Thursday, November 29, 2012

Resting in the Flow of Awakened Love

spiritual awakening, love, awakened love,
As many of you know, I've written this spiritual awakening blog with three main sections:

Cultivating a Spiritual Awakening

Surviving the Awakening

After the Awakening

This post is in the last category--one that I haven't written too much for as I've really moved through the second phase a lot in my own recent life. While nothing really is linear in spirituality or in life, I've found that these three categories sum up a lot of spiritual awakening, or at least they feel useful to me right now. So much of the awakened space is about using something as long as it is useful, and then letting it go. And the letting go really isn't a big deal. So if these aren't useful categories for you, then don't use them or buy into them. That's really fine by me.

With that said, I'm writing to you more about awakened love. It really will be a new topic for many of you, and I encourage you to approach it as a new topic. Accepting the newness of something can be a way where we are humble. We come to an idea as a child--with curiousity and wonder. But we don't have to accept it. We're not mindless computers that just download everything. Remember that too as I describe some of this space, and for those who are particularly attuned to energy, drop into the energy of these words and let them rock you in their arms and nourish you with the energy of love.

Finding Love Everywhere

In the awakened space, love is everywhere. Love simply is. However, love is not the juvenile idea of like or dislike. Love/hate is simply a stronger form of like/dislike. It is the ego's attempt to control life into getting what it wants. If your ego approves, you open your heart. If it doesn't, you close your heart. This isn't the practice of awakened love, although awakened love is always present in everything. It runs through these moments, but to really bring it out into your life, you are in a space of non-judgment and acceptance. That is all love really is: total acceptance. Through totally accepting everything, you can see all of yourself and all of the world--at least as far as we are able through the lens of being human. It changes everything to look at the world through the lens of love. This isn't a passive thing or a rose-colored glasses thing. It's a very deep and profound thing that can lead you to take action to whatever feels true to you, but you certainly aren't trying to change the world. This last sentence may be shocking to some of you, but what is being shocked? The ego. The ego has an idea that something is wrong and something needs to be fixed.

When the great teachers are talking about the madness of the world, they are looking at the world through love. They see what is. The mindless killing and hoarding of resources is madness. This is discernment, not a judgment. They are not saying how we should change the world, although I'm sure some have made suggestions. But suggestions aren't mandates, and they do still come from the human parts of those teachers. That's okay too. Because through awakened love, actions that need to be taken on the human level become much more obvious. Without the desire to change or fix, addressing issues appropriately becomes much cleaner.

And taking no physical world action also becomes a "solution" because that is one way to de-energize cycles of pain.

Pain Feeds on Ignorance and the Energy of Unenlightened Action

In many ways, the cycles of pain and suffering in this world are fed by by ignorant action. This includes the actions by those who desire to do good. The desire poisons the action because it brings with it a believed outcome that the ego wants to see achieved. This can be to make the person feel good or to see other people interact in some other "better" way. This is non-acceptance. This is only love in the sense that all things are part of the unfolding of life. However, this continues an us-vs-them mentality that feeds the conflict itself even when the individual thinks s/he is trying to resolve it. Perhaps the immediate perceived problem gets solved, but then sure enough, a new one pops up because the core issues are still at work in the situation.

This is why we are always working on the level of presence and love when we want to bring about the greatest possible peace and harmony in the world. That level of awareness and divine acceptance allows us to see what is really at work and de-energizes the superficial levels that are distracting all of us. When I say "de-energize," what I mean is that every action, thought, and intention is like sending out a little spurt of energy. It starts re-inforcing, changing, or creating something. That little energy is powerful. But so often when someone is struggling to make something happen, that energy comes with the discontent of struggle. Other people react to it or feel threatened by it. They resist. The struggle deepens and widens. This happens all the time in families, amongst friends, and at the international level between countries.

Right now, there are a lot of struggles going on that have been grown and fed by all the different ways people have been trying to control and manipulate life with seemingly good intentions and with unconscious ideas. But the goodness is awakened love can change all that.

The Phases of Love

To truly act from love is to know what love is on every level--heart, body, mind and soul. However, most people don't know what love is. Most people don't even know that they don't know what love is. It is a great leap forward for many people to admit that they don't know what love is because from that space they can step forward humbly into the exploration of love. Clearly, I'm not writing about a romantic, sexual relationship. That is the most common idea of love followed by the idea that love are the emotions a parent has for a child. These are extremely narrow ideas of love. Another common idea is that love is only what makes us feel good. So there's this confusion that when something doesn't make us feel good that it must be bad or evil.

Here are some of the phases of love many of which often get repeated. Wherever you feel like you are, I encourage you to walk humbly. There almost always is a new lesson that love has to teach us:

  • Doesn't know what love is but thinks s/he does
  • Knows s/he doesn't know what love is
  • Thinks s/he has tasted love once and wants more
  • Pursues love (this is a dangerous phase because the ego often turns "love" into a singular focus on one person. The individual can consequently get stuck again at the first phase.)
  • If pursuit fails, the individual's focus and definition of love may expand or shrink depending on the person's reaction.
  • If the pursuit succeeds, the individual's focus and definition of love may expand or shrink depending on the person's reaction.
  • Love shrinks when a person thinks s/he has found an outside source of love
  • Love grows when a person turns inwards to find love
  • If the individual genuinely terms inward, many cycles may begin as the inner love ignites and shows the person where all the barriers to love are within her/himself
  • Melting into awakened love, all is oneness
This last part is beautiful. You may melt a million times into it, and then an old ego element will rear up and pull you out of it. Then you have another chance to include that aspect of yourself into love. The separation--which is what the ego is defined by, i.e. you are this and the world is are that--melts again, and you are returned into oneness.

Navigating and Accepting the Flow of Awakened Love

Awakened love is a flow. It is an intelligent flow that takes you where you truly need to go in life. If that means throwing you into the rocks and rapids of your world, then that is where it will take you. It may feel like you are getting beat up, but that is how love shows you all the crap you are holding onto. Even the rapids aren't so difficult when you come into acceptance of what is. Now, there will still be difficulty in this flow, as many of you who are in it right now can attest. That simply is part of living in this world, but the suffering is gone. You aren't trying to fight life. You aren't trying to fight yourself and project out a set of ideas onto the world about what you want instead. You are in deep acceptance of what is, and the beauty of that acceptance allows you to shed things that do not serve you and to embrace those things that do support you.

Love becomes like the breath. You inhale new situations, new life, new people, and then you exhale out the old situations, old relationships, and old patterns of action. In and out, perpetually, and so long as you are live, you can flow like this effortlessly. As I've mentioned before, you are not mindless. You still make decisions, but your decisions and actions are completely different when you are coming from this space. You will not be perfect. You will not always be well-received, but the more you are in this space, the more you are at peace with any action, reaction, or result that comes in response to your interactions in this physical world of existence. And it is so much easier to laugh at yourself when you do get beached on dry land.

"Oh, look at this folly I have brought upon myself."

And rolling along in laughter, you drop back into the currents of the river of awakened love again.

The photo of the sky comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Spiritual Awakening Tempest and Trying to Wait Out the Storm

spiritual awakening, spirituality, touching the sky
Catching the Sun
To the ego mind, spiritual awakening is an unending tempest that is destroying everything in sight. To the awakened self, there is change, and there is peace and love within the change. The awakened self is like the person perpetually at the center of the hurricane. Here in the eye of the storm, there is the peace and quiet of awakening. This awareness can see how things are changing all around you, and from this space, you are okay with that. The old aspects of the ego that try to cling to control are like running out into the center of the worst of the gale force winds of a category 5 hurricane. Everything is being uprooted and thrown around. Nothing lasts long in your grasp when you resist and hold onto your old life and way of thinking and acting. What can you do but return to the center again and again and allow the storm to do what it choose to do?

Now obviously, spiritual awakening isn't quite so random as a storm. It is very intelligent. So when it is uprooting things from your life, consider it a gift. Consider that it is helping you shed the things and relationships that no longer serve you. Perhaps it doesn't feel that way to the ego-mind, but your deeper self can see this and be with this. The initial phases of the awakening can truly feel exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Your senses are alive in a brand new way, and there is an energy unlike anything else that you've felt in your life. This is no minor opening or spiritual high from a 10-day retreat. This shift is with you and within you 24-7 whether you are in the bathroom on the bus or at work. And nothing will stay the same.

The Ego's Continuing Tactics of Control

It's kind of amazing that during so an extraordinary time of rebirth that people still keep clinging to the illusion of control. Again and again, I've been told stories of how people would try to go back to unhealthy relationships, jobs they hated, and so forth because they still bought into the story that that's what they should have in their lives. The intimate relationship and family issues often are some of the most held-onto issues, and they are often the most immediately hit because they are closest to the center of the storm, which is you if you haven't gotten the metaphor yet. =) This shift requires others to change even though we never ask them to. It's because you've changed. How you act and how you live in integrity now changes all the agreements you've ever had in your life. To try and go back, brings suffering .What's worse is now you are much clearer about how much suffering you have caused in yourself and others. It's like having had the callous torn away from the skin, and you are suddenly super-uber sensitive to everything. This isn't a bad thing. Our desensitized society might have you believe that it is, but that's a lie. It's another way we have been taught to be mean and cruel to ourselves and others. Now, you are learning about love.

How much can you let in?

Control and the Closed Fist of the Ego

But many of you are unprepared for a spiritual awakening. This is not your fault. Our society doesn't do a very good job of preparing people for much of everything. Even our school systems don't prepare people well. They prepare people to learn more and continue to go to school. They don't prepare people for working in the work world (although some are doing better with career placement and such things because there are plenty of smart educators who see this issue). So here is an example of something we've got lots of practice at and is socially accepted. Yet we still don't serve our communities well a lot of the time.

Spirituality is even worse. For most of history, spirituality and religion have been about obedience to an organization, not to cultivating a new heaven on Earth and within ourselves. So along comes an amazing shift, and we react to it the way we've been taught to deal with most things--to try and control it.

Now control is an amazing thing. Even when people are "out-of-control," they are still playing a type of control game. In this game, they are choosing a type of experience where they aren't taking ownership of their lives. Many of you have played this game your whole life, allowing others to make major decisions for you and to show you where to go. Others of you have tried to force life to align with your will to seemingly varied levels of success. So when an awakening comes, you may try to fight it off, wait it out, or even work too hard when you simply need to allow it. There are all kinds of forms of control, and I am sure that you'll find one in there that resonates with you (I know that I just did). And the thing with control is that it is like a closed fist. A closed fist can receive nothing, and you will simply go through a tumultuous time period and then wonder what happened.

The Wait-and-See Game

One of the interesting forms of control that I've noticed with a lot of people is the wait-and-see game. It comes after the "What-the-Heck-is-this/What-in-the-world-is-happening-to-me?" phase and/or victim game. In the first part, the person has no idea what is happening and chooses to respond to the situation with fear. If awakening came and that wasn't your response, you probably surfed around in bliss for awhile. Ah yes, I remember that part...

The next game comes after you've acknowledged that you're changing. Quite a few people try to become utterly passive and ride out the storm so to speak. That will have it's lessons, of course. It's not what I recommend because I believe that you need to make space for the storm. I believe that it's important to invite it into you to continue the change and to deepen it still. But if you just batten down the hatches and hide in your cellar, the waters will rise and then pass, and you will limit the space for the shift to integrate and become a part of your everyday life.

What's interesting is that the wait-and-see game is one that only the person his or herself can know if he or she is playing it. Because sometimes, lying on the couch sleeping about 14 hours is being in a space of allowing. Other times it's a kind of victim mentality that says, "Oh just let me get this thing over with so that I can get on with my regularly scheduled life!" It's a very big difference in mentality as you can see.

The Waters Rise, The Pressure Grows

Of course, you--the deeper you--was ready for this (being ready on the soul-level is very different than being prepared on the physical plane). So a part of you is trying to invite the waters in. To switch metaphors, a flood can bring nutrients and new life to the fields of your life. If you have been tilling the soil and setting up channels, that water rushes in and enriches you for the rest of your life. If you haven't, you can still go out and till the fields. In some ways, no matter how prepared any of us are (and I consider myself slightly prepared, although I had no idea I was getting ready to awaken when that shift occurred), the fields still need tilling as you find new rocks and new openings are unearthed in you. Anywhere that you have a dam or blockage inside you, the pressure grows more and more unbearable. I recommend finding the blockage and letting it go. Things will get muddier and messier before they get cleaner. We don't leave in a clean world of black and whites--it's a multi-colored universe, baby. So if things get blurry and indistinct, that's just coming into alignment with what life already is. It too will pass.

No Control Does Not Mean No Guidance

I differentiate between control and guidance. Control is trying to force our will onto the world around us. We try to manipulate situations and people to align with what we think we want. Guidance is much softer. We ask for the things we want and need instead of demanding or manipulating. We paddle our boat in the stream of life, but we don't try to direct the course of the river. We know that is futile.

Consequently, we aren't forcing the awakening. We aren't trying to create a new rigid spiritual structure of practices to make ourselves the penultimate enlightened being. We are accepting the shift and seeing what it asks of us. We're observing where it is naturally taking us, and we are paddling along to miss the occasional rock or low-point in the river. By taking ownership of the awakening shift, we find much more ease. If we don't take ownership in co-creating a new sense of ego-self and a new life based in love, we feel like we are holding onto a rock for dear life and are being stripped naked and half-drowned by the storm that is surrounding us. It's not cruelty. It's actually what you really want. It's not God punishing you either. If anything, the inner pain is coming from you and is being caused by your inner resistance and fear striking against your own deep readiness to burst forth into a new life.

The Movement Towards Love and Difficult Lessons

Where this is all taking you is down the path you have chosen to travel in this lifetime. This is something that you know in your heart, and sometimes, that path has a lot of difficult lessons. If you have any illusions that the spiritual path will make your life easier and less troublesome, let me break those illusions now. The spiritual path takes you where you have chosen to go. If that is to fight for women's rights in Afghanistan, you probably are going to face quite a bit of resistance and hardship in your life. Yet, in your heart, that is what you are called to do. I had one friend say that knowing what she is supposed to be doing makes her feel almost incapacitated and overwhelmed. Such can be the feeling of our greatness coming up against our smallness. In those moments, all I can say is to keep breathing. You are moving towards living from a space of love one breath at a time.

Continuing Reminders About Discomfort

Spirituality is not the latest drug. It isn't about painfully torturing yourself through hours of meditation either. It is about being love and acting from that space. The discomfort you face while practicing being in a space of love while others are not is the type of discomfort that I'm talking about. There are all kinds of useless forms of discomfort. Useless discomfort is when we are trying to gain something or prove something to someone else. The awakened self has nothing to prove or to gain. It doesn't want money beyond having money as a tool to help with survival and to assist in the soul's path. That's about it. And money isn't that important or that difficult to gain, which are often other illusions people have. Because when you trust this process of integrating a spiritual awakening, everything you need will show up when you need it. Sometimes that requires you to take conscious action, and sometimes it requires you to learn how to consciously receive. It is always changing, which is why you need to keep practicing being mindful of yourself and listening to the emergence of your inner knowing.

But you can try to wait out the storm. Plenty of people do. It's not my place to tell you what to do. I can only tell you that I am so glad that I did embrace the great shift. I worked with it as consciously as I could to shed away old fears, karma, and resistance. I am so so very different than who I once was, and those who really know me can see this while others who are still projecting their stories onto me probably can't.

That's one other thing to mention. Your change does help change the world, but many people will not choose to come with you or embrace you in a new way. I encourage you to let them continue on their journeys without blame. They are only doing what they know to do. And as you may have learned, there is a lot out there that we don't know about. For many of you, spiritual awakening was one of those things, and now you know a little more about it. And it's up to you what you choose to do when the inner storm comes to take you to your brand new inner world.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Avoiding Yourself and Lack of Self-Commitment

One of the ways that people self-sabotage themselves on a daily basis is through self-avoidance and lack of commitment. This goes not just for the overtly spiritual path (i.e. doing things like meditating regularly, journaling, etc.), but it also goes for the rest of life and avoiding anything that may bring up unsettling emotions. These unsettling emotions include those that are painful, but it can also include those like love. Because sometimes love is incredibly unsettling, and not just when it is bringing a difficult lesson into our lives. When love is really open, joyful, and profound, it can really rock the boat. So many times, people avoid an individual who offers that kind of love, and people turn down job offers that feature work that they'd love to do. Ultimately, this is about avoiding the feelings going on inside us, and it's an incredibly sad truth that in many ways, avoiding yourself is also avoiding love.

Digging Into Patterns of Avoidance

As always, I encourage you to get a pen and paper. You may also want to find a good psychologist or psychiatrist to help uncover your patterns of avoidance. The therapist allows you to talk out loud in a safe space; the journal allows you to talk to yourself in a self space. Until you can talk honestly to others and to yourself, you will not go very far with this issue. You will very likely continue to delude and deceive yourself, and the cycles of pain and suffering will continue in your life.

But the good news is that you can change all of this in any given moment. That's just how powerful you are, but you can't own that power without owning every aspect of yourself--both the light and the dark. That is the path to true love, which embraces all. This isn't some extraordinary phenomenon beyond your current abilities. This is a basic birthright that all human beings have at all times and in all moments. We've only allowed ourselves into being deluded to think that we don't have this power. Just imagine if all our of movies, TV shows, and Internet sites reinforced the power of infinite love instead of useless junk like a man biogenetically morphing into a lizard man and trying to do the same to everyone in NYC. I mean, if I brought that up in conversation, more of you would probably believe in that power than in the possibility that we can be and live from a space of infinite love. And that's just sad.

Finding the Seminal Moments of Avoidance

A lot of avoidance techniques and strategies often started when we were young. We didn't want to get hit, yelled at, demeaned, or otherwise made to feel bad. So we found ways out of those uncomfortable situations. We built the basis of avoidance there. Perhaps we also watched our parents, relatives, and friends avoid difficult things. So we learned a few more things. Pretty soon, we did and said things regularly to avoid any perceived threat that might make us feel marginally uncomfortable. This may have been closing and deadening the heart, so you wouldn't feel hurt. It may involve not taking any perceived risks to achieve something that you love to do because you've been told that you're no good at it or that you can't make money/survive doing it. There are so many ways that it all got built up, and you've got to tear it all back down if you want to truly understand the truth and live from a space of love. And the clock is ticking.

"Ticking? What do you mean ticking?"

Ultimately, we are here for a small fraction of time in this life and this body. It can end any second. Yet every day I see people coasting along, trying to do what is expected of them so that they feel safe and out of harm's way. And every day, they are missing the opportunity to embrace the moment and live their lives. Over time, people get harder, more upset, or more lost. They get angry because they're doing what they were told they were supposed to do, but it isn't making them happy. In fact, the family, six-figure job, four-car garage, and breeder's choice labradoodle are making them miserable. They keep waiting for some magic moment to come and give them ultimate, unending happiness. But how could it? If a man with the keys to your love knocked on you door, you are so used to avoiding things that you might just slam the door in his face.

Unlocking Yourself and Committing to Being Uncomfortable

I regularly point people who are interested in working with me and who say they want to honestly walk the spiritual path to the blog post called: "Facing Discomfort on the Spiritual Path." It's not that the spiritual path has to be hard. It's that we've avoided all the hard work, and now that's a lot of what's left. It's also because the immense beauty and love that's locked inside you is underneath all of that junk. And it's time to get to work.

However, this doesn't have to be a long drawn-out hard thing. This can be extremely easy when you are truly and honestly willing to let it all go. Spiritual awakening is not a sum of the work you do. It is the arising of consciousness whenever we finally make space for it and when it is right in our soul path. Awakening won't come to everyone. That's fine. Just follow your heart, and do what you love. That's where awakening would take you anyway. But even if you wake up, you still have to commit to love again and again until it is a natural rhythm in your life like the breath. Each current moment is another chance to commit to love. Each past moment is already gone, and each future moment isn't here yet. So you also have to re-commit to love and healing in every moment of every day. It is a process only in the sense that you live in a world based on time, but it is also not a process because you are only ever here and now.

Still Trying to Live in the Not Here and Now

Now, I have to ask you a question, for all that planning and trying to get somewhere else, how does that make you feel? Are you enjoying the anxiety to achieve something else? Are you living in fear that you might not get to where you want to be? It's always been a pretty miserable feeling to me. Even when I look at it and breathe into it, it's still a miserable program that I've been hacking and working on deleting from my inner computer system. It gets me nothing, and it perpetuates fear.

Looking at these inner programs is important. It shows how you are still trying to be somewhere else. In essence, you are avoiding the present moment. It's crazy, right? You can't ever avoid the present moment. We are so lost at times that we run right into things that if we'd been present we would have easily addressed. The irony of trying to avoid yourself is that you will keep running into yourself and all the issues that you've been trying to avoid. So you keep attracting unhealthy situations. You only find romantic partners who can't show up or commit to you. Your job opportunities keep evaporating. There are plenty of other situations that I can describe that will reflect what you are avoiding, and these external mirrors are showing up precisely to get you to face yourself and to be in this current moment.

5 Ways to Come Back to the Present

You only get this one life as this particular person. Take advantage of it. Here are five simple ways you can back to the present:
  1. Breathe. You always have it, and the breath is never in any other moment. Focus on a few deep breaths to come back to the here and now
  2. Squeeze your hands. You can do this with any body part, but this is another way to call your attention to this present moment through sensation. Your body can never been in the future or past. A light squeezing of the hands can be an extremely easy way to come back to the here and now.
  3. Call a close friend. This may be trickier if you've never really listened to someone and if you've never really talked honestly before. Truly listening to another and speaking from the heart can pull you back into this moment and out of whatever noise is going on between the ears.
  4. Paint an Object. Paint, color, draw, draw in the sand with a stick, or do something artistic that requires you to focus on what you are seeing. This requires you to focus in this moment Keep in mind that you're not here to draw great art. You may do it with a simple little doodle on a sticky note. The point is to re-focus on what is presently before you.
  5. Exercise. This requires more time than the first two, but it's how a lot of people get more present to themselves. Be sure not to be hurting your body through too much exercise. Hoever, learning to commit to move through discomfort is also important.

Re-Committing to Yourself Every Day

Every day is a new chance to re-commit to yourself. If you fail a thousand times, you will still have another chance to re-commit. As I mentioned earlier though, you need to look at where this self-avoidance and lack of commitment are coming from. This is how you bring awareness to yourself, and through that awareness you can make mindful decisions and start to re-program yourself and your mind. Otherwise, you will continue a reactive pattern, and each new thing you do will be another drug--another away to drag yourself away from you. This includes what many people are doing on the spiritual path. They are chasing gurus, experiences in India, breathwork, hallucinogenic trips, and other experiences to avoid themselves, instead of going deeper. But the spiritual path isn't going to take you away from these issues. The true spiritual path takes you right into them, and until you have the willingness to commit to yourself, you will very likely leave the work you need to do right when the going gets tough and the opportunity to be more fully you is right at your doorstep.

The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Breaking a Culture of Silence

speaking truth, silence, truth, spirituality, spiritual awakening
It's Time to Find Balance with our Voices
It's a sad truth that people don't know how to be with silence or how to speak. Too often people are silent when they need to speak out, and they talk when they have nothing to say. One of the big adjustments for many of you will be learning how to speak from the heart and to speak truth instead of covering up such things with nonsense and lies.

Yes, this is humbling. Many of us have said things that mean nothing for most of our lives. We talk about pop culture, politics, sports, and the weather to no real useful effect. Most of political dialogue isn't about compassionately learning different viewpoints to better solve social problems (which is what it should be about). It's about bludgeoning someone else's opinion with your own to make yourself feel better, and often this is done in the guise of somehow championing children's rights, better ecology for the planet, lower tax rates for small businesses, or something else. No. This is just another ego game, and it is often a distraction from saying the things that matter most in any given moment.

Noticing What You Are Not Saying

As always, bringing awareness to yourself is how this process starts. It's a recurring theme on the spiritual path. It is also extremely easy to do. You stop and pay attention to yourself. Never mind the internal arguments that want to arise about if you are doing it right or if you have time to pay attention. Whatever happens is happening perfectly as it should. Trust that, and yes, make the time. If you don't make the time to pay attention to you, no one else will. This is why I am always talking about the importance of meditation. Meditation isn't taking you to enlightenment exactly. It's giving you a chance to pay attention to what is going on inside. If you don't like the stories that are there, that alone tells you something about yourself. It's the very start of healing the mind, but at this moment in this post, it really is about just paying attention. Here are some starter questions:
  • What are the stories in your head?
  • What patterns do you see in your thoughts?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you need to say?

This isn't the time to start blurting out everything in there that you're upset about. The next step is going to the journal to really understand the stories and the patterns in your thinking. If you don't, you will more than likely act out stuff instead of consciously acting and saying what you need to. If you are really upset at your mother, just yelling at your mother does nothing. It only continues the cycles of pain and suffering. Instead, you are looking to understand how you talk with your mother and why anything she says or does upsets you. That's the start of making a conscious decision in how to use your voice.

Noticing What You Are Saying

So, what do you talk about? Are you speaking just to get attention from others? Are you trying to impress others and yourself with your ideas and thoughts? Are you just trying to fit in? So many of the things we often say really have no bearing on anything real. The weather will do what the weather will do. Sports athletes will do what sports athletes will do. Unless you are actually competing or part of a sports organization, most of the sports talk that goes on really is superfluous. Whatever the St. Louis Rams did on Sunday in the NFL really doesn't influence most of you, but yet so many ego identities like to attach themselves to these external things. Noticing what you are talking about is part of a reflection of what your ego is invested in and who you think you are.

The same goes for many other subjects like celebrities, gossiping about the neighbors, gossiping about co-workers, and so forth. Start noticing what you are saying because then you begin to see yourself and to see the situations, conversations, and relationships you are co-creating by the words you are sharing with others.

The Bigger the Issue, the Heavier the Silence

Because many of us have had such little practice talking about real things, the more serious the issue someone has, the heavier the burden of silence weighs on them. We're talking about really serious things and not just what so-and-so said about you at the last holiday party that wasn't true (although it is important to address such things). I'm talking about abuse, rape, murder, bulimia, death, grief, anorexia, and other serious things that happen. Five hundred pounds of shame gets dropped onto some of these issues so that people--both victims and perpetrators--have no way to speak about what has happened and to learn how to heal.

I mentioned perpetrators because another aspect of our society is that we ignore people who have committed the harm. In so doing, they have no way of healing and learning a new behavior pattern. For most perpetrators, they abused someone or hurt someone because they were hurt or abused. Essentially, they were taught on some level that this is an "okay" way to interact with someone. I'm using "okay" loosely because clearly this is not a loving and kind way to act, yet in some twisted way, that person's ego learned that this was a means of action they could use. Clearly, that's not a healthy way to interact, but until someone can start to talk about it and how they got to that point where they did what they did, there are very few other avenues for the perpetrator to heal. And without that healing, they'll do it again, or they'll spend the rest of their life in prison.

And the prisons in the U.S. are already too full.

Shame is the silence that sticks in the throat and stifles the screams and cries for help. This is the silence that pushes down immense pain, and in so doing, it makes the person more likely to repeat abusive and painful cycles as either the victim or abuser. It isn't enough to intellectually know you need to say something. You have to say something. Or else, the pain will continue.

The Power and Harm of Shame

I think there are some aspects of society that actually think shame is okay. It's often around sexuality. Somehow, people think we should be ashamed of our bodies and our sexuality--that usually means not enjoying it or showing it in anyway. That shame is unhealthy. It gets worse when someone has sexual trauma. That sexual shame combines with the shame of being hurt or unable to protect yourself, and that weight weighs down the person--heart, body, mind, and soul. Nothing is left out. The whole person's life is often dictated by a single event because they are always wanting to say something and start healing their sexual abuse, but they are also self-sabotaging themselves because the shame tells them not to speak out and find help.

According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), "every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted." That's just the U.S. And that's just from the reported numbers. RAINN also estimates that 54% of sexual assault is never reported to the police. These are humbling numbers. So now you've even got a statistic on one form of abuse: 54% of sexual assault victims are afraid to speak their voice to the police and get help from that avenue.

That's the power and harm of shame, my friends.

Codes of Silence in the Family

One of the core places where silence is learned is in the family. That's where most of us learned what we could or could not say. It's incredibly unhealthy. Energetically, there are no secrets. On the energy level we know what has gone on--good, bad, or indifferent--in our families. Many of you who are integrating a spiritual awakening are healing out some very old, nasty family karma. You may not have ever been sexually abused, but if that pattern exists in your family energy and karma, it's now in you. So you may find yourself in some dark places with sexuality that don't even have to do with your current life experiences.

But for many others, the codes of silence will be enforced around things that happened during your lifetime. Breaking that code of silence will be jarring for your family. They will most likely not know what to do. I don't generally advise my students to break that code of silence directly with family members until they've really worked through their inner code of silence in their journals and through talking with spiritual friends. It's important to learn how to speak your truth to yourself before you can share it well with others. The family has so many triggers that it is hard to be clear and loving even when you are rooted in your truth. The big exception to this rule is if you are in a very abusive situation and need to get out and protect yourself. Then you need to speak your truth immediately and get help. There is no time to wait and to continue suffering, especially with physical abuse. This is often one of the most challenging steps any of us can take, but consequently, it can also be the most life-altering when you do it.

And you can do it.

And no one else can do it for you.

Taking It One Step At a Time

As I said, you want to start practicing. Start to meditate and notice what's going on in your head about what you have to say. Then write it out. Then find a friend or group of friends with whom you can practice speaking your truth. It will very likely be uncomfortable if you have never really said how you feel and what you really think. If you've just gone along with the flow, you may need to find new friends. Exploring spiritual communities can be one place to potentially make new acquaintances to help you on your spiritual path, but I've found what matters most is that you just find more friends who really are loving and doing what they love in life. They may not even consider themselves to be spiritual, but living and doing what you love is the yoga love. That is what the spiritual path is about.

In developing these new relationships (and they can be online thanks to social networks and video chat tools), you are starting to break the culture of silence.

One Block Gets Taken Down from the Wall

Culturally speaking, we are each one block in the wall of the culture of silence. We can only ever take care of our one block, and we have to respect that others may choose differently. How we speak our voice and how we learn to authentically use silence are two key practices on the spiritual path. Because while we learn to speak out and to speak our truth, we are also learning when to be silent watchers to life. There are so many aspects of my life where my spiritual words are not invited, so I am often silent. Unless there is a clear and present danger of some kind, there is no reason to enforce my ideas on another. But I am always checking in with my inner knowing about what feels right to say and when I want to say it. I am very clear about when I need to speak my truth, and that is the benefit of a lot of my spiritual practice and caring for my needs.

This is not necessarily something you will get good at overnight. As I said, you have to start bringing awareness to yourself. Any part of you that you avoid looking at means that you have one more blindspot. You have to have the courage to look at all of you. In so doing, you begin to see more of the world you live in and that you have created. From that clear sight, you may begin to find your words--the real words, not just the ones you think will be socially accepted or that you are familiar with. And from there, you can break your own culture of silence with the hammer of truth.

The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Integrating Your Spiritual Awakening Through a Spiritual Sexual Practice

I'm sure that some of you of you are like, "Yeah! Let's talk more sex." But once again, I'm speaking primarily in your own, solo practice. Partnerships bring a lot of additional baggage and issues into the space as much as they bring a lot of beautiful opportunities for deep intimacy. Especially when someone is in awakening and is actively integrating it, it's like being cut open on an operating table. A lot of care would have to be taken by a partner to not bring his/her issues into a very sacred and open space. With that said, it can be done, and you can share a lot of amazing experiences during this sacred time.

But for most people, you may already feel a little defensive about your space and want to focus on you right now. That's perfectly all right, and the nature of sexuality is that you can still have this space by yourself. This is often a revolutionary idea for many people, but trust me, the depth of union and intimacy you can have within yourself can be intense, amazing, and even overwhelming. Once you really open that door in spiritual sexuality, you never really are the same in that space again. And for those of you new to how I speak about this topic, please check out "Understanding Spiritual Sexuality." There are a number of posts linked there that can help you understand this topic.

Now that I've set up a bit of a framework, let's talk about how sexual practice and sexual energy can help you embody and integrate your awakened self.

Head in the Clouds, Feet Nowhere Near the Ground

For many of you, you don't even know where the ground is anymore. Your body may feel like this distant, heavy, cumbersome thing that you don't know how to deal with. For those of you awakening but who have a lot of pain to heal as well, this divorce between spirit and body can feel extreme. And this is a problem. Because we live in bodies. That's how we function in a healthy way in this world, and while a lot of ascetic spiritual practices have denied the body in different spiritual and religious traditions, that is ultimately not healthy. It is not transcendence. True transcendence is to let go of our attachment to the body, but to embrace the beauty of the body as it is. Without this embrace, you will find a lot of problems with living in the world because until you die (and let's not even get into the topic of wanting to be released from your body), you have a body. And despite how it may feel, your body is sacred, and it's the only one you've got in this lifetime.

Which is why a spiritual sexual practice can be great. It can be the process of re-affirming your love of your body through something that feels f*%#ing fantastic. Am I right? Sexuality and orgasm can feel amazing, although in this post we're going to talk a little bit about how all feelings and sensations need permission to be felt. This is a very different space than the normally accepted idea of sex, which believes that sex should always be a candy-coated sugar rush. A lot of things will come up through your sexual experiences in your space, and it's because this energy is pulling you down into your body where potentially there are a lot of unworked out issues.

Caution With Sexual Energy

Now, I'm always cautious with what I say about this space. It's not because I have any problem talking about it; it's because there's SOOOO much immaturity out there. Sexual energy is profoundly powerful energy. There's nothing etheric about it, so for those of you for whom visualization and channeling energy still feels surreal, this will feel real. There's nothing conceptual about it. The body doesn't think and live in concepts, despite what our egos and minds try to do to it. But what the body wants to feel or needs to feel changes from one experience to the next. So if you have a lot of deep healing to do, sexual energy may ignite a huge amount of anger, sadness, fear, or shame...especially shame in this culture. Shame is the 600 pound gorilla sitting on the collective genitalia of much of the culture in the U.S. I's a nasty image. But it's also a nasty reality.

So a lot of times, you're going to be kicking over some really nasty stuff. You need to be ready for that. You need to build a practice around your sexual practice to be able to integrate and understand what is coming up. And you need a lot of space to just allow and accept what you are feeling. That's why I wrote that other post about preparation for a spiritual sexual practice; I wanted to help you be ready for a lot of stuff that may suddenly come up because very few people ever talk about this stuff in regards to sexuality.

Beginning to Discover Your Sexual Space Again

Wherever you are in your sexual experiences, after an awakening, everything is new again. You will find that some of the things that turned you on won't excite you anymore. You may even find yourself turned off by some of those images, touches, sounds, and other experiences. It may even feel like nothing turns you on anymore. Depending on where you are and what you need in your practice, spiritual sexuality starts out and ends with mindful touch. I really encourage you to mindfully love and touch all of yourself. For some of you, that will be the extent of your spiritual practice. That will help to tell your body that you love it, and it will also ignite different issues inside of you, which then will require you to be with them. You have to continue to let go of the idea that sexual practice is always going to feel pleasurable in a certain way. That is only one aspect of the space. It's much broader and more profound than it is commonly portrayed, and orgasm isn't necessarily going to be a part of every practice you have with yourself.

I know. Some of you are disappointed. You may be even more bummed out when I say that some of you will be crying a lot during this practice. Suddenly it sounds completely different than you'd imagined it. But keep heart. The more integrated and united you are in yourself, the more joy and pleasure will be available. You have to go through the difficulty, not away from it. All you will find inside is what you put there through one way or another. Even if something feels like it was forced upon you, there was a part of you that accepted this pain. This is a hard truth to swallow, but it doesn't make us victims. It simply is about owning what is there, looking at it, feeling it, and allowing us to release it. Then there is even more space for love in your body, and some of the limitations that you've had in your sexual experiences start to dissolve.

Dropping Into the Space of No-Mind

So, you know why everyone loves orgasm, right? It's because for a fraction of a second, we're in the space of no-mind. The ego is obliterated, and we feel this full-bodied ecstatic bliss. I mean it doesn't always feel exactly like this, but most of the time, it's pretty damned good. Am I right? This space is a nice reminder of the awakened state. It is also a wonderful way to touch the awakened state in your body. As I alluded to in an earlier subhead, people can get really ungrounded by their awakening. It's kind of like they're floating at the tops of their heads, and they don't know how to touch the ground again. Sexual energy breaks down ideas that often are blocking this integration. It helps you to feel your whole body--good, bad, and indifferent. It also helps to encourage the circulation of your energy system, and where it gets stuck in your body show you were your blockages are lurking.

The circulation of the energy is the key part of spiritual sexuality. One of the things that I emphasize the most is breathing. If visualization of energy and using intentions to guide your energy don't feel available to you, just go to the breath. Breathing deeply and fully during and after self-stimulation is a good way to prepare and continue the energetic movement. However, when the orgasm comes, simply allow it. Don't try to do too much. Orgasmic energy is very intelligent. Just observe where it goes and how it feels. And do this observation very gently. We're not trying to turn sexuality into a mental game, but we are bringing more awareness into the moment to find out what is going on in our bodies.

Over time, you will learn more and more about your body. You will learn where there is tension, and sometimes you will get images of the stories and feelings stuck in specific parts of your body. When you learn to address those issues, then things open up more. The flood gates open up wider, and you can touch deeper moments through your orgasm.

Continuing to Breathe After Orgasm

So whammo! The orgasm came and went. It felt great. But don't stop. Keep breathing. Keep cycling the breath throughout your body even as you're moving about through the rest of your day. Imagine that you're creating a circular flow of energy inside of you. You draw the energy down into the base of you, and then you draw it back up to the top of your head. See how it feels. See what comes up. Stop when you are ready, but continue as long as you like. The more you practice with your sexual energy (I recommend every other day to start), the more you'll learn about it and learn how to open more deeply into it. It is a profoundly intelligent and powerful space, and it's actually one you don't have to leave. There's a quality of feeling that you can cultivate where it is like you are still in the orgasmic energy for hours later. Some people cultivate this space so that they live in this space of energy. Now, it's not exactly like the initial orgasmic hit, but it's like that afterglow doesn't go away. It's really awesome. I highly recommend it.

Going At Your Own Pace and Knowing When to Stop

Now, as I mentioned, this is a powerful, powerful spiritual tool. It's not to be played around with wantonly. I'm not just talking about masturbation here. Masturbation is solely focused on pleasure and achieving climax. As I mentioned earlier, you may not orgasm in your spiritual sexual practice. It simply depends on what is present for you. For men in particular, you will have to learn how to separate ejaculation from orgasm. Essentially, ejaculation takes muscle tension, and orgasm requires muscle relaxation. You'll have to practice until you find that point where the two diverge and can relax into the orgasm before the ejaculation comes. This is important because men are designed to send energy out of themselves, and the purpose of spiritual sexuality is to learn how to cultivate your own energy and integrate it. Too much masturbation can be depleting for guys; it's part of the reason that some men promptly fall asleep after having sex. In turn, learning how to separate ejaculation and orgasm allows men to have multiple orgasms, and this energy can be brought to bear to really work through some deep issues. Or it simply opens a doorway to another level of pleasure that most men don't know exists.

But there is a time to stop. This energy is powerful, and if you are already really unstable, you may want to step into this space slowly or after you've used other grounding techniques to stabilize. When you're embodying your awakening, there's a lot of moving energy. It won't always be appropriate to use this tool, but for many people, it will help to bring you back into alignment with your body, although--as I mentioned--that can bring up a lot of stuff.

Allowing All Emotions and Sensations

I would also like to say that there is no time to torture, torment, or hurt your body in your personal sexual practice or in any sexual experience really. Your body is sacred, and your body wants you to fully and truly love and appreciate it. That also means creating space to love and appreciate all emotions and sensations that come up. If you start feeling lots of shame, I encourage you to continue with your practice. Keep letting your body know that you love it. Don't stop. That's what the shame wants. That's what fear wants. That's what all that negativity junk will tell you to do, and if you stop, it keeps you cut off from yourself. This may bring a ton of emotional junk to your attention, or it may be simply blissful and ecstatic. All of these emotions and sensations are sacred. Just go slowly when things get intense, and if this isn't the time to climax, that's fine. Stay with the mindful loving touch, and over time, your body will learn how to receive this love, perhaps for the first time.

Continuing to Adjust and Modify As You Integrate Your Awakening

As I'll continue to emphasize, the spiritual tools we need to integrate a spiritual awakening change. Sometimes, we need an hour of meditation. Sometimes we need almost none. Sometimes a daily sexual practice is critical to grounding our energy, and sometimes that's just too intense. It really is about continuing to develop your inner knowing. You can't apply anyone's words wholesale to every part of your life. You know your truth, and you have to own it. So as you step into your sexual space again, see what needs modifying and have the courage and self-love to make those changes. See what feels right, and listen to your sacred body. Let your body tell you how it needs to awaken and how it wants to live in an awakened state in this world. You may be surprised by the stories it will tell you, but trust me, it's taking you to a much happier state of awareness with the opportunity for so much more love, union, and pleasure than you could have possibly imagined before all this awakening began.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Understanding Letting Go and Going With the Flow

wisdom, spiritual path, going with the flow, letting go
Wisdom Road Can Get a Little Bumpy
Two of the ideas that seem to cause a whole lot of confusion are "letting go" and "going with the flow." The confusion lends itself to views that on the spiritual path we become mindless jellyfish that get tossed about in whatever direction the sea is going. People seem to think that having a will or sense of direction is somehow imposing that will on others or on life. But that is not the case.

In the interests of clearing up some misconceptions about this aspect of the spiritual path, let's talk about what letting go and going with the flow really are.

Going With the Flow and God's Will

In many respects, going with the flow is God's will. It means to tap into that eternal consciousness that permeates all of us and to listen to the rhythm and the song that is there. As we listen to this sound, we find our own harmony. And of course, we have to sing our harmony. Doing so comes from a place of effortlessly. It's much like the wind going through the leaves of the trees. Sound comes of its own accord, but there is still energy being exerted to move the wind. Without that will, then no sound arises.

Perhaps a better metaphor is that trees simply produce chlorophyll and grow leaves. It's what they do. They are exerting an energy, but it's part of the flow and part of what they naturally do. What they don't do is bark, play dead, and roll over. Dogs can be taught to do that, and the reason for my hyperbole is that in many respects people live their lives trying to be something that they are not. In so doing, they do jobs they hate. Everything feels like a struggle. They are so divorced from themselves that they even consider this struggle to be a normal part of life. "Work is work. That's why it's called work. If it was fun, they'd call it fun." And so on and so forth.

But in saying that, going with the flow isn't always easy. It may take you into the rapids and rocks of your life, so I also want to take apart this idea that somehow going with the flow is always easy. The spiritual path does not take us to a life of luxury and ease; it takes us to the life that we are meant to live whatever that may be.

Jesus and Going With the Flow

To further emphasize this point, Jesus is a man who went with the flow. Going with God's flow, however, brought Jesus into a lot of places of pain. Being in conflict with the religious establishment of the time (the Pharisees) put him in places of discomfort. He spoke out against how the dominant religion had strayed from its path, and he became a center of a movement. He also had to correct a lot of ideas that his students had in error, and eventually, he gave his life as a symbol for others. This was clearly not the path of ease and luxury, but it was an incredibly important path. Could you imagine if Jesus was all like, "Yeah, I'm not going to do this work. This is too hard. I just want to hang out and surf." How many people would never have been touched by his work? How many people would never have been able to read his parables?

So, I offer this idea to you because many of you may be called into difficult and dark places. This may simply be where your soul's path leads you, and you may never fully know how many people you will help by having the courage to do so.

Letting Go and Other Ideas About Passivity

At the core of a lot of this is the desire to be free of all pain. This is different than the idea to be free of suffering--which is one of the major tenets of Buddhism. Suffering is in the mind. The mind and ego suffer from remembering a heartbreak again and again or worrying about the future over and over. A heartbreak comes once, and then it is gone. There will be pain, and then it is gone. Life will always have pain, but holding onto it in the mind will bring suffering. In holding onto it, we act and interact with others from a place of suffering. We spread it. We become aspects of the disease itself. To cure that, we learn to let go. In letting go, we don't forget things. We don't become mindless zombies. Instead, we learn the limits of what we actually can do, and we let go of the illusion of control that we have for all the other aspects of our life. In so doing, we gain a huge amount of energy and freedom. I can't tell you how often I see students getting more and more energized as they let go of fear. All that fear was chewing up huge amounts of their energy. With that gone, they suddenly want to run around and do all kinds of things.

To which I encourage them to sit a little longer and breathe a little longer to start to own even more of their own beautiful inner space.

But what letting go is not is passive. It doesn't sit around and decide to do nothing all the time, usually (perhaps that's what it means for some people's path, but I encourage you not to hold onto this idea or immediately apply it to you). Most people will actually become very clear about when to act and when there is no need to act. All the fighting and struggling people have been doing suddenly begins to seem pretty useless. This can be a humbling realization as you see all the ways that you've mindlessly wasted energy. This inevitably returns you to a cycle of self-forgiveness; it's a place all of us return to regularly on this path.

Tapping Into the Energy of the Flow and God's Will

When you are no longer fighting yourself and you let go into the flow, you may suddenly feel really full of energy. The flow is naturally energizing. God is empowering you to live the life you want to live. With God, we're not being forced to do things we hate; we're being empowered to do what we love. And that's an incredible feeling. For some people, they'll think they are having an awakening just from no longer fighting themselves and finding this natural rhythm of life, and I'm not going to say that that won't be the case. I would only point out that you are just finding out how alive you already are regardless of any big spiritual moments. I am pointing out that the vastness of energy and ease has always been here, and while it may take you into moments of intense difficulty, I've found that more often than not that my life is so much easier on a daily basis when I am not beating myself up or forcing myself to do things that I don't want to do.

And of course, you have to do your work to discover yourself. You have to go beyond your pre-programmed, already downloaded ego-self. You have to hack into it and figure out how it operates. The more you do this, the more you understand yourself and why you want what you think you want. That's part of learning how to let go with integrity and maturity. There are plenty of immature "spiritual" ideas out there that think not caring about anything is going with the flow and letting go of attachments. It's not. Awakened and consciousness people care very deeply about the world, but we know what we can and cannot affect. We know when we are called to action and when we have to simply be present to whatever is happening even if it is something horrible. There is a clear-sight that comes in this space, but it's only going to be available when you are willing to look at the whole picture.

No Rose-Colored Glasses: Seeing the World As It Is

This last point is vital: we are not trying to see the world in any particular way. We are not trying to make the world be any particular way. We are not trying to see ourselves or make ourselves be any particular way. Letting go of ideas about the world and ourselves is what this is primarily about. Learning to find that inner flow in ourselves and trust where it takes us is also what this is about. As you do this, you may find that you have to do some very difficult things. It may mean leaving the job you hate, leaving the abusive relationships in your life, leaving your hometown, and other things. Additionally, it may mean multiple failures in the physical world, but failing by the physical world's standards is not failing for the internal world. That too must be appreciated. With that appreciation, you will have a sense that for all the energy you have exerted if you've been in a flow even if you your music shop went bankrupt after a year. Spirit does not judge these things the way the physical world does. The only way to truly know if you are in your flow is to see if you love what you are doing. If that is the case, you are on your path regardless of the outcome and regardless of how easy it is to work in the world, although I would say for my part that the physical world seems to cooperate and support me the more and more I trust the process and do the work of my heart.

With all that said, there are no rose-colored glasses here. There is no unrealistic idealism here. There is only life, and as we let go of ideas and go with the flow, we simply see life as it is. That is the only way to paddle our boats in the great stream of consciousness. If we still are imposing our own views on the world, we won't see blockages up ahead, and we'll run straight into a reef and ground our boat. Then we'll get angry at the rock and go back down the path of suffering. Instead, we learn to laugh at ourselves. It'll all okay and unfolding as it should--even in this painful moment. On the spiritual path we will still make mistakes, and then we'll start again. Because each new moment is a chance to let go, go with the flow, and start again.

Today's photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Intuitions and Assumptions: Finding the Line Between Inner Knowing and Judgment

As many of you know, one of the core ideas that I talk about again and again is your intuition, which I also call your inner knowing. This is that space that we all have inside of us that has our most important answers. It cannot be given to you. It cannot be taken from you. But it can be covered in lots of fears, lies, and karmic crud to the point that you feel like you can't hear it at all. One of the ways this happens is that we simply don't trust or believe in ourselves. And intuition is always an act of faith because there is no rational logic to it. Even when we've gone through an experience and seen intuition work out a certain way, the rationality we might use will say, "Oh because I trusted that intuition, this event happened a certain way," but even that is also ultimately just a mental construct around the unknown.

And intuition always takes us into the unknown.

The Reactive Ego: Covering Up Our Knowing With Assumptions

People are so incredibly reactive, however, that intuition can get confused with assumptions. Assumptions are how we place our judgments around a person or situation to predict what will be done or said. They are not intuitive. They often are grossly wrong. But they can come into our heads so quickly as the seemingly first things that we think of, that they can potentially be misconstrued as some kind of knowing.

Intuition always comes first. In its purest form, intuition is a neutral, calm awareness. There is no fear, anger, or hate in it. But because we've taught ourselves to be so judgmental and to mindlessly react to everything, assumptions may seem to be the first thing to come into our heads. That's why we spend so much time learning about who we are on the spiritual path. We have to figure out what our inner programming is. For instance, if you see a woman in a red coat and instantly don't like her and assume that she's an arrogant stuck-up bitch, you have to pause to look again. You have to look at the assumptions and what they may be hiding. Perhaps you intuitively felt that she has a lot of anger. That anger energy activated you--it made you upset. An internal defense mechanism kicked in to further label her in the "unsafe person" category. Now, you have a story already started, and if you were to interact with this person in any way, it would already be skewed and unconscious often creating a situation where she would act "like a bitch" to you.

And all of this internal story-making would have happened in a split second.

Finding the Space Between Intuition and Judgment

In the scenario that I just outlined, you may have noticed some elements in yourself that do this. In this way, you can already start to work on these aspects of you. If you didn't notice anything, trust me, life will give you plenty more opportunities to see how you judge and assume. Then be more mindful. Inquire within yourself about what these stories are. What are they trying to do? Go into your breathing and slow everything down. If anything, the slower we go, often the easier it is to clearly see situations and other people as well as to see ourselves. Then ask yourself again about the person or situation in question. What do you really feel about them? If you are feeling uncomfortable, find out what that is about.

I know that in some of my sessions, students have noticed that they have a lot of assumptions, judgments, and reactions which come up around love. Love and attraction can make someone really upset because they feel vulnerable, and most people have been taught that vulnerability is not okay. So many people run away from people that they actually were falling in love with because of all this reactivity and judgment. Slowing down helps to see that. It helps you to sit in the space of the unknown and of vulnerability a few more seconds. Those few more seconds start to make all the difference as you learn what is your inner knowing and what is coming in afterwards to pervert it.

Relaxing When Life Gets Tense

To go further, relaxation and being present will be some of the most important practices you can cultivate for your daily life. Life will get tense. Things will get unclear. If you haven't practiced regularly listening to your intuition in less intense moments, it'll be even more difficult to hear yourself in the tense ones when perhaps there are bigger shifts and changes that may result from these moments and the decisions you'll make. And while it is hard to say that any one moment is measurably bigger than any other in life, there are turning points. There are many turning points that people get to when what they want is within a fingernail's length, but they turn away. The situation feels too uncomfortable. The assumption from the ego is that being uncomfortable is bad, unsafe. The person turns away. S/he turns away from:

  • a lover
  • a friend
  • a parent
  • a child
  • a job
  • a new destination
  • a dream endeavor, or something else

The person turns away from this opportunity, and in so doing, they turn away from themselves.

Life Offers Many Chances

Fortunately, life will continue to offer you chances even when you know you've quit on yourself. Life will also offer you plenty of chances to cultivate your inner knowing. Use this moment to do so. Turn inside and see what is going on. Listen to the mental noise, and then ask yourself a question that is important to you, but to which you don't have an answer. See what comes up. What thoughts and feelings come up first? What comes up next? What comes up after that? Write it all down. See if you can figure out where each answer is coming inside you. See what emotions and ideas are attached to them. See if these feelings and sensations have a location in your body or in your energy field. Then ask the question again. See if you get the same answers, and pay even more attention to how each answer feels.

I'm not going to say that it's all going to get clear over night. I've been practicing with my intuition my whole life, and I'm not always clear. But the duration of practice doesn't matter either. Practicing with your intuition is a moment-by-moment practice. The more you do it, the more you are doing it. That's all. So don't think in terms of improving or getting better. Just consider it an everyday practice.

Taking Apart Assumptions

The great thing about assumptions and judgments is that they are based in the mind. You can take these apart. While intuition may make no sense at all to the mind, you can use your mind to take apart assumptions and judgments very effectively. This is one of the great gifts of the mind. You can use it to see how you are acting out your parents assumptions. You can see how you learned to judge others a certain way by the social circles that you've been in. You can see how a lot of these assumptions are completely irrational. Racism is a good one to take apart. It's one of many, many forms of discrimination. The rational mind can pick that apart because there's absolutely no way you can judge one person by any other person much less by a whole race of other people. The reality is that each and everyone is different and unique. So if you ever had fears of others based on the color of their skin, the rational mind can take this assumption apart to show the lies inherent in the idea.

The Continued Practice of Inner Knowing

If there's one thing you can't stop doing, it's practicing. You won't get perfect, but you will stay in tune with yourself. My intuitions always show up when I don't expect them. They can be so randomly timed that I almost always feel vulnerable and kind of unsure about myself. I'm like, "Why am I going left down that road?" Many times, I don't know why I went that way. Nothing significant may happen, so it's an important point to remember that sometimes we won't really know why we said or did or didn't say or didn't do something. Other times, it will be pretty clear where an intuition took us, but as I said, I don't want you to get hung up on rationalizing intuition. It's just something that you learn to trust. It's our inner compass to our soul's path.

With that said, intuition may not take you towards comfort in this life. It will take you towards what feels true to you. If your calling is to fight for women's rights in Pakistan, you are not going to be comfortable a lot of the time. You may find intense resistance from those who want things to stay the way they are. The ego may rush in to say that you should have stayed in your comfy home in London. Why did you ever take on such a thing?

But if you are tuned into your inner knowing, you can hear the difference. You can hear the voices in your head that are seeking bland, lifeless luxury and safety versus the deeper calling in you to live the life aligned with your soul and your heart. Make no mistake about it, living by your intuition is taking you where you want to go, but where many of us have to go is not necessarily an easy life.

Having the Courage and Faith to Keep Stepping Into the Unknown

Again and again, we step into the unknown. As I said, intuition is always an unknown place. You will likely find some comfort in this vulnerable place as you let go of the ego's resistance to the insights that you are receiving. And as I said, no one can give you these insights. No teacher, psychic, or anyone else can tell you what you need to do. Now, some of us have senses of what is in your heart and soul, but only you really know how to live it, be it, and embody it. I encourage you to trust that in yourself and to let go of the search for answers from someone else. Don't give up your power and your right to own your inner knowing to somebody else. No once can tell you what you are here to do or when it will be safe or the right time to do something. This is YOUR life. Live it. Enjoy the mistakes and learn from them. Enjoy the triumphs and then let them go. Because the unknown is all that there is. Life is constantly shape-shifting in ways that we can never logically or rationally know, so trust yourself and your inner knowing. You will find your way and know exactly what you need to know when the time is right and when you are ready to listen.

Today's photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on this flickr link.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Preparation for a Spiritual Sexual Practice

sexual energy, spiritualiy, spiritual sexuality
And the Flow Finds an Opening Into Your Life
Spirituality is an all-encompassing thing, and no where is it potentially more badly needed than in sexuality in Western Society. At somewhere along the line, sexuality became a shameful act. I don't know when, and I have no interest in speculating as to why or blaming anyone else. But what I do know is that sexuality is as much a part of us and this world as anything else. Not only that, but it is vital to the human race and most creatures on the planet for sustaining their species. With that said, I encourage you towards embracing your sexuality, and in this post in particular, I'll be talking about how to prepare your heart, body, mind, and spirit for a regular spiritual sexual practice.

Getting to Know Your Own Sexual Space

The sad truth is most people don't really know their own sexual space. They may have vague ideas about what is pleasurable, a bunch of romantic ideas from their upbringing and the media, and a whole lot of expectations about what a partner should give them. They, generally speaking, don't own any of their sexuality. When I say this, I mean they don't really understand it nor how it works. How things come to orgasm or do or don't feel good is kind of a wild mystery, and whenever someone finds a partner who doesn't give them what they think they should get, they blame that partner and move on. This is why having your own personal sexual practice is so important. If you don't even know your sexual space, how can you really expect anyone else to understand it? I think some people get a little lucky with a really good partner, but until you go into your own space to really see what you're carrying around in your sexual space, you won't even scratch the surface of what is possible in terms of pleasure, healing, union, love, and even enlightenment.

Setting Aside Time for Just You

Because masturbation has been a dirty word in this culture for sometime, it may seem strange to set aside time just to be sexual with yourself. I guarantee you that it is worth it, and it is equally as spiritual as meditation. However, in this space, I am encouraging you to focus more mindfully on your sexuality. Too much of the mindset of masturbation is into just getting off or achieving climax. But there's a lot more going on in this space than just that one moment. Once again, we have to see what the ego is up to, and more often than not, it's drug down here a whole bunch of nasty stories. Those stories range from "I just what to feel good" to "I'm totally ashamed of my sexuality" to "I should have a partner for this." All of these stories get in the way of the deeper union that is possible for you.

Which is why you will probably need your journal near by. Every time a thought comes up to dissuade you from this sacred practice, you've got something else to write about. You're going to find a lot down here too. Shame, anger, self-hatred, and a lot of stuff has gotten stuck in sexuality. It can get so bad that some people can't orgasm (Often this is the case for women, but this happens to men as well). So here you are in the midst of this beautiful and highly-pleasurable practice, and you've hit a wall. It can be a little demoralizing at first, so this is why having a practice is so crucial. It helps you to be with what is going on and begin to let go of judgment around it. So many things may come up for you on your own that that is also why having your own practice is so important. You can't project these issues onto anyone else in the room. You and you alone are responsible for them.

Cleaning Up Your Inner Space

This practice may be highly illuminating. If you've had trouble with intimacy in the past, you may suddenly start to see some of the blocks and issues that you brought into the bedroom. It doesn't relieve your partner of any of his/her issues, but it does start to help as you take care of your own. Bedrooms have been warzones, it's sad to say. People bring a load of their issues, expectations, and pain into the room, and then they expect intimacy to just happen. A lot of the time, there's a bunch of inner healing that has to happen first. To do that means you have to go right into a highly vulnerable place (and ironically, a lot of people are avoiding being vulnerable while having sex...go figure). With the right partner, there are all kinds of healing possibilities, but as I said, it's often easier to start with yourself.

Furthermore, I also want to debunk this idea that you can't have great sexual experiences until you find a "great partner." If anything, deepening a spiritual sexual practice with yourself will start to show you the ENORMITY of the pleasure that is already locked inside of you. But you have to dig it out from underneath the pile of karmic crap and misery that it is buried under.

Spiritual Sexual Preparation Tip #1: Stretching or Yoga

The body carries everything. Every good, bad, and indifferent experience of every kind is in there. It also gets locked into certain habitual movement patterns. This can stiffen the muscles and breakdown the natural flow. Before you go into your self-pleasuring phase of your sexual practice, do some yoga or stretching beforehand. You can do it immediately beforehand for maximum effect, or you can just set it up as a regular practice in general, which is always good. The point is not about contorting yourself into some ridiculous pose while self-pleasuring. The point is to open the body to the natural conduits of blood, breath, and energy. The more those things flow naturally, the more the orgasmic energy that you release can flow and go where it needs to go inside you.

Spiritual Sexual Preparation Tip #2: Journaling

Before and after and heck, maybe even during, your journal is a great way to divest yourself of shame, anger, and other upset emotions. Many of you may not be happy that you don't have a partner or that you don't have a partner who can journey with you into this kind of spiritual sexual depth. I'd start there. I'd start by working to let go of that idea and to see what that idea is really about. What is it promising to you? What better experience do you think you could have with a "perfect" partner? I'm sure the ego idea is that with the perfect partner you'd be locked in endless seas of ecstatic and embrace all the time.

Are you laughing yet? Just writing that last line probably shows you the ridiculousness of the idea. No releationship--sexual or otherwise--stays in just one state of being. And as you can see, here is the power of our writing. When you journal about something, you really have to look at it and see what it is about.

Spiritual Sexual Preparation Tip #3: Meditation & Breathwork

Some meditation before your personal sexual practice and some light breathwork are great ways to get in touch with what is going for you. You may journal after doing it before going into your practice if a lot of issues come up. The idea is to clear the way of enough stuff in the heart, body, mind, and energy to really release fully into your sexuality. In so doing, you may hit a new layer of issues that are getting in the way. This starts the cycle of healing and releasing again. But this is okay. It is to be expected. You may also be able to release more deeply into depths of pleasure you did not know you had. The depths of your own pleasure are mind-shattering, and until you really delve inside yourself, you really don't know how much you have to offer to yourself or to a partner. It truly is a game-changer. Because as you own all this pleasure in you, what you want in a potential sexual partner will greatly change.

In saying all that, some gentle breathing all the way down into your low back and belly during a 15 to 30 minute meditation can be a great preparation to drop into new layers of your sexuality.

Creating a Healthy Sense of Sexuality

I encourage you to think of a personal sexual practice and a partnered sexual practice as two equally important aspects of healthy sexuality. So look at all your assumptions that may resist such an idea and see where they coming from. Assumptions are as bad as locked up muscles. They get in the way of allowing the experience to flow and to happen. Not all spiritual sexual experiences are mind-blowing euphoria. Many will be calm and mild in nature. Others may bring up things that require a lot of healing. Orgasmic energy is also very healing in its nature. At the heart of the matter, it's all your energy. There's nothing particularly etheric about it, and for those of you who aren't really sensitive to "energy" around you, I'm sure you're still really sensitive to energy inside of you.

But to really feel all of it and to flow in the depths of it, you're going to have to get out of your own way.

Allowing the Experience to Be What It Is

I'd encourage you to keep letting go of expectations. You never really know what you're going to find when you go down into this space. If you've avoided it or shamed yourself for it, it may take awhile. If orgasm isn't available to you yet, then simply focus on loving yourself. Then do the work you need to do to face the ideas and the emotions that you feel blocked by. Never try to force your body to do something. Our bodies have been desecrated and maimed and shamed for too long. Gentleness is often the name of the game with a personal sexual practice, and you'll be surprised how far it'll take you.

With that, I encourage you to accept however your practice turns out. If you make this a daily practice, you may soon notice how different it is each time. You will learn a lot about yourself, and I encourage you to listen to what your body and your sexuality have to tell you.

Releasing Deeply Into Yourself and Spiritual Awakening

An amazing thing can happen here--well, a whole lot of amazing things can happen--but sexuality can also be a conduit to awakening. Moving all that energy through your system can spark something. Once again, there are no guarantees, but sexual energy is one conduit to a spiritual awakening. It's something to consider, and it's also another reason to appreciate the power of sexuality. It's why I don't talk too much about all the techniques that can be used. Too many people are being too naive about the power of a lot of these spiritual tools, and awakening the kundalini through sexuality will really turn your life upside down. As always, the spiritual path doesn't take you away from pain and discomfort--it takes you straight through it.

But in going through the pain and issues associated with your sexuality, you will get to know more about you and the enormity of the pleasure and energy inside you. This energy--as I mentioned earlier--can be used for many things. It can spark creativity. It can create new life. It can heal you, and it can awaken you. Many opportunities are available to you in this sacred space, and I encourage you to step into the beauty of your sexuality to discover one of the most amazing aspects of being a human being.
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