Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Multiple Layers of Healing

If there is one element that can get ignored in the spiritual path, it is the element of healing. I think in some ways, many people come to the spiritual path as a kind of last ditch chance to escape themselves and the suffering they have endured and are enduring. It is a true shock to many of them when the spiritual path, instead, turns them directly towards this pain and all the painful memories that they are carrying inside of them. That is, of course, assuming that the spiritual teacher understands his/her role properly, but I digress.

Usually, you will find that the spiritual path doesn't really start until you've had to give up something you thought you had to have. Along with that, a kind of healing will clear whatever issue of attachment was involved. For others of you, healing is all that you really want, and you may not yet realize the inner riches that you will soon find as you clean out the wounds you carry.

Healing Again and Again and Again
Healing is such an important topic that I devoted a whole section to it in my ebook, "Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening." You can find a good portion of it over in the Starting Out section on this blog. The many posts in that section discuss healing on multiple levels from the crown of your head to the tip of your toes. Spirituality leaves nothing out, and wherever you are hurting, you must now return to heal those inner wounds so that you can begin to grow into your fullness. Wherever you are still in pain, denial, fear, or anger, that is a place that cannot grow. It is stuck in that pain. You can't run from it, hide from it, repress it, or ignore it. So now is the time to turn and face it.

For many of you, this will mean re-opening those wounds so that you can reach in and clean out the poison. Regardless of the events that have hurt you, you can be healed. No pain is too great. Only the mind can think that there are pains that cannot be healed. In the infinite and in union with spirit, all becomes one. In those moments, there cannot be that which is healthy and that which is hurt. It all blends together. Much like the ocean, those old hurts are like ice that dissolve and intermingle again into the greater waters of the universe.

But this may not be easy, and it is likely that you will heal multiple times because each level of you will need to heal.

Facing Deep Trauma: An Example of the Levels of Healing
To give you a kind of rough outline of how healing often looks, let's say that someone has severe physical childhood trauma. This kind of pain will have affected the person's entire being: heart, body, and mind. Consequently, healing needs to proceed on every level. For those of you in awakening who have had this kind of trauma, you may be in a lot of pain. I hope you are doing what you need to to assist the healing process as well as giving yourself lots of space to allow the energy in you to naturally heal things. It may be uncomfortable, but you can release this poison and come into a healthy state of awareness.

So, here's a macro-view of some of the things that may be necessary for healing deep physical trauma:
  • Healing the Mind
    • The mind may be in denial of the trauma. Denial must be healed to begin to face what has happened.
    • The person may not be able to speak about it. Finding someone safe to talk about the trauma and journaling about it can help to more fully acknowledge the pain.
    • The mind may have taken on a victim identity. The individual will need to look at where and how this identity has taken over his/her life and begin to reclaim his/her power on every level.
  • Healing the Heart
    • Forgiveness to the perpetrator is essential to letting go of the pain.
    • Forgiveness to others who may have helped, but didn't or who abetted the situation is also necessary.
    • Forgiveness to oneself is necessary to let go of the illusion that one could have changed something or that the victimized individual did something wrong.
  • Healing the Body
    • Ritual may be necessary to have a ritualized confrontation with someone who stands in as a surrogate for the perpetrator. In some cases, facing the actual perpetrator is necessary, but depending on the situation, this can be dangerous. It is always advisable to err towards one's personal safety because this is a process of healing and should never compound old pain.
    • Massage and bodywork can be very helpful, but also very intense. The right practitioner needs to be found to work in such difficult spaces so the person can feel safe while potentially physically feeling the violence again. The point isn't to get lost in the pain; the point is to acknowledge and fully release it as the feelings and sensations arise.
This gives you an idea of what may be necessary to heal a deep physical trauma, and there are many, many, many other tools that can be used to help heal each level. I only wanted to give you an idea of how this can look with just one issue.

Any of you working through deep trauma have my deepest sympathies. I am able to work with people who are in deep need of dramatic healing, but you have to be ready for this kind of work and willing to experience a lot of discomfort again to release it and heal.

Less Traumatic Healing Can Be Just as Intense
We are all here to experience what it is that we are here to experience. Just because you haven't had anything deeply physically traumatic happen to you doesn't mean that healing won't necessarily be extremely difficult. We all have things that like to bury themselves deep in our energy fields and our psyches. Part of what awakening does is to light up a fire and to create an intense crucible to force these things out into the light. In that way, we can finally see those aspects of ourselves. We can see our fears, desires, angers, despair, and other attachments. We have to look at them. Coming to healing before awakening means that you need to create this crucible. You need to develop the inner courage to stand in this fire and see what comes up. The point is not to make yourself suffer. Instead, the point is to bring the light to shine on where you are already suffering. In seeing this, you can begin to make conscious decisions and finding appropriate healing tools and modalities.

Otherwise, you continue to go through the same cycles in your life. You continue to have oppressive bosses, undependable romantic partners, money issues, and so forth. Many things can be healed, but it involves bringing the mirror and the light closer to you to see all that you are carrying. Each pain and issue will need to be healed differently. The reason why I wrote up an outline of the healing needed to go on in the above situation is that I wanted to show you why healing can see somewhat endless. So many issues infiltrate themselves deeply into ourselves. Consequently, our minds, hearts, and bodies all have to heal from them, and each does so in its own way. A solution for the mind (journaling) often does nothing to heal an issue of the body (which learns through physical sensation and doing). All of these different needs need to be honored to fully heal as well as to integrate an awakening.

Moving Slowly on the Path to Healing
Most of all in this time of fast-fixes and super pills, I encourage you to go slowly. Each time a major layer is peeled away and something is healed, you need time to integrate that healing and to wash out any remaining issues on that particular level. Excellent massage therapists really do become energy healers of sorts because of how they work with the body. It's not just physical toxins that can get released and washed out, but the energy of past moments and places where you got stuck. Water becomes an essential part of healing. Those of you in awakening may have noticed that you are constantly drinking water. This is a good thing, and for anyone doing or headed towards a lot of healing, drinking lots of water is a must.

Because water is helping you move towards your natural level of purity. It's not an ideal of purity; it is actually your natural pure state, which has gotten muddied by the experiences of this world. Furthermore, healing is yet another way to talk about letting go. It can be a beautiful excuse to get help in letting go. Getting help is not a bad thing, although there are times when we must do things on our own. So if you feel like you need help to heal, ask for it, but you will still need to supply the courage, tenacity, and love to go through all the levels and layers of healing so that you can fully be you.

For more thoughts, you can watch this video:

Today's beautiful photo comes from my student, Jenn.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Spiritual Awakening and the Purification Process

One of the things that people don't expect during an awakening is the purification process. In my ebook, I broke the spiritual path up into three sections: connect, heal, and awaken. I did this specifically to help people in preparation for an awakening. The heal section is essentially about purification, and while this idea of purification isn't about an ideal of purity, it's about facing and releasing pain and issues. In so doing, you make space for awakening to naturally and more easily blossom in you. If you haven't done much of that when awakening erupts, then part of the next phase after some of the initial fun moments (which I talk about in this YouTube video) will be the intense purification and healing process.

Nothing Is Linear in Spiritual Awakening
I know that I have a lot of regular readers, and for you especially, I don't want you to think that there's a chronology to awakening. Well, there is and there isn't, and for everyone, it is different. Some people don't really go into a high bliss state first. For them, the eruption of awakening is synonymous with the start of the healing/purification process. And this can be immensely painful.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I don't talk about spiritual awakening symptoms because you're not sick. You've been sick, and you're getting better. I have talked about some of the physical challenges that come with awakening, and there are some commonalities that many people have in their healing process. One is the extreme fatigue. Not everyone gets this, but many of us, have so much internal work clearing and healing and awakening all at once that we have no energy for the external world. Furthermore, most of us lose energy and interest in doing anything that isn't true to ourselves and to spirit. This can make it seem like you have no energy for anything as well, especially if most of your life has been full of lies and dysfunction. You can test this easily enough. See if you can do things that you truly love. If you can't even do those, then you really do have awakening fatigue (As always, checking with a doctor is never a bad thing. I don't want people to try and claim "awakening fatigue" for everything when there may actually be a medical reason. After you get the doctor saying, "well, we can't find anything wrong with you," then go home and spend the next several months on the couch). If you can do what you love, then the awakening is really just helping you to see that you need to focus on love and what is real. Because the awakening (and in truth this is you doing this; you and the awakening energy are the same) have removed any of your energy from functioning in the old, unhealthy situations (which can include jobs, bad relationships, going out to bars, and so forth).

What Is Happening in the Purification Process
Now, as many of you know, I'm extremely cautious about using New Age terminology. There's a whole macro-ego identity that's grown up around New Age stuff, and some of it just seems outlandish and non-practical. As always, my goal with my writing is to make this stuff approachable and relatable (I had a nice compliment from a 20-year old about being relatable this week, so obviously, I'm achieving that goal with some of you =). But one way to co-op a New Age term is to look at this in terms of raising your vibration.

Pain and old issues are like chunks of ice in your body. It makes it difficult for you to move. The awakening energy that you've unlocked is like an intense fire. It's moving the chunks of ice in your body from the vibration of ice (molecules are moving very slowly) to the vibration of air (molecules are moving extremely fast). For those of you science people, you know that means you have to go through two state changes, and that requires a lot of energy to do so. That's exhausting. I often describe the spiritual awakening process as running 3 marathons at once. Consider this image if you are in awakening to have some appreciation to the level of inner work that's going on.

Doing Your Part in Purification
You also have to embrace this awakening too. I see some people who really are just trying to ride out the storm. It's a kind of victim mentality that is going on where the individual is like "Let's just get this over with, so I can get on with my life." It's unfortunate. It is missing the opportunity to heal and be more fully you than ever before. That's why doing your part is critical to really embracing the purification process as well as just allowing it to its fullest. Each chunk of ice needs healing and attention in its own way. Sometimes it is just lying on your yoga mat allowing yourself to feel all the emotions and thoughts that are arising. Releasing them with your exhalations, and filling yourself up with more of yourself on inhalations can be simple ways to embrace this process.

However, other times, you may need to be more active in facing an issue to unhinge it from your identity. If you have a strong victim identity, you may need to face some things that have happened in your life more directly whether its facing an old friend over a past wound, talking to a psychologist or spiritual teacher, finding an energy healer (although in awakening you want to be careful about doing too much of this; you are already in an energy healing process), or even just journaling things out. There are many different tools, including meditation, that can help you to bring more awareness and love--more heat--to the these chunks of ice that have kept you frozen for most of your life.

Enduring the Intense Discomfort
And yet, this may still be intensely uncomfortable. It may be downright painful. As I said, so long as there isn't any medical issue here, you will simply have to find space to be with that pain. It has been inside you the entire time. It has dictated how you were living your life, and now it's being drawn up and out of you. All the sharp edges are still there as you're pulling it up into your awareness. Perhaps a better metaphor would be like finding chunks of shrapnel inside of you. The awakening is cutting open the scar tissue and reaching in to pull it out. The energy that you can get back when that issue is gone can be amazing. You may feel like you've never felt so good in your life. I've seen it in sessions with students. When some old poison has been pulled out, their whole energy field can shift. But this usually comes after the healing is done.

While awakening and healing are ultimately the same, they are also different. People in intense healing can sometimes confuse it with awakening. Imagine you had two broken legs and one day you could stand and walk a little bit. You might consider this the pinacle of the process, but then one day, you learn to run. Awakening is like running. Healing is like fixing the broken bones. In the awakening process, you are often doing both simultaneously: healing the broken bones and learning to run again. That's intense. If any of you have ever gone through serious rehab, you can probably imagine just how difficult that would be.

Preparation Before the Spiritual Awakening
For some of you, you intuitively started the purification process beforehand. What might that have looked like? Here are a couple things that I did and some stories I have heard from other people:
  • Stopped using drugs, alcohol, and other substances. All of that crap gets in the way of you being you.
  • Dramatic diet changes to eat healthier. This usually takes people away from sugars, salts, fats, and meat to some degree towards more plant-based food. I went vegan for the first time ever in 2007 for a couple days, which ended up sparking a big clearing experience on a hike.
  • Doing more appropriate exercise. Some people start doing exercise to clear out issues. Others get away from exercise habits that are ego-driven (i.e. trying to achieve a body size or type).
  • Started meditation or going to spiritual groups.
  • Began reading spiritual texts. This is really about purifying the mind because most of the ideas floating in our heads are pure garbage that leave us locked in bondage to things and ways of acting that don't serve us.
There's also an intuitive way that people who are heading towards an awakening do this. For one thing, they aren't often thinking that they're preparing for an awakening. It suddenly seems like the right thing to do. I didn't know that I was heading towards a big purifying/purging experience when I decided to try being vegan for 3 days. It just intuitively felt right. I stopped drinking alcohol in April 2007 because it felt like it was getting in the way. I had no idea the awakening I was headed towards in August, but I could feel this growing urgency and impulse to do this.

With all that said, this does give those of you who aren't in awakening some ideas about what to do to prepare for this. And this is the focus of my ebook "Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening." I'm interested in helping you prepare so that when the awakening flood comes, your fields will be clear enough from rocks, boulders, and icebergs to fully accept the waters and create a bountiful harvest in your life.

And the Purification Process Continues
No timeline can be applied to the purification and healing process. Everyone is different. Everyone is moving to a different level of awareness too. While I go to great lengths to avoid any kind of hierarchy, people will all awaken to different levels of awareness and abilities. Sometimes, it's simply better to say that you will become fully whatever it is you truly are now that you are no longer resisting it. If you are a pine tree, you fully accept being a pine tree without trying to be an apple tree any longer (If you are a stay-at-home mother, you will fully accept this without trying to be a career woman which has never felt true to you.). The tree metaphor generally works well because there are many different trees that offer many different things, and the purification is getting rid of anything inhibiting you into being whatever tree you truly are. That is different for everyone. A redwood tree may need lots more room and space to grow into itself. A birch tree needs much less. In that same way, each of us will have more or less healing going on depending on the pain we are carrying and the work we are here to do on this planet.

Ultimately, the purification process dies down, and you move into other phases of awakening that can be more expansive as well as challenging in other ways. It is different for everyone. Purification lasts different time lengths. All I can say is that it will pass no matter how challenging, and the best thing you can do is to fully accept it without resisting what is happening. This is a sacred and beautiful process that is healing you and allowing you to finally be you in your beautiful and loving fullness.

For more thoughts on purification, enjoy this video:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Your Expanding Intuition: Getting Comfortable With Difficult Messages

Let's get right down to a big reason why people have trouble with their intuition: they don't like what they're hearing. That's one of the core issues. Wherever people have the idea that their intuition will always tell them that their lives will be perpetually rainbows and gummy bears, that idea is getting in the way of the truth. Intuition simply tells you what is, and for some of you, you may even see a little bit of what is coming. That can be a scary thing because some of the lessons that come our way are challenging and painful. If we sense that there will be death in the family, that's not exactly a fun fact to have in our noggins. Yet, the clearer we are, the clearer it is to see a lot of things about ourselves and others, and one of the key pieces to all of that is learning to simply accept messages without reacting to them.

Love Is a Relentless Taskmaster
I often remind you that love is just as much a wonderful pleasing part of our lives as well as a hard taskmaster with saws and hammers. But those saw and hammers are meant to free us, not pulverize us. I wrote about that in a recent spiritual allegory to illustrate the point. The truth of the matter is that we've got a lot of stuff in the way of ourselves, and that stuff has to be broken and stripped away so we can be in the full power of our own love. In this way, love is trying to get to love. You are locked in a case of armor, and you don't even know it. And then, if you're fortunate, you get out, and it's damned cold out there without all that armor. And you have no idea where to go because suddenly you can go anywhere. Congratulations on getting free. Now more than ever will you need your inner knowing to guide you along to where you truly want to go.

Intuition Grows in Intensity
On the spiritual path, the more you strip away this old armor, the more clearly you feel and see. It can take a little bit of time to acclimate at each level. You have to get used to the freedom and mobility. You have to figure out what boundaries are appropriate for you after stripping out the ones that you thought you needed. Your inner knowing will grow through these practices. It will be the only rational way to understand what's happening because our rational minds haven't been programmed for these things. In truth, that's all the rational mind really is in this culture; it's a set of programmed behaviors. Going through awakening is a massive deletion of most programs, but some still manage to hang on. Those will likely need to be re-programmed for the most part, and your intuitive knowing will be the way to do it (BTW, I use inner knowing and intuition pretty much synonymously).

The more you trust and practice with your inner knowing, the more you can sense and see. That brings with it additional responsibility to use the information you are gaining with integrity. There will be a lot that comes to you that you won't necessarily want to hear. You will see difficulties. You will see pain. You will also see joy. You may see where others hide their inner beauty, but you must never forget that unless someone is acting from that space, you still need to honor the unconscious life that they prefer to live in. That's part of accepting the whole of people as well. Just because you can now clearly see someone could become an amazing concert pianist doesn't mean you should denigrate their path as a computer scientist. The one may still be leading to the other, and we always honor that we can't fully see the whole picture of life. While we do become able to "see" and sense a lot, we don't become omniscient with our intuition.

Appreciating Your Intuitive Limitations
Everyone seems to have a different range with their intuitive abilities. As many of you know, I tend to use this term more than the term psychic. The more you can see about others and not just yourself, the more I use the term psychic awareness. But the two really are essentially the same. They are about having awareness of that which is not knowable through the five senses or simply through your usual logical cognitive processes. I'm sure there are interesting cognitive processes still involved with intuition, which is why I said "usual." Anyway, you will start to see a lot, but you may still have blindspots.

Depending on your natural abilities, you may have a lot of limitations. It just depends on the person. In regards to blindspots, this becomes a key part of your own work. You have to learn to find your blindspots, find tools to address them, and find friends to help you look at those parts of you. For me, I can see a lot of things clearly, but if desire or attachment gets in the way, my vision goes to zero pretty fast.

Moving to Neutrality When You Are Upset
There's a lot you can do for yourself to simply go to a place of inner neutrality when you don't like something. This is a practice you can do with anything, not just intuition. In the context of intuition, when you start to get upset by an intuition (like you're going to have to get a divorce), then see if you can take a deep breath. See what aspect of yourself is getting upset. What is it's story? Why is it upset? You haven't done anything yet. This is just a thought right now. Spend some time relaxing, and then ask your intuition again if you have to get a divorce. See how it feels this time around. Keep doing that until you can be absolutely neutral about the intuition.

When intuition is clearest, there is no emotional charge, and intuitive knowing comes first. The thought patterns that you are programmed with and the emotional response come second. Intuition is never trying to control you or make you do anything. It's more like your on-board GPS navigator that says there will be no bridge in a half a mile. You can freak out. You can argue with the GPS. You can turn the GPS off. You can ignore it, but the bridge will still be out in a half a mile. When you are calm and clear, you take this information and find a detour or pull off the road to re-evaluate your path in life.

Taking action on intuitions is always the critical next step to embodying your spiritual knowing and to clearing out the inaccurate fears that cloud it.

Acting on the Messages You Don't Like
Ultimately, when you act on the messages you don't like, you're going to find some intense and amazing stuff. It may not be to your initial liking, but it may also be the easiest and ironically (or not ironically) most pain-free way to truly embrace love in your life. If you've spent your whole life living under lies (you have to be good-looking to be loved, you have to have a family because it is expected, you have to make a lot of money, etc.), your intuition is going to be helping you tear down a lot of your life. This is a horrifying thing to the unconscious ego, which is why there is so much internal resistance for a lot of you. You have to find your courage to destroy many aspects of your life so that you can rebuild things with love. Your intuitive awareness is showing you that way. It is showing you the way back to love. Even if it isn't what you wanted to hear, your intuition is telling you what you need to hear. And you know it.

Today's picture is a generous gift from a regular blog reader. Thanks so much, Ricci!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You Will Always Have An Ego

It's a funny world we live in. There's come to be this kind of anti-ego sentiment in spiritual circles. The ego has become the dirty word of our times when it comes to the spiritual path. But what are people talking about when they say the word, "ego." And how in the world could you ever really be without an ego?

Defining Your Terms, As Always
As always, I encourage you to define your terms. Look at your assumptions, and do your best to understand what you're saying when you're using important words like "spirituality", "god," or the "ego." Because if you don't know what you mean, how can you really compare your understanding to someone else's?

For me, the ego is this: It's a grouping of personality traits and a selected stories from your life. You mix well, and voila, you have an ego. However, for most people, their ego is unconscious. It's like a mask that you've always worn. You never explored what's on your face nor what you are presenting to the world. You simply took it for granted, and you kept adding things to this mask without knowing what you were adding to it. If you've ever felt like people have been responding to you in unexpected ways, that may be a clue that now is an exceptionally good time to look at the mask you've been wearing because it's obviously evoking some interesting reactions.

The Unconscious Ego Vs. The Conscious Ego
The situation for most people right now is that they are unconscious about their egos. They simply assume that they are the way they are, and they want the world to relate to them in different ways that work within their egoic understanding of the world. Of course, the world rarely goes the way we want it to, does it? That leads to the ego suffering as it sees again and again that it's frame of understanding is too limited to really understand the world. Some people go into victim identities. Others become greater control freaks, trying to find safety through the vain effort of controlling situations, relationships, and themselves. It only causes more pain, and that is ultimately what an unconscious ego does. It doesn't mean that waking up will bring any less pain in your life, but it does bring less suffering. Because the unconscious ego will step on a nail, and it'll curse the world for putting the nail there. Then it will go ahead and step on the nail again. And the cycle will continue.

This is like dating the same types of people or taking on the same types of jobs again and again. "Oh woe is me. I'm dating a jerk again. Why do I always date jerks?" If you want that answer, look at the mask you are wearing. Look at how you are presenting yourself to the world and who you think you are. Essentially, that's what an awakened ego does. It steps on the nail and says, "That hurts. I don't like that. What can I do next time to not do that?" It also may take this as a karmic learning lesson. It'll say, "I co-created this situation. So what is my role in the creation of this?" By learning the lesson, the next time a similar situation appears, the awakened ego doesn't step on the nail.

The Destruction of the Initial Ego
One of my really popular posts is called, "Facing Your Ego's Death." In awakening, that initial ego that you had is dissolving. It is part of the sacred destruction that goes on, but to the initial, unconscious ego it just looks like its the end of the world. In truth, this is the ego's apocalypse. Because so many people are talking about "destroying the ego," however, it seems that some people get lost in this transitional point. It's the transition from the unconscious ego to the awakened ego. The one is dissolving to make space for another. In many ways, one building is being torn down inside, and another is being built--sometimes it feels like this is happening simultaneously.

The awakened ego knows what it is. It knows that it is a mask. And now, you have the awareness to take the mask off and try on another one if it so suits you. This isn't done in an inauthentic way or as a way to fool yourself or anyone else. It is done simply because you're curious about presenting yourself in another way. So, you can be a very serious person at work, or you can choose to be a very silly person at work. Before you would think that you always have to be serious at work. Your unconscious ego would have you believe that you couldn't be any other way. The awakened ego knows that's not true.

In another post, I described the awakened ego as a tool that knows it is a tool. Before, it was a hammer going around every place smashing things. With an awakened awareness, you know how to use the hammer and aren't being run by the hammer's awareness, which is...well, not much if any kind of awareness.

Allowing the Emergence of the Awakened Ego
Sometimes I also call this the spiritual ego, which is the ego that knows what is real. As I've inferred, we will always have personalities and points of view, in essence that's what the ego is. That's okay. That's part of being human. You can't live without some kind of point of view, and a somewhat ordered way of understanding the world is extremely helpful. For instance, my ego helps me remember my preferences. I don't like cucumbers. However, I don't need to hold onto that idea. It's just a reminder, and I can decide to try cucumbers again if I want to. The old unconscious ego would have died before tasting a cucumber because somewhere in its programming it decided that it didn't like cucumbers to begin with.

So that gives you a little idea about the role of the ego, but during an awakening, so much is shifting and changing, you will feel like you don't know who you are....repeatedly. That's okay. Don't hold onto ideas about who and what you are. What you will need to do to embrace your awakened self is to do what you love. That is how you rebirth yourself and a new ego in love. And keep in mind, you will keep the personality traits that are most true to you. While you have to give up attachment to everything, the things that are truly aligned with yourself and with your heart will grow and flourish. The removal of attachments is like removing the vines that have been choking your garden. It will become very ironic. You're realize how all these things and people and jobs and roles that you were attached to were killing the very things that mattered most to you.

The End of the War on the Ego
So I hope these words help you let go of any ideas about "destroying" the ego entirely. You will have an ego so long as you are in a human body. It's just par for the course. But it will be an entirely new game when you've let go of all the old ways of being and thinking. It is not necessarily comfortable. As I've mentioned in other blogs, you will have to learn how to get comfortable with internal discomfort, and at the same time, you will have to distinguish between needless pain--you aren't meant to suffer through the spiritual path. This isn't an ascetic or self-punitive path. But it will ask everything of you, including your initial ego. That may feel like the end of the world. And it will be the end of one world. But then you get to rebuild a new world and a new ego in service of spirit and that which you truly love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jim Tolles Is Now on YouTube

As if I needed more exposure on the world wide internets, I've got a YouTube channel now. You can find all my latest videos on this link:


I hope you like it enough to subscribe to my channel if you have a YouTube account.

Below is my very first video. It's a general introduction to who I am as a spiritual teacher, and it may be interesting to those of you who have been reading my words for awhile as well as those of you who are new to my style of teaching.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Back from Hiatus: The Spiritual Teacher Is Ready to See You Now

The hiatus is over. I've taken time to settle and recuperate from all the intense internal changes that have gone on for me this year. Seriously, from October to the middle of June, it was all pretty intense with only a brief respite in January and February. For those of you in awakening, you understand what I mean here. It's not like I'm making things happen. It's more like a tidal wave has come, and I simply have to be with it and make space for all the waters that are flooding into me.

But with all that said, I am now grounded enough in this new space to expand my teaching practice. For those of you who have been waiting to get in touch with me, now is the time. If you are interested in assistance during your awakening, building a spiritual path, healing, or re-building a spiritual path, feel free to contact me through my contact form.

For those of you not in the San Francisco Bay Area, I do Skype sessions. These one-on-one sessions last about an hour. The process is very intuitive. We simply start to talk, and whatever comes up is usually what is meant to be discussed. Sometimes, I also add in guided meditations and other activities depending on what feels true to the situation. You are welcome to write down questions you have beforehand, but mainly I encourage you to come with an open mind and heart and to trust the process.

Most of all, these sessions are starting points. They're meant to help you get moving in creating the space you need for spirituality. For those in awakening, these sessions will very likely be a means to help you ground and create space for what is happening. For those in healing, we'll talk about what needs to heal and discover an appropriate solution together to unlock the healing within you.

Thanks for everyone's patience with me. Lots more great stuff is coming on the way. I'm fired up and ready to go!

Today's photo is a gift from one of my regular readers. Thanks so much Ricci!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Building Your Personal Spiritual Community

A Sand Rainbow: When you can't find a rainbow, make your own.
For those who are keeping close tabs on this blog, you know that one of my big new initiatives is to help support all of you in finding and building spiritual communities. We're in a time where the old methodologies that kept schools of wisdom and spiritual practices separate is no longer helpful to the preservation of those knowledge bases and practices, which was a big reason for how things went for a lot of centuries. Religions didn't have Internet databases to story all their stuff, and they couldn't share via email. So cross-pollination wasn't really feasible, and of course, we all understand how much ego was in the way for one religion to appreciate other religions and spiritual practices. Regardless of what went before, what is here now is an opportunity to build a new type of spiritual community that makes all types of wisdom available so that each individual can find what works best for him or her.

Along with that, I'm working on a spiritual community tab that also includes helping you to build your own personal spiritual community. As opposed to creating something general for many people, your personal community is the one that has people who help you specifically on your path. They may be close friends, relatives, or Internet acquaintances. However, you may not know how to find them or what a spiritual friend really is. So that's part of what I'd like to talk to you about today.

The First Steps to Building a Spiritual Community
The first steps are always starting with you. What types of spiritual practices are working for you? Exploration is critical so you get a sense of what is fulfilling and helpful. When you know what you like, it's easier to find others who are similar to you. But if you've just gone to the same church that you don't like and are hoping to find someone there, you're probably not going to find people that interest you. This is part of following your heart and your inner knowing, which I talk about constantly on this blog. Building a spiritual community for yourself will involve your intuition just like everything else. If you feel intuitively drawn to a meditation group, then go there. See what you're being drawn to. If you're being intuitively drawn away from another group, then don't go there. It is kind of simple in a lot of ways, and while many of you are new to listening to your intuition (going with your gut feeling is another way that this is expressed), you gotta start somewhere.

Not Trying To Get Everything From One Place
You know, living in the U.S. gives many people here the idea that you can just go to one store to get everything you need. People take this idea into communities and relationships. It's part of what makes so many relationships so miserable. People try to turn their partner into a one-stop shop for all their physical, sexual, intimate, emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual needs. Sometimes you can luck out and find someone who meets you on over half of these levels, but most of the time, it doesn't work that way. The same goes for spiritual communities, which is another reason to explore. For instance, you're going to notice that a lot of spiritual traditions completely neglect physical and sexual awareness, or they put them into extremely narrow definitions that are completely unhealthy. So finding different groups that help you open your energy on multiple levels and finding different groups who can support you in different ways will vastly help your own growth, balancing your internal energy, and clearing old issues that don't need to be there.

Where to Go? Where to Go?
I fully realize that a lot of you don't have many options for spiritual practices in your area. That's probably part of how you ended up on this blog, but I've often found that when I follow my heart, more than a few people turn up in places that I'd never suspected. With that said, don't rule out finding people to connect with wherever you are, but perhaps change how you're looking. I know that many of you are refugees of the Christian church, which through a lot authoritarian ways and its black and white world view has turned off a lot of people. But perhaps, the local church has prayer groups, meditation nights, or things about Christian mysticism. Those groups tend to attract more dedicated spiritual goers than the typical Sunday morning gatherings, which often are other people's ways of paying their weekly dues to God (it doesn't work that way with God, however. God is interested in how you are living every moment of every day).

So go to a group that you hadn't gone to before, and see what happens. See who you naturally connect with. I've often found that people are actually very good at finding the right people in the room to connect with. It's kind of like magnets. Different people kind of naturally attract to each other to create a kind of balance in the gathering. Usually, the first people I meet in a gathering are the ones that I'm most aligned with or who offer me whatever learning lesson I need. I won't say that that will be the case with you, but it's worth a shot, right?

Expanding Your Options
You may try other ways. You could put up a message on an online site like Craigslist in your local community saying: "Seeking a Spiritual Friend to Talk." Or you could post to a community bulletin board or something else. Whatever it is you want to do. It will definitely be interesting who responds, and that's part of the journey. You can also setup a Meetup group if there are enough people in your area who are using that online service.

And of course, there is the Internet for meeting people around the world. There are lots of spiritual sites and spiritual Facebook groups and pages that can expose you to other people. Thanks to free video chat services, you can get to talk to these people, who can be anywhere around the world. That's always kind of a humbling thing to realize; you literally can talk to anyone around the world so long as they have an Internet connection. Pretty awesome.

Of course, you can travel to retreats too. Spiritual retreats can be part of your exploration as you find more people with whom you can connect. Once again, this is a great way to practice following your heart and intuition (to me, they become kind of the same thing, although the untamed heart can be out of control emotionally. The spiritual path helps to bring the heart into balance so that it's messages are clearer). Wherever you land, you have an opportunity to meet more people to help support you as you grow.

Growth in All Relationships
Now, you will certainly be able to grow in all of your relationships. All relationships offer a chance to learn about yourself. However, for the sake of your personal spiritual community, it certainly does help to have people whom you like. Together you can set up rules and understandings about the relationship:
  • what you want from it
  • what is appropriate for both of you
  • what practices you're both interested in
  • how you share and reflect with each other, and more. 
All of these things are really healthy to learn how to do. You shouldn't just assume that just because someone else says that they're "spiritual" that they mean anything close to your definition of spiritual. So an initial phase of getting to know someone may be asking them what spirituality means to them as well as offering your definition.

Evolving and Transitional Relationships
The topic of transitional relationships was the subject of an entire blog post back in 2011. This really is aimed at those in awakening because during many phases of the awakening, you will cycle through different relationships. You're burning off karma and clearing issues at a really fast rate, so you need to be bringing new people into your spiritual community and letting go of others regularly. You may become very familiar with the neutral feeling of completion. This is when something is simply done. It's not dramatic or emotional. It's just complete.

With that, you'll find that your personal spiritual community is in flux a lot, and because of that, you'll need to be in a constant state of making new friends. In truth, we all should have that orientation because there are so many wonderful people to meet. But in the space of awakening, it is really helpful to continually feel supported by others. As some people can only swim out so far into the lake with you, then you need some others who can swim out even farther and perhaps in different ways.

It's like I said before, you can't expect all your friends to meet you on every level. So someone who really meets you in the heart-space may not meet you intellectually at all. And after a time, you may learn all the heart lessons that you need to from this person, and you may need someone who can meet you in an even bigger heart-space. So it'll be time to find a new person or group of people on the heart-level. Eventually, your awakening calms down, and you can simply meet others where they are at. But during the transition, it is really, really, REALLY helpful to have people can support you at your level or who offer things to help you learn and grow more easily. And as I said, they don't have to be physically close to you. Thanks to the Internet they can be anywhere.

So Get Started & It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect
I hope you're not looking for perfect people, whatever that means. There are none. There are just people. Spiritual people are just as human as the rest. Some people are actually living spirituality, and some are playing a new ego game. It's a wild, wild spiritual world, but undoubtedly, you can navigate it. What you can't do is to hope that it will all just show up on your doorstep. You have to do your part in co-creating your personal spiritual community. Then if the time is right, people will start showing up. Even if you don't think the right people are showing up, whoever is around you is already offering you the lessons that you need to grow. So take a look around. The right spiritual community for you may already be all around you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Bliss State Comes and Then It Goes

I wanted to write to all of you about the state of bliss. It's a wonderful feeling. Most awakenings are marked by this state of awareness at the outset, but not always. And like all states of awareness, it's different for everyone because everyone is different. Usually, there's this profound sense of peace and love. You're very focused in the present moment. Future and past events and ideas disappear in this space, and it is deeply relaxing. You can simply be.

And then something shifts, and that state of awareness goes away. You may wonder if you did something wrong or how to get it back, and within those very thoughts, suffering has returned.

But I Am Awakened? Why Does Everything Feel So Bad Again?
Let's take a step back. One of my blogs that's been popular for some time--and honestly, I think it came out rather well--talks about the difference between healing and awakening. In that post, I talked about a couple general, big-picture movements on the spiritual path.
  • "Awakening: The sustained movement of coming into union with God
  • Healing: The removal of barriers to God
  • Openings: The initial glimpses of God which are fleeting and brief and can be confused with having happened because of a situation."
You can insert "universe," "Spirit," "Great Mystery," "Allah," or whatever term you feel more comfortable with if you don't like the term God. However, the ideas remain the same. A lot of people have really amazing spiritual openings. In those moments, you can touch a bliss state, and then the window closes. You go back to your regularly-scheduled life. The awakening is like a dammed river breaking open. A spiritual opening is just a water pistol squirting you in the face. If this is the first time you've ever felt a little bit of water moving through your life, your ego may want to jump to the conclusion that you're having an awakening. But until there's this inexorable, constant internal movement towards God, you've just had a really beautiful opening. And that's just fine. Remember, there are no points awarded to any particular point on the spiritual path, but it is important to see and appreciate where you are.

Back to the point about why you feel bad. For those who have had an awakening, that rushing water is now colliding with every barrier you've erected to God in your life. In any way that you're in relationships and jobs and situations that don't support you, that water is pressurizing those parts of your life. Things are crumbling everywhere, and you are constantly being pushed towards following your heart. You may be terrified of following your heart and truly believing in yourself too. That fear is a barrier that is trying to wall the awakened energy. In truth, you are divided against yourself, but usually, that energy will overcome that barrier. Because if awakening has come to you, it's most likely because you are ready to become whole.

The Bliss State Comes Back, Then Disappears Again
When you clear these fears and the internal resistance, the bliss state may come back again. It may feel like you're chasing the White Rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. You barely catch up to it again before it is gone. But I encourage you to look at it from a different vantage point. At each point where you've released an issue, you've healed something deep inside of you. That creates that spaciousness that you feel. You can expand again, and that means going back out into new places and re-creating the relationships that are around you. That can take a lot of work, and then you find your edges again. You find the next level of fears and issues that are inhibiting the fullness of you. Each time you hit an issue, you'll need a different way of being even though ultimately healing is always through presence and the power of your love.

So for instance, last time, you ran up against intimacy issues. So you wrote letters to all the past people with whom you had deep intimate connections. Maybe you sent them. Maybe you didn't. But in writing them out, that helped you to clear the issue on that level. But then you run up against again in this amazing new relationship you have. You want to run away. Maybe you try writing out what's coming up in this relationship, but it doesn't do any good. Now, you may need to talk it through with this new partner. You may also need to do something in particular with this individual. Depending on what's going on, it could be something like creating a ritual to invite each other more deeply into each others' lives and to release any old relationship energy that is still stuck in your respective energy fields. If it's sexual, it may involve a lot of physical closeness to help dissolve issues, and that kind of space requires a different attitude than the one that says sex should always be fun and pleasurable. If someone has deep grieving that they need to do on the sexual level, it needs a lot of love and space for ALL emotions to arise. Anyone who has done this type of spiritual healing can appreciate what I'm saying, and if you do need this type of healing, I wish you the best partner possible to help you in reclaiming that intimate space.

The Expansion and Contraction Continues
Depending on your awareness, your soul's plan for this lifetime, issues inside of you, and countless other things, this type of intensity may go on for years. That's a difficult thing for many people in Western Culture to imagine because we've be trained to want everything right here and right now. We've also been trained to avoid a lot of difficulty, especially if it's emotional. I mean there's this nonsensical idea of "no pain, no gain" out there, but it's very infantile. Furthermore, that mentality generally has you pursuing worldly goals that generally matter very little to the soul. If you have this attitude, you will be humbled by how much your soul does not want to suffer in the pursuit of money, trophies, beauty ideals, relationships, or even spiritual ideals (spirituality isn't an idea, it's a way of being). You are being taken back to a simpler way of being, and ironically, you're probably going to go through a great deal of inner discomfort because of how much resistance you will placed against love and simplicity. You will probably keep saying, "I can't let go of that. I have to have that." Whatever "that" is for you, it will go. We truly don't possess anything, and part of the awakening will show you that.

But Am I Doing Something Wrong?
This is such a tricky question because it comes from a space of ego. I've talked about higher truth and truth of the moment before. The higher truth says that there is no possible way to do something wrong. You're being tuned in to this space. The more tuned into this space you are, the more you can see what is or is not appropriate for you. For instance, it's not appropriate for most of us to be beaten by a spouse. At the level of the higher truth, nothing is going wrong in that scenario. It's just another part of the unfolding of the universe, and pain is equally a teacher as those things that are pleasurable. Many things are going on wherever deep pain is being shared, and the divine plan is so much greater than we can see that in waking up, we learn to appreciate the service that pain offers us.

However, in the truth of the moment, you will be very clear about what pain and difficulty is appropriate in your life. You'll realize where you've added additional pain, and the more your awakening takes hold within you, the more you'll be able to consciously decide whether you want that pain in your life or not. I know that this is a very different way to discuss pain. Most of you are like "I don't want ANY pain in my life." But that's not how this world is. If you stub your toe, you'll feel pain. If a loved one dies, you'll grieve. These are part of the many unfoldings of life. But when a loved one dies, you will now be able to grieve fully and let go. That is the gift of awakening as opposed to being lost in the mind and the world of duality where you'll try to argue with this reality. You'll want this person back. You'll swear that you'll never love again. You'll do all these very unhealthy things to yourself. This is creating unconscious pain and suffering, and a lot of this is probably coming up in your awakening. So bring more awareness to it. What is is that you're feeling? It's not wrong to be feeling uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations. They are equally a part of the spiritual path as the bliss states. Just be with what is present for you.

Coming to Resting Points
Many of your spiritual shifts will have resting points although everyone is different. Some people seem to try to swallow the whole thing at once on every level. As I said, everyone's awakening is different. As you come to those resting points, you may suddenly feel incredibly normal. That's great. That's part of integration. If you are truly allowing the awakening, you are integrating the bliss state into your everyday consciousness. Now, what's interesting about that is that when you integrate to a state of awareness, you won't really notice it as being anything special. The first time you feel a state of bliss, it's amazing precisely because it's so foreign to your current consciousness. It's like getting a cup of water where you're dying of thirst in the middle of the desert. You're like, "Wow! This is the best water ever! How do I get more?" But the more you integrate this awakening, the more your thirst is quenched. When you're not thirsty and are surrounded by water, a cup of the same water is great, but nothing to write home about. That's what you are doing here. You are bringing your awareness to rest in the bliss state, although this doesn't mean that you're always happy and floating about. By embodying it, we can act from that space on a daily basis, and when we're all doing that, that's going to re-create the entire world.

So bliss states come, and bliss states go. Like all states of awareness, they are ever shifting. All feelings and sensations come and go. The important part is to learn to accept them all as equally sacred.

Today's photo is a gift from my student, Jenn.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Interpretation of The Coming of the Great Master

I hope you've had a chance to read my latest spiritual allegory called, "The Coming of the Great Master. It's split in two parts because of its length, and if you haven't read it, you can check it out on these two links:

The Coming of the Great Master: Part 1
The Coming of the Great Master: Part 2

It's my latest blend of story writing and spirituality to hopefully give you another way to access spiritual truth.

Meet the Believers
The true believers that gather together are essentially representing all the spiritual traditions and religions of the world. Hence, each individual has a different colored robe. It's probably a stretch to say that all the religions would ever cooperate around anything, but that's not what's important. It's the collective orientation and focus. They are focusing their spiritual path in a certain way--it's focused towards the material world. Hence, all their actions are taken in pursuit of material things and representations. They have strayed, so in that way, they aren't really believers of any faith despite their pretences. This is the truth of many spiritual traditions and spiritual leaders. However, I would in no way say that it's true of all of them. There are still many wonderful rabbis, imams, priests, pastors, bishops, monks, rinpoches, and so forth who are appropriately focused, and in turn, they focus their congregations appropriately. However, there are still many who aren't, and who turn spiritual teachers and masters into monuments and elevate them in inappropriate ways. And so we see that process from the Believers.

Elevating the Individual and the Destruction of the Village
It's no coincidence in this story that while focusing all the energy and resources of the Village on one individual, the Village falls into deep poverty. Where wealth and resources are overly focused in one area, the balance of life is destroyed. So you see as the temple is built, the Village is bankrupted. As things are put into the temple and food is stocked, famine comes to the land. We are seeing the Believers' inner poverty come to the world around them. They are, however, so far astray that they cannot see this. They simply think it's a new burden to bear as opposed to seeing how their actions have desecrated their region.

Is this not ringing a bell? In how many ways do we exalt the material while our larger human community suffers. You cannot take from one area and not affect another. It's why reciprocity is vital, which I'll talk about more later on in this intrepretation.

Furthermore, we see the worship of the individual. The West has become very sickened by its worshipping of single individuals. We build them up, and then we hate them. No sooner is a President, pop star, or professional athlete built up before we want to tear them down again. It's a horrible process for the individual and the community. We are all equal and equally valuable parts of our greater human community. The master knows this already, which is why she wants nothing to do with the Temple. She knows what's real and where the real work needs to be done.

The Inability to Recognize the Master
It is precisely because of the Village's suffering that the master makes her appearance. So, there's an interesting way that the Believers going astray calls the great master to their Village so that she can bring things back into balance. And she does go to the temple just as the Believers had hoped, but because they are so lost, they cannot recognize her. Their images of what the master should look like cloud their eyes. Their worship of the individual makes it so that they are hard-hearted, without charity, and without clear sight. Consider this similar to those who will not help another who doesn't believe their way. Because the master doesn't look like what they think a master should look like, they turn her away again and again.  I also had her be a woman in this particular allegory precisely because women have been denigrated in so many ways and oftentimes by other women. Hence even the women Believers can't recognize the master, which is another way to say that they don't recognize their own greatness.

And yet, the master gives them three chances. She isn't standing in her fullness because she is also testing them. She wants to see how they react in the situation because the master doesn't just ally herself with mindless devotees. She's not interested in that kind of support, and interestingly enough, the Believers send her to the people who need her the most. From those connections, she goes her work and starts to reveal herself.

Miracles and the Healing of the Village
Now, part of the reason that I'm writing an interpretation is because I want people to be sure that they understand miracles in this story. The miracles that are happening are coming from the Villagers themselves. The master gives them opportunities to unlock their own generosity and charity which had been sucked out by the ego of the Believers to create a monument to an individual. By allowing the blind woman to help her, the master is helping the woman to see what is important. The same goes for the Farmer and the Tailor. Their generosity transforms their luck in life, not so much what the master is doing although she is an important gateway.

Of course, the Believers don't understand any of this. They think the miracles are just proof of the master's greatness, which they also don't really understand. Do you see? The master is just helping people to be kind. She took on the image of the poor girl to give the others a chance to re-ignite their hearts and their sense of love and service.

The Revealing of the Master
The Believers find the master doing a healing ceremony in a circle in the poorest section of the village. Poorest can be used literally or as a metaphor. Poverty can be internal as much as external, so I could easily have had the master working with the rich people of the village who'd forgotten their way. Either way, the master goes where healing is needed. And here is also where she prefers to be found by the Believers because she's also making a point about where spiritual people should be focused.

Even when they see her, they can't recongize her. Since she's no longer dirty and in rags, they realize that she's not a girl, but is a woman. This is also a metaphor for how women have been denigrated. They can't see a woman's wisdom. They saw a girl at their doorstep because that was all they were able to see at the time. You may have had experiences in your life where you didn't notice a painting in a house or some detail about that painting, and then one day you did. You asked your friend, "Has that always been there?" They, of course, said yes unless they were messing with you. ;) Seriously though, you get my point.

The master is also in white with black trim. White radiates all colors, and black absorbs all colors. Hence she embodies all spiritual traditions and shines out all those teachings to those who come to her.

Denial of the Gifts
Yet, even after she's revealed herself, the Believers are trying to get her to play their game. They try to give her their gifts, but on the spiritual path, it's all about "how" things are gotten and given. Because they aren't coming from a clean space, she doesn't want anything to do with the gifts. She doesn't even talk directly to them. It's in part because she's teaching the whole Village and not just them. She won't elevate them as they have elevated themselves. For this group of Believers, they're pretty humble, so they can take it. In other areas of our society, those individuals would get angry, spiteful, or perhaps even violent despite their "spiritual" tradition. All kinds of atrocities have been done throughout history in the name of religion, so this isn't my conjecture. Check a history book about Crusades if you want to see some of the wars done in the name of religion. You can also check out witch hunts, holy wars, jihads, and other things. Ultimately, these are done in the name of power, however, not true religion

Reciprocity and the Re-Balancing of the Life in the Village
In addition to the Villagers' hearts healing the Village, the work the master does with the people is about reciprocity. She's showing them how to share and support each other. The gratitude of the deformed man who is healed is so great that it draws more abundance to the Village than ever before. His tailoring is coming from a sense of service, gratitude, and love. That's the abundance flowing from him. He's a great example in this piece because he's come the furthest. I use deformed in a physical sense, but I could also have used it in a spiritual or emotional sense. She's helped him to see what's important, but it all started when he was willing to give to her when he had little and nothing to gain. She repeats this line because she's helping the people learn how to give. Giving when we think we'll get something back isn't truly giving. It creates obligations and expectations, and those attachments aren't fluid and healthy. When people learn to give without expectations, both are freed up, and it becomes natural to continue to give. It's like breathing. There is exhalation and inhalation. Giving and receiving. It is our natural state, and that's where the great master is leading the Villagers.

The Redemption of the Believers
But the master isn't interested in omitting anyone. She understands that the Believers have more ideas and ego in the way. She has to break them down before they're even willing to listen. If she'd had accepted even one of their gifts--even a morsel of bread or a drop of wine--they would have just followed her around as devotees singing her praises instead of doing the work of their hearts. So at the end, she sees them near repentance and offers them a way to atone. She has them give back what they took, but keep a candle each. The candle, of course, is a metaphor for their aspiration for illumination. Then she sends them out--not casts them out--to walk her path. In this way, she's offering them a chance to become a master like herself, and you kinda get the idea that perhaps the same thing happened to her once. Now, the cycle continues, and just before they leave her, she lets them know that the great master is always living in her great house because that house is the one in her heart. Then, they finally understand the lesson about love and charity and can go to the next Villages that have lost their way to teach them.

Other Spiritual Allegories
I hope that offers some more insight to the story. If you like my spiritual allegories, here are a couple others that you may enjoy. Have fun!

The Tale of the Butterfly

Awakening the Fool

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