Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Integrate Spirituality Into Your Life

The big task of this generation--and well, probably the next several--is to embody/integrate spirituality into everyday life. That seems to have been the sticking point that has allowed so many atrocities and unkindnesses. Sure many of us could talk a good game, but when it came down to crunch time, all of our old issues and instincts kicked in to make us small-minded and animalistic. The list of ways that we don't act in accordance spirit and ultimately with ourselves is too extensive to go into, and that's not the point of this blog post anyway. The point is talking about what it means to integrate spirituality so that you are moving in a holistic--heart, body, mind, and soul--way through your life.

What Is Integration?
Integration means to understand something on the mental, emotional, psychic, and physical planes of existence. When we pull through a "spiritual energy," each level of us has to understand it through its own means before we fully get it. For the mind, that means that you need to conceptually understand this energy. I'm saying energy because you have to realize that words and language are very secondary in this process, depending on what's coming through (they may even be irrelevant depending on what's happening--I know your mind is already arguing with that part). Energy comes through, or another way to look at it is that something opens within us. Our minds can step in to say, "Oh I now understand that when I hurt others, I hurt myself." Let's say that's the message. But just because your mind understands it doesn't mean that the rest of you gets it. Most people on the spiritual path may have some of these concepts very-well understood, but when there's a long line at the toll plaza, suddenly they're yelling at the driver who cuts them off. Their heart and body clearly don't understand that concept because they're now sending out negative thoughts at someone, which will likely be passed on by that other person. That's what we've been doing, you know. We've been sending along violence and dis-ease for centuries. We have to learn to stop that.

So when the heart begins to learn this concept that hurting others is hurting ourselves, it may become emotionally painful to say mean things to others. You may truly feel it in your heart, and when your body understands it, your body will feel awful to "do" hurtful things to others. This may seem outlandish to some of you, but that's just your mind talking. You have to walk this path to understand it, and because body and heart integrations don't really lend themselves to words--because that's not how they "think" or integrate--I can't really tell you how this feels inside. I can only tell you that the more you integrate spirituality into the whole of you, the more you will feel transformed and live and interact in much more peaceful and loving ways.

I Can't Tell You How to Dance
Let's come at this from another angle. I can write down all the steps in a Tango, but that won't make you a better dancer, will it? Sure, you will now conceptually understand how to tango, but you can't do it. You have to physically practice the steps to "integrate" tango into your dance repertoire. Spirituality is no different. To embody it (which I usually synonymously with integrate), you have to take actions from the space of spirit. If you don't, then spirituality is just a high experience that you occasionally have or a couple of words that come out of your esophagus based on vibrations within the larynx and so forth. I mean, isn't it completely ridiculous to think that words and language can possibly sum up all of spirituality? How much ego is that?

No, no one can tell you how embody spirituality, but I can tell you that things like active service, yoga, and other physical actions speak to the body and how it aligns with spirit. For the heart, it's always about moving from a space of openness and love. If you only do it in part of your life--like when you're at home with your family--then that's the limits of your love. It's not fully integrating into your life, and if you feel like people wouldn't understand you coming from a space of love at your work, then maybe you should think a little bit more about what it is you're doing. I'm not recommending that you're hugging and kissing everyone at your job (I'm also not saying that you can't if the appropriate understandings and boundaries are met). I'm saying that integrating love is about how you reply within a disagreement; it's about how you listen to others; and it's about how you are with your work/business. That's how you bring spirituality more deeply into other spaces of your life.

Integration: The Pain of Removing Internal Issues
But for those of you in active awakening and who are embodying this energy while feeling like you're strapped to a running horse, this process can be much more intense. Depending on how much you're trying to hold onto pain, this can be excruciating. In this instance, each level of you is being opened, healed, and awakened further. Your ability to hold all of you--because truly it's you that you're making space for, not so outlandish ideal from God--is being greatly expanded. It may be taking everything that you've got, and each shift of energy coming through you may be integrated on a different level. Each level requires a different approach. Meditation and journaling may help with one shift. Lots of hugs and someone listening to you may help with another shift. Chanting and sound healing may work for yet another. Lots of sleep and alone time may be yet another way to integrate at another time. It's going to keep changing, and you have to accept that. Every now and then, someone tells me about how they started one practice, and it worked for a little while but is now no longer helpful. So long as you're being diligent and tuned in to your inner intelligence, it's okay to let go of the old tool and try a new one.

Perhaps the best metaphor is like a deficiency in nutrition. So you didn't have enough vitamin D at one point, that meant you drank more milk and spent more time in the sun. After you met that need, doing those things no longer makes sense, and it certainly won't help a deficiency in vitamin A. Now, I don't want you to relate spiritual awakening with deficiencies, but I think this gives you an idea that your needs are rapidly changing. You have to be very mindful in paying attention and make adjustments as needed to ease your transition.

Awareness Deepens and Gifts Expand
For anyone integrating spirituality and releasing old wounds, you're going to find your awareness growing in regards to yourself and the situations and people around you. Your gifts have been buried under pain and the general karmic crap that gets carried around, but now they are emerging. Suddenly, you're finding that you are more intuitive than you thought you were. Or perhaps, your artwork is going much easier. Perhaps business deals are suddenly very easy to make. There's a lot of amazing opportunities that open up to us when we have cleared space to receive. And in truth, the practice of integrating spirituality into your life is about clearing space. Currently, there's no room, and for those in awakening, you're having room being actively made. You know how intense that is, and perhaps, you wish you'd made more room sooner as opposed to have God's giant broom and vacuum cleaner clearing everything out. It really doesn't matter where you are on this path, things are most likely going to get intense, although they don't have to. But all of you have such amazing gifts, but you can only open up to them when you let go of all this pain.

Integrating Your Spiritual Gifts
As if this isn't all enough work, you also need to practice integrating your spiritual gifts. Sure, you can no intuit the winning lottery numbers, but how does it apply to where to send your child to college? Or how do you use it to sense if you're in the right romantic partnership or job? This also helps with integrating spirituality more fully into your life. You have to use your gifts, and honestly, to me, art, writing, being good at numbers, or whatever are all just as spiritual as psychic healing, spiritual teaching, and so forth. What makes them spiritual is being in alignment with God and with love. That's it. So you can be a spiritual janitor and use your gift for making things clean. Only now, you're probably cleaning out energy too along with dirt and dust because you're holding a brand new energy around.

Letting Go of Pain: Breakdowning the House
One of my favorite metaphors is about the little old wise man (or wise woman) who comes to your house one day. You let him in, and everything feels good. This is like your first "spiritual" high moment. Suddenly, you realize you can feel more light and happy than anything you had felt before. This goes on for a little while until one day the little old wise man goes to your closet and throws everything out in the middle of the room. This is when you have to face the crap in your life. Many people throw the little old wise man out and try to stuff everything back into the closet. But if you face the mess, when the little old wise man comes back the next time, things feel even more amazing. This goes on and repeats with the little old wise man going to the attic, garage, cellar, and every place that you hold issues and pain. Everything gets cleared out until the walls are torn down and the old house is destroyed, replaced by a beautiful new one with space for all of you.

Because ultimately, the difference between you and the little old wise man disappear, and you realize that he was just you. In this loss of duality, all is now sacred, but you can't run to this end point. The process is important and sacred as well as you go through the phase of externalizing the best parts of you in the little old wise man and in compartmentalizing pain. The end result is the full integration of you so that you can move through your life in whatever way that you so chose.

Last Thoughts for Integration
This is actually a very big topic, and I can't hit all the points that I might like to. I will most likely return to it in later blogs. You are welcome to contact me with any current questions that you have, but I encourage you to simply start journaling to see where you are. Are you still learning how to think about spirituality? Are you learning how to talk about it? How does it feel to live from your heart? What is preventing you from taking action on the things that you love? Each step down, you will likely find a lot of pain and excuses, and that's okay. But only you can remove those issues. Only you can live your life, and there is no magic bullet for integration other than to fully let go of those issues. For some reason, we think we need to carry a lot of garbage in identities, grudges, fears, and regrets. All those are burdening you and filling up the space that should be full of your light and your love. So practice letting go if nothing else. You may be amazed at how much of you is waiting to embraced.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Profile in Spiritual Awakening

colorful life, lime green garage, spiritual awakening
I have the amazing privilege of connecting deeply with many people and hearing lots of amazing stories. Recently, one person wrote back to me about how she embraced her spiritual awakening and made the changes that she was both afraid to make and needing to make. The results are pretty awesome.

Above all else when you read this, I encourage you to look at this story as an example of what you can do for yourself. I really am just a cameo in Ioana's shift, and while I appreciate the energy, dynamism, and general love and presence that I offer to help people get over the hump, most of just about anyone's shift is 99.5% you (and God too).

So enjoy this profile in spiritual awakening; I hope to share more as others have the courage to share with me and who graciously allow me to post on this blog. Know that you can make the changes that your heart truly desires, and know that things truly can work out better than you could possibly image.

From Ioana:

I contacted you around this time last year. I was 24 then, working (unhappily) as an engineer, and undergoing some massive changes. Back then, I was suffering greatly from all sorts of ailments that no one could identify...and all attempts to do so only made me worse. You had sent me your E-book and some wonderful words of hope, and you have since given me a great spiritual perspective that has done MUCH healing.

I know I didn't keep in touch, but I thought that you would appreciate this follow-up!

As I contacted you back then, I was preparing to return to my home country, Romania. And as I was leaving, I printed out your WHOLE book. I read it diligently over the next week. In an interesting turn of events, the man sitting next to me on the flight to Romania (last March) was impressed to see your book, and we started a conversation. He revealed to me that a spiritual awakening of sorts pushed him to change careers and become a film director. This story was so powerful to me, and your book was so powerful at helping me rebuild my confidence within a spiritual context that I paid attention to the signs!

Some months later, I went to San Francisco to attend the IONS conference on science and spirituality, and I was even further inspired there to incorporate my spiritual understanding into my life more. I used my new confidence and my full appreciation of the creativity that had awakened in me to produce a commercial in my old engineering firm (totally out of the blue, I was a lab geek), and have since started my own video production company.

My life is on track now, I have met a wonderful, spiritually-awake partner, and I am happier, more fulfilled, and more grateful than I have ever been in my life. And maybe the biggest blessing...I finally quit smoking!! Watching this habit fall away was just monumental. :)

Thank you for being a positive influence in my life. I have been very excited to see your work develop and continue to bring hope to many.

You are awesome!!

Much love and light,


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Difference Between Discernment and Judgment

judgment, discernment, spiritual photography
Many of you may have noticed my use of the word "discernment" from time to time, and you may have no idea how that's any different than "judgment." Others of you may have vague ideas, so I'm going to spend a little bit of time explaining it. Much as urges and desires get confused in this culture, being able to state what is versus coloring what we see with our preferences is a very common thing. Let's take a few moments to break down the differences between discernment and judgment.

What Is Discernment?
Discernment is stating what is. The sky is blue today. That's discernment. The deeper you go within that peaceful, neutral space that you have, the more easily it will be to say what is in any situation regardless of how emotionally charged it is. That's the power of your spiritual practice, and that's the power of removing the veils and lies that cover your eyes, which skew what you see. It's also why at the early stages of building a spiritual practice that it is so crucial to hold back on what you have to say about a lot of things (others of you need to speak up, and that is often about learning to share your discernment for what is right for you). Many of you have simply been spewing out words left and right without any real regard to what is actually going on or what others want to hear. In so doing, you're also perpetuating lies.

Consider gossip. There's no real discernment in gossip. Here's an example:

"So I heard that Dolores has a new man on the side," Neighbor 1 said.

"Oh, that is so like Dolores. You think her husband will find out about this one?" Neighbor 2 replied.

"I heard that he already did and that's he's trying to get a mistress to make her jealous," Neighbor 1 said.

"Would serve her right. She's such a slut. I don't know how he could have married her," Neighbor 1 replied.

How horrible is all that? It could all be complete lies, and spreading this kind of vileness about others serves no one. Whatever Dolores and her husband have going on really doesn't affect these two neighbors. The conversation is most likely a distraction from their own lives because it's much easier to thrown trash on another person's lawn than to clean up one's own.

What Is Judgment?
Just about everything in the above conversation is coming from the space of judgment. Both neighbors are actively disapproving and placing their own values on the two people, which by and large is not a near and present danger to them and subsequently has nothing to do with them. All they're really doing is focusing their negativity elsewhere, and people tend to do that to try and displace their own sense of pain and negativity. This is part of projecting on to others, which is another topic that I've already blogged about. Projection and judgment go hand-in-hand, and together, they create a set of glasses that skew everything that you see. It's no wonder that most of the world is blind. If you'd ask a person wearing those glasses what the color of the sky is today, they might say, "It's pitch black" because they can't see anything. That's, of course, shocking to the person of the spiritual path who has removed those glasses of judgment, but that person understands because s/he has been there.

Practicing Discernment
So you get the basic difference: discernment sees what is; judgment sees what it wants to see or what it thinks fits into its value system. If something doesn't fit into a pre-fabricated story, many people don't "see" it. It's kind of like when someone has so many projections and stories about their romantic partner that they're blown away when that person asks for a divorce. They had so many seemingly harmless judgments that they never saw the other person and their needs. Conversely, many people don't really know what their own needs are, and this, of course, is the first place to practice discernment.

Just like any spiritual practice. It can be very simple, and you can do it at some of the most basic levels. Go out somewhere that you normally go and just focus more on the details. Don't get lost in the stories about "this traffic light is taking too long," "that's not a safe route," or "I had an amazing date at that diner there once." Just look at these places. Perhaps you start to notice the stories in your mind, and perhaps you start to notice the themes in the stories. The more you notice the themes--safety, fear of being alone, etc.--the more you're starting to dig into the stories that are dictating your life to you. From these stories, many judgments are springing forth, and you've got to get to the root of the stories to fully release many of these judgments.

Practicing Non-judgment
Along with practicing your discernment to see what really is there in a relationship, place, job, or anything else, I encourage you to practice non-judgment. I'm not using this in any kind of Buddhist sense (although it may sound like that). I'm simply encouraging you to hold off on the immediate urge to label or judgment something. Give it a few breaths before you categorize it. Discernment works from places of deep neutrality, but not passivity. It allows the correct action to come up when needed, but most things don't need as much action as we think they do. Most things that happen or get said to us really aren't about us, and practicing non-judgment is usually the first step to getting down into that place of discernment. Without space for patience and for things to naturally work themselves out, you're over-reacting and under-preparing for whatever it is you actually do. Consider this:

Your boss asks to have you come to her office. Judgment and stories kick in.

"Oh my God. What's this about? Am I going to get fired? Maybe she hated that last report I turned in. She's always undermining me. She's such a bitch. You know, what? I don't want to work here anymore."

And then you walk in and she's offering you a promotion. You're completely unprepared. You may even turn it down because of all the stories going on. You may think it's a trick or an attempt to set you up to fail. There is no discernment in this line of thinking because if she is trying to play a trick on you, you won't be able to see it clearly or take an appropriate form of action. You're completely reactive and truly out of control.

Which is why non-judgment is a great first step towards discernment. At least, you could have gone in there saying, "I don't know what this is about, but I'll find out." Maybe then, you'd have said, "yes," "no," or "I'll think about it" in an appropriate way to what you really want.

The Deepening of Discernment
Now on the spiritually-awakened side of the fence, you may suddenly be seeing very clearly, but because you haven't worked out your judgments, it may still be very murky waters. You'll have some catch up work to do where you simultaneously have to trust what you see implicitly and while facing situations where you feel like you should color them as positive or negative. At times, "the sky is blue" becomes kind of how you see everything and everyone. The more intuitive you are, the more easily you see all kinds of things about other people.

"Her mother really hurt her as a child."

It's not a judgment. It's what you may see within someone. Discernment goes that deep. It's because we are all so naturally interconnected. We truly have few secrets, and those of you holding on to secrets are truly damaging yourself with the rot of that pain, guilt, shame, or whatever it may be. It's best to just let it go.

To others who don't understand discernment and certainly don't want to hear anything resembling the Truth, they'll confuse something like the discernment around someone's inner pain as a judgment. They'll think that you're trying to create a story about the other person. Especially if that statement doesn't have any reflection of who you are, it's easy to see that isn't true. But if you are still working out some deep issues and other people are acting as mirrors, then you may take a little more time in feeling through a discerning thought like that before saying it to make sure that it's coming from a clean space. One other thing about discernment is this: it really doesn't need to make a statement or a big splash in front of everyone. That's what our egos like to do with their judgments because your true self isn't interested in defining itself. It is simply stating what is and what is true, and from that space, it makes living your life so much more effortless because there's nothing to protect or defend.

Allowing Judgments to Dissolve
So as I said, there can be a lot of work leading up to this deep discernment that I've mentioned that sees life so clearly. But if you do it, judgments will gradually dissolve. You may be surprised at how many situations that you no longer really have anything to say in. If you've been like one of the gossiping neighbors that I gave as an example, stopping those judgments will probably also dissolve that relationship. Or perhaps it'll help to transform it. Who knows? But things won't be the same. They never really are, and that's always important to remember. Things are always changing, and no matter how stuck you may feel, you can always change too. So take heart, and take a step back from judging the world around you. It may be the start of finally seeing clearly for the first time.

The Ferris wheel photo comes from Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on this flickr link.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Post-Awakening Concerns: Being Lost Within Absolute Freedom

I wrote awhile ago about the feeling of being lost in a gray world after an awakening. It's the space in between awakening where the old ego is still holding on while the new self is emerging. It makes everything seem slightly impossible and every decision incomplete or unsatisfying. During this time period, awakening is still sloughing away the old skin, and it's a challenging one in anyway that we try to hold onto that dead part of our lives. But another issue that also comes up is the confusion we have with being lost when we've actually become very, very free. On this topic, I wanted to spend a little time to help those of you in awakening orient to the gifts of this present moment that are right before you.

Nowhere to Go, No Need to Go Anywhere
Desires have dissolved. Desires are dissolving. There's nothing out there that you want, and yet some of the old ego yearnings and ideas may still cling on. You may still think that you "need" a job or that you need a "long-term romantic partner." Those ideas may grate against you, and you may struggle with them for a time. Instead, I encourage you to just let them go. For those of you in awakening, that is one of the most powerful medicines, and it is one that is actually a lot easier than you may think it is. For those not in this space, letting go is still a powerful alchemy, but you may find a lot more help in letting go through specific tools and techniques--journaling, energy healing, breathwork, etc. Nonetheless, wherever you find yourself, letting go is powerful stuff, and that's what's been happening during the awakening. All this extra stuff stuck in your closet has been gotten rid of. You don't need it, and the more you go into an awakened state, the more you realize how few things that you do need.

The Fear of Freedom and Doing and Being Anything
When you no longer live in a cell, the wide open expanses of your life may blow you away. You've been living in a darkened cell in a prison eating the same gruel and porridge every day. Now, you're in broad daylight in the most beautiful field in the world with every option of nourishment available to you and every direction available to you as well. What do you do? Perhaps the "doing" part of you is gone too. You don't really want to do anything. So perhaps, you just need to sit awhile. Let those waves of overwhelming feeling wash through you so that you can get used to sunlight, fresh air, and freedom. Many of you won't do this. You'll actually go running back to the jail cell. If you're lucky, they won't let you back in to your old job; your ex won't go back to you; and your house will get sold so that you can move on. If not, you'll find out just how horribly uncomfortable all those things were all along.

Losing Yourself in Freedom
You see, most of your life, you've been trapped, and most of the choices you've made were made by the programming that you accepted from society. It's a humbling thing to realize that you have probably not made more than 5 conscious decisions your whole life. How scary is that? It's like blindly choosing what streets to drive down while driving blindfolded. Is it no wonder that humanity has getting into horrible crashes and messes for so long? We have had no vision, but now, you're getting it. That's why it is so shocking for so many people to awaken. Just about anyone who has the experience and has written to me says that it's nothing like what they thought it might be. It's actually very simple: it's seeing clearly; it's know what's real through and through. And in that sight, you will see all the ways that you've been small-minded, jealous, greedy, fearful, hateful, self-hating, and otherwise petty. You may be overwhelmed by this on top of the immense freedom all around you.

What to Do When You Can Go Anywhere?
The first realization is that you can really go anywhere. The shackles are off. The second is probably the sense that everything is equal, so few things look better than other things. It's not that you want to go hang out in dangerous areas equally to being in a peaceful natural setting, but truly much of the preferences are just gone. With them gone, however, you may at times feel moved to do something. In those moments, you can flow into that doing for awhile. And then you settle back into not doing. The presence of your being translates into the doing, so it becomes sacred doing anything whether it is brushing your teacher, helping a child, or yelling at a co-worker (although honestly, yelling and shouting come very rarely in this space mainly because people don't know how to be taught through this methodology without being completely activated and going more unconscious in response). I use this last instance because all ways of being, feeling, and acting are open to you, and you're not going to place immature judgments of "it's okay to do this, but not that" onto things the way that old ego used to smear them over everything like the guy who puts ketchup on everything on his plate (Sorry, dude, but seriously? That's a lot of ketchup).

Relaxing Into Freedom
But I am sure that some of you have those old parts of your ego screaming, "I have to do something. I don't know where to go. How do I support myself?" Those are the old issues coming up. Just be with them for awhile in this space. You're not going to starve to death. Instead, any way that you need to take care of yourself becomes available. And as I said this is not in an immature way where a new ego thinks that it's so enlightened that it can just steal from someone. That's not how this space of being is. While all things are available to you to do and to be, having touched deep Truth allows you to move from a space of integrity. You do what is necessary with a lot of love and kindness because to do otherwise would be out of truth and out of integrity, which will feel terrible to you. However, in the meantime, see if you can relax further into freedom. Relax into the ease of this moment that needs nothing past the general physical requirements of food, air, and water.

Continuing Difficulties With the Mind and Ego
Because the mind and ego don't know what freedom is, they may still be flailing around like a man drowning in 2 inch puddle. The best thing you can do is to keep bringing awareness to this struggle. Bring awareness to the illusion of this struggle. Feel what you are feeling. Breathe into this space, and then let it go. This may go on for awhile or not.

But part of the re-programming of the mind and the development of the new spiritual ego--the ego that knows it is supposed to serve spirit and that it is, in truth, only temporary--is to teach it what being free is. Not having a tunnel vision anymore may feel like a lack of direction, which is frowned upon in society. But your awakened self can also see ultimately how directionless that very society is. Seriously, you can't keep perpetually "growing" economies; having more money doesn't make you safer or happier; and fighting over land is juvenile--you can't take it with you. I can say all these things to you, but you've got to work on re-learning and re-programming to truly understand them and to remember the truth that you already know.

The World of Possibilities Before You
I know that it may be hard to decide what to do now that you can do or be anything. You may simply need time to dabble in lots of things, and that's okay. You can explore your life anyway that you want to. You can dive in head-first or dip your toe in. What's important is staying connected to your inner knowing during your transition and during life in general. It's still easy to get knocked off of our balance from time to time, and that's okay. We're still human, although we may feel so sensitive to everyone that we feel somewhat super human (not in superhuman with super powers, but super delicate to every feeling and being in our lives and potentially around the world). So when you feel disoriented, just come back to this open space in the middle of your heart. Come back to this wide open meadow of opportunities where you can shape-shift to your heart's delight or dive into a calling that now becomes absolutely crystal clear and effortless. Life is such a gift, and in these precious moments of shifting into the center of your true self, I encourage you to let go of any illusions of being lost and see the full breadth of freedom that is now expanding out before you.


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The Difference Between True Teaching and Data Transfers

One of the big things that I have to work on with many students is the difference between true teaching and a data transfer. We're basically taught in Western Society that teaching is a situation where the teacher has something that we don't have. The teacher then gives us those things--facts, ideas, etc. Now, we have them and can consider ourselves smarter or more knowledgeable. But that's not really teaching. It's just a data transfer. It's treating each other like computers, and subsequently, it can make people mindlessly accept all kinds of crazy ideas because they have no discernment or real engagement around the process. We've also seen this on the spiritual path, which is why many of the new teachers that are waking up are so clear about not having anyone's truth.

In this interest, I'm writing to you today to help you learn about what true teaching--spiritual or otherwise--looks like so that you can fully embrace the path of the student in an empowered place.

No Answers Over Here, No Questions Really Either
I don't have anyone's answers. I don't really even have questions for them. All I am is what I am. It's a strikingly different way of teaching because it's simply happening through my being and through presence. It's not exactly an energy transfer, although my energy does naturally interconnect with students and pretty much anyone in the near vicinity. Because that's what all of our energy naturally does. It naturally wants to flow and to interconnect and to not hide behind the walls of ideas, limitations, and illusions. However, while there may be some energy transference that simply happens, I am as I am, and what I do as a teacher is to help you find the teacher and Truth already in you.

Nothing Better or Worse in Being a Teacher or Student
In society, there's this sense of hierarchy. Because people have been taught to believe that the teacher is the bringer of all things--whether it's all the math concepts they need in their calculus class or how to become enlightened--people have given up a lot of power to them. This has been reinforced in a lot of situations where to question a teacher in class is looked upon disapprovingly. And many immature teachers of many types and traditions would try to win an argument or reclaim their power over a student who does question something. This, of course, is terrible teaching, and it's not about true teaching anyway. We're back into the ego games and power struggles, and all anyone is learning is how to hurt each other. I remember that my favorite teachers were the ones who led discussions in class and helped students to think for themselves. That's where the teacher understands his or her role. That teacher understands that teaching is about helping a student make discerning choices and to elevate themselves to become a peer (although elevation isn't quite the right idea here, but honestly, that's how the thinking in most of those situations still goes. From the spiritual perspective, teacher and student are equal, and in many situations, those roles are fluid and not static).

Because the teacher isn't aiming to hold onto all this knowledge in a specific format or presentation. The best teachers know that there are any number of ways to present something or understand something. So they help the students get the tools to cull through all the information and data transfers thrown at them to make some sense from all of it.

Identifying Your Habits in Learning
Much of the spiritual path is a re-learning of how to learn. Many of you are used to just accepting things whole, and some of you got so sick of that methodology that you're completely cynical and unable to accept anything. Those two extremes are not helpful. If an expert starts explaining to me how wind power works, I'm going to accept most of what s/he says. Obviously, if I'm researching the subject, I'll go and find corroborating sources to verify this expert, but I'm not constantly doubting the data transfer. I'm also not believing everything either.

With that said, I encourage you to begin to identify the many situations when someone is offering a data transfer as well as what is coming with it. People send emotions and different frequencies of energy with different bits of information. Just ask someone their political feelings about abortion and then feel through all the stuff that gets sent over to you along with that information. If you've never really paid attention to this, it may be startling and unsettling what all comes in those transferences beyond words and information.

This is also why a true spiritual teacher spends a lot of time clearing out his/her issues. Because we know how much gets sent to others whenever anything gets said. I use this blog to offer a lot of information and data, but the way I'm using it is to help you ignite your own inner teacher. I'm hoping that the tools and techniques that I offer will help you to take ownership of your own spiritual path. I don't have your answers. No one does. Only you do. And you have to have some discernment here because I'm not talking about your answer to a trivia question on a game show tonight. I've got a lot of random knowledge, so maybe I do have that. But that's not what you're after. You're actually after Truth. You're after what's real and that space of profound inner connection that allows you to be in your fullness in this lifetime. And I don't have that. Nor does any other teacher. All I do is occasionally give your car a jumpstart so you can get the engine running; you still have to learn how it all works to keep it running smoothly

Your Inner Knowing At the Center of True Teaching
True teaching comes from the heart and the soul. True teaching comes from that place of having no real preference for a specific outcome, but it isn't a weak free-floating thing. It is very strong and clear about what is right or wrong. That's why we go so deep. We go into what's real and true, and when we connect there, we can see through immature subjectivity and objectivity that plagues this world's consciousness. Those things can be ideas like:

"It's okay to go to war over this because etc.,etc.,etc."

It's not okay to go to war. And the way people subvert the idea of "defending" themselves is one of the grossest abuses of the idea of self-defense. Someone attacking you in a dark alley requires defense. Another country with oil reserves who doesn't rule their country the way you want them to isn't a "self-defense" situation. So in all of this, I encourage you to develop more discernment around the things that you think you need to defend. I always say that we have to act strongly in the face of a clear and present danger (like being attacked in the alley), but most of our inner knowing will take us towards letting go of situations and pain and being in a space of loving neutrality.

Learning to Trust a True Teacher
And then at the other end of the spectrum, people have been so jaded by data transferers (Is that a word? Well it is now.) that they don't know what to do with a teacher. Because the teacher doesn't have your answers and doesn't just spew information into you like you're an empty vessel that needs to be filled up, you may feel disoriented in working with him or her. At times you may be like, "Well, he didn't answer my questions." Then after that, the teacher may guide you towards things that are uncomfortable or take you into deep spaces that make you feel naked and vulnerable. For most people, the trained ego response is to run away. You don't feel taken care of or protected.

Now, of course, those of you who have been reading my blogs for awhile will see where I'm going. So what is it that is feeling scared or not protected? The ego. And of course, there's a discernment you're going to have to learn how to make between where you're afraid because you're not supposed to go somewhere and where you're afraid because you feel out of your ego's sense of control. Sometimes fear comes up for us in a less than conscious way to tell us that we shouldn't do something. However, the more tuned in to our inner awareness/our intuition, the more that's not the case. From your own inner knowing, you'll also learn to sense how the teacher is actually creating a very safe space for you to be in this vulnerable unknown. Because vulnerability is where our true strength lies. All this armor that you're wearing, it's exhausting you. You've got to take it off, and a true teacher is going to help you learn how to do that.

Other Key Elements of True Teaching
Let's put up some bullets to help you identify teachers and data transfer people.

  • Give you tools to interpret information
  • Don't force you to accept their views
  • Help you to differentiate between opinion and fact
  • Teach you to become a better learner
  • Teach you to become your own teacher

Data Transfer People:
  • Just give you information
  • May expect you to accept everything wholesale
  • Often don't want to be challenged in their information or views
  • Are married to the ideas of right and wrong

I'm using teachers broadly; it's not just about spiritual teachers. And, in truth, anyone teaching something that they love--math, economics, art therapy--is already doing spiritual teaching of a certain order because there is love in their teaching. And of course, love is one of the greatest teachings of them all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Many Lies and Deceptions of the Over Active Mind

There seem to be 2 pretty common questions and issues that find their way into my inbox: how to keep relationships while on the spiritual path and how to stop all the chatter of the mind. Well, I've been writing about the relationship one a little bit as of late. I've talked about the evolution and transformation of relationships and how they all naturally come to some kind of completion because nothing is truly permanent in this world. So now, I'm stepping back out of the beautiful heart center and back up into the noggin for a little bit.

What Do You Want?
The internal programs that play out in the mind can seem quite daunting. They can get you thinking and potentially doing so much and so fast that you really have no idea what you're after. It's kind of like chasing your tail around and around in the yard, and God help you if you catch it. Then what? You're just biting yourself in the ass.

And I think some of you have probably hit that point. It's kinda like trying to be a champion of something or making a start-up work. If you're so lucky, you suddenly get to where you thought you should go and there's no one else there. You've sacrificed all kinds of other things--all kind of important things--only to get to the point where you thought you'd be happy. That happiness may be there, but if so, it is there only briefly, leaving you to vainly create and pursue other goals. Perhaps you set off on that next quest, but the result will be much the same because what you truly want is within you.

The Lie of the World Holding Your Fulfillment
One of the great lies that our minds have been taught and which it now regularly feeds back to us is that some external event will make us truly happy and fulfilled. Think about it? Why are you in the relationship that you're in, doing the job that you do, dreaming of the things that you dream of? Why are you on the "spiritual path?" You may be surprised to read this, but the "spiritual path" is not taking you towards your fulfillment--at least not in the way that you've been trained to think of it. Instead, the spiritual path is more like a full cavity strip search where all of you is stripped naked and bear. Because that's the only way to truly live and be fulfilled--it's to have all of our burdens taken away from us. Of course the problem is that we don't think of all the shields, walls, attachments, and things as burdens. We think we need them to define ourselves which leads us to the next big lie.

The Lie of Defining Yourself
Have you noticed how people (or yourself) get caught up in the phrase, "Well, this is just who I am." No. For most people in the unconscious state, how they are is how they were taught to be. They think that they've chosen it, but usually, they haven't spent any time at all to understand the programming that their families and societies have given them. It can start at the absurdly superficial with someone saying, "Well, I'm just a Dolce and Gabbana gal." No. Of course not. That's just an ego choice. Then it can get down into more subtle things like, "I'm just a love, not a fighter." Perhaps. Or are you hiding from the demand to stand up for yourself?

The list of lies we have to define ourselves is extensive. Here's one that doesn't seem like a lie: "I'm smart." Based on what? That's a comparative statement, and if you want to really piss off a "smart" person, then put him or her in a position where they aren't the most knowledgeable about a subject. But that's not even the point here. It's the ego attachment to the idea of being smart that's the problem. It's the ego attachment to all these different traits that we think we are that is in the way. Even the ones that seem like "good" ones can be just as problematic. I had a wonderful conversation last night with a new friend about how all these monks in a monastery were "trying" to be kind and harmonious to each other. But because of all the unworked out issues, it had turned the monastery into a vile and angry place on the deeper level. That attachment to trying to define themselves as "always peaceful" has instead created an enormous shadow side of unacknowledged emotion. And that example extends to all of humanity in how we try to act specific roles, and it is part of why we are so sick.

Accepting All Aspects of Ourselves
The mind is really just a record player or computer. It can have the record it's playing be replaced, or it can be re-programmed. That's the good news. And oh by the way, having traits and characteristics that are distinctive to you is just fine--it's the constant attachment and the record repeating over and over again that this is who you are that's the problem. For instance, I don't have to be a spiritual teacher. Having had my full cavity strip search a couple of times, those two words--spiritual teach--are simply clothes that I put on. I can take them off. That's what I'm encouraging here. I'm not telling you that you should become mindless lumps with no preferences for anything. That's nonsense. But right now, most of you don't even understand your preferences. You don't know why you like what you like or do what you do. That's not a mean thing to say: it's a statement of fact.

Others of you have started to chip into this big iceberg of lies, and you may feel overwhelmed. But you've gotten started, and that's important. There is that warm soft core of yourself that you're working your way towards. So as you go, I encourage you to take heart. You created the mental programs that are playing in your head, and so you--and only you--can create new ones. If anything, as you go, you're going to feel more empowered and lightened (seriously, your body will often feel like it is physically carrying less). This is part of the en-lightening process, so just let go of the lies and delete the programs that do not suit you. You don't need them.

Tips and Techniques for Facing the Over Active Mind
Well, I don't expect to be very ground-breaking with my tips on this stuff. Anyone who has been reading this blog can pretty much guess what the first two will be. But I encourage you that you can do this. That's the most important thing in all of this. We can get caught up in the lie that we're powerless to change ourselves or our worlds, and that's just not true. So keep in mind when you do any of these tips that you're in the process of taking back your power--potentially for the first time ever.
  1. Meditate. All right, who didn't see that one coming? The one thing I would say here is that this is about paying attention to your thoughts and not trying to get rid of them. There are also plenty of different forms of meditation and different amounts of time that you can meditate for. I recommend at least 15 minutes a day because if you can't even create that much time for yourself, then you've got a lot more to review in your life than you may realize.
  2. Journal. Yep. Not a surprise for many of you. Write out your thoughts. What are they about? What are the stories? And then most importantly, where did those stories come from? I find that tracing the story backwards is like getting to the root of a weed. As you cultivate the garden of your soul, it's important to get to the root cause of things so that you make lots of space for things to grow in your life.
  3. Love. Love yourself, that is. The spiritual path is a path of love and not self-abasement. You're not going to get this all right. It won't be perfect. Things are going to get messy, so perhaps for 5 to 10 minutes a day, just stop and put your hand on you heart. Close your eyes and focus on how much you love yourself and appreciate the work you are doing to live in your fullness. This alone may be a powerful practice and bring up many things for you.
The Calming of the Mind
In some ways, the mind is also a screaming child who just wants to have its need met--its real needs. Many parents out there know that a child oftentimes has no idea what s/he wants. In many ways, that's your mind. It's just being doing what it's been trained to do. And while the ego (which is more a collective of traits and perspectives) has thought it's been ruling the mind, it really hasn't. You've been crashing around pointlessly through life even when you thought you were in control. You may be extremely humbled to see how out of control you've been. The good news is that this can be done, and as you meet the needs that you have, things will calm down like the child that gets the bottle it didn't know it wanted. And gradually, you'll begin to find a clarity about yourself, others, and your life that you didn't know you had.

And then the real work will begin.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Fear of Losing Loved Ones on the Spiritual Path

One of the most common fears that people have is that by following the spiritual path that they'll lose the ones they love. It's an interesting fear, and as all fears are, it's based on lies. It sounds harsh to see it put this way, but you've got to face facts: you can't keep any relationship ever. Every relationship is changing in every moment of every day, and we can consciously change them in any moment. That's probably a lot to handle right out of the gate (Yeah, I usually have more of a warm-up before hitting some hard points on these posts). But you probably have a lot of core illusions that we have to face, and we've got quite a bit of ground to cover.

The Illusion of Permanence in Relationships
You've got to face facts: whether it's your relationship to your husband, mother, or dog, that relationship is changing. It's changing because you are always changing and they are always changing. That will never stop. Part of the initial problem that so many people have to deal with is that they believe in permanence. Even the mountains of the Sierra Nevada will crumble one day. That's a fact. So to will any and every relationship you have, including the one you have with yourself.

That's a key point here. How you are with yourself is changing. The deeper you go on the spiritual path, the more you will also have to dissolve the duality of being able to have a relationship with yourself, but I digress a little. This is putting the cart before the horse, and I'll leave this nugget out to those of you in active awakening that are having your entire mountain shaken to the ground.

The key point is that you are not permanent, and most of you are so lost in your current illusions, that we have to burst this current bubble first. So if you can't even be a permanent point in this universe, then how will you ever be involved with anything that's permanent?

The Spiritual Path: Embracing Change
One of the core parts of the spiritual path is embracing change and letting go of the illusion of permanence. In so doing, that will shift how you are with yourself. In so doing that, you're shifting how you are with everyone else. That's where things start to get emotionally charged. You suddenly find people with whom you were close now distancing themselves from you, getting angry with you, you getting angry with them, or you distancing yourself from them. Or maybe it's some other form of lack of harmony, and you wonder what you're doing wrong.

Nothing. Nothing is wrong. Things are changing, and that's just part of the spiritual path. In truth, that's simply a fact of life.

However, these truths may not be giving you many tools to help in the letting go process, so I'll offer this instead: when you make space in your life, you make room for other people to enter it. You see, there's this other illusion going on in all of your heads that if you "lose" a friend, spouse, girlfriend, or whomever that you'll never, ever, ever, ever, EVER get another person with whom you can connect with like that again. In some ways, that's true. Each connection with each person in each moment is unique unto itself. There will never be another one like it. But somewhere in this is this idea that somehow you'll be lost and alone and forced to live on a mountaintop by yourself on the spiritual path. If nothing else, you're going to find your ability to connect deeply and intimately with others enhancing the further you go, not decreasing. Perhaps at some point you may glance over your shoulder and realize how unfulfilling the relationships you've been in actually were and wonder why you ever hung onto them so hard.

Holding On Leads to Suffering
Now, there's a difference between making a commitment to a relationship and holding on past the lifespan of the relationship. All relationships have lifespans. After a certain point, they're done. Beit, 60 years, 60 days, or 60 seconds, a relationship will end. But that doesn't invalidate the relationship that you have during those times. I sometimes think people are too lost in the failure/success ideology of our times. People seem to think that if a romantic relationship doesn't last until someone keels over after 50 years of marriage, then the romantic partnership was a failure. What a sad belief. How many other beautiful relationships are invalidated because of it?

And of course, that belief can lead couples to hold on doggedly in the shackles of less than holy matrimony for years and decades. As I said, there's a big difference between committing through tough times and difficult lessons and holding on when there's nothing left. Only you know this time. You know it in your heart, and you know that you have to walk this spiritual path if you're reading this blog. Why else would you be here?

But also keep in mind that social contracts between people can be consciously shifted, but you're both going to have to want to do that work. If you got into a relationship when you were hiding a lot of spiritual beliefs, then you've got to talk to your partner about making room. How your partner responds will tell you a lot about him or her, and this can be an instance of consciously growing and expanding your relationship. It may also be the end of it. Either way, you can't hide from this truth if you're going to walk the spiritual path. Truly, you can't hide from anything on this journey.

Keeping Faith in the Process
I've had tons of people move into my life, out of my life, and some have cycled back into my life again. Each relationship and each moment is precious to me no matter how fleeting. I've learned not to hold onto good moments as well as bad moments. I've noticed that while certain moments with some people are amazing, that may be the only amazing moment we ever have together. There's no need to drag out any friendship or relationship to try and re-create that moment, which is what happens for a lot of people. Along the way, I've learned to have a great deal of faith in the spiritual process because in opening myself and clearing fears, I've created more and more space for others of similar natures to meet me.

Consider this: if you've been a negative person, you've probably attracted a lot of negative people. The more you let go of that attitude, the more space you create for new people to connect with you in new ways. It may not be immediate, and it will require you to teach yourself a lot of new ways of acting, speaking, and being with others. That's part of the re-programming almost all of us have to do in this world as we delete a lot of lies and fear-based programs that society has taught us. But if you keep faith and trust, you will be amazed at who comes into your life and the refreshing and healthier types of relationships that come your way.

Nothing Is Lost on the Spiritual Path
At the highest truth, nothing is lost. There is only the question of if you are living the life you want to live in your heart of hearts and at the center of your soul's desire. Are you? Because if you aren't, you probably have a lot of people around you who aren't doing so either. It's what you've attracted into your life, and they probably reinforce the same illusions and lies that you have such as:

"You can't do this."
"It's not practical to live the life that you want to live."
"Spirituality is all a lie anyway."

The list of lies goes on. Only you can sort out what is true, but know this: when you let go of relationships that no longer serve you, you make space to grow. As you grow, new people can enter your life. And it may take awhile to get used to being with different types of people. You're walking way outside of your comfort zone and saying good-bye to it. The only way to truly be comfortable on the spiritual path is to be fully comfortable with yourself. Once that happens, every place in the world is part of your comfort zone (You do still maintain your discernment, however; you're not blithely skipping through warzones). And with such an expansive comfort zone, you can see how things flow. You can see how relationships become like drops of water. Some flow in, circle and swirl in the eddies of your life, and then they flow out to be replaced by new droplets. It's all very beautiful, and in this flow, you are never alone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Be Your True Self

In my last post, I mentioned how important is to be who you truly are. There's no time left for falsities; we know where that is taking us. And in this culture of fast-food, laser hair removal, fake smiles, and social lies and deceit, we are at a crucial turning point. We can destroy ourselves through our own self-hatred, or we can choose to be who we truly are. It's an empowering and terrifying time, is it not? Can you feel it? Can you feel that inner call resonating with these words yelling and screaming, "Yes, I want to be who I truly am. Yes! Yes! Yes!"

So get started.

Facing Your Lies, No Longer Blaming Others
There's a juncture on this path where we no longer blame society, our parents, or our situations. We turn the finger back towards ourselves. We turn to look into the mirror to face our greatest liar--it's an important turning point. The world cannot give us what we want. What we truly want is to be ourselves. We try to lie to ourselves saying that the world won't let us. But that isn't true. I'm sure all of you have obstacles. That's fine. And if you're reading this I want you to know that you are perfectly suited to face those obstacles no matter how challenging they appear. You have all the tools that you need, and if you have ask for help, it'll be there when the time is right.

But don't expect the spiritual path to be a golden paved road with rose petals, chocolate fountains, and all the beer you can drink. It doesn't work that way. Because we've been piling tons of shit on ourselves, and humanity has been piling tons of shit on itself for centuries. The duration doesn't matter because things can ultimately shift incredibly quickly, but a lot of stuff in this world will still take time. However, you don't have to wait, nor should you wait for what the "world" may do. You are already at the center of your world; start making changes there.

Accepting What You Are
One of the amazingly sad things is that this world has taught us to play small. It's taught us to take on roles that are inappropriate to us, and any time we are doing things that aren't truly in our hearts, we are cut off from other parts of ourselves. That's how we play small. Playing big has nothing to do with any of the usual measures of "bigness" that are commonly thought of. So, you don't have to be an international diplomat, president, 100-Meter Gold medalist, or a mother of 8 kids to have a big role. You can be a farmer in the middle of nowhere's-ville, and if this is truly your passion, you're playing huge. Because that's what you are, and in accepting yourself in that fullness, you're living large.

You may also have a role that isn't culturally acceptable, such as anyone called to be a dakini or daka--a sexual teacher. That brings it's own challenges, but by God, we have so much to repair in people around their sexuality. If this is you, you are badly needed. For others, perhaps you know that you're a great spiritual teacher or leader. You are badly needed. You also don't have to heal or teach hundreds, thousands, or millions to be a great teacher or healer. You may be called to heal a few. It doesn't matter so long as you are standing in the fullness of who you are. That's how you live large, and you can only do it when you accept what you are and the role you've chosen to play.

Standing in Your Light Draws Life to You
Initially, things may not flow easily for you. This is often because you've got so much inertia weighing you down, and you've created so much momentum taking you some place else. You may have years of being a school teacher, but now you're called to be spiritual community building catalyst. I'm sure that you'll have been gaining some of the tools that you need for it as a school teacher, but initially job offers and initial ideas may keep trying to pull you back into that old venue. That's why it's so important to do the work on yourself to clear away doubts and fears so that you are clear about what it is you are here to do. If you don't, I've noticed that people can talk themselves into going back into that old space because it seems like they're supposed to. And sometimes they are. We have to learn all the lessons that we need to learn to complete old cycles, but many other times, going back is horribly miserable. Because you've let the truth out of the box to yourself, and you can't live small like that anymore.

More often than not, I've seen in my own life and others that as you stand in the fullness of your true self, others get drawn to you to help you do that work. You become this dynamic co-creator of the flow in your life, and you can easily create and change things. Bringing stuff to fruition in your life may have a quality of effortlessness at times, although not always. You are starting to see how amazing it is when you simply are you.

The Old Shell Falls Away
More and more, the light of you will melt the old shell of you away. Sometimes it feels like you need a pickaxe to slough it off, and sometimes you do. But the further you go, I've found that there is a great ease and relaxation to being my true self. It's just what I am, and I don't work hard at it. How could I? Isn't that ridiculous? Could you imagine an elephant working hard to be an elephant? Maybe you're smiling as you read this. But it is important to acknowledge what you are. Stop fighting the fact that you're an elephant. You can't be an anteater. It won't work. It'll confuse the anteaters, and you really don't like eating ants anyway, do you? (I have an fun allegory about this in The Tale of the Butterfly for those of you new to the blog). The same goes for the anteater. You don't have a trunk, and you never will. That's not what you are. You have a whole other set of gifts that are beautiful that you need to embrace.

Along with acknowledging what you are, you won't get caught up in trying to be what you're not. It's not that you'll stop trying new things or improving skills (like becoming a better singer), but you'll understand that you're not good at math. It's not in your heart; you'll get a financial advisor at tax time because that's that person's passion. It's simple really. The world will start to get really simple in some ways when people simply do what they love without all the needless frustration and effort of trying to make themselves into things they aren't. That struggle simply brings more misery into world, and we've all had enough of that.

Where We Are Today: Misery Abounds
But right now, people are bought into lies. They're bought into a world of made up rules, and they're bought into lies that tell them that they can't be what they truly want to be. Many of you feel like you don't know who you really are, but you do. It's usually that thing you say, "Well, if I could do anything, it'd be this thing, but I can't do this because yada yada yada." And if you're really confused about what you would do if you could do anything, then don't you think now's the time to start figuring it out? It doesn't matter if you're 15 years old or 89 years old. You can re-create your life in anyway you want at any time, and you can connect with your true self.

Facing Your Fears and Becoming Your True Self
More often than not, you are avoiding this path being you because you're afraid. I'm sure many of you have elaborate lies about why you can't be you. "Oh I have a family to raise; I can't focus on that." Seriously? You want to show your kids how to not be themselves? Because that's what you're doing. If kids don't see their parents living their truths, what do you think they're going to do? There's so much on the line right now, and there's no time to waste. Too much blood has been spilled because of miserable people not being who they truly are lashing out at others over the stupidest things like land and money--as if we can take any of it with us.

Can you tell me how I can own land? Sure, you can put a fence around it and give me a deed, but I can't take it anywhere. The amount of stuff that I can actually carry around is very limited, and the more that I carry, the more burdened I am. Your fears are like that too. They're more burdens for you to carry to slowly crush the life out of you. And that's part of why spiritual awakening is so deeply disturbing because many people underneath a pile of misery, lies, and fear get crushed open. Suddenly they have to feel everything including the truth that they have denied their true self their entire lives.

Simplicity Is All That Remains Within
Life is actually simple. And if any of this blog sounds melodramatic, I'm simply showing you a reflection of all the drama that we've created. The spiritual path is very much drama-free. It's about simply being as we already are. We don't have to turn finding our true selves into a struggle either. We simply start by living consciously in each moment and trusting our hearts. It's so simple. I encourage you to embrace that simplicity and to embrace the fullness of you. You can do it. You are more than ready to stand in your own light, and the world needs you too.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Facing Your Anger as a Spiritual Practice

One big misconception on the spiritual path is that you should always feel "positive" emotions--love, joy, peace, generosity, etc. It's an incredibly juvenile view, which creates a dark shadow side filled with emotions such as fear, shame, sadness, jealousy, greed, and of course, anger. It's completely unrealistic because we are all of our emotions. Cutting ourselves off from an emotion is like cutting off a limb. It's absolutely crazy, and it perpetuates the inner division and duality that perpetuates pain. So, I'm writing today to talk about anger and how to be with it in your spiritual practice.

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Nothing Wrong With Anger: It's Just Trapped Energy

My current favorite way to describe anger is as trapped energy. It's not always this, but for quite a few of you it is. Consider that if you block a lot of flowing water, pressure builds. It builds, and it builds. It gets really uncomfortable until something has to break. When we stop ourselves from following our hearts and living our truth, we can get restless, discontent, angry. The more we need to follow a certain path and the more we avoid it, the greater the pressure becomes. We get to the point that we want to scream and lash out, but we don't know what to lash out against. This often leads to a lot of poor choices and bad coping mechanisms like alcohol, sex, getting into verbal and physical fights, doing drugs, working long hours, and even excessive shopping among other things to make ourselves feel better.

Meanwhile, the pressure is building, and you don't know how you're going to deal with it without going out of your mind.

Your Spiritual Practice Takes You to the Blockage

I talk a lot about blockages on this blog and in my sessions. A blockage is any place within you where things are stuck. Oftentimes, the blockages are caused by ideas. Here's a simple one:

"I can't follow my heart to play music because I can't make a living that way."

False. That's a total lie. You can't know if you can or not until you do it. The fear around money (which is a survival issue at its core) is a very common blockage. Part of addressing this issue will very likely involve taking action to turn music into your career if that is what you are choosing. That's active spirituality. You can't just meditate a career into an existence, generally speaking. You have to do your part. That's part of living in this world and being engaged.

The good news is that all that built up angry energy is just waiting to pour out into a direction. You may be surprised how quickly the anger starts to subside as the energy is given room to move. You may also be surprised how quickly things may take place in your life once you go in the direction that you really want to go, although there are no guarantees on this path.

Anger Hides Other Issues

One of the interesting things about anger is that it often hides other issues. In society, we're taught to project our feelings and ideas onto the world. In turn, we go to the world to try and actualize the stories that we're making up about it. So you send out your ideas of perfect ole prince charming, and you try to make him make you feel the way you want to feel. It's crazy. You know it as you read these words. This works for men too. You try to make the beauty queen your girlfriend and have her make you feel how you want to feel. It's all very crazy, and you'll probably get very angry in these situations because more often than not those other people don't act out the story you want. So you don't get the feelings you want to feel. But you already have those feelings inside, and this little game is an abdication of your personal responsibility.

In the instances of trying to make another person act out your romantic fantasy, it's very easy to become angry with your romantic partner. At least that's what it seems like. But really, you're just pissed off at yourself. You're angry that you're not getting what you want. And while you think it's a behavior from your significant other, it's really not. There's something else that you want; it's a feeling inside.

Following the Anger Trail Back to the Core Issue

Instead you have a whole bunch of other feelings that you don't want, and in this example, it's anger. So anger in this spiritual practice is following the trail back to yourself. You'll see how angry you are at yourself for giving away your power to external situations. You'll have to own all of your feelings and your obligation to bring forth your own love. Because ultimately, how can anyone truly love you if you don't even truly love you? And that feeling of love is the feeling you want, is it not?

So perhaps hiding under this specific issue is a self-worth issue. It can be very sneaky sometimes. We've been taught to bury our issues extremely well. That's why this spiritual path can get so messy. Initially, you're pulling yourself apart on the spiritual path, especially if you're in awakening. It's the only way to create a real foundation built on truth and love--two things that are real and can last.

To go deeper on digging out core issues, I suggest this post after you finish reading here:

Uncovering Core Issues

Digging Deeper and Continuing to Acknowledge Anger

Before I go much deeper, I've occasionally suggested that people give themselves outlets to vent anger from time to time. I don't want you to turn yourself into total pressure cookers, so I occasionally suggest the idea of taking up a kickboxing class, beating the crap out of a pillow, or finding a sledgehammer to smash rocks. But I only offer these things as temporary solutions. If you don't follow the trail down to the core issue to address the block damming up the flow of your life, then you're simply training yourself to be destructive. As I said, those are temporary things to let the steam out, and then you have to do your work to make the changes necessary in your life. Otherwise, the anger comes right back.

Furthermore, you're probably going to find multiple dams within you. People are so trapped these days. People are absolutely livid at themselves for not living the lives that they want to live. People get bought into a whole load of social crap, ideologies, and lies, and pretty soon they're having a mid-life or end of life crisis where they realize that they've never truly done one thing that they wanted to do. They feel like they've wasted their whole lives.

So, I'm writing with all my heart to say, "Don't wait to start living your true life."

Facing the Uncomfortable Emotions With Compassion

The common way people talk about dealing with difficult emotions is to learn how to watch them arise within you and to pass away. This is also a temporary measure because you don't want to get caught up too much in the duality of your emotions vs your true self. It is all you. So compassion can help to blend the two, allowing you to watch them as part of you but to not get lost in them. That's really some of the best advice I can offer to you about anger. For more temporary angers such as you dropped a hammer on your foot, it can work very well. You feel the anger come up, and then you can let it pass. There's no reason to do anymore damage to yourself than has been done. When it comes up with family, you may find in some instances that the anger is about learning to speak your truth in a highly-charged familial environment. Sometimes, you need to allow the anger to arise and pass before speaking, and sometimes you simply need to observe it because there's nothing that needs to be said and anything that would be said would just fuel a bad situation (especially if you have a physically abusive family member). In those instances, your anger may be guiding you to take action and leave the situation.

In short, you are learning to allow your anger to arise and pass away. This is what I mean when I say that we learn to dissolve issues with awareness. We stay present and engaged with the feelings, but we don't buy into any story around them. If we do, we start to recycle the issue, and around and around we go. For more on this, check out this spiritual blog post:

Dissolving Issues With Awareness

Anger Is as Sacred as All the Rest
The last thoughts for this blog is to appreciate that anger is as sacred as all your other emotions. It is not a bad or negative emotion. Holding on and attaching to the anger and the stories builds grudges, hatreds, and generations long feuds that lead to wars and atrocities. This is why people are afraid of anger, and in being afraid of anger, it gets bottled up and worse things go on at the unconscious level within you. There is so much pain, and the best way truly is to just let it all go. If you remember nothing else, then remember to let go of your anger when it comes and then take the actions you need to to live the life of your joy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Practicing Conscious Action: The Importance of "How" on the Spiritual Path

Many of you are finding out that goals don't mean much on the spiritual path. Sure, they help us to get moving, and achieving things can have lasting, positive effects. But so often, we don't achieve the goals that we set out to achieve. A lot of times, the original goal goes by the wayside, and we find something more meaningful or true to us that causes us to shift our attentions. Or perhaps not. Because as I said, the goal is not of anywhere near as critical importance as the process of moving towards that goal. It is the "how" that is so critical because it is creating the end result, and it is the end result at the same time. We can never be anywhere but here and now. Many times, goals are "over there" or are a future desired result, or they are so fleeting in the moment of achievement that they are soon washed away by new goals or new demands.

So as you develop your spiritual path and as you awaken, more and more attention absolutely must be paid to how you are creating each moment.

Each Moment Offers New Awareness
We can only ever be aware of this moment--the one that's happening right now. Getting lost in the past or in the future are futile mental endeavors. One is a preoccupation with things that were and that we cannot touch. The other is a preoccupation with things that aren't yet in form, and many times we sacrifice our awareness and the current moment trying to get to these future things. It can cause us to neglect many important things that are here and now because we don't find them desirable or think they're only stepping stones. Consider what it's like working with someone who considers his position just to be a stepping stone. He may be neglectful or cruel to the people around him because he's trying to get some place else in his career. He may use others to attain these goals and leave a trail of anger and resentment behind him that will cause him much pain throughout his life, although oftentimes this person is so unconscious that he doesn't know it.

Or perhaps, you're trying to turn your marriage or relationship into the "perfect" relationship. You don't fully appreciate the growth you both have to do, and you may not appreciate what you have currently. It's like the couple that is always looking to the next step: first getting into a committed relationship (neglecting the time they have for exploring other partners); then getting married (perhaps not spending enough time to get to know each other); then having children (and perhaps not enjoying the life of being a couple); and then trying to get the kids off to good schools, good colleges, and so forth. In a culture that can get so focused on the future, we can give up the beauty of our lives until we're old and looking back at the past with regret for all the moments that we missed (and in that looking back, we continue to miss the current moment that we have).

Bringing Consciousness Into this Moment
This is why it's so important to start by bringing your attention to this moment. Even as you are reading this, what is your mind doing? Is it caught up thinking about other things? What is your body feeling? What is going on in your heart? How much attention can you bring to yourself and the stimuli that's going on around you? These are important questions and subsequently important practices to cultivate. There is nothing inherently difficult about any of these, and it's not meant to make you hyper-aware of all things, all the time. It simply is a beginning to many beginnings of starting over again in each moment. Each moment is a chance to begin anew, and therefore the very moment has its own unique consciousness that you blend with through your own consciousness. Because we're not singular beings. Part of the illusion of duality is believing that we're singular, individual, and wholly unattached to what happens around us. That brings about neglect, and it's a neglect that we see in how we treat relationships and our environments. The more consciousness and awareness you bring to each moment, the more you're going to notice how much you're influenced by everything around you and how much you influence all that touches you.

Paying Attention to How You Do Things
While meditation is a pause to see how you're feeling, this blog is an invitation to bring awareness to see how you are "doing." When you're driving your car, "how" are you driving it? Are you moving with the sole focus to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible? Are you rubber-necking, letting your attention wander all over the road with things that interest you? Check in with it. How we do things creates currents in life. People respond to these currents that we are constantly sending out. They may not consciously know that they're responding in this way, but they are responding to them. Others may simply not be able to explain why they don't want to be around you, and in truth, you may have some really big blindspots about the way you're acting. If you've never paid attention to how you act and why you do what you do, then you've got a lot of learning to do.

But regardless of how aware you are of yourself, you can always practice more. Because life is constantly shifting and evolving. There's no real end point to the spiritual path. There's just more change (I'm sure the Buddhists will happily agree with that sentence :).

Creating the Building Blocks of Your Life
Consider building a pyramid: If you're in a rush, grabbing whatever materials are at hand to build your pyramid as quickly as possible, you're probably not going to make a very good structure. It will likely collapse very easily and not be able to withstand the forces that will hit up against it. Similarly, if you don't take action to start building, you'll never have a pyramid. Conscious action is being able to make smart choices and to do the planning that you need to do to get there. It's very much grounded in the present moment, but it doesn't forgo learnings from the past and the ability to predict some aspects of the future. By following the spiritual path, we aren't becoming brainless people caught up in vicarious pleasures of the moment. We're evolving to hold space for past, present, and future, and we're doing so by understanding how they all come together in this singular moment. And in this moment, how we are with those considerations shapes everything in our lives.

Now, I'm not much for the law of attraction. It's entirely too simplistic, and it kind of supposes that everything that happens is because of ourselves either doing right or wrong. As I said, this is simplistic, and it's still pretty ego-focused (who could imagine that if the sun exploded that it's because the whole universe attracted that outcome?). But there is truth in the fact that how we act creates the ripples that draw or repel different possibilities and people into our lives. So in this way, how you are doing things is setting your life up for a lot of different things to come your way. If you don't like how things have been going, then it's time to start paying attention to what you've been doing and thinking. Thoughts are as much a part of how we do things as anything else; anyone who is helping the hungry to get more food but only to make him or herself feel better is corrupting the work. There are ramifications for that even if we don't see them immediately.

Quick Tips for Paying Attention to How You Are Moving Through Life
So you get the idea: how you do things and think about things creates outcomes. If you don't pay attention to what you're doing and how you're doing it, a lot of unintended consequences are on their way. Here are some simple ways to get started:
  1. Pay attention to how you're eating. Eating fast? Eating slow? Not paying attention to what you're putting in your body? Start here for some of the most basic conscious action anyone can take.
  2. Pay attention to how you're driving. Carwrecks are all too common place, so there's even an added benefit of increased safety by bringing more attention to how you drive. Fast or slow, it's a good idea to check in with how you're moving through the masses of moving vehicles.
  3. Paying attention to how you're talking with others. Are you talking at others? Are you talking softly? Are you talking loudly? There's a lot that we say about ourselves through tone of voice, and people respond to those mannerisms and the energy that comes with it. If people constantly are put off by how you talk to them, maybe you should start to bring more awareness to how you express yourself, or heck, you could even ask for feedback from others about why they respond to you in the way that they do.

Spirituality Is Still Simple
This is one of my more basic posts about spirituality, and it's ultimately a reminder that spirituality is still simple. It's not a hard thing. You don't need fancy robes or need to join the seminary. It's already inside of you, and if you start to pay attention to how you are living your life, you may be surprised at how quickly things may shift and change right before your eyes.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Art of True Self-Sacrifice

One of the big shifts that we have in our consciousness (at least for many of us) is the move towards service. It's an incredibly powerful shift because we are losing the sense of "I." We're losing the sense of "I need this," "I need that," and "I'll only do this if it makes me feel happy." Interestingly enough though, some of you will find your awakening to be a time of incredible self-focus, which should not be confused for selfishness. So for this blog, I'm going to write a little bit about what self-sacrifice really is and what it's like to come to terms with your true needs in a space of serving the greater good of all.

What Sacrifice Is Confused As
The ultimate sacrifice that everyone knows about in religious circles is the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity by being crucified. The common way of expressing what happened is that he died for our sins. It's an amazing act of kindness, and he is and will be for many more thousands of years a wonderful symbol of someone who paved the way towards connecting more deeply with God and letting go of our pain.

But unfortunately, many of us have taken this kind of martyrdom as the kind of sacrifice that has to be made to walk the spiritual path. People seem to think that they have to suffer for others, and that's simply not the case. Jesus was working on many levels, including the deeper example of rebirth. As a metaphor, our ego is the one that gets annihilated/crucified, and what remains is our spirit. The story doesn't get told that way, but those of you in awakening know how painful it is to hold onto that ego self. You know how it feels tormented, tortured, and pulled apart. But you do arise, and you don't have to physically die (although it can feel like that for some of you). You arise as a being who can live in this world, but knows that it is not of it. It is stripped of untruth until there is just the fullness of you, and in that fullness, you are more truly powerful than you could ever be trapped within the confines of the ego still trying to prove itself and gain external validation and approval. You are far greater than this physical life, and you don't have to suffer to get there or to help others.

Suffering Creates More Suffering
The truth of this world is that suffering creates more suffering. Now, I want to pause to explain that there is pain in life. If you lose a loved one or can't eat for days on end, you will feel pain and discomfort. The mind can make you suffer by worrying about the next day or bemoaning its plight in life. Acceptance is always about seeing the situation for what it is and making the changes that you need to make. If you can't change it, then we accept it more deeply and the emotions that we're feeling.

Undoubtedly, there is great pain in this world. But if you suffer for others in other cultures, in difficult war zones, or even for others in our families, no one is served. Say for instance you continue to financially support a family member, but this is putting you in a place of severe financial hardship. This type of self-sacrifice does not serve you nor the other person, who may need to learn how to manage finances (well, there are lots of lessons; this is just an example). You need to go within to find out if helping someone in this way is something that really feels true to you or if you doing it for another reason. Because when you suffer, the greater whole also suffers. That's the truth of life where there are no boundaries and we are all interconnected. The greatest thing you can ever do to help others and to serve is to start by learning how to serve yourself.

Sacrificing the Ego's Desires
Initially, the sacrifices that people talk about are around ego things. Those always seem hard to the ego. "Oh, I'd rather go to the baseball game, but I've got to take my son to the doctor." Here's a common "sacrifice," which is needed. This is okay. This is closer to true sacrifice because there will be more baseball games. The baseball game is not as important as the ego makes it out to be. In truth, awakening will ask you to sacrifice the whole ego, so these types of sacrifices are good practice as you get closer to what is real in life. You're going to have to let go of your ego (all the traits, ideas, and cultural programming that makes up how you think of yourself). In truth, when we die, we will be forced to let it go then. Because the ego cannot fit in the spiritual realm. It is too dense for the hallways of God, and in so many ways, that's what so many people find out as they age. Little by little, all the things that we thought we had or could control are stripped from us. It's better to learn how to let it go now. It's better to find out how to live and age gracefully without ending up in a wrestling match with forces to whom you will lose.

The Sacrifice This Is in Err
But there is a transitional time in awakening when we have to re-learn how to be with ourselves. We have to redevelop a relationship with ourselves: our body, heart, mind, and spirit. We have to re-build a new ego based in true service, but usually what happens is people get a hit of this energy, and they want to go save the world. But you cannot yet fully stand on your feet. You aren't ready to run off because you don't even know you. You don't fully understand how to be you. So you have to stop, and you have to learn how to serve you. Because by learning to serve yourself, you are going to learn how to serve the world appropriately. Lots of people expend a lot of energy quickly and exhaust themselves in this desire to help others. They spin out tons of energy to lots for other people, and then they crash. Many people do this regardless of being in awakening, but during awakening, it's an especially precious time to cultivate all this energy, to let it build up so you can break through old patterns to fully re-connect to God and to yourself.

But if you don't serve yourself, you can't really embody all of this awakened energy. Sure, whatever happens will be perfect, but I'm writing to encourage you to appreciate what this time of life can mean. You will be sacrificing your ego, but you shouldn't sacrifice your true self, your love, and your ability to be whole and fully grounded in Truth.

Taking Time to Shift
I wrote about finding your sanctuary in a recent blog post. In this way, you will probably be making sacrifices. You'll be sacrificing old ways of living, which you will learn aren't sacrifices at all. You'll realize that you're going to be getting closer to the truth of yourself. You'll realize that the way you acted before was sacrificing who you really are, and you'll begin to understand that those were sacrifices in err. Those ways were selling yourself out, and you're now reclaiming yourself from all the situations, relationships, and whatnot that do not serve you. You'll feel like your life is exploding, but you're only getting rid of what is not true. And in getting rid of what is not true, you're going to becoming more and more clear about what is true. That's the beauty of it. Life will get clearer and clearer, but you do have to sacrifice this old way of being.

During these times, rituals can be very helpful. See if you can find some items that symbolize your old life and get rid of them--give them away, sell them, or take them apart. Do whatever feels appropriate to you. It can be an important way to express to yourself in the physical world that something profound is changing on the internal world.

Service Is Not Sacrifice
The ego often sees helping others or doing jobs that don't make a lot of money as "sacrifices," but as you go along, you'll know that this isn't true. Many times, making money is sacrificing the true you more often than not. You may be a person who goes to a job that you hate. What is the cost of this? Perhaps you can't imagine that you can do something else to cover your cost of living. This is a lie of the ego. Let yourself sacrifice that lie. Let it go.

So in coming into our space of service, we realize that when we serve others, we serve ourselves. But also, you  need to remember that when you serve yourself, you serve the world. Everyone is being made whole, and there is no need to sacrifice that beautiful center of yourself. There is no need to exhaust yourself through giving all the time to others. You need to remember to learn to give to yourself. And in that space of self-love and self-giving, you'll find that it is actually quite easy to sacrifice the things that are ultimately not real anyway.
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