a whole. Ultimate faith is in one’s self. I trust that my family and friends will provide support when needed. I also trust that God will help give me tools and guide me along my path. However, with knowing that my family, friends, and God are connected to me and within me, they are anything but outside of me. Hence, I can only have faith and trust in myself. Trust in one’s self is what I call my personal intelligence. No one person’s intelligence is like another’s. It is as unique to you as a petal on a flower.

How I Cultivate Personal Intelligence in my Life
We are given tools to help us cultivate our spiritual path through personal intelligence. During drastic shifts in energy or times of transition, I am constantly having to "check-in" with myself. I have to ask myself what I need at this moment. Most times I need to bring more awareness to the ego. Other times it is deciding what my body or spirit needs that day. This allows me to choose something from my bag 'o' spiritual tools. Having this choice to choose which tool I use allows me to take responsibility for the moment I am in no matter how dark or delightful it may be.

For example, I planned to go to yoga class after a long day from school. I was looking forward to it, but my gut feeling told me that I needed something else. I was struggling with the concept of conflict that week as well. Spontaneously, I decided to change my plans and attend a dharma talk at a local Bon Buddhist temple, Olmo Ling, not knowing what the topic was going to be about. To no surprise, the lama talked about how to resolve conflict in one’s life. Through that experience, I was able to receive the gift of yet another tool simply by following my spiritual intelligence.

Sometimes having so many tools to use can get confusing, which is why it is important to be sensitive to what the body or spirit needs. Exercising is a great way for me to work through stress. On a number of occasions, I have started to exercise vigorously to a workout CD then suddenly stopped mid-way realizing I needed something different. I then switch it to free-style belly dancing in my apartment, yoga, meditation, taking a walk, or even writing. The choice is always changing. My continuous practice has helped me to know immediately what I need. Other times I have to literally stop and think about what I need. Sometimes the answers are clear and sometimes they aren’t.

These tools are only tools. Although they can be quite helpful, it is important to not create an attachment to them. They are only there to assist you along the way, but not be a crutch. Many people say they need to meditate so many minutes or hours a day, work out so many hours a week, or even write so much a day. It all depends on what your needs are. No one can decide that but you. Like the energy of a hurricane, I have the power to be a stable and quiet core amidst a chaotic world. You have the same power as well.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Permission, Invitation, and Forgiveness in Spiritual Relationships

Permission, invitation, and forgiveness are an important dance within relationships. In awakening, we become very deeply aware of how interconnected we are. That fuels awareness around when we feel other people stepping over inner boundaries, some of which we didn't realize we had. We also may become super conscientious about when we feel like we're invading someone else's space. For those who habitually did such things as part of the core personality (such as the aggressive man pursuing a woman he likes), you can go through a total re-writing of how to interact in relationships that can be quite jarring. However, it is all manageable, and the more deeply you come into the awakened state, the more natural it becomes to engage with people by offering invitations to those with whom you'd like to connect, asking for permission to connect with others, and offering and receiving forgiveness around missteps.

When Awakening Strikes
One of the central parts of a spiritual awakening is that it takes you deep into a space of integrity. You can now see what is and is not right for you, and you see where your actions have been in accordance with your deepest truths and love. You also see where they have not been in agreement with that divine awareness. This last part is why I like to work with someone slowly if they have a lot of pain. To wake up suddenly and see all the ways that you've hurt yourself and others can be extremely upsetting. I think that's probably why the spiritual path is often a slow one for most people.

Most people are on the conscious path. Gradually with dedication and patience, they chip away pieces of old pain. New things open up, and little by little, the beauty of their light grows. With a spontaneous awakening, the light switch illuminates the whole room. As such, any and everything that has not been in integrity in your life is illuminated. It can be quite jarring.

Permission: Relearning How to Connect with Others
In a world that has focused on taking from each other, the emergence of the importance of asking for permission is a striking counterpoint. In the realm of dating, there's this idea that men are supposed to pursue and dominate women to varying degrees. It's the opposite side of permission. Tons of men and women are hardwired for this kind of interaction. A spiritual awakening wipes out that wiring, and just in the world of dating, there's a whole level of permission and invitation that now has to take place for the relationship to feel good. If you're a guy used to gaming the chicks, that won't work for you anymore, and you'll have to completely re-vamp your understanding around connecting with women (of course everything is being revamped anyway). If you're a woman always waiting for prince charming or you are someone who enjoys the pursuit, you'll suddenly realize that you can't wait anymore or be passive in your love life. You'll also suddenly be hugely turned-off by the very same advances from men that used to turn you on.

And then this little idea of permission comes in, and you have to figure out how to ask to be in someone's life. This really includes any relationship. You may discover all kinds of unconscious interactions with a current spouse, friend, business relationship, and so forth. You'll discover the many hundreds of little invasions of privacy you have done or invasions of your space you've allowed. There is a pretty big transition that goes with understanding how to change the way you are in romantic as well as all other relationships, and it starts with vulnerability.

Vulnerability Becoming a Source of Strength
Vulnerability is simply being open. Openness is strength. Closed eyes can't see. Closed minds can't learn. Closed hearts can't feel. But when we first start opening up, we feel tons of stuff all at once. For instance, you may have enjoyed debating politics, but now the way people interrupt each other to make their points and win ego-battles is really upsetting. Other situations where you thought things were going swimmingly now appear to be grossly out-of-whack. It feels like your world has been turned upside down. But really, you've just realized that your world already was upside down.

In a close relationship, you can now feel your lover's level of negativity and social dis-ease. You become incredibly aware of all the unkindness as well as kindness, and that energy can feel very physically unpleasant (for the negative stuff) and extremely pleasant (for the positive stuff) to you. In moments like this, you have to learn to state your needs from a vulnerable loving place while making room for your partner to have absolutely no idea about what you're talking about. It's tough because you may have had a bad day yourself, but you can't get in an emotional tug of war with your partner (especially if this is something that you both have done before in your relationship). By learning to invite your partner to connect with you in a new way, you're shifting the relationship towards a healthier dynamic. But if they choose not to work with you, then you most likely have to accept that the relationship is ending.

Forgive Yourself, Again and Again
You are going to make a lot of mistakes. This is part of life as well as learning how to integrate your true self amidst this awakening, but as you do, remember that you're on a fast learning curve. The more you learn to forgive yourself, the easier the process goes. Forgiveness helps you to not hold onto grudges and mistakes, especially in regards to things that you do to yourself. It can't be a wanton forgiveness that you do and then you don't learn from your mistakes. True forgiveness understands what happens in a situation, and then you make changes that you need to make. That's why the embodied spiritual path really involves all aspects of us (heart, body, mind, and soul). Everything needs to be melding together so that you fully learn the lessons that are being presented to you.

Forgiving others will also continue to be really important. Even as you learn to invite people into your life in new ways, others may continue to not connect to you in healthy ways. Setting boundaries is inherently a part of this process, and a lot of boundaries are often needed initially when you're completely restructuring your inner world. When the doctor is operating, people aren't riding their bicycles through the operating room..

Asking for Permission Even in the Small Things, Especially in the Small Things
It may suddenly seem very weird to feel like you have to ask for permission to do things that you did before. You may suddenly be asking your children or your spouse if they'd like a hug where before you'd just give them a big hug when you felt moved to do it. You will get some interesting responses from surprise to denial of the request. The responses will kick up reactions inside you. Take a look at your reactions and learn what's going on with them. If you feel rejected, you've just found an issue to learn from and to clear from your energy field. As always, I encourage people to journal around little issues like these; you often find out that they underpin much larger issues in your life (like social approval and acceptance).

You'll also find how much more empowered and alive situations become when you ask for permission for something and you get it. The giving and receiving in relationships becomes much fuller and expansive when both people are fully engaged. Inviting people in tells people that you are open to receive something. Asking for permission to share tells people that you are ready to offer something. The combination is quite powerful and free of obligation (albeit obligation will probably try to stick around; it's just another issue to learn from).

Invitation and an Adjustment Time Period
Finally, let me reinforce the importance of offering invitations. Letting people know when they can do something with you and when they can't is important to setting boundaries (especially if you're in a relationship right now). Not everyone will take your invitations, but it's a very clean way to let people know when something is appropriate for you. Above all else, a spiritual awakening makes you exceedingly transparent in life. Playing guessing games and lack of communication (because your partner should just know what you want) will kill relationships, and once again, that's why vulnerability during this whole process is important.

Everyone's adjustment time period is different. It usually goes on as long as a person resists what's happening. I encourage people when they're shifting and adjusting to new boundaries to pay attention to what feels right and give permission to those situations and people. Conversely, you need to forgive those who don't know how to be in those spaces and to forgive yourself where you make mistakes. It's all going to be all right. Most of all just give yourself permission to shift into the awakened state, and things will attend to themselves.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Letting Go of Resistance

One of the greatest not-so-secret secrets of the spiritual path is this: let go. Just let go.

Most of our minds are trained to be these complex structures, and subsequently, our complex ego-minds want a complex path to spiritual awakening. We've thought up all kinds of tools and techniques from breathwork to meditation to chanting and so forth. And these are all beautiful things to do, ways to connect with people, and spiritual practices to pass the time. But they don't have anything to do with awakening.

Sure, awakening can come during the times that you do those things, but it doesn't have to. Awakening comes because at some point in time, you fully let go. You let go of all the things that you thought you are and all the things you're trying to do. You come to this effervescent, shining sense of okay-ness with yourself, and you wake up.

Spiritual Awakening Can't Be That Easy
And why not? Why does awakening have to be hard? I can tell you in my own life that in all the ways that things have been hard, I've been holding on to some idea of how I should be living my life. In trying to cram the expansiveness of my life into a small idea, I've been miserable. In all the ways, that I try to pretend that I'm not "fully awakened" yet and attempt to act in ways that don't support who I am, I'm simply crushed and defeated. Spiritual awakening is about fully letting go into this present moment. No retreat or spiritual practice actually gets you there. There's no process to go through at all. I'm sure that last line seems ironic given the name of this website. But the truth remains. You wake up in the singular moment when you let go of all resistance.

So What's the Spiritual Process About?
The spiritual awakening process is about how long it takes before you fully let go. It can also be a way of managing the ego-driven reality of your life for the short term until you can manifest a way of living that aligns with your deepest self. With that said, the process should be temporary at best and often un-needed. A process for awakening is usually manifested to make the remnants of a despondent ego-mind feel better about itself and feel like it has some measure of control over life. Of course, if you've awakened, you know that you ultimately have no control over anything. Control is an illusion. You don't even control your body. If some neural pathways go dead in your head, try to lift your arm. Whoops. Can't do that anymore. So much for the idea that you even control your body.

We certainly can guide things in our life, and we do create a spiritual ego to hold our experiences and create some kind of meaningful way to focus and interact with the world. Our choices are powerful, but they are not control. We can't force other people to do things, and if we try to do this, we fall out of alignment with ourselves as well as with others. Prepare for your life to get particularly miserable the more you try to hang onto control.

What Is Resistance?
Most simply, resistance is an inability to accept what is. If you're unexpectedly pregnant, in a car wreck, or fired, sometimes the first thing that happens is denial. This creates resistance and an inability to deal with the reality of the moment. By being in this resistance, what can already be a difficult situation gets worse. So you're pregnant? That's not going to go away. You have some choices to make, and you can't avoid the reality of a child growing and developing in your body. You've been fired? Denying this won't help you get a new job. It will most likely make you feel even more miserable, making it harder for others to be around you or to support you.

In more simple examples, think about how upset you can be when there's traffic. You can make a long commute a lot easier if you accept that there's traffic. You can't do anything about it, and you don't have to punish yourself with getting angry about it. You can make this part of your practice (I've always liked using traffic bottlenecks and long lights as part of my practice). See if you can accept what is and then see how your body feels. Can you sense the difference in heart rate and muscle tension? It's fascinating to see what our resistance to life does to our bodies and what acceptance does to our bodies. This always drives home for me the power and everyday practicality of spirituality.

Be Enlightened Now
I'm probably always going to be a fan of meditation, conscious movement, journaling, kirtan chanting, and many other beautiful spiritual practices. A lot of them are pretty fun, but they have nothing to do with spiritual awakening. They are great ways to pass the time and meet other like-minded people. You should do them because you like to do them and not because you think you'll get enlightened through them. If you want enlightenment, then take this very moment to let go.

Let go of what? you may be asking.

Everything.

Thanks to Arran Edmonstone for today's picture. You can see more of his photography on this Flickr link

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spiritual Awakening Waits for No One

I've been hearing a common theme from students, friends, and new acquaintances on the spiritual path. They all seem to want to put off fully awakening until there's a better time.

As a former member of that group, I can tell you that it is about the worst thing you can do for the most part. Spiritual awakening has this amazing ability to help you see what is true and real in life. Most of your current life isn't built up on what is true and real. Most of your current life is built up on ego, expectations, fear, and illusion. Trying to keep a foot on both banks is truly, truly impossible and painful.


Awakening Isn't Convenient
Let me repeat: awakening isn't convenient. Most of the systems and functions of human society are built up to support the continuance of those systems and functions. Awakening is an embracing of change. Rather than view it in the sense of anarchy (which kinda blows up everything in the naive hopes that somehow a world without systems and institutions is better), awakening is an added 5 gigawatt jolt of energy running through everything in your life. The ways and conduits of your life that are in alignment with this energy get really expanded very fast. So if you're in a job that really is about serving humanity, you may suddenly need to take on a bigger role. If you're in a job that is about greed and fear, that jolt of energy is blowing up every project you touch. It is truly demoralizing to try and hold onto the old stuff during this time period of change in your life.

Because spiritual awakening has no interest in serving the old ways of being that have lead to death, harm, and despair. I just keep pointing back at the 20th century because it so epitomizes the extreme delusion that humanity is still possessed by. If you think that way of living is okay, then just stay asleep. But for most of us, we see just how badly we all have to wake up to change the course of the world from a path of self-destruction to a path of salvation.

We All Have to Do the Work
Spiritual awakening may have also illuminated very clearly where you haven't lived in integrity. But it's not convenient, and you know that you've got a lot of work ahead of you to change your ways. So you put it off. You put it off, and you put it off. But the pressure is mounting. Things are fraying at the edges. You are trying to hold onto everything, but you feel like you've got the reigns to two different horses pulling in two different directions. You have to make a choice, and it's going to hurt both ways you go. But one way is the path of healing and embodied awakening. The other is the path of pain that we all know so well.

You can't go back either. So, in many respects, you've already made the choice. Some part of you--conscious or subconscious--chose to wake up in the first place. You're already on the path, and you can't resist it. Every way that you try and resist the path, the pain will grow. For some of you, the pain is actually very physical. You may feel energy moving into your body, and in all the places that you're resisting this change, parts of your body are hurting like all Hell. They'll become phantom pains that traditional medicine doctors will tell you that "Well, I can't find anything wrong, but if it keeps up, I'll prescribe something for you." But you know what's down that path too. You've seen how people have medicated themselves into oblivion. So you're going to have to find your courage if you want to get through this awakening.

The Embodied Awakening: A New Space of Total Self-Realization
The term embodied awakening may be new for some people. Essentially, it means that all parts of you are awake. Your body, mind, and heart wake up to the soul's truth, and that's an intense transition. Many people seem to believe that they can "think" their way to enlightenment, and some people do awaken in their minds only to stop there. There's something about this emerging consciousness that's pushing beyond that. It wants to fully manifest in all of us, so we can't just intellectually know our truth. We have to speak it and embrace it in our hearts. We have to act upon it consciously and live it each day. It has to integrate from the tops of heads to the tips of our toes. It needs to be just as aware and present in the depth of sexual union as it is in the board room as it is changing a diaper.

But because so much has been out of alignment for so long in this world, this can seem to be quite a task. As the masters always remind us, it's just one step at a time. One breath at a time.

And it won't wait. It's tired of waiting. This awakening is tired of atrocities and pain. Many of us who understand our soul's purpose also know that we don't want to be asleep in this lifetime anyway. That's not what we're here to do. It's not what you're here to do.

The Coming Wave of Consciousness
We're moving out of the initial waves of consciousness and towards a really big one. Many of us who got kicked out of bed about four years ago are the teachers, healers, counselors, and guides for this coming wave. It's about to get really crazy in the world. People think that the tsunami, uprisings in North Africa, and failed economies are a lot of tumult, but it's really just the start. The whole world needs to change. We need to rediscover community and love. We need to ditch these glorified ideas around individualism and competition that have furthered greed, fear, and hate. There's a radical shift coming in resources in the world to redistribute things according to a more egalitarian system. I have no idea what that looks like yet. Maybe you do. Maybe that's part of your purpose, but I do know that we have all the right people here in this time to do it.

But none of this can happen until you wake up. So, it's time to choose. But you probably know that you've already made that choice anyway.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Showing Up for Yourself on the Spiritual Path

When I was a kid, I never understood getting grades for attendance. To me, it was a foregone conclusion that I'd be in class, and if I wasn't, I hated feeling like I was being penalized for being out sick, which was usually about the only reason that I'd miss school. As I've grown up, I've realized the wisdom behind placing importance on attendance. Because ultimately in life, you can't succeed in work, have good relationships, or keep a job if you don't show up.

Step 1: Showing Up for Yourself
It's important to say that the first step is to learn how to show up for yourself. For some people, spiritual awakening may explode right in the middle of this issue, and in that case, you may really feel the weight of unworked out issues as you have to rapidly figure out how to be in integrity with yourself while dealing with the major shifts of the path. You can't cop out on yourself at this point.

But most people have been neglecting themselves for a good portion of their lives. Think of this: You go to a job you hate every day. Other than getting resources to support you, you're pretty much copping out on yourself. You're not showing up for you. For 40 hours or more a week, you aren't showing up because you've sold out what you really want to do. Heck, you may not even know what you want to do. You probably don't know who you are. How can you even show up for yourself if you don't know who you are?

The Downward Spiral and Lost Souls
It's pretty bleak out in the world in some ways. Consciousness is like a giant flashlight illuminating all the ways that we've given up on ourselves and gotten lost. Greed, control, hate, fear, and power have spiraled us downward, and you probably don't see an easy way out. You're right. It's probably not going to be easy for our global human community. But showing up for yourself is the first step to global change, and you're worth it. I'm not even talking about showing up in any particularly "spiritual" way (although ultimately all things are spiritual, and the depth of sacredness comes with the depth of our mindfulness). I mean you need to stop and look at your life.
  • Are you where you want to be? 
  • Have you ever been where you want to be? 
  • Do you have the friendships and relationships around you that you want? 

Take a hard look.

It's easy to blame life and say that the world has somehow not given you what you want, but that's a cop out. You're giving up your responsibility to you. It's time to take it back. You've played a role in creating your life situation, and you need to own that. You need to take a look at how you've made choices that have led up to this, and now you need to show up. You need to show up and take responsibility of the mess. It's time to get the shovel to start digging out.

Spirituality on the Integral Path
Integrating spirituality means bringing it into all aspects of life. This doesn't mean preaching to people about what you believe (although it could mean that for some). It means that you're practicing loving kindness and connecting in meaningful ways with people on more than just Sunday morning church or Wednesday night meditation. It means showing up in every way, every day. If someone needs your help and you say that you'll give it, show up. If you don't, you're not really being spiritual. There are plenty of people who use the term "spiritual," but when things get hard or serious, they're out the door at the first chance. Or they never even got to the porch. This is just an ego layer that likes to show up for "spiritual" retreats, events, and fun stuff, but otherwise, this person isn't integrating the truth of spirituality into their life. It's kind of like a new form of thrill-seeking or state-enhancement. The new drug for some people really is spirituality.

Making a Commitment to Yourself, to the World
One of the deepest truths on the spiritual path is that we are all interconnected; we are all one. In that sense, making a commitment to yourself is also making a commitment to the world. Making a commitment to the world is making a commitment to yourself. If you don't help yourself and nourish yourself when you need it, you're not showing up for yourself and the world. If you don't show up for a meeting at work because you don't feel like it, you're not showing up for yourself or the world (represented by your work). Integrity to all these things is important. How you navigate through this process to maintain clarity about what you can and can't do and what is and is not right for you can be tricky. But it's essential.

Awakening Brings a Major Shift Towards Integrity
For those of you in awakening, you're going to be in the midst of a radical shift towards inner integrity. Anything that you were doing that does not align with it will fall out of your life. Initially, it can be really frustrating because some of the old thought structures may still be saying that you should do this or that. The deeper you will be coming forward and letting you know where you were right or wrong. There are a lot of people who've been very self-sacrificing who suddenly can't help others in the way that they'd done before. This can happen because that self-sacrifice was actually draining them, and those weren't good relationships for them in the first place.

For instance, someone has been giving money to someone else to help them through a difficult time, but in doing so, they were taking on more financial burden than they could really handle. They may also have been stopping the other person from learning how to deal with their financial issues. Suddenly, the giving person realizes that they can't give to this other person anymore. It can be surprising, and of course, the other person may be upset that they're no longer getting these resources. This is where things can get messy, but it's an important part of clearing out issues in life and showing up for one's self.


Showing Up Is Just the Beginning
I suppose that I was lucky to have had two parents who knew how to show up for stuff on time. It taught me a foundational practice that has served me well in life. I remember a yoga teacher commenting to me that one of the great things about me as a student was that I "showed up." So in my own life, I've gradually come to realize what a gift this is, but it really was just the beginning. It got me to the doorstep of bigger things in my life. It can do the same for you. It starts by admitting that you're important and that you know what you need to do. Underneath all the external stuff and issues that you've buried in yourself, your inner knowing is waiting for you just to show up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

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

When someone first moves into a spiritual awakening, the profound  shift is unmistakable. For some, they have that smack of bliss and release from attachment. For others, it's a sudden collapse of their reality and realizing that their lives have been full of pain. For yet others, it can be a simple moment of letting go, and something starts moving from within.

Whatever the moment, you are completely changed, and you know it. From that moment of awakening, that inner change begins to work its magic, and that generally means a whole lot of healing will soon follow.

Yet, many of us try to go back to what we know and are comfortable in. In the collapse of structures (ego, mental, etc.), we suddenly find immense freedom, but almost none of us know what to do with that freedom. It's like giving a kid the keys to the most precious thing in a mansion, but they have no idea what to do with those keys. So they play with them for awhile or go back to bouncing a ball or something. They may even try to forget about those keys. Such is how we seem to be trained.

But the true awakening (that's not just a glimpse of awakening) has an intelligence of its own. Well, it's your intelligence. And it knows how much spiritual healing you need and how you need to grow into the person that you truly want to be. It won't let you forget, and for many of you early in your awakened shift, you may feel like you've just gotten a train and are being railroaded into a brand new direction.

Spiritual Healing and the Dissolution of Desires

Part of this spiritual healing process involves wiping out our wants for things that do not serve us. However, most people have been taught to desire lots of things. Craving is seen as a good thing in much of Western Culture. We're taught to want a spouse, family, six figure job, good teeth, clear complexions, a nice house, and on and on and on. This is why when desires fall away for the first time, it's very much a surreal experience. A lot of those desires never come back. Depending on your awakening, none of them may come back. However, human beings being what they are typically return to those old inner programs of desire. People start grasping for things again, during this healing stripping away process. This is one issue that makes many spiritual awakenings so excruciating.

But let's take a moment here to really be clear about what a desire is. Many people confuse desires with urges. When I am using the term, it means you need something external for your fulfillment. You need something to make you happy. This is different than an urge. An urge is simply the arising of action within you or a basic function of being in a human body (the urge to go to the bathroom, eat, breathe, sleep, etc.) Let's look at an example of this difference between urges and desires.

Spiritual Awakening Scrubbing You Clean

In many ways, your relationship with food gets fundamentally changed with awakening. Before you might have had the desire to get a hamburger, but that food choice is built up off of social conditioning and emotional training. As such, that may not be the right food for you at all. In many respects, people in this society use food to hold down emotions. After awakening, a lot of what was holding stuff down will be gone. That's why initially there can be a lot of healing of upset feelings during the transition as you let go of and release so much stored pain. With the pain gone, the need for mechanisms to hold the pain down are gone. So the desire for a hamburger may be gone from you permanently.

Which leaves you with the urge to eat being very clean and clear. You'll eat very differently without the heavy layer of desire coating everything. You won't need a particular feeling from your food--you won't need it to make you feel good. You will simply need it to satisfy your hunger and replenish your body.

Your body's intelligence is very active after awakening, so it also becomes very easy to tell if a food is or is not what you truly need. If an old desire or mental idea of what you think will fulfill you remains, when you eat that item, you may not feel good. You may even feel sick, and this isn't your body or your spiritual awakening punishing you. This is simply your body talking to you, and now you are sensitive enough to actually hear what it is saying.

Urges That Remain: Far Fewer Than You Could Imagine

One of the things about having all or being in the process of having all your desires released is that you realize how little the external world has for you. This is shocking. As I said, we're socially conditioned to believe quite the opposite. Not surprisingly, this dissolution of desire is coming at the same time as you're feeling increasingly interconnected to the greater energy of the universe. Connection to everything and yourself fulfills much of the craving because in truth, it's this connection that we've been craving. Illusion cut us off from the source of our greatest sustenance. Everything else on earth has been a weak substitute that can only bring numbness or mask this deeper urge to re-connect with yourself.

Because you're so open in a spiritual awakening, you're also in a very dynamic space of giving and receiving with the universe. So it's easier and natural to feel nourished by all of life. You don't have to do anything to be supported by love. That's one of the big lies many people have to overcome in their spiritual transition. At the same time, when there's upset energy in the world (conflict in Northern Africa, tsunami in Japan, etc.), you may feel it intensely. This gives rise to the urge to help, although we mustn't be too quick to attempt to change life. If we are too quick, then we're having other issues around the desire to help being surfaced.

Understanding the Desire and the Urge to Help Others

Let me be clear that the desire to help and the urge to help are fundamentally different things. The desire to help wants a favorable outcome. When you hand out something to a homeless person and he spits on you, you're upset because you're not appreciated. You were looking for appreciation all along. That sullies the intent to help, and in many ways, it's just another ego game to serve yourself and make you feel good. Many, many people on the spiritual path are corrupted by this desire, which is an elaborate feel-good game to hide a lack of self-worth. This issue is simply a reflection that you are not totally unified in your own love. Your craving has simply found a new fix.

The urge to help is the sense that you should do something. There's an inner arising. You do not resist it. You simply follow that arising with no expectation for the outcome. For example, when a woman falls down a flight of stairs, you automatically respond to help her stand up. There's no intention to make yourself feel good; there was simply the response to help. She could be ungrateful, and it does not matter. You did as you felt moved to do, and you continue on throughout your day without fanfare or high-fives over the matter.

Knowing When to Help and When Not to

And it's not like the distinction between desires and urges is clean over night. Initially, anyone's desire to help is probably a step in the right direction, but you will have to work through it to figure out what's going on there. For someone in awakening, the urge to help arises when it wants to. It also may come with deeper understandings about when not to help.

The desire to help would have you immediately helping everyone because, once again, it's just trying to make itself feel good or do the right thing or play some other seemingly noble game. That desire doesn't actually have much clarity on anything. But in awakened awareness, you learn to honor that some people walk a path of pain and sadness. You sense when to let them go and do that until they truly are ready for help.

It's part of becoming a spiritual adult on the spiritual path to understand that many people need their pain. Some of you are learning that about yourselves. You may start to be seeing how your pain has driven you towards the spiritual path. Otherwise, you would have been too complacent and comfortable with your life. You wouldn't have wanted to rock the boat. You had enough of what you thought wanted and didn't have too much of the stuff you didn't want. Sure, life wasn't really what truly felt enlivening to you, but thems the breaks.

That's the state of many people, and it's why most of them have no interest in spirituality. Until life really drops a big painful hammer on them (even if their lives are actually quite miserable and you can see it), most help will not be engaged with, sought, appreciated, or accepted. Only in situations where people are in physical danger do we reach out, but even then, there's no guarantees. It's best to simply listen to your intuition and trust that implicitly. There is a grander intelligence at work in the work, and humility teaches us that pain is a central piece of that plan on the Earth.

Life Becomes Simpler Without Desire

In every way, awakening makes life simpler. Most of your desires drop away. Shopping at malls, going to rock concerts, earning awards, seeking out relationships, and other stuff just don't matter when you are connected to your own love and the love of the universe. In deep connection, there is no difference between you and the universe. However, our old thinking patterns don't typically go away for ever. We re-commission them, and they then run around in our old mental patterns. People become confused that they don't want anything--at least not from most of the choices offered by society. Society's consumeristic mentality won't make any sense to you. You are likely to find that you no longer fit in the with the current cultural schema, and that soon churns up deeper core issues with feeling like an outcast.

As you can see, each time you work through an issue, another hidden issue can be found. You may find that this can take you down a very deep rabbit hole, but my friends, it is worth it. Your freedom, love, and inner peace are absolutely worth it.

Continuing to Desire, Crave, and Cling

However, as I've said, social conditioning runs deep, and this means that most of you won't be okay with not having desire (and this is different than people who have no motivation or self-will--that's a different issue). So as people awaken and lose their illusions, that old way of being is already being broken apart. It's time for it to go. It's time to embrace this new part of your life that is free of desire. (I encourage you to check out this blog about that topic: Freedom From Desire).

If you're in awakening and struggling to understand how to operate in the world, let go. Just let go. You are perfectly here and now. You're discovering how sick you were before. Now you've realized how all desire ever got you was a feeling of lack and that you never had enough or could find fulfillment. With spiritual awakening, you've found your fulfillment, and your inner awareness will naturally offer little urges and inspirations to move you gently where you truly want to go to best follow your spiritual path in this lifetime.

Thanks to Arran Edmonstone for today's picture. You can see more of his photography on this Flickr link

Mindful Movies: Thoughts on What's Bubbling Up in Popular Culture

Avatar made big waves not too long ago, crushing box office records left and right. It had all the usual stuff: romantic interest, explosions, and a fairly linear, easy-to-follow plotline. What blew a lot of people away (some good and some bad) was how strong of statement it made about being connected to the environment. This idea of interconnectedness was bold (and politically charged for some), but to me what was even bolder was the courage to add a lot of spiritual elements to the mix such as the big healing circle. Even further, the power of the female shaman (tsahik) is the central power of the Na'Vi clan in many ways. This emphasis further showed elements of the emerging divine feminine that's coming through in these days. It was and is a powerful movie on multiple levels, but it's not the only one.

Wake Up: A Documentary to Bring Awareness to Awakening
Two Fridays ago, a friend and I went to watch "Wake Up." It's a documentary about Jonas Elrod, who one day suddenly started seeing energy and spirits. It's a jarring transition and one which Jonas struggles with as he starts a journey of self-discovery. It's a fantastic portrayal of someone coming to terms with gifts that fall outside society's current box of understanding. It also raises awareness for a lot of people waking up that this is okay.

When people spiritually wake up, they typically are waking up to kindness and love. You can really feel this from awakened people.  At the screening that I went to in Berkeley, I could really feel the love and the deeper integration of this awareness in Jonas. It's a beautiful resonance that naturally comes off of him. It makes you feel instantly connected to him and very safe. It's a beautiful thing, and I've seen it a lot with a number of people being brought into my life. I expect that we'll be seeing a lot more of it.

Furthermore, Wake Up does a great job of adding in a foil. Jonas's girlfriend is the skeptic, who--for most of society--will represent their point of view. Her counterpoint to him is a very beautiful part of the film and part of an endearing relationship to witness on screen. The courage that they both show in sharing so much in a documentary is truly wonderful and amazing.

I Am: A Movie For the Scientific Mind
Last night, I watched I Am. Tom Shadyac--a director of movies like Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, etc.--shares his experiences from having recurring concussion syndrome and the agony that he was in. It drove him to question his reality and then to make this movie to help people see the truth that he'd learned: that we are all interconnected. While Wake Up is a raw spiritual and psychic awakening in full bore, I Am is for the rationale mind that still wants science to proves such statements like: We are all interconnected. And it does so admirably well, and it offers a lot of interesting tidbits from the Institute of Noetic Sciences and other research groups. Most of all, the biggest part is seeing how Shadyac gave up a lot of his wealth to live more simply and how he acknowledged his own contribution in being part of the problem in society (superficiality, hoarding resources past his own needs, etc.).

Samsara: The Beauty and Terrors of the World Before Us
I'm updating this post with a recent movie (I watched this in September 2012). Samsara is an amazingly deep film that uses no dialogue whatsoever. It is a collage of pictures of people, places, and things from all over the world. The visuals are stunning, mind-blowing, and compelling. The "narrative" has many sub-narratives, and there are many ways that this movie will challenge conventional thought. This isn't the watered down, brainless hero saves damsel in distress tale. This is a broad lens view on the totality of humanity from the plastification of women to the immense beauty of traditional life to the certainty that we will all return to dust in the end. I highly recommend seeing it and then spending time talking to a friend about it to help integrate and appreciate all that you just saw.

Mindful Movies and Themes Spreading
I love documentaries on this subject because I think it's important that people don't associate "awakening" or "enlightenment" with fiction. That said, I was watching "Rango" the other day, and I was blown away by the themes of enlightenment in this crazy animated movie about a lizard. From pretty much the get-go, this move announces itself as more than an animated romp to grab lots of quick guffaws from the audience. There is plenty of humor in it, but this big question of "Who am I?" holds sway over the story arc far more than the plot-driven question of "Where did the water go?" Johnny Depp, once again, immerses his talents so well that you just think that this is how this lizard would talk in an animated feature Western movie (unlike Eddie Murphy as Donkey in Shrek. He's still amazingly funny even though you know exactly who's talking to you).

So on a journey of self-actualization you go with Rango, and with the guidance of a wise armadillo, you see his life shattered from a caged, glass and plastic world into a new sense of self.

And on many other similar journeys I expect us to go as more and more people wake up, and the storytellers for this era begin to share these amazing explorations and realizations that are coming to people everywhere that we are not alone, that we are love, and that we are all interconnected.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finding Purpose in Life

My student, Susan, talks about opening up to her soul's purpose on her journey.

I recently walked into a bathroom of a local coffee shop. Handwritten graffiti was haphazardly plastered on almost every inch of the walls. My eyes spontaneously scanned the checkerboard floor where more nonsense was written in black marker. Suddenly a moment of clarity came to me when my eyes caught a phrase hidden amongst the clutter of words surrounding it. It stated, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” A smile immediately came to my face as I stood there. What an awkward place to be in to receive such wisdom. It was almost as if I heard it before, but not knowing where from. To no surprise the same phrase whispered into my ears the next day as I was listening to a audio-book talk from a spiritual teacher, Robert Pino. Other experiences, like this one, all point to the same source. They have all been helping me come to understand my mission, or purpose, in life.

I have been desperately searching for my mission, not realizing until now that I already know it. My spirit has known it since I was born. I am a healer. Creation has chosen me to be a healer. Physical therapy and the infinite other forms of healing are all just human experiences that can allow me to cultivate my mission. I am already living my future as a healer, so why have I been feeling the need to search for it? The one thing that was inhibiting me from seeing this was my perspective on the subject.

What Is Your Perspective?
Although I am reaching completion of my formal education to become a physical therapist assistant, I kept having this nagging feeling that physical therapy was not going to be my only career. There was something more out there for me. Then I thought, “Why bother if I already know I can do more?” Through further contemplation I found that wanting something more out of my path as a healer would only lead to more wanting and therefore leaving me unfulfilled. However, if I changed my perspective I could see that there is a benefit to everything that I do and everything that I experience. Even seemingly unfortunate events are of a benefit to me. Then I realized physical therapy is a necessity in order for me to do more. I am already putting my future into action. My future is what I am doing now in this very moment. Everything that I do is the right thing, because it comes from the spirit. Even seemingly bad choices are of a benefit because they give me wisdom through experience. Sometimes wisdom can only come through experience. It is all a matter of having a different perspective.

Am I playing just another role?
I came across the subject of role playing while I was struggling with finding purpose in life. I noticed through various experiences over the last few weeks that I needed to explore this concept more so that I could better understand it within myself.

Role playing is but another trick of the ego to attempt to give purpose to my life. The word “purpose” is only a word to help me conceptualize how I am going to live my human experience as a spiritual being. It gives me a reason to show my skills and the Light within me. However, the ego desperately wants to make something more of the word, often by attaching the label of a role. Magically the role playing I do in my daily lives has a purpose. I am a student, a caregiver, a friend, daughter, etc.. Is all this role playing necessary? Perhaps it is to bring organization to society, but nothing more. For me, purpose is being IN anything of ANY moment that is presented to me all the while being a watchful observer of the ego. I am healing something or someone with every action I make, whether it be performing a physical therapy treatment or smiling at someone sitting in the car next to me. Everything I do affects someone in a healing way even if I cannot visibly see the results.

Cultivating this awareness takes practice, though. I have to ask myself constantly, “Am I being my authentic self in this moment?” It is all too common to instantly react and put up some kind of barrier when interacting with others, especially in a group or work setting. After all, who wants to be judged by his/her coworkers or peers? Fear? Judgment? Perhaps the question to ask should be is my perception of this moment causing me to feel judged? Once I do this, I often notice I am the one creating judgments, leaving me confused as I judge my own judgments.

Completion…The word surrounds me all the time. But through an open heart and open mind I know I am completing my purpose even as I write these words. The shift in consciousness the world is experiencing is forcing us all to align with our mission and be our authentic selves. When will you realize you are a spiritual and authentic being having a human experience, not the other way around?

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.

Thanks go to Arran Edmonstone for today's picture. You can see more of his photography on this Flickr link.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Physical Rigors of Spiritual Awakening

Because we live in such a mind-centric society, people seem to think that awakening or enlightenment is some kind of dramatic shift in thinking...which it is. When you "get it," you don't think the same way about life ever again. But awakening doesn't stop there. It will go as far as you're willing to embrace it, and it'll go as far as your soul's plan intends it to go. The purpose of this blog is to help those come to terms with the full embodied awakening. Yogis have long understood the value of the body (hence the physical practices of yoga). Because awakening comes to all parts of us. Just as you learn that we are all interconnected, all of you--heart, body, mind, and soul, is interconnected. Subsequently, all parts have to wake up, but they often need different things to assist in the process.

The Body Transforms, Holding on Brings Intense Pain
Your awakened body is shifting up to the vibration of your light body. It is the highest frequency that you can hold while still being in a body on this planet. Others will shift in different ways, but if your body is awakening, you are suddenly beset with a whole new array of demands.
  • Food. Even if you've been a healthy eater, your food demands are likely to shift. Some shifts will be temporary as you move through awakening and come to whatever energetic vibration you need to come to. Others will be permanent. I've talked a little bit about awakening and food before, but the long and short of it is you're going to have to listen very closely to what your body wants to eat and be willing to make changes.
  • Exercise and movement. Your body also wants to be exercised in different ways. Achieving an image isn't interesting to your body. Finding movements that allow the energy to flow freely during your shift are really helpful.
  • Phantom pains. Phantom pains are often where your energetic and physical bodies are merging and aren't in alignment. You'll have to learn how to move those areas with mindfulness. Healing touch and massage can be helpful to clearing the blockages to allow your spirit and body to continue to integrate.
Not Quite Living in Your Body
During the transition to an awakened body, you may feel divorced from your body. Depending on how badly it has been treated, you could feel absolutely terrible. I am speaking somewhat from experience. While I haven't treated my body badly, I got into some places where I didn't have the energetic support that I needed. It was arduous just to get myself up and off the floor. Part of this is normal. A lot of your energy is diverted from the outer world to the inner world during this process. You're being re-made inside. You're rediscovering yourself and burning down all the false images and ideas about yourself. The other part for me was that I was not yet fully able to understand just how different my body's needs were.


Going to Sleep at the Wheel
Sleep is an interesting topic because you'll find yourself going through periods of intense energy and periods of time when you have no energy at all. There's a lot of ways to cut this one up. In some instances, you're moving through such darkness or shift in vibration that all your energetic focus has to be on clearing the issues out of you. So you may end up sleeping a lot. You may also consider where you can bring community or a teacher in to support you. You don't have to do this alone.

Sleep can also be a way of shutting down from the change that is going through you. Most likely, the awakening energy will bring up issues to be dealt with and healed. A lot of times sleep can be a form avoidance of that work. This is really unhealthy, and it can stop your awakening. Getting stuck in awakening is a horribly painful process because you feel caught between two worlds, stagnant, and stuck. Depending on what's going on, you can find yourself getting despondent, scared, and hopeless. Everything stops working in your life. By avoiding the issue, you can get disconnected from the divine energy that's pumping through you. That disconnection, you'll now know, is one of the worst things that can happen to us. In many ways, that's what's gone on in the world for millenia and that's why there has been so much death and misery.

You'll have to continue to find your courage to face the uncomfortableness of awakening. It is temporary, and it is worth it.


High Energy Time Periods
On the flip side, some of you will have so much energy coursing through you that you can't sleep to save your life. But you probably won't want to do much while being awake. You may end up sitting on your couch just being wide awake and present to the moment. It's not a bad thing, but the ego still in you may be saying, "Why can't I go to sleep?" or "Shouldn't I be doing something?" It's okay. It'll pass. But you need to allow the energy to move without bottling it up in activities that you "think" you should be doing. Allow what your body needs to arise in your conscious mind, and then do it.

Since the embodied awakening involves everything, learning how to move energy through your whole system can help through these periods of time. There are psychic schools that can teach you some simple techniques (which I teach as well) about grounding, clearing, and connecting to the divine light. Ultimately, that energy is waking everything up and clearing out all the blockages. It's telling your body an old story--it's telling your body the story of who it really is. It's helping you to remember what got forgotten as you grew up into a world full of fear and hate. So it's okay if you feel like a city power station for awhile. It'll subside as you engage with it and allow it.

You'll Be Okay
Above all else, please remember that you'll be okay. Don't hide from this process or avoid it. Make time to explore it. Yoga, conscious dance, and mindful sexuality are some ways to engage with your body so that it "understands" on its own terms. Always remember that the body learns very differently than the mind. Learning a concept like "I'm in awakening" doesn't mean anything to the body. It has to experience it to know it. So where you allow the experiences to take hold, the intelligence of your body is learning. As it comes to understand how to move with this awakened awareness, you'll find yourself making very different intellectual choices about what to eat, how to exercise, who to have sex with, and other body-related issues. It will be rather "enlightening" to say the least. So in all this, please, please remember to listen to your body.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Facing Your Ego's Death

Continuing a rather morbid string of blog posts, I want to talk about ego death. In my ebook, Everyday Spirituality, I essentially outline a gentle way to take apart your ego. At the same, time the concepts in the book are meant to help you create a lighter and more loosely held sense of self--a spiritual ego, if you will. Because anyway you cut it, while you are living in this body, you have a point of view and collected set of experiences that you express as "you." And that's okay. It's just important that you know that you're doing this and that you can choose to change how you are when it is time to make that shift in yourself.

But before we get there, the original ego that thinks the world revolves around it or that there is no other way of living. The spark of a spiritual opening or an awakening can light a fire under this ego. In awakening, the fire can be so strong that it fissures the ego away from the soul, leaving no doubt about what is real. Everyone experiences this differently, but let's take some time to talk about what ego death is, how it may feel, and what you can do to move through it.

If you feel like you are really moving through a lot of issues and watching the old ego die, I am here to help. You can learn more about my sessions in the below link:

Frequently Asked Questions About My Sessions

My Ego's on Fire! Just Let It Burn
Awakening struck, and for a moment, you touched beauty deep within you and without. It's profound, but most likely, at some point, your old ego ran in to take hold of that experience. It decided to try and conceptualize it, own it, or get rid of it. The ego's days are now numbered however.

I love Plato's allegory of the cave. Initially, we all live in a darkened cave and have no idea what light really is. Once you step outside of that cave, you can never fully go back in again. Because you know what's out there. It begins a process of letting go, so that you can completely leave the cave and the darkness.

Of course, many people run right back into the cave completely freaked out by all the light and beauty. It was too much. In many ways, as a teacher, I like to build up a loose framework for my students precisely because when awakening hits, I want them to have been building a spiritual ego that can be okay with all this light and beauty. Without it, the old ego goes into shutdown and denial mode. It's not a pretty sight. And the truth of the matter is that awakening has just started to burn away the old ways of being. Much of the awakening process is a process of burning away old ego and learning how to let go. Ego death can be as smooth or as painful as our own abilities to release into it and to allow.

The Body Feels Like Its Dying
The more identified someone is with their ego, the harder this ego death can be. You may begin to have phantom pains in your body from the intensity of your own resistance, which is generally based in fear. If the fear is intense enough, illnesses and disease can be manifested because your ego believes that everything really is dying. Not everything is dying, though. Just the ego. Your body is just fine.

Of course, because everything is going in six directions from Sunday for you, none of this is happening completely on its own. There's often a whole other set of experiences all moving at once. For instance, awakening is also clearing out all the issues that have been stuck in your body and your energetic body. The release of that pain can make someone sick, which is a natural clearing process. In the space of awakening or simply in healing, after this happens, you feel lighter, clearer, and more energetic. You may also have to learn how to stay energetically connected or else you're getting really drained by the world around you because so much is shifting inside you. Make no mistake about it; awakening often takes a lot of force, discipline, and energy to overcome our resistance and the structures we've surrounded ourselves with. Consider how much energy it takes to move; if you're in a home that's not healthy for you, you have to move. It takes quite a bit of work to do this, and there's just no two ways about that (although getting help makes it go smoother--subsequently, getting help and support from a spiritual community and a spiritual teacher is really beneficial during awakening).

You can go to a doctor if you feel really bad. It's always good to get checked up on, but in awakening, most modern science won't find anything wrong. Truly, nothing wrong is happening. So, you have to make mental space to understand that what is "dying" is an old way of thinking and living in the world.

Rebirthing Your Spiritual Ego
As I've alluded to, we all have egos. The spiritual ego serves spirit. In truth, when you serve spirit, you are most truly serving yourself. I've found that in all the ways that I've aligned myself with God's plan, our plans have turned out to be the same. It becomes really easy to ask how to serve God because when I do this, I feel so much more fulfilled, happy, and connected than doing half of the stuff I used to think that I should do. In saying all of this, I am speaking from a spiritual ego. I have a perspective and set of experiences that I define as "Jim the spiritual teacher," but I also know that this can shift and go away when it is no longer needed. Older versions of my ego were completely dug in and entrenched willing to hurt others because "I" had to get my way. Not very enlightened at all. They kicked and screamed on the way out, I don't mind telling you. Parts of them are still kicking and screaming, but it's much easier to be with these days as I watch old elements around fear and control dissolve.

So as traumatic and uncertain as awakening can be, if you're in this profound shift, you need to bring intention to the new you that you want to bring into the world. Rebirthing yourself is part of the process. Everything gets rebirthed so that you can come into alignment with Truth, Love, and Beauty. It's just how it goes. In all the ways that you resist what's coming, you're going to find yourself in more agony than you can possibly imagine.

And I know that this isn't convenient. It's never convenient to your old ego because it knows that it's days are numbered. You are going to have to make big changes in life. The more you've been out of alignment with who and what you really are, the more changes you'll have to make. That's part of the process. While spiritual awakening isn't a process per se, we still have to figure out how to manifest and embody that awakening in a world that doesn't quite know what to do with awakened people yet. That takes a lot of patience, tenacity, energy, and love. It also takes a lot of courage.

Tools Assisting Ego Death
Many of the tools for doing this are much like the tools that I've mentioned all along. One way to help yourself transition is to write down what your intuition is telling you to do. The spiritual information will help you to redefine who you are, but in doing so, be loose with the definitions. Remember, these new definitions are just new sets of clothing. You don't want to get lost in this latest guise. So for instance, if you're supposed to be a healer, then journal about what that might look like for you. It's okay to not know precisely, but it's also important to engage with your imagination and intuition around how you'd be a healer.

Then you need to act on that information to begin to see what manifests and what works. A lot of stuff won't work. This is also part of the process of trial and error. Acting on the information is a way to embody the shift coming into your life. The lower energy systems want you to do things. Being doesn't mean sitting in meditation day and night. Being and stillness actually are very active. Mother Teresa didn't sit around by herself doing nothing in India. The Dalai Lama tours all over the world. How you choose to consciously act brings your spiritual ego into existence in the physical plane of existence, and it can make it easier to let go of the old ego.

In many ways, the transitional time is like building a bridge to another point. Some people will have such a profound shift that the old ego immediately dies, and a new one naturally arises. That's beautiful. Obviously, I'm writing to a lot of other people because I think many people will touch beauty and just have no clue what to do with it. This is the time to explore. Because facing your ego's death is a scary, scary thing when you have no way to understand it or a bridge to move away from it. It doesn't have to be scary though. And hopefully after reading this blog post, you'll understand that you are not your ego and that something really beautiful is about to give birth through you so that you can truly live your life in integrity and love.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dealing with Death

One thing that I haven't delved into much at all is death. It's hard to believe that I've left this topic mostly untouched, but obviously, that's about to change.

Much of what I've written about have been about embracing spirituality and embracing life. We all will come to that place of deepest release where we have to let go of our bodies, but what's important during the duration of life is to embrace and live our lives as deeply and fully and without fear as possible. That said, dealing with our own death is often less traumatic than dealing with others' deaths. So let's start with facing the reality that we all will lose people in our lives.

The Afterlife and Consolation in this Life
Any child, parent, friend, or other connection you have in this life will die. It's inevitable. This isn't a bad thing. So much of our society has gotten stuck in valuing certain types of human experiences over others that we forget that death is normal. But still, death gets stuffed in a box or a jar so fast that most of us don't realize when someone has passed on for sometime after the event. I happened to look out my back window the other day, and I saw a covered body being pushed into the back of a van. Something about the loneliness of that individual being carted away struck me. I wondered how his or her family was being notified and where the body might go.

For most of us in the living, the consolation of knowing that someone has gone to an afterlife or a better place or even dissolved into Nirvana is a way of dealing with the passing of a loved one. It's never really easy, and so grief is almost always an important part of dealing with death. It's not that everyone grieves in the same way, but usually, there's a process of letting go, which is at the heart of grieving. Crying is just fine, but others won't find their release that way. Nor should they force it. I've had some people in my life who've lost someone, and they were scared that they should be crying more or be more upset. But as with everything, your deeper intelligence knows how and when it needs to grieve. All you have to do is to allow your process and accept that this person is gone.

Acceptance and Resistance to Death and Reality
Of course, acceptance is almost always the big hurdle. Because so many people are unable to deal with death, the auto-function of the mind appears to be to run straight into denial. It also shuts down the heart, and that's a terrible thing to do. The pain of that reality will sit in your heart and rot it out over time. Gradually, you'll begin to die emotionally, and that's not healthy to you or anyone around you. You have to accept the reality. You can't resist what's happened by denying it. That's delusional.

Still the ego mind loves to create these steel cords of attachment, refusing to let go. In many respects, you can see just how dysfunctional the ego is in these moments because the clear reality is that someone has passed on. The clear reality is that you have to let go. And you can grieve the passing of a dear one with love and openness. In so doing, you can grieve fully and be healed of the loss you feel. I won't go into the illusion of loss and how we create the attachments that very much cause our pain. While this is true, the common reality for most of us is that to lose a loved one does hurt. And that's okay. That's part of the human experience.

Rituals for Death and Passing
I think part of integrating into your heart, body, mind, and soul that someone has passed is ritual. "Doing" something is the way the body can interact with the world. Carrying a coffin and going to a funeral tell a story to the body. Being in motion in this way helps to reinforce in a physical way that this person is gone. Seeing the body also helps. In many ways, grieving properly in Western Society can be a process of breaking mental illusions first just to get to the real grief and the openness of the heart. And there are many rituals that can be done and that are done the world over, which are essential parts of the human experience of grieving and letting go. Finding the right one for yourself or your family is essential.

Long-Held Grief and Denial of Death
However, many people don't find the way to healing that they need. So the loss of a loved one sticks in them like a thorn that gets covered by a callus and by another callus. Reactions upon reactions build up around this event. Losing a loved one becomes a poison that spreads throughout yourself and your life. It can easily rot out your relationships because that pain is still in your heart. Every time someone you feel strongly about comes into your life, you may run away. You may have forgotten why you run away even though intellectually you know that you love or are really interested in this person. Well, that love this other person is activating is right next to that pain. That love activates that pain, so you run away. So you run away from someone who could really love you.

This is just one example. It can show up in any number of ways like being really cold and calculating at work. No one wants to work with you after awhile. The scenarios grow and grow. In effect, you are dying.

From a Higher Perspective
Ultimately, the soul that has moved on from the body and person you once knew wants you to move on too. That soul wants you to be happy and to feel love much like what that soul is now feeling on the spiritual plane, in heaven, or wherever you believe the soul has gone. So souls in the spiritual world get upset when we hold onto them. That attachment doesn't help either of you. At the heart of the matter is love and letting go. Holding on is never love. That's just the ego extending itself to someone else to try and protect an experience that it wants to have in life. Attachment to another is never love. Letting go is love. It's the open-handed approach to life. A closed hand can receive nothing. An open hand receives everything.

So if you're dealing with death in your life, let your hand relax. Let your heart open, and allow yourself to grieve. In letting go, the healing and love that you need will enter your life, and you'll be able to move on in grace and wholeness.
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