Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spiritual Awakening Signs Subside: You Come Fully to Life

Nothing lasts forever. Not spiritual awakenings, at least not the transitional process. As I like to remind people from time to time, awakening isn't a process. It just happens. The process comes with integrating it. It's like a flood. Floods happen, and then they're gone. The way you can fully absorb them is by preparing the land to receive it, and when they're unexpected, you have to do your best to channel the waters to be absorbed into the land to grow crops and create a great bounty in your life. People along the Nile did this literally for centuries until recent damming that's gone on in Egypt.

So much of this blog is about how to prepare the land to receive. For those of you in awakening, you're kinda doing that at the same time the waters are running everywhere. It can be intense, but then the waters recede. Sure there will be other moments of deluge, but they never are quite like this. You're changed too fundamentally, and as I often point out, an awakening is different than an opening. The awakening takes over while a spiritual opening into a new space is like someone dropping a water balloon on you. Sure you feel the flow momentarily, but it's just as quickly gone. With that said, eventually, things settle down, and you are not the same.

Why There's So Little Talk About After the Awakening
When I write about after the awakening, I'm not talking about immediately after the awakening. I'm talking about when the internal change has come to a normal rhythm and a kind of rest within the movement because we are always in motion. We can also be still within the movement. It's this kind of paradoxical equilibrium that becomes a daily part of our lives that lends itself to an ease, generosity, and lovingness in our lives that was never fully there before. It is a reward through how we are. It's the reward of being.

But I don't really know of so much writing out there that talks about this. Part of it is that when you're in this space, you just don't think to share. You're just not even thinking in that way that you were before. You are where you are, and you are doing and being what feels right and true to you. I suppose that's why a communicator like myself is important because if I didn't love writing, I'd probably not be writing this. It wouldn't be out of a desire to hide this, it just wouldn't come to mind to do this.

So part of the purpose of this post is to add to the growing number of After the Awakening posts that I have. I've been doing what most everyone else has done: writing about how to get started on the spiritual path and writing about what can arise during the awakening shift. The latter doesn't have a whole lot of great info out there, and much of the info is very contrived, convoluted, and caught up in a lot of strange agendas that forgo individual responsibility, self awareness and focus, and love. I've really worked hard to be as clear and down-to-earth as I can with that topic. And with this topic, I hope to do no less.

The Calming of the Seas
Life will always have its ups and downs, but after the transition, you can probably handle just about anything. All those spiritual awakening signs and "symptoms"--which is a term that I hate to use because it suggests that you're sick; you're not--are gone. You have come through. One of the important aspects of this process is that when you are doing or being in whatever way that you need to do or be, you will feel bigger, fuller, and more loving after each little shift. I see some people associating awakening with a mental disease, but true spiritual awakening is a clarifying of the internal landscape. The initial parts can be a mess. Think about what it's like to do a home renovation. There are tools, appliances, boxes, construction materials, and sawdust everywhere. You're afraid that your house cat is buried under a pile somewhere because you haven't seen Mr McFluffins in two weeks. That's awakening's initial work--to tear up the debris and lies we have filled our lives with. But then, things are re-made. New internal structures are made that are true to you and that can support you. The mess begins to clear up.

It's Not Easy, But It's Rewarding
All those people who got interested in spirituality because of a few high-state experiences that titillated them can have a horrible time with a real spiritual awakening. Too much stuff is moving that is making them uncomfortable, and so they try to hide out from the flood or think that something is going wrong when something is actually going really right. In essence, they may try and run away from themselves further. And this goes not just for spiritual high-state seekers, but for a lot of people when they're faced with the enormity of spiritual awakening.

Because you have to look at all of yourself at once, and most people have just been looking at certain parts of themselves through a peep hole. They can feel lost in the totality of themselves: both their brilliant light and deep darkness. And if you avoid this sacred time enough, you can get through. It'll be painful, and it will likely leave a place of regret in you later on as you sense that something beautiful had come and you missed it. Maybe you'll know what happened, or maybe it will just be a sliver in your mind needling through you with that nostalgia. Don't worry. It will come again at another time in another way, potentially in another lifetime.

For Those Who Embraced the Opportunity
For those who saw what was happening and gave it space to do its sacred work, you will now find yourself perfectly aligned to do whatever it is that you want to do. All the food allergies, sleep issues, and other ailments melt away. You are ready. I really can't emphasize this enough. The discomfort that comes for many of us is like having a bone set that had been broken. Then we go through rehab. Now we're ready to run. I think it's important to say this because so many people can get lost in the discomfort that they create a whole new level of suffering and ego. They can get lost in the idea that they're somehow evil or are being punished. If anything is punishing you, it's you. It's your resistance to the shift. You're too busy sand-bagging the flood, and it keeps knocking over and overwhelming the barricades that you construct. But as I said, it won't last. And if you finally stopped sand-bagging and picked up a shovel to help guide the flow while also following it, then some magical things are in store for you. I don't use the term "magical" in some sort of outlandish sense. I simply see magic in the space of the human heart and doing what we love. In some ways, that's all awakening has ever been preparing us for--to be love and to act out of love.

"Love" Fills Your Life, But Not "Like"
For those of you who have come through your awakening transition, love is everywhere and everyone. It is beautiful, is it not? Everywhere you look, there is love. But this is not the ego love. This is not "like." Life still brings difficulty. There may still be pain in your life--a car accident, disease, a lost loved one. But you understand the deeper beauty at work even if it isn't to your preference. That's the power of love, and you can forgive more easily than ever before when things that happen that you don't like. You know it's not about you. It never really was. Beautiful things come into your life, and they leave you. It is the inhalation and exhalation of life. Where our preferences would be to hold on to things we like and keep out things we don't, you can accept it all without being a doormat. It is such a powerful place you are, and from this place, there are doubtless things that you are now ready to do, ideas ready to be birthed into the world, and relationships ready to be built or re-forged, as old connections return who are ready to meet you in this new way. But you probably won't like all the outcomes or connections. That's just not how life is.

The New Ego in Service of Love
There's this naive idea that we get rid of the ego entirely in spiritual awakening, but that's not true at all. We live in a body, and ego serves as a way to be a point of view to manage all the information that life presents us. While an old ego self may be destroyed, a new ego has been birthed from your awakening. This spiritual ego knows what it is. It will still make mistakes. It will still get angry, scared, and many other emotions, but it won't hang on to them. And if it does, it can see this process sooooo much more clearly. It does not strive for perfection. It simply understands that all life is in service to love.

From this space, the actions you take are now uniform in the sense that you are no longer a divided person. Awakening is a process of becoming whole, you see. Before, you were closed down and divided against yourself. You tried to live by outsiders' rules that you took to be your own, and you forfeited your own natural intelligence. That division created an insurmountable internal conflict that may have made it seem like nothing ever worked right in your life. But those illusions and divisions have been dissolved, so now you can see what the real rules of life are. You abide by those, and from that space, your actions and ways of being are deeply aligned to the universe's true code. None of this relays itself well to words because that code is more than words. It is something that has to integrate into heart, body, mind, and soul to truly be known, but it begins with knowing that all is love and all life works in service of love.

Still Sensitive, Callousness Doesn't Grow Back
You will notice, however, that you're still very sensitive. Some of the stuff out there misconstrues our natural sensitivity to life and to each other as an awakening sign or symptom. In truth, it's how many of us naturally are. Everyone has different levels of sensitivity, but I think just about all of us become more sensitive as we go through the process. It's like a callous is ripped off of our whole body at first, and we're totally in shock by all the things we can suddenly feel. What follows is a process of acclimation, and then you're used to it. It's just the way you are, so if you asked someone who's awakened about this, they might not even know how to respond.

It becomes like being a fish in water. You can ask the fish what it's like to be in water, and the fish won't really know how to respond. It's simply how it is, and this is okay. It is okay to be naturally sensitive to energy and the stuff going on around you. The more of us who are this way, the more interconnected we become as a greater society and community. In some respects, that's another way to look at the awakening process. You've been re-created so now you can easy connect AND disconnect with others and your environment. Both are important as you don't need to absorb other people's pain and disease. You may, however, also be good at grounding this stuff, so disconnecting may not be the exact right word. I suppose the better way of looking at it is that you won't take on this stuff as your own. It will pass by like a hot breeze, and you will stay in the flow.

All Awakenings Are Different
You may also notice that not everyone has awakenings that are the same. (As I said, an opening is very different than an awakening. An opening is dependent on a situation, and when the situation passes, the opening closes. The awakening is like a house guest that just won't leave until you realize that that house guest is you. I am re-iterating this because a lot of people confuse a momentary spiritual opening as an awakening.) But we all have different purposes, different levels of awareness, and what-not. What you'll be able to see and perceive compared to another person will be different. You both have your spiritual gifts, but they're different. You'll both be still very much human and subject to making mistakes. One of you may simply have better perception than the other, and you may think, "How can someone who is awake be so blind?" Ah, well, we all have our soul paths. And I know that your question isn't a cynical one. There is still so much to be learned in this life because life is so diverse. It's really quite amazing, and now you're ready to discover it all. With your inner landscape come to the place that it natural belongs, you can move out into the world now. You can let go of your chrysalis and engage with the world in whatever way feels true to you because that's what this has been about--returning to Truth and to love. From here, your life won't stay the same. It never was meant to, but now it can be what you really truly want it to be.

Today's lovely picture is courtesy of my student, Jenn.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Letting Go of Expectations of the World

This post is dedicated to encouraging conscious action. So many of our ingrained expectations are that the world is going to do something for us or that the world owes us something. Many people end up sitting around waiting for something to happen. They wait for their dream job, dream relationship, and other things. Yet, nothing knocks on the door, and when something does knock on the door, they don't like what's come. Their indolence has brought something to snap them out of it, and it isn't comfortable. So perhaps the person retreats further thinking that the sudden discomfort or lack of the feeling of safety has meant they've done the wrong thing. And the confines of their world grows narrower and narrower.

The World Owes You Nothing
The fact of the matter is that the world owes you nothing, at least not your ego. We all can create these elaborate constructions and projections about ourselves, but the world doesn't care. A tornado doesn't care about how long it took you to build your home. It's a tornado. In that way, we are often humbled by the world around us. And that's a hard thing for the ego to take. It can easily become a victim and get lost in its own self-pity. "Ah, poor me. This is just my luck." In so doing, it creates a new shell and a new way to describe the world to explain what's happened. It may now see the world as a cruel place, but secretly it hopes that it'll still be rewarded for having this cynical view of life. The ego is just playing another game to see if it can get what it wants and be safe.

But the world is not cruel. It is neither beneficent, nor cruel. And if you're substituting the word "world" for the more ethereal idea of the "universe," the same is true. The universe simply is, and while the universe is ultimately love, this is love that is of the higher truth. That is the greater good that embraces all including your house being blown to oblivion by a tornado. And this isn't about creating a new thought structure that says, "My house had to be blown to oblivion before I could have an even better house." You may not. That's not how life is, and in following the spiritual path as many of you have found out, it doesn't mean you'll be any more rewarded or any more immune to life's difficulties.

The Call to Action
But I will say that in general, like attracts like. Going out to help others and developing a new way of connecting in loving ways tends to attract other people of similar dispositions. However, there's still a lot of work to do, and that's part of the purpose of this post. You can't wait around for some magical alien invasion, second coming, or ginormous "Ah-ha!" moment. You have to do the work now. You have to make conscious decisions to take conscious action to create the world that you want to live in. If you don't like the relationships that you're in, then you have to take action to help them change and evolve. Consider it your duty to learn how to be more present and loving to model how to do so for others. Because most of the world doesn't know how to do this. On the deeper level they do, but most of their social training has been mean, small-minded, selfish, fearful, and otherwise ego driven. If you're waiting for the relationships around you to suddenly transform because you're meditating once a day and have a spiritual path, then you're gravely mistaken.

The Power of Manifestation and the Power of Trust
While you let go of your expectations that the world will do anything for you, I encourage you to own your power of creation and manifestation. Owning your power doesn't mean taking power over another. It simply means that you believe in yourself, and you can take action from that place. Initially, many of you probably won't feel like you do believe in yourself. You're out of practice. This is okay. That's why you need to practice. I've written enough blogs about practing with friends and others in spiritual communities, but for the purposes of this blog, I want you to be focusing on what you're building in the world. Whether it's a book, daycare center, social entrepreneurship, non-profit, new economic model, or whatever, you need to bring it out into the light for it to grow.

And then you have to trust the process. You have to trust failures and successes because most of us can't really measure those with our limited ego-perspectives (and we'll always have limited perspectives, that's just pat of being human). As some teachers say, failure in the world may be success on the inner world, and the inner world is what ultimately drives everything. We've already seen plenty of successes in the outer world that are horrible failures on the inner world. You can pick up a tabloid for proof or look at the news to see "successful" people who are horribly miserable and constantly in a state of disrepair from heartbreak, drug use, and more. I think the most horrifying thing to me right now is the slaughter of innocents going on in Syria. It is considered a great success to be the leader of a nation, and it is also a sacred trust. The horrible atrocities going on in that nation can only truly be dealt with by God's justice, whatever it is God chooses to do to teach that individual.

If At First You Don't, Succeed...
And of course, there's this thought in the spiritual community that if you just allow the process, everything will flow easily for you. Not true...usually. At least it's not true in the way people say it. As I try to emphasize in this blog, it's all about the "how." How you say things and do things. The way most people are saying to "go with the flow" is that they're not going to do anything, and the universe will give them everything. I firmly believe that the universe is about co-creation. Sometimes we have to put in 10%, and the universe puts in 90%. I love those moments. Who wouldn't? Other times, we have to put in 95%, and the universe puts in 5%, although if this keeps up for too long I've noticed that means that I'm probably not going in quite the right direction.

There is an ease in doing what is in your heart. Part of that is that you're no longer fighting yourself. Following your heart can be one of the first times when you're doing something with all of you, and parts of you aren't sitting it out on the sidelines. So you may not know exactly how to fully follow your heart. This may be brand new territory, and your first go at creating a social enterprise may fail badly. That doesn't mean the idea isn't bad. It doesn't mean that you're not doing what you're supposed to, but it probably will mean that you're going to have to try again if this is where your heart is taking you.

Even in Awakening, the Idea of Expectations Hangs On
However, this idea that the world owes us something or that it'll give us what we want eventually is pervasive. I've noticed it with some people in awakening. The idea can turn people into victims. They're like "Well, I guess this is what God wants. So I'll just lie on the floor until this thing is done, and I can go on with my life." Wow. Seriously. This is the opening of the doorway. Light is flooding the hallway, and you still want to stay in bed. Do you think God is going to come in and pull you out, put your clothes on, and hold your hand to walk you out the door? Heck, sometimes God does this, and we still abdicate our responsibility to ourselves.

As I've said, no one can re-make this world but us. We have to do it. We have to learn how to truly love ourselves and find all the tools to ease our own transitions. And then we have to bring this into our relationships, jobs, and so much more. We don't ever force these things on others, but for those who are interested, we become the trailblazers to show them the way. Because many people are looking for the way. They just have no idea where to look, and especially for those of you in awakening, you are now in a position more than ever to model what it looks like to be a conscious and awake person. This is a hugely important thing for a world that is so lost in fear and violence. For the most part, you won't even need to do anything that special other than to follow your heart and to trust the process to show people the way.

Being Brings Change Naturally
The amazing part in all of this is that when you really do put your energy into your heart and creating the world that you want, it gets easy. A lot of times, it's just about the quality of being in your doing or not doing, creating or not creating. Sometimes your being wants to do something, so it's a disservice and blocking the flow to not act. Sometimes your being wants to let go of action to rest and be still, and that is certainly important as well. There is a sacred balance and a sacred flow, and none of that holds expectations from the world. Somethings that you'll do will have enormous, immediate, and visible benefits to you and others around you. Other times, it will seem like things are falling apart everywhere. That's why staying in touch with your inner knowing and your heart are crucial. It's the only way to stay on the path amidst the many vagaries, tornadoes, and eccentricities of the world around us.

Today's picture is from my student, Jenn.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Graduating from Being a Spiritual Student

As with all things, there are phases to being a spiritual student. There's a time when you don't know how badly you need this. There's a time when you know you need this but have no idea what a spiritual teacher really looks like. There's a time for dedicating yourself to a teacher and a practice. Then, there's a time of letting go of that teacher and graduating from that space.

And that's key. No one is meant to be a student for their whole lifetimes to someone else unless they consciously choose to do so. That conscious choice is very different than the desire to have a teacher or stick with something because of conceptual commitment. Usually a true lifetime student to a teacher isn't really a student at all, but simply one who is wearing that guise because it pleases him or her. Most of the rest of lifetime students are devotees caught up in the illusion that the teacher still has something that they do not or that when enough time has passed something miraculous will happen. I'm sure the miraculous can happen in a future present moment, but as always, this thinking misses the point of the miraculousness of this moment. In this miraculousness, there will come a time when you are ready to graduate from the space of being a spiritual student.

What Is a Spiritual Student?
It's always important to define my terms. We so often think we're using the same terms, but we're not. A spiritual student dedicates him or herself to living the spiritual path in every moment. A devotee may devote him or herself to a teacher or a path, but when the teacher isn't looking or the devotee isn't at church/the ashram/synoguge/mosque, then the devotee thinks s/he doesn't have to be "spiritual." Such is many peoples' thinking. Devotee or not, people think they can turn spirituality on or off in their lives, and subsequently, life can be very painful as they do things that do not resonate with them because they think they have to and that the spiritual life is impractical. The spiritual life is, however, immensely practical. It's more rational and smart than society gives it credit. It's about living completely and consciously in every moment, and the true spiritual student knows this. So he or she seeks out a means to better achieve this, and that often means finding a teacher.

When the Student Is Ready...
However, the ego may think it's ready for a teacher, and your soul may not agree. The soul always trumps the ego no matter how much the ego thinks that it's in control. This has left a lot of people feeling like they're wandering, and of course, when you're seeking something from the outside world, you are lost. The spiritual path is always an invitation into the inner world, and oftentimes, that's the biggest shift that needs to happen before a spiritual teacher can arrive into your life. Right when you suddenly realize that you have your greatest teacher within you, then the spiritual teacher in the external world may show up.

Of course, you may feel like  "Why would I need a teacher now that I've realized this?" Well, perhaps you do not need the teacher. Or perhaps the teacher can now help you to truly unlock your inner teacher. In truth, that's what all true spiritual teachers are doing. We really have no use in telling you who you are, how to live, or what the meaning of life is (the meaning of life is green cheese squared by the way. ;-p). Seriously though, what teacher has time for that? The incomplete teacher gets stuck in trying to answer everyone's questions and solve everyone's problem. That type of teacher is constantly frustrated and can quickly fall into trying to control his/her students to get them to some outcome that s/he thinks they should achieve. Ultimately, it's like trying to give everyone fish instead of teaching them to fish. You can only reel in so many fish by yourself. Truly, it's not the teacher's role to control anyone either, and ultimately, all outcomes are perfect as they are even when they bring immense pain.

The Work Begins and You Do Not Know What to Expect
The spiritual work with a teacher will take you straight into the unknown. It's an uncomfortable and uncertain place at times. It's more uncomfortable the more you resist it. It's a little like swimming. Innately, your body knows how to swim, but it sure helps to have a swim instructor talking to you about strokes, observing how you are using your arms and legs, and letting you know where the sharks swim. The swim instructor cannot swim for you, but occasionally, she or he can jump into the deep end when you get in over your head or whack the shark on the nose to get him to go away  (I'm really enjoying the swimming/water metaphor :).

Truly, you will have to get used to certain types of discomfort on the spiritual path to shed old skins and emerge more fully as yourself. You may have all kinds of experiences with the spiritual teacher. Some you'll enjoy; others you won't. Until one day, you realize that you're complete and can move on.

Completion with the External Spiritual Teacher
The feeling of completion is unique. It's neutral and quiet as most deeper spiritual guidance is. It simply says, "I'm done." When working with a spiritual teacher, the teacher will also feel this as well, and the two of you can continue to work together if you both choose to. But this is really now coming from a space of choice. This is a powerful place to make any decision, and not too many people really choose anything. There's too much ego, karma, fear, anger, and all the other stuff in the way. That's why so many people may not really understand completion. Nonetheless, it may come, and then you graduate from this relationship. You may choose another type of relationship with the teacher such as becoming a friend or perhaps the roles switch. You may become a mentor in some way perhaps as in helping the teacher set up Web sites, fundraise for a spiritual center, or whatever talent you feel moved to share.

Or you may simply move on, which is beautiful as well.

For the ego, graduation is viewed as having nothing more to learn from the teacher. In a world full of information, that's never true. That's just an ego idea. In the spiritual truth of the matter, it's all about self-knowledge. From that lens, you never really had anything to learn from the teacher because it was all about self-knowledge. You already had it within you. With that said, you still may find limited and incomplete teachers. As I wrote about some time ago in "What Is a Spiritual Teacher," there are all kinds of teachers out there. Some can only help you learn more about your heart. Others can help you learn to better connect with your body. Still others understand the ways of the mind. In some cases, you may be building a "whole" teacher from multiple sources, and if this is your path, that's beautiful. So, it is possible to cycle through different teachers in that way, but the feeling of completion with the teacher will still be there. And after awhile you will sense that you've come to a point where you're ready to swim on your own.

Leaving the Shallows Behind
Perhaps some people get scared of swimming on their own without the teacher or the water wings. In truth, we are never alone, but still that idea may be hanging on. Perhaps it's why so many people get lost in the devotee path. Too afraid to let go and simply trust their own spiritual knowing, they permanently yoke themselves to a teacher. But as I said, the teacher is not the giver of your light and is not able to walk your path. And walk your path you must. It doesn't have to be as a spiritual teacher or healer. Becoming a spiritual student never has meant that you have to live in monasteries the rest of your life. It simply means you're learning to bring spirituality and presence in every moment. Then you have to go live the life that's in your heart whether it's as a president, mother of four, or an accountant. Personally, I think that this world is greatly in need of enlightened accountants. Money is energy, and it's been badly abused. So having more people who know how to help balance the flows of money in and out of bank accounts is a great asset. And...ahem...depending on the statistics you look up, the average debt per U.S. citizen is between $8000 to $12,000. Clearly, people don't know what to do with money in this society.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is no part of society that doesn't need enlightenment, and so when your path no longer needs the instruction of an external spiritual teacher, it may be time to walk more firmly in the material world. The spiritual path will make you very strong and grounded, and we need people like that to really re-create the Earth in a new way.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Learning to Ask for Help

I have to say that one of the most under-appreciated spiritual practices that I can think of is this: asking for help.

Do you know how to do this? I know that I have to practice it. Maybe it's a social training thing. Okay, I know it's a social training thing. There's this idea out there that we have to do everything on our own. It's part of the illusion of independence. Well, good luck with that. I've done pretty good in perpetuating that illusion in my life at certain times, but when you really look at life, you'll realize that there's absolutely nothing that you do by yourself. You can't even breathe without the help of a whole lot of external systems (plants mainly) and internal systems (lungs, blood cells, etc.) to supply you  with and to properly absorb clean air. And if you think you're in full control of your body, well, then just take a look at anyone who has had nerve damage. When the impulses from the brain can't go some place, you suddenly realize just how tenuous your influence over your body ever was. And it's one of the ways where becoming or being disabled in some way immediately faces you with the lack of independence that you actually have and how important it is to know how to ask for help.

Embracing Interdependence and Getting a Hand From Time to Time
You know this blog post isn't for those of you avoiding doing something or who are trying to get others to do things for you. That kind of neediness isn't an authentic asking for help. We don't need to ask others to do stuff that we can already do for ourselves. We learn to ask others for help so that they can share their talents with us for things we may not be good at or during times when we don't have the time or energy to do it. I've learned to ask for help from time to time, and as I'm developing this blog, you'll notice some more obvious helping hands as well as some quieter helping hands in the background. Make no mistake about it; I don't know how to set up a Web site. The magicians at Blogger have created this, and in a subtle way, they've helped me so that I can talk to you. Other more obvious things are the blogs from students or the photos from students and other well-wishers. They've all contributed to help me make this a richer space for you, and they show how interdependent I am on a whole system of support. You are never alone on this path, and sometimes, seeing this interdependence is both humbling and enheartening.

Finding Your Ego Blocks
But so often, many of us think we have to do things alone. I certainly can't deny that going off on your own to face some of the fears in the darkness of your soul may be necessary. I can't deny that you're going to feel like you're standing naked in the middle of the road at times when you first start following your heart. I can't deny that the spiritual path doesn't require a ton of initiative, love, and courage to bring into creation the life that you truly want to live. But for as much as these individual choices are important, so much more will come from your connections to others. When you get stuck or hurt or scared or tired, allowing others to help you is only natural. In a more interconnected world, I think that this is our natural mode. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I think that healthy human beings naturally want to help each other, and in truth, part of the spiritual path really is just about becoming healthy. To do so, we have to find those spaces of the ego that say we can't ask for help because we'll look weak, because we're afraid that we'll be denied, because of any number of issues. If you don't know what they are, please stop and pay attention to how you respond to a situation where you need help. What feelings come up? What ideas come up? Trust me, this will be illuminating. And then you'll have to take action to help face and dissolve those issues before you can move on and really receive help.

God Walks With/in All of Us
I read a blog post about being afraid to take action not too long ago, and I really liked how the author talked about getting help from God. If there's ever a being to turn to, it's God. I'm not telling you to believe in a higher power or not, although I always encourage everyone to see what their definition of God is. Most of us are not using that term the same way. To me, God is everything. God is energy. God is love. Wherever you look, you see God, be it in the face of a friend, a flower, or an enemy. And God will help us if we are humble and we genuinely ask for it, although the help may not come in the form that we expect. If there is one of the greatest challenges to the ego, it's receiving the help of God when it comes from an unexpected and perhaps an unwanted source. In those situations, we are being challenged to learn how to receive even more and from different givers. This can be a practice in and of itself, but we cannot practice until we start to learn to ask for help. This isn't just whining to God that your life is miserable. Be specific whenever possible, and you will get whatever it is that you most need even if you don't know what that is.

Unexpected Help and Unexpected Consequences
Along with asking for help, you may not fully know what the consequences of that help may be. Consider that you need a new job, and you've asked for help from a group of professionals. The help you may get may lead you to go back to school even if you don't want to go back to school. You don't need to swallow all help and suggestions entirely, and you do continue to need to develop your inner knowing and act upon that knowing when given help and advice to know if it's appropriate to you. But more often than not, help will guide us towards certain goals and outcomes, which may not be what we expected.

I remember trying to get into a Master's of Fine Arts program for Creative Writing. I wanted to take the next step as a writer. I was summarily rejected from all the schools. Sure they were selective schools, but that's not the point. God was helping me. Because at the same time I was following my heart towards writing and being a better writer through this avenue, God was opening up a path to do so. For me, the path to embracing my writing in its power and candor was the spiritual path. So at the same time that I'm studying for the GRE, the movements towards spiritual awakening had already begun. I did have enough awareness to see the last rejection letter as one last message from God that there was a different road for me to take, and in doing so, I've become a far better writer than I could have imagined.

Breaking Down Old Ideas Around Help
But I know I have to come back to the ideas still lodged in your heads about getting help. Start there. Really look at how you think and feel about getting help. Help is also a form of receiving, and there seems to be this idea that if you have to receive from others that you're somehow lacking or weak. This isn't true. We receive from others all the time. We receive paychecks, stipends, and all kinds of things. What we're focusing too much on is the avenue. Receiving a paycheck, assistance from the government, or a gift from a friend is no different. It's just a different form of energy. What is important is how we use that help in living the life of our heart's truest intents.

In general, help should be a natural part of giving and receiving. Giving and receiving are like breathing. They should be done in tandem. This allows the natural flow of energy through the universe. When we get stuck in hoarding or taking from others, we stymie that flow. We stymie ourselves. And when we don't open up to the flow coming to us, then we also stymie ourselves. So stop and look at where you're refusing help if you feel stuck or going in the wrong direction. You may not like what you see and hear. You can always ask friends, and you may not like what you hear from them. I encourage you to have the courage to see and hear. It's the only way to embrace reality and to start moving in integrity with your life.

The Help We Need Most Is Always Here and Now
Even in our most difficult moments, the help we need is always here and now. It's never exactly as we expect it to be, but it can be in no other moment. Stop waiting for the future to give you a more comfortable or safe-seeming solution. Safety is another illusion that is running around in here that is doing nothing for you and causing quite a bit of confusion. In many ways, we don't really know what safety is. We know what familiarity is, but that often is very different than safety. Life isn't safe. It never will be. There will be pain. There will be death. That's part of this planet, but we don't need to suffer needlessly. And we can help each other, so if there's one thing I hope you remember and take to heart it's that it's always okay to ask for help.

The lovely photo for this blog is a gift from my student, Jenn.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Creating the New Relationship on the Spiritual Path

I want to start out by saying that I want you to think of relationships in the broadest possible context. The ultra-focus of people on relationships as only sexual-romantic partnerships specifically between men and women is too narrow, and we can't get anywhere on this topic until we look at relationships in a much wider view. Because living in a body in this world of duality, we create relationships with everyone and everything. Even if a relationships is a brief "hi, how are ya?" to some stranger on the street, there's a whole load of information and connection that happens in that micro-second. And as many people are discovering, we have a relationship with the planet and our environment. We even have relationships with things like cars, houses, and so on. So as I delve into the topic of creating what I'm going to call "The New Relationship," I encourage you to open up your perspective and begin to think about all the relationships that you have and maintain in your life.


The New Relationship Always Starts With You
As always, the beginning point of any relationship is you. How are you in relationship to yourself? Do you like you? Do you love all of you? What parts of you are you trying to ignore? Where are you cut off from yourself? The sad truth is that many of us don't like ourselves. We've absorbed the delusion of this world and have decided that some parts of us are okay and some are not. This has gotten extremely physical, and consequently, there are all kinds of surgeries that people go through to make their bodies look a certain way in this youth-centric culture. Truly, aging gracefully has been greatly diminished and semi-replaced by this manic idea of staying young-looking at all costs. In many ways, people are emotionally- and spiritually-stunted by this very idea because they are always looking for external approval from a society that is focused on youth and quite frankly doesn't really like itself. No one is happy when they they are always trying to get approval from someone else. So you have to start by giving approval to yourself.


Rebuilding, Remaking, and Tearing Down Again
The fact of the matter is that spiritual awakening doesn't have to be a difficult thing, but we have so much crap in the way that the first step of most awakenings is usually to tear out everything. We get stripped down to our very foundations, and that's a humbling path to walk. Then we have to rebuild. Sometimes, it feels like we're doing both at the same time, which can be a very exhausting process. But it is necessary. It's the only way to make space for the fullness of you, and to rebuild this relationship with yourself is the first step for being in integrity with any other relationship that you can have. If you still don't like yourself, then you'll attract other people who don't like themselves. Then you'll want to blame the world, as if it's the world's fault for you not liking you. "Why am I always attracting assholes?" you say. Well, there's an answer for that, and you can find that answer when you look in the mirror.

The spiritual path--you may have noticed--is not just a touchy feelly stroll through the woods. There are some jaguars out there that are going to right out your innards.

Take a Breather, There Should Always be Rest and Ease
But I don't want to terrify you too much. I am simply acknowledging the whole of the spiritual path, much as you need to acknowledge the whole of everything. People think that the spiritual path is just about fluffy feelings and wonderful connective moments. It is about those things, but it's about everything else too. Learning to unconditionally love and accept everything is the spiritual path, and that means learning how to be with states of awareness and moments that are really uncomfortable at times. The more you can be with such things, the greater your breadth of yourself you have space for. Because those uncomfortable moments are coming from within you 90% of the times just as the really good ones are generally coming from within you (which is always a tough sell for people when I write about spiritual sexuality, but it is the honest to God truth).

Yet with all of this, it's important to take a breather and find rest whether in the high ecstatic moments or the low despairing moments. They are all coming and going, and you can hold onto any of them. With that, the next point of this blog is to let go.

Joining and Releasing: The True Breath of the New Relationship
I'm calling this "The New Relationship" because most people don't know how to connect with others. They are used to latching on and holding on for dear life for as long as possible and trying to keep everything the same as the first moment that they met. Others are terrified of ever connecting too deeply and circle around above the waters wanting to dive deep, but being afraid of drowning in those waters. Those relationships are built on fear and working out karma. The New Relationship breathes. There's a time for breathing in a new friend, co-worker, boss, or lover, and then, there's a time for releasing that relationship. Some of these types of relationships can change quickly if not throughout a day. While I don't necessarily recommend it, two people could be boss and employee during the day, friends grabbing drinks at night, and lovers in the early morning. Unfortunately, they most likely would get stuck somewhere and would not let go of one of the roles--I'm sure you have a guess where.

I only am writing it out to show you how fluid things can naturally be. In truth, each time you leave a person, you leave that relationship. Then the next day, you actually have the ability to start over, let it go completely, or change the relationship. You don't have to be and act the same way all the time. In truth, the holding on to the idea of relationships is one of the most toxic things people do. They don't allow each other to grow, and that's a key point to make in The New Relationship--it expects that people will grow and change.

Finding Partners Who Can Learn a New Dance
I'm sure that more than a couple of you really like this idea, but the fact of the matter is that you probably don't really know how to do this dance. I don't recommend anyone ever drops a romantic partner/husband/wife purely to chase after a new idea. As I said, I want you to think of relationships in a much broader context, so step one is learning how to accept your own need to change and giving space for you to grow. There is not one thing in you that you can hang on to. In letting go, you will find far greater resiliency, love, and strength than you could imagine, however. Until you let go, you are stuck. You are stuck in old habits, and you are stuck in the old unhealthy relationship you have with yourself. This might even be veiled as the self improvement path, where you are constantly unhappy with yourself and think you need to "improve" to some perfected state. Get over it. That's impossible. There is no perfect state other than to completely accept yourself as you are. The more you do this, the more easy it will be to make the changes that really matter and ignore a lot of the other nonsense that's out there.

Mastering the Solo Dance, Then Ask a Partner
As you feel more comfortable with this loving relationship that you have with yourself, I'd encourage you to find a friend to practice this new relationship with. You don't have to really do anything differently than you'd do with yourself such as:
  • Being honest
  • Being loving
  • Being compassionate
  • Showing up for each other
  • Committing to the relationship
  • Committing to growth
  • Committing to the temporariness of the relationship
Those are some of the highlights. Obviously, there are more. But the key thing is to not try to make it be anything. People seem to try to force relationships into different molds, and for the new relationship, you need to practice letting the relationship tell you both what it wants to be. You may naturally meet with similar senses of humor. You may enjoy doing yoga together. You may enjoy talking. However, there may be other things that don't naturally connect. You may not like eating out together. You may not think alike. That's okay. Find space to accept all of your friend.

You will also need to get used to hearing the truth. It can be really upsetting at times if you aren't used to it and you hear:
  • "Yes, those jeans look terrible on you."
  • "Yes, you should divorce your spouse."
  • "Yes, you are a beautiful soul who is playing small and can give way more than you're currently giving."

The truth can cut deep through lies, and you'll find out where a lot of them are if you have the courage to practice this dance. Naturally, all the above things need to be said through loving kindness. It doesn't necessarily mean that you enjoy hearing them. But whether you're sharing these reflections or receiving them, it's important to be able to be with them instead of running from the discomfort, which is what 90% of people do in this world and why most relationships are unhealed and full of pain.

Calling in Deeper Connections
You may be surprised how jarring and unsettling it is to be in The New Relationship. You may be saying, "You know when Jim started writing about this, I was all for it. Now, I think I don't want that at all." That's fine. No one is forcing you to do anything. That's the great beauty of this life. You can have whatever relationships you want, but I do promise you that the more of these types of relationships you have around you, the more you won't want any other kind. There's an acclimation time period as you get used to how to be in this type of relationship that's based on honesty, clarity, and love, and then after awhile, you'll want to go deeper.

At this point, this is where we're talking about very deep connections. They can still be in the realm of friendship, but that's not really the right word. We don't really have a good word for this kind of deep spiritual friendship, but it's like having a best friend or multiple best friends. You may also call in a very powerful romantic partner, which tends to really add fuel to the fire. It lights up all the core issues even more. The closer you get and the more open you get, the more intimacy is possible. But at the same time, the more any blocks, fears, or other issues that are in the way get illuminated. It can feel painful. I know that for some of my students just being on the phone call when I'm reflecting something back to them can be excruciating...and that's just a phone call. Part of this is, as I said, getting used to deep connections, so before any of you try to go find that perfect soulmate (oy...please read this soulmate blog about that stuff before doing that), start with yourself and build up to the deeper connections so that you're ready and can appreciate the immense gift you're about to share with another.

Loving Immensely, Then Letting Go
And then let go of the idea of time. A deep connection may only last for ten minutes with a person, and then it'll never return. Moments are like that. Connections also need no amount of time to become deep. The more you know how to open, the more deeply you can go quickly and easily to whatever level is appropriate and natural for that connection. Some connections last lifetimes as our souls interweave throughout the many worlds we travel to. Others are just a passing smile or nod. But practice loving them all as they are. Don't try to extend them past what they are. Don't try to hold on when you know it's over. Commit fully when they are there, and breathe them deeply. But remember to exhale. Remember to let go. It's the cycle, and as you get more comfortable with the cycle, you'll see that you're always in deep connection with not just everyone, but everything.

The lovely photo for this blog is a generous gift from my student, Jenn.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Moving Into Stillness: The Power of Presence

Eventually as all the old lies burn off, you move into stillness. This doesn't mean that you sit around and do nothing all the time. This means that your internal state is still. It may not always stay quiet there, but for the most part, you are still. Emotions come and go. Things may become intense. Your state of consciousness may shift. You may be excited or sad, but that center point is always there. You can go back to it when you need to. You are securely grounded to it. It's a beautiful space, and it's where this awakening process both ends and starts anew. Because once you are fully connected to yourself--because that's ultimately what you are connecting to--then you can step back into the world in a new way.

The Last Lies Burn Up and Evaporate
One of the big lies in Western Culture is that you must define yourself by what you do. It's a crock of shit. There's no truth to it, and the reality is that people are frantically running around and exhausting themselves. They are doing too much to try and get somewhere. They don't even know where that somewhere is, but they're afraid to stop moving. Perhaps you're afraid to stop moving. If you're in the awakening process, you will run out of steam very soon, or you have already been forced to stop. You just don't have any energy for anything but the internal shift. This is actually a very wise part of ourselves. We know that if we have too much energy that we'll waste it like a kid with five extra dollars going into a candy store. We are still learning how to truly nourish ourselves, and so in some ways, having no energy is a kind of self-protection that will allow us to be with the shift fully. I've written about awakening fatigue, and I often describe the process as running 3 marathons simultaneously. So on that level, there simply is no more energy for anything else. Which means you end up lying on your couch or yoga mat for long periods of time doing absolutely nothing.

Doing Gives Way to Being
There is another thing happening as well; your desire to do things is being destroyed. You will notice how much stuff that you do is really superfluous. People already know that they work way too much in this culture, and yet, even in some of our recreation times, we are busy "doing" something. People sometimes come back from their vacations more exhausted than before them because of all the stuff that they did. Is that not strange? If this didn't seem strange to you before, it does now.

Additionally, you can see how many things that you have done that no longer have any integrity for you. Consider all the drinking and partying saying meaningless things and doing harmful things to your body. Is that really fun to your true self? No. Not even a little bit. Heck, I don't even like eating too much ice cream anymore. It is kind of sickening to me now. That's a far cry from where I once was, but the inner intelligence that I have is very alive and awake. It becomes clearer and clearer what things need to be done and what actions actually serve spirit.


Taking Stock of Your Doings
Wherever you are on your path, I encourage you to take stock of your doings. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How does that feel to you? Start to look into what is coming from a heart-space or sense of service, and then look at what things you think you have to do. Now, there's a naive element that thinks it can just flake out and lie on the beach all the time. That's not how this sense of integrity works. You'll be very clear about what things you need to do. You'll be very clear about needing to dedicate time to help your kids with their homework or spend time with your partner. You'll be very clear about how much work you actually need to do to meet your needs, and you will suddenly see the ridiculousness of constantly trying to earn more or do more. It's just going to get crystal clear.

But that clarity will also bring changes in your behavior, which will change the types of interactions you select and the types of people who will be in your life. In general, this seems to be a sticking point for people. We all seem to have the most attachments to other people and how they are supposed to make us feel or participate in our lives. But all attachments have to go, and as you see how you used to do things, you'll see where others in your life are still caught up in the hamster wheel, going round and round. Have compassion when you see this. You were once there too.

Dropping Into the Depths of Stillness
This all leads up into the relaxation that is stillness. Many teachers talk about sitting on park benches for hours and hours. It's not because of lack of initiative or laziness. Those are ego ideas bred by this culture to keep us in a panic and constantly running. What those of us who have awakened realize is that there is no where to go. We can see the hamster wheel for what it is. If we choose to get into it, it comes from a place of clarity and because we simply decide to do so. But usually that doesn't last long, and more and more, all you really want is stillness. Just to be. Just to be with what is around you. The concept of forcing places and people into molds that you once desired goes away. The concept of needing to define yourself by what you do goes away. I may say that I am a spiritual teacher, healer, and a writer, but that's really just what I do. Those are clothes that I choose to where from time to time. I can take them off. I can just be, and in that place, there is so much beautiful ease and lightness that it becomes easier and easier to let go of any remaining ideas and illusions about needing to do something.


The Urge to Action Arises and Even The Mountain Moves
Even for a mountain, there are times when it will move if there's a strong enough urge from the Earth to do so. Otherwise, it simply sits in its space. In this way, many of us become like mountains. A profound presence just exudes out of grounded awakened people. At the end of the transition, you simply are. And in that space, you can choose to act when an urge comes to do so, or you can choose not to. It's that simple.

Every urge is different and has different force behind it. The more tuned into yourself that you are, the more clear you are about the urge and any remaining story behind it. A long time ago I wrote about the differences between desires and urges. Desire wants something and thinks a particular action or thing will make it happy. It's bound up in attachment. An urge is much more basic. We all have urges to eat. A desire would say, "I want a fast-food hamburger." The desire thinks that will satisfy the underlying urge to eat, and of course, many of us will eat something like that and then feel bad because it ultimately didn't satisfy the urge. Perhaps the urge wanted broccoli. It will come back, however, and you'll have another chance to tune in more deeply to yourself.

Letting Go of Action
Once again, I am writing about letting go. Letting go is one of the ultimate tools on the spiritual path. It underlies most of the tools that I talk about. Most of the tools (journaling, energy healing, etc.) are about allowing you to face something so that you can let it go and clear your inner space. Because the world is getting lost in "doing," it's important to remind you that at some point, you need to let go of action. As I said, this isn't going to make you lazy or totally laissez-faire. For some of you, letting go of some actions will lead you to realize the need to take immediate action in other ways. Many actions in our lives are often reactions to the need to do things that we don't want to do. It can get intense when you start taking conscious actions, but I've found that over time, things settle. Once you've got onto the path you need to be on, the road gets significantly less rocky and requires fewer adjustments. This leaves you with plenty of time to pause and just be. And in that being, you will more greatly shift the world with love and peace than you can possibly imagine.

Today's wonderful picture is from my student, Jenn.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interpretation of Awakening the Fool

Awhile ago, I wrote a spiritual allegory called The Tale of the Butterfly. I wrote an interpretation along with it, and both seemed to receive great responses. This latest work is longer, and it was part of a beautiful evening that a friend of mine hosted at his home along with other inspiring monologues and stories. What follows is the interpretation of the spiritual allegory called, "Awakening the Fool," which is linked in the name if you haven't read it yet. Enjoy!

Who Is the Fool?

The fool is a multi-functional character, which is the beauty of allegory and metaphor. Much like in the Tale of the Butterfly, the protagonist is all of us. The constraints of the English language force us to take a gendered tone, so for this one, I made the protagonist a man (the butterfly on in the other allegory was gendered female). It works well in conjunction with Maya and the generally heterosexual orientation of the cultural. Sexual orientation doesn't matter ultimately, and if you notice in this story, Maya swings both ways, taking both female and male "lovers."

However, the fool is also a divine archetype, which is seen in other pantheons of Gods as those spirits that get into mischief or get us into mischief. In the unawakened state, the fool constantly gets himself into trouble. He doesn't understand how he does this. It's just what happens to him. It happens because his awakened--and therefore natural--state of being is to make a fool out of himself. That's how he helps to illuminate all of our foibles, and through seeing this and being able to laugh at him, we laugh ourselves and can potentially address and avoid the pitfalls that we've been shown.

Who Is Maya?
Maya is the Sanskrit word for illusion. She's a deity in most Indian religions, and one of the stories has her carving up Brahman (who is kind of the all encompassing God spirit) into many pieces. Essentially, Brahman forgets who "he" is--he being used very loosely here (as I said, constraints of the human language). And so her sacred role is to make everyone forget who they are. In forgetting, they can then remember their Brahman-hood, their divinity. And so we find the fool--us--locked in Maya's many veils of illusion, which is symbolized by her bed covers.

Naturally, this allegory also works as a metaphor for all of the unhealthy relationships we can get entangled in. In this most surface-level understanding, there is still great wisdom as we follow the fool to the true understanding that we always have the power to leave the temptress/tempter who seemingly has us completely under their control.

The State of Affairs
Much like the fool, many of our lives are absolute messes. Every now and then, a little bit of illumination--that ray of light that gets mentioned--slips into our lives. Then we have to look at the mess around us. We have to look the disgusting bed we're in and the general situation. It may not be all bad, although generally speaking most of us don't know what the situation really is. For many people, these types of sexual forays and substance abuses are what they want because illumination hasn't come in full force to really show them the cost yet. That comes later in the story when the fool sees what he's become. For now, this is just the world that he lives in. He doesn't think he has a choice, and just when that little bit of light is helping him find his way out of bed to the edge of a new day, Maya reaches out to seduce him and shuts out the light.

The Grand Illusion and the Cosmic Joke

As I mentioned, the fool is a divine archetype. In his unconscious state, he is a moron, an utter idiot, and subsequently, you'll notice that his actions are often called out as being "stupid" in the text. It is also the hard truth that most of us in truly following the spiritual path have to face our utter idiocy. That's a hard first step, and it's not one that many people get past. Some people don't even look around the bedroom before climbing back in with Maya and shutting the blinds themselves. However, the metamorphosis that we watch transports him into the role of the divine fool. Stupidity becomes conscious foolishness. And furthermore, the fool archetype is naturally imbued with a bit of luck. His very stupidity actually helps him get lost so that he can find himself.

Hence, after the big fight with Maya, he is wandering. He doesn't understand his power, and Maya's role has pushed him into this state. She's upset him enough to get him moving. This is the magic of illusion and suffering. Maya's divine duty is to bury people in enough illusion that it forces them to face the situation even as she keeps adding new layers of illusion. His power of course (which is the power we all have) is that he can change the situation at any time, but he thinks he needs Maya. He is afraid of what life would be without her.

This is where using the metaphor of a relationship works really well because I'm sure many of you have this fear. You don't know who you'd be without your relationship. Going down another level, people are afraid of what would happen if they followed their hearts and their dreams. The fears are that they'll end up alone, uncared for, starving, and then dead in a gutter. That's part of the illusion of the ego that keeps us tied up and not living our lives. These are the fears that the fool has as he comes to the pool of clarity.

The Power of Clear Sight and Mirrors
The fool probably could have wandered in a state of being lost his whole life. Maybe you feel like you've been doing this, but the great thing about life is that most of us already have mirrors--people who can help reflect who we are. A lot of time that reflection is horribly upsetting. So we blame the other person for what they show about us. Many people run away. Here we see the fool terribly upset and doing something foolish and futile by trying to move his face and tearing out the untended beard, which brings yet more pain.

As the fool beings to wail, we see the power of self-recognition. He can't deny the reflection in the pool. Sometimes the pool is a third-party like a spiritual teacher. For the metaphor of the pool, it has to be a source which you cannot deny. In being unable to deny the state you are in, you now have to face yourself. It's one of the reasons that most people don't understand what they are asking for when they say that they want to be recognized for who they really are. Recognition means seeing and accepting every part of yourself. The fool can't handle this initially, but fortunately, he meets the wise man.

The Wise Man/Spiritual Teacher
The little old man sitting on the bench is an extension of the pool of clarity. He is embodied awakening, and he knows what to feed people with. That's his gift. Hence, the pigeons are examples of students and all who come to his feet for teaching. When one flies away, it won't come back because it's not dependent on the teacher. Once the student gets enough nourishment, she or he doesn't need anymore because ultimately we already have all the truth within us.

But the fool doesn't understand this. He's still stuck in Maya's world and in the illusion that he has to get fulfillment from someone else. So when he sees the pigeons come to the teacher, he can only imagine that they're like all of Maya's partners shackled to her in her basement. This is much the way that most people don't understand how to work with a spiritual teacher. They either think that they need to be dependent on the teacher or that the teacher will just be a new set of chains. With this core misconception, a lot of people become devotees and therefore miss the core teaching of any true teacher--that you already have all your truth and knowledge within you. Or others spurn teachers, and then they roam blindly because they still don't fully know how to nourish themselves. These types can become perpetual seekers who are too afraid to make a serious commitment to a teaching to build up enough momentum to overcome the inertia that is holding them back in their lives.

The Fool's Purpose Revealed
The wise man also understands the fool's purpose. He isn't laughing at the fool so much as laughing at himself. He can see his own foolishness in the fool, but he's completely accepted that part of himself. He remembers what Maya did to him once. So when he sees it in another, it's a joyful, silly feeling that comes, not a self-deprecating thing.

The wise man is also laughing at the fool because that's the fool's purpose. The fool's purpose IS to bring humor and laughter to others. The fool reveals the folly of the world by consciously embracing folly. But the fool is still unconscious in the story, so he doesn't understand the wise man's laughter. He thinks he is being made fun of even though in actuality the teacher is responding to who the fool really is and is deeply honoring the fool. Since the fool can't handle that truth about his purpose, he runs away instead of embracing it.

The Fool's Return to the Normal World
The return to "normal" life follows as the fool returns to Maya's domain. This is what is commonly called living in the "real world." This return happens for many of you after having a peak spiritual experience or opening. You've touched something real, but you can't really integrate into your lives yet. In this case, the fool is changed, but it's not enough for him to walk away and transform his life yet. However, he can now see the true state of affairs. He can see how diseased and infested this world is, which is mentioned in the form of Maya's house. True reality is setting in. Descending into the basement, he already knows what he's going to see. But he has to go look. He has to really "see" it before he can leave.

In the basement, we have several more metaphors of loveless relationships and the chains of karma. We see people who fill themselves up on unwholesome things. The mention of "chains" is playing a lot of roles from making fun of fast-food chains to corporate fat cats to anybody who is lost in the gratuitous consuming of experiences. This can equally be the couch potato as well as the sex addict as well as the spiritual seeker. Anywhere that you think you need to over indulge in your life or fill up on experiences to be fulfilled, you are one of these individuals wound up in Maya's chains.

Another set of Maya's ropes ensnare those who want love from her. They look to the real world over and over to give them true love, and in so doing, they become more and more emaciated by the hollowness of the illusory world. This metaphor is punctuated by the caving in of chests; they are suffocated and starved for love. Both images of corpulence and emaciation also encapsulate the obesity epidemic and eating disorders like anorexia. It's my general feeling that a lot of the disorders with food are poor coping mechanisms that are trying to replace the energy of love with the energy of food or of social approval.

Cracks in the Mirror

Seeing all of this along with his connection with clarity and the teacher cracks the mirror, which represents the image of who he thinks he is. It allows him to see himself from multiple angles, and it allows the inner self to emerge. At the center of the broken images is the true self, and now, that he has enough awareness of what is really going on, a resulting drive to discover the truth ensues. This is typically a much longer process for people than the story makes it out to be, but it doesn't have to be. Normally, someone will get a glimpse of their deeper self, and Maya is still holding onto them through jobs, relationships, and all the other things that have been created based in fear and illusion (and ultimately fear is the greatest illusion). For instance, you're working in a job that you hate just to make money. That's an illusion. But when you start to realize that you can do something else fulfilling and take care of yourself, you've made an important shift. That drive to really connect with your true self is when you start going to yoga retreats, spiritual talks, and so forth. Everything builds up until that undeniable and unbreakable connection is made. After that, everything has to change.

Maya's role is to keep everyone entranced in her illusions, so she is at her most furious and also most attentive when someone is about to break free. I think some people have had the experience of right when they're getting ready to leave a relationship suddenly the other person is doing all kinds of nice things or their job is offering them a bonus. It's Maya's last tricks to delude us and keep us under her grasp because in your heart, you know the truth. And so the fool touches the center and transforms. He transforms from the unconscious fool into the divine fool.

The Chase and Embodying the Fool

The next phase is the chase, which is fun for dramatic purposes in the story. She's still trying to get him back. She wants his energy back, but he is now in the embodying phase of spiritual awakening. He is realizing who he is and begins to act from that space--the actions are one important phase of how we embody our true selves. The stripping naked comment is the removal of all things that are untrue to him. It is also embodying the true nature of the fool, which does ridiculous things to illustrate his points. That's how he gets people's attentions, and that's how he starts to wake up the others--the sisters and brothers still in Maya's chains.

Illusion still wants to take hold of him, so he's tested for his sincerity. For many of you, the grand illusion is money. This illusion says that you can't possibly follow your heart and make money, i.e. be safe and provide for yourself. So when you try to break free, that's what Maya is trying to hook you back into her domain with. For others, it's the fear of being alone. So Maya tries to remind you about all the wonderful times you had together. There are many more, but the more the fool embodies who he really is, the more he sees through the veils of illusions.

The Divine Work
She, of course, is eventually exhausted when he is fully embodied, and she cannot reach him at this phase. Hence she returns to her divine purpose of casting veils of illusion over others until they get the joke. And once embodied, he can do the divine work that he is here to do. Work in this story is the same as purpose. A lot of times we consider our work to be difficult to do. As I mentioned, we don't think we can follow our hearts, but once the fool is fully who he is, then the work is effortless and joyful because Maya no longer has his energy inhibited and wrapped up in her veils.

Re-Meeting the Wise Man
Now, the embodied fool can meet the spiritual teacher again, and he can fully be seen. This time he does something ridiculous to make the teacher laugh, and in so doing, he is telling the teacher that he understands who he is. The riddle tells the teacher that he understands the cosmic joke, which is the last thing mentioned in the story. The joke is that we can break free of illusion at any time. The joke is also that we are the ones who are holding ourselves captive. Maya may lure people into her bed, but the fool chose to go there with her. He now understands his choices and can laugh at them as well. And there you have the awakening of the fool.

Today's lovely picture comes from my student, Jenn.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Awakening the Fool: A Spiritual Allegory

Divine Comedy Is Everywhere
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to read this spiritual allegory to a group of people as part of a night of monologues, stories, jokes, and poems. I think there were somewhere over 30 people in attendance, and it was such a gift to be able to share this work in person. Now, I'm sharing the allegory of the fool with all of you, my dear and wonderful readers. It is similar to The Tale of the Butterfly spiritual allegory, although longer and more detailed. Enjoy!

Awakening the Fool
The fool sleeps. Lost in the many covers of his slumbering lover's bed, he knows no other place he'd rather be.

It always seems like a good idea--this relationship. How could it not? So many games to be played. Such harmless foolishness. But once wrapped in her many veils, Maya's hot breath and imploring words lead him further and further along until he dances ridiculously at her slightest whim to please this temptress.

A sliver of light slides through a fortunate crevice in the heavy blinds to needle his eyelids as he lies in a bed where he is not the first nor will he be the last. The soft down has stiffened in places. The sultriness of the night before has faded into the sticky hardness and foul breath of the morning.

He coughs and gurgles the phlegm of the early hours. Its sour taste reminds him of his latest cycle of folly. He observes the fallout.

Shoes. Several pairs of shoes. Too many shoes, really. He hopes that other than the brown loafers that the rest are hers because in all honesty, he can't remember what happened last night. Pants. A bra. Shirts, one partly torn. Underwear--one pair of which hangs onto the corner of a dresser all the way across the room. Not sure how that happened. He smiles.

Somewhere in the house, a phone's ringtone sings "Bad Medicine." Even at this distance, the sound reverberates uncomfortably in his head, as a dull, deepening hangover takes the place of the evening's alcohol buzz. He wonders if he will puke.

He kicks out his legs over the side of the bed and jerks up his left foot which has found a used syringe. Swears under his breath. He checks for damage.

All clear.

He shoves a reluctant leg into a pair of jeans when he hears her roll over. Heavy, smeared eye-shadow flutters away as she opens her eyes.

"Come back to bed, dear."

"Ah, I can't. Gotta go to work and all."

She pouts her lower lip at him. "That's no fun."

She reaches out one hand to tug on the crook of his waist while the other reaches up to pull the blinds completely shut. "We had fun last night, didn't we?"

"Oh yeah," he smiles, his body already falling backwards into bed. "Lots of fun."

"Don't you want to have a little more?" She croons other soft, sultry syllables that draw him away from the edge so that he forgets the work ahead and disappears back into her.

And the day melts away into blackness. His perspective darkens more and more, and even as she takes other lovers--tantalizes and torments them, he is still devoted to her. He follows her everywhere and does everything that she wants him to do. At the instant he falters, she wails tempestuously, shouting and pounding her fists on him. She can't lose his attention, but he doesn't understand any of this. He doesn't understand his power in the matter or what power is even. He simply obeys what is set before him and lets Maya lead him on.

It was just after such a tirade when lost in thought, he began to wander for many long hours. Her words and proclamations rang in his ears about being alone, an outcast, and dead in a gutter without her. Befuddled, he suddenly realizes that he does not recognize the road he is on. Swearing at his stupidity, he does his best to re-direct himself, but instead of finding his way back, he comes to a clear lake that he'd never seen before.

Gazing into the water, he sees an image of himself, but he is struck by a terrible visage. He grabs his face in disbelief. He runs his hands over it, pulling at tufts of scraggly beard and pushing around sagging folds of flesh. The pain of his reality strikes him as he rips a tuft free, and he begins to cry. He wails for a long time until he notices an old man sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons. The old man is laughing.

The fool swipes at the tears. He splashes water on his face from the lake to regain his dignity, but he only looks worse. The matted hair, unshaven beard with a patch now missing, and hollow eyes still stare back at him.

The old man continues to laugh. He gazes with eyes that are unafraid to see.

"What?" The fool asks.

The old man doesn't respond. Just laughs even more.

"What are you laughing at?"

"Why, you, of course."

It's an obvious reply, which undercuts the stupidity of the question. He suddenly realizes that he is used to asking stupid questions. He pauses for a second to think of something intelligent to say, yet nothing arises.

"You look like you're having a hard time," the old man observes.

The fool nods still racking his brains for a clever comment.

"Would you like to sit on this bench awhile?"

With nothing coming to mind, he nods again and sits down by the old man.

The sun at its zenith encases the two in the full clarity and intensity of the day.

"You seem to be a very unhappy fellow," the old man notices, still spreading his crumbs to the pigeons that peck hungrily before him.

Irritated by the question, the fool tries again. "You know feeding them will just make them dependent on you."

"Not if you use the right food," the old man responds.

One pigeon sated by the crumbs suddenly stops, swivels its head, and flies away.

"You see."

"Oh come on, I'm sure he'll come back," the fool replies.

The old man shakes his head. "You must be pretty tired of living by her rules by now."

"How do you know about her?" the fool demands.

The old man leans over with a smile in his eyes, "You are not the first she's deluded, my friend." He starts to laugh again.

With that, the fool stomps off, running into a fire hydrant in his haste. The old man laughs harder. Swearing and waving his arms, the fool makes a retreat, but as night settles back in, he can still hear the laughs. The old man's words stick in him like thorns. Something numb feels like it's come to life and throbs with an acute pulse that he does not like, but strangely welcomes. Late in the evening, he finds the decrepit old house that Maya lives in. He feels like he is looking at it for the first time. Rotted, infested, and probably a violation of nineteen health codes, he wonders how he's been able to live there.

The wooden steps creak their welcome as he opens the door. He hears laughter along with the inane sounds of rock music, the clinking of glasses, and other noises from the basement. He already knows the scene, and descending once again, he sees her surrounded by partners who are all wrapped up in her chains and ropes. Some of her partners have grown massive and corpulent, gorging themselves on the experiences from those chains. Amidst thick, buttery slabs of their own fat, they are buckling under their weight. While others in their pursuit of her illusory love have gotten thinner and thinner. Their chests caved inwards, they are suffocating in Maya's binds. He sees the powdered glass, dirty wrappers, and empty bottles and cans. He sees all the things that are supposed to bring pleasure, but instead bring torment. Then he sees himself in a cracked mirror on the stairwell. Fissures run everywhere through his face. He sees the ruin that he has become and the road soon coming. Yet, one reflection is still smiling. From an angle he's never seen before, he can see a part of himself grinning a crazy grin in the center of the brokenness. He reaches a hand to this part.

Maya sees this. Others have come to this point before. So she begins her little song. The same little song that won him back that first time long ago.

He hears this. He feels her trying to wrap back around him. He hears the promises, the pleasures. But his fingers continue towards that gleeful smile amidst the many reflections of pain. He wants to touch something that he has not seen in himself before.

Her smile vanishes from the images caught in the mirror. They turn to frowns, and the many insatiable mouths open into screams. She hurls all the old ropes, knots, and ties at him.

But his reach won't be denied. The connection is made. He understands.

He turns from the fragments of the mirror to see her in her truth. A crinkle alights at the corners of his eyes. He begins to laugh.

Beet red in the face, she races after him, but he is becoming too quick for her. Up the stairs, down the hallway, and to the door, he dashes. She tells him that she's kicking him out, but he knows the truth. He knows that he's leaving. She can't kick him out. She doesn't have it in her. It's not her game. She doesn't want to let go of any of her partners that are bond to her in her big mansion of lies and illusory pleasures.

"You fool. You don't know what you're doing," Maya screams.

"You were right. But now you are wrong. I know your games. I know your tricks. I know your devilish ways with the curves of your hips." And he laughs and chortles and guffaws in new ways that he had not heard from himself before.

He pauses just at the door, knowing he's about to leave it all. And without a backward glance, he strips off all of his clothes. He strips away pretentious jeans and preposterous shirts. He pulls away all that is burdening him and then does naked cart wheels out on the front lawn. He calls to the others, the many sisters and brothers still wrapped in her games.

"Oh she is no lady. She is no saint. Maybe we should all get together and paint." Rhyming and riffing, the fool prances and twirls. Each time, he pauses she tries to ensnare him again, but he eludes it with his ridiculousness and absurd dances, shouting more riddles and jabs.

"Oh come now, come come. This is no fun. Take off your veils and let go your ropes. This world is already so full of dopes."

Before long, Maya sees that others have watched this fool and are now unwinding themselves from her. She hurries back to her lair to weave her webs and snares amidst the darkness of their collective ignorance.

Finally, he remembers the work that he's forgotten--the work that he had feared and longed to do. But instead of the discomfort he'd feared, he finds beautiful ease in it. He joyfully works his way through many tasks, singing, dancing, and leaping as he goes. Many beautiful moments pass until he finds himself back by the lake where the little old man is still sitting and still laughing.

The fool does a crazy dance and offers a quick riddle.

"What is it that is lost, but also found?"

The old man laughs and claps his hands. "Yes, yes. You see it now. At last. At last, you see the joke."

(You can read the interpretation of the allegory on this link.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Awakening Marathon: Pacing Yourself Through this Sacred Process

The Spiritual Road Ahead
I want to take another one of my periodic pauses to be sure that everyone understands how I'm talking about spiritual awakening. Spiritual awakening is a timeless thing. It just hits full on in a moment of profound presence, and the light goes on. Something is unleashed. There's a sacred flow opened up inside, and the waters of your internal landscape start to inexorably move.

Embodying this flow is what I'm referring to in the title. Awakening doesn't have a process. It simply is. But we live in bodies in the world of duality and time. We need time to develop new habits and patterns and clear a lot of things, although I don't want to over-emphasize time. Too often, we use time as an excuse for not being as we are. Nonetheless, growing into the space of spiritual teacher has taken time not because I am learning anything perse, but I'm changing the waters around my life so that others know who I am and the momentum of my outer life can truly reflect the momentum of my inner life.

Many of you are going through this awakening process, and a lot of it requires deep healing and letting go of the things that are standing in the way of this flow. It doesn't have to take a long time, but for many of us, there's a process of embodying and transforming that can take days, months, years, and lifetimes. To dedicate ourselves to this process is important because it's like the caterpillar in the chrysalis. It is a unique time in our lives, and it offers certain possibilities and opportunities that can only come in this time period. I could also use the metaphor of pregnancy, which requires certain demands of a woman's body and of a couple in the instance of a committed relationship. Those demands will be unlike any others at different times of your lives, and so you approach it with this understanding of its temporariness and sacredness.

The Sacred Shift: Creating a Safe Space
The caterpillar builds a chrysalis to create a safe space to become the butterfly. For those of you in awakening, this is what needs to happen. You need to find a safe space to support and sustain you while you metamorphosize. For some of us, we made a bunch of money at different times and can live off of that harvest. Others will find spiritual caretakers to give them the space to go through their changes--sometimes just one caretaker or moving on to others as you go through your process.

What is simply crucial is that you have that safe space to trust your process and to not rush it. This is key, and it will show you where your ego is still hanging on if you are trying to get somewhere or just get through it all. Embodying awakening energy--in truth, embodying the fullness of your own spirit--takes everything you've got. It requires you to be engaged, active, and receptive. The qualities of that activity, receptivity, and engagement are always shifting too, so each wave of energy that comes through will ask something different from you. One month, you'll need to mediate for 3 hours a day. Another month, you'll need to eat green leafy vegetables like they're going out of style and do sound healing once a day. It's always changing, and it really depends on you and your soul path.

Varying Soul Paths Vary the Timelines
People are always wondering how long the spiritual awakening process will take, but there is no definite timeline. You define that timeline. I can't ever tell you how long it'll take. I can create lots of fictional scenarios to suggest why it might take several years. For instance, someone is a very powerful energy and will need to work with a huge array of different energies around the world, and creating that internal clarity and groundedness to do that work will require several years for this individual. For someone else, that could be several months. For another person, it could be lifetimes. Ultimately, I will tell people that only you can truly intuit that timeline. Sometimes a lot of internal pain will extend things out, but there's really no telling for sure because when someone is ready to heal, it can happen fast. That's why Jesus could do instantaneous healing. The power of readiness for healing and belief from those who came to him allowed him to move them through it instantaneously. It's not magic, but it is sacred. And we all have this ability within us, which is why I'm always careful around what I say about "time" in this process and in how I even mention awakening in conjunction with a process.

Pacing Yourself and Letting Go of the Race
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find your pace. It's very easy to exhaust yourself by doing too much. Doing can be a real problem in Western Culture because it sends your energy away from yourself. During this stage of embodiment, you need all of that energy within you. Just as a woman will eat a lot more during pregnancy, you need to absorb a lot more energy. It's an important time to be receiving through energy meditations, sound healing, energy work from others when appropriate and clean, and other sources. Nature is a really popular source of clean energy for many people, and just about any means that you can use to offer yourself lots of rest and nourishment will go a long way as you go through your transformation. But you can't rush it. Going slow often is going fast. If you try to "get it over with," you will exhaust yourself, and for those of you dealing with a lot of awakening fatigue already, you can put yourself into a completely non-functional state. Awakening fatigue is not a lot of fun, but it's being done purposefully--by you I might add--so that you can stay put and allow the process. You may also get sick because your energy gets so low.

Tips and Techniques Matter Less
A lot of tips and techniques on the spiritual path are about making space and cultivating space for an awakening. During intense awakening moments, a lot of those techniques matter less because the work is already happening of its own accord. This is a very different space to be in, and few of you are actually here. So I want to caution any of you from running to the conclusion that because of the intensity you're in, it's okay to throw the meditation practice out the window. Probably not. If you are resonating with what I'm writing for this blog, you may still need meditation in intense moments, but you probably don't need five other techniques and tools on top of it. As much as I'm a huge fan of journaling, I've put the journal away in my life. There's nothing there for me right now, and my morning meditation is generally most of what I need. There are a couple of other things that are helpful--spiritual community for instance--but my process is in full swing. I am very much allowing and receiving it through rest and quiet contemplation. There's not much else to do. I don't have much energy to do anything else.

Letting Go of the Idea of a Process
You also have to let go of the idea of the process to embrace the process. It's too easy in this culture to be looking towards a goal or an endpoint. The end of the transformation will come. You will emerge from the chrysalis in your fullness and be able to fly to wherever you want. But you can't speed any of it up. You can't get anywhere. You are where you need to be.

And this awakening isn't a dodge from being a responsible person in life, but you do need different spaces and can't do the same old things. That may feel irresponsible, but many of the old things and ways of acting need to go. Those ways of acting weren't responsible or integrity with yourself, and when you're not in integrity and truth with yourself, you are not in integrity with the world. How we act on every level touches every other level of the world. That's why you're being torn down to the very bottom-most layers. From here, you can build a new foundation, and from here, a new foundation will build itself. You'll find so much more ease and relaxation as you let go of the old and embrace the older--the original you beneath the crap and fake smiles and falsities you've ingested. You're vomitting out all of that delusion, and that's an intense process. Accept it. Accept it in its ugliness because that ugliness has also been a part of you

Waking Up Is Hard to Do
Some days, waking up is hard. Some days, it's easy. It is what it is, and if you haven't been making space, some days will be agonizing. Some days will be agonizing regardless. That's what internal resistance does. It makes us suffer when we should be healing and awakening further. Let go deeper in those moments. Let go to what is and let go of that resistance. Each level of us needs to be cleared of resistance, and even then, this process can be rigorous. That, too, is okay. Trust it. Trust all of it. You truly have no other choice, and give yourself to the pace that's being developed intuitively. Relax into that pace so that you don't burn yourself out. Embodying your awakening energy isn't exactly a marathon, but some days, it will feel like it. Acknowledge that and then drop deeper into the sacred process that's allowing you to become everything you've truly wanted to be.

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