Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Controlling the Uncontrollable

It's been some time since I've written directly about control, but it's another important topic to grapple with. My last blog about it--and I think my only post, actually--was April 2012 in a post called, "The Illusion of Control." "Control," to me, is one of the dirty words of the spiritual path if there is such a thing, or rather, it will teach you primarily through pain as you learn that there is truly nothing you can control. However, the ego thinks it can control everything, so this may seem kind of shocking to revelatory for some of you. So let's take some time to look at this definition and discuss the reality of how little we can possibly control.

What Is Control?

At the essence of control is the idea that you can make something do something to get a certain outcome. You can make an experiment turn out the way you want it to. You can make your body look a certain way. You can make a group of friends do the social outing you want to do. You can make people give you money. You can make people go to war and die for you. These are some of the many elements of control. Yet every day, we are confronted with the fact that we cannot control life, and as I write further, I'll show some examples of this.

Now, I do want to pause and make a clear distinction. The ego in some of you may want to run to the other end and play a victim game. "Well, if I can't control anything, I'm just going to live completely out of control." This is not mindful or wise. There are things like self-discipline and guiding or co-creating your life. This is when you exert an influence in your life towards certain aspirations. But the aspirations you are co-creating towards are flexible where the goals that you are trying to achieve through control are inflexible.

How about this? If your goal is to win the Super Bowl, then every year 31 teams feel like failures. If your goal is to become a size 0 and you are still a size 8, then you feel like a failure. Control has to get what it wants, and the more intense it is, the more brutal it can become to you and everyone else around you. What do you think a micro-manager is? S/he is a control-freak.

Pulling Away the Veils of Illusion About Control

But, as always, don't take my word for it. Challenge this. After you've clearly defined your idea of control (because you also don't have to accept my definition), see what you can really control in your life. So you say, "I can control my car when I drive to work." Great. You hit the gas, step on the brakes, and turn the steering wheel.  But cars are a lot more complex than that, are they not? You aren't moving the pistons. You aren't moving the axels. If even one part in a chain of parts breaks down, your car breaks down. Now you can no longer "control" getting to work on time.

So you say, "I can workout and control how I look." Okay. Let's do this one too. The body is where we often feel that we have the most control. So, yes, you choose to go on the treadmill. You choose how much weight to lift and how often. The effects of this regular working out are that your body conforms to a certain athletic shape. Yet, you will never look like anyone else's body type than your own. So you can't control looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger (back in his 1980's body-building hey-day) or looking like whatever top model chicks everyone wants to look like (Seriously, I have no idea; I ignore a lot of pop culture). And many people try to do this and fail. That idea of control creates so much misery, and it has created steroid abuse, eating disorders, and other actions that punish the body. This is part of the sad state of affairs of Western Culture.

Tearing Apart More Ideas of Control

I'm not done yet. I want to keep going so that you see just how small of an influence we make. We are so mired in the idea that we can control ourselves and life that we do great harm to ourselves and others. Consider the mind. Many of you often realize through meditation that you are already out-of-control in this space. In the very space where you are supposed to be a smart and adept thinking human being, you can't stop the noise. Now, obviously, this can change. That's part of the beauty of the spiritual path. But it doesn't change through more control. If you want to see someone in a new form of misery, just watch someone meditating who is now trying to control their thoughts and enforce silence in their heads. Seriously. They look so miserable. To calm the mind, means letting go of control over this space. The more you let go of this type of mental control, the more the mental winds that are blowing can start to relax and subside. Control only agitates this space further.

And another point here is that we don't even have that much control in our minds. We all are given different mental abilities. In this culture that prizes mental acumen (yes, I've been waiting all week to use that word), anyone who doesn't have a certain level and type of intellecutal intelligence is degraded and considered stupid. And there's a difference between stuffing facts into a brain and being intellectually smart. But regardless, we have limited influence as to just what all our brains can do. Furthermore, because trying to control everyone to think a certain way that limits appreciation for other types of intelligence like emotional intelligence or body intelligence. In the end, control on this level is intensely limiting because it shuts out a whole lot of other possibilities in preference of developing this one type of thing that it wants.

Disease is another great teachers about our lack of control. When neurons and synapses stop working right, how quickly does the mind go away? In later life, many of the elderly are faced with the truth that they cannot control neither their bodies nor minds. It is part of the great humbling we go through before the veil of this world is fully lifted and we are released into the spirit realm.

The Practice of Releasing Control

As I said, letting go of control doesn't mean going out of control. The first step is to practice recognizing what you can and can not influence in your life. If you have an influence in something like driving your car, I encourage you to appreciate it. In this space, consider the terms "guiding" or "guidance." We all certainly have an obligation to guide our lives in certain directions. The more we connect with the deeper flow of life, then we are co-creating with God and life. That tends to make things infinitely easier than when we are trying to force life into being a certain way.

Consider any relationships that you tried to make work but kept falling apart. While relationships take hard work, you cannot control them. When they work best, there's a certain organic nature to them, is there not? They kind of have an intelligence of their own, and they seem to grow and expand in new and surprising ways. From the fertile soil of co-creating with another, something can bloom in your life. When you do not try to control it, you can also appreciate the way it bloomed because blooms don't always appear in quite the way we expected.

However, a lot of times people try to force relationships into romantic spaces, and not all relationships are meant to be romantic. Some are deep platonic relationships. Some are great working relationships. There are all kinds of relationships beyond the sexual-romantic-life-partner relationships that get focused on in this culture. The more you let go of controlling relationships in your life, the more they can naturally grow and bloom.

The Blooming of Your Life

Perhaps it's because there is so much greenery and buds coming up (Yes, it's kind of already spring-ish in Northern California. Yes, I know that I'm spoiled :), but I like the metaphor of blooming. Control is like digging a ditch, siding it all with concrete, and expecting water to flow down it and water the crops in the way that you want them watered. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. Guiding your life is like seeing where the water is flowing and then digging a ditch for it. Then you see if things work out and where they flow. Then you continue to dig that ditch so that the greatest flow goes where it needs to go and in turn it irrigates the fields of your life. This kind of co-creation will undoubtedly put you into a very vulnerable place. You will likely face a lot of fears. We've place fear as one of the great gatekeepers to vulnerability. Yet in the space of openness and defenselessness is one of our greatest powers in this life. I encourage you to let go of control and embrace this space so that your life can begin to bloom.

The cute turtle picture on this page comes from photographer, Becky Stiller. You can see her work on her Flickr account.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spiritual Awakening Blog Posts for Deepening Your Spiritual Practice

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This collection of spiritual awakening blog posts is intended to help you deepen your spiritual practice. They're written with the intention that you've already developed a basic understanding, have built a foundation for your spiritual practice, and have done some inner healing already. If not, there are plenty of these posts under the starting out section to help you do so. I encourage all of you to practice humility in this regard. In many ways, we are always starting over again. It is never a bad thing to go back to the beginning, assume you know nothing, and humbly start again.

With that said, here are a number of posts about deepening your spiritual practice. And while I originally entitled a lot of these as "awakening," I would suggest to you that the awakening is already here. So you're not really "waking" things up as you are making space for that which is already awake to live and breathe and grow in your everyday life.

Spiritual Awakening Blogs For Going Deeper

Awakening Your Body With Exercise

Awakening to Your Food: Enlightening Your Diet

Awakening to Your Life Work

Awakening Your Sexuality

Awakening Your Sexuality With a Partner

The Enlightened Ego: Awakening to Authentic Power

Awakening to Your True Purpose

Awakening Your Heart

Awakening Love in Relationships

Awakening Your Voice: Speaking With New Integrity

The Awakened Voice Speaks, But Also Listens

Awakening the Mind: The Intellect Knows Its Place, Internal Waters Still

Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening

Also, if you like this collection of spiritual awakening posts and most of the blogs in the starting out section, they are all pulled together and refined with additional thoughts in my ebook.You can click on this link here to read about it:

The lovely water picture on this page is a gift from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her work on her Flickr account.

Monday, January 28, 2013

When There's Nothing Left But Love

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Resting in your awakened awareness, everything dissolves. Every desire, fear, expectation, and anything else that isn't real disappears into this vast ocean of love that is you and that is God. This may happen once permanently, or you may move back and forth from this awareness as you kind of see-saw your way into the abiding state that is simply you and is simply love. Either way, it doesn't matter the road you take; the end of the journey is the same.

But for those of you who may be like me and are see-sawing as old issues hook you and pull you out of that delicious, warm, and permeating sea of love and heave you back onto the hard, bitter concrete of duality, I felt like writing a little encouragement and what it means to simply be love.

Love Beyond the Juvenile Definitions

Most of us can't have a real discussion about love until we know what we're talking about. I'd encourage you to check out my spirituality post called, "What Is Love?" before going much further here. It'll help you understand how I'm talking about it because I certainly am not speaking from the juvenile and limited definitions of love that only include family and certain romantic-sexual partners. Love is so much vaster than that, and it's an important thing to understand.

However, those of you dropping more frequently into this relaxed permanently loving awareness can see this vastness, can you not? It's beautiful. Every aspect of life is an aspect of love. Every aspect of love is in you. You are part of it all, and how could you not love all of you now. Where you often will get pulled back into duality and the troubles of daily life will be when you find an aspect of yourself that you cannot accept. At each level of integration with this awareness, you let go of subtler and subtler levels of ego and illusion. Many of these illusions and ego ideas still place projections on what the world around you should be and how it should behave. But make no mistake about it, the world will continue to be a mischievious, dangerous, and occasionally outright cruel place. Awakening doesn't remove that; instead it embraces it as part of the whole.

Finding Your Limitations and Going Beyond Them

Many times, people will feel overwhelmed by the wealth and abundance of their own love. I think it's a little funny how often people talk about abundance and think that it's just about money. Too many people think that they can just attract lots of money, and attached to that idea is often another idea that this will make them happier. The fear of not having enough tends to hide underneath this desire. But abundance is not necessarily monetary, and the more that only love remains in your life, the more you will not think much about those things. Taking care of your means for survival will be important, but the rest will be left to God. It always was. Now, as things dissolve away, the truth of that reality becomes more and more prominent.

The Many Barriers to Love

You'll notice that I never distinguish this love as spiritual love. Even a phrase like that is too small, and it creates a new definition and therefore a new barrier to love. Now we can only love in a spiritual way or love spiritual things. That's not what this love is. It is a profound acceptance of all that is in the universe. Nothing is left out from the meanest dictator to the kindest saint. Wherever you find that your heart closes, you now must go. Again and again, you must find these barriers to love if you are to truly embrace all of you, and each time you let go of a barrier, it is astonishing how much more love you can feel.

I've always been amused that at each new depth of love that opens in me, it feels like a huge wave crashing over me, and it makes the last wave feel very small. It's as if I had a small sip of water previously, and now I'm swallowing the ocean. I've had this feeling again and again as the many barriers to love in my own heart have dissolved. So I encourage you to embrace this refreshing new-ness and overwhelming sensation each time it comes. Open yourself wide. Gorge yourself on this love and interconnection. You won't be lost, and if you do feel lost, it will be in the most exquisite way possible.

The Dangers of Misconceptions of Love

And yet people may be so new to the depths of their own love, that there exists a naivete and ignorance to this. You may suddenly decide that everyone is beautiful--and they are. But you may then put yourself in places where you may be hurt or abused. This is not the fullness of love. The fullness of love sees the beauty in all, and it sees the truth of the moment. In the truth of the moment, love sees a violent drug addict and may call the police. This may be the best way to embrace this person because this person could hurt someone or him/herself. The naive or ungrounded/unstabilized love would want to hug this person and somehow leech away all his or her suffering. This could lead to a violent reaction from the person, and it could also lead to the the individual in this awakened state taking on pain from the other that is not theirs to deal with. Keep in mind, that the more tuned into this awakened love, the more clear it is what right action to take. I'm not setting a hard definition here; I'm simply pointing to the fact that love sees. In clear sight and connection to your inner knowing, you'll know how the loving you of this moment need to express yourself with the drug addict. Then you trust the unfolding that follows. What you don't do is assume that everyone is acting from this type of clairty and love and that just because you've changed that others will simply follow suit. Everyone has their path to follow, and pain is one of our greatest teachers. For some of you, you already know this and you've awakened because pain (one of love's many aspects) has taught you so well.

The Arising of a Spiritual Job

The word "job" is a silly term because that's not really how this space thinks. As everything dissolves away, there is nothing left but love. So you will simply want to do whatever actively manifests love and joy into your life. That's it. It's not that hard. So many people go through such inner struggle to find their "true purpose," but in this space, the awakened self does not care about that. If there is a clear purpose for this lifetime, then you will follow it. If not, you will simply follow the path that brings you the most joy. There will still be difficulty, but consider that if you love offering massage, then you will do that work. There will be good days and bad, but because you love sharing yourself in this way, it is not the same as doing a job just to make money or because you're good at it. The "how" is everything. How you share your skills and talents creates the energetic foundation of the service you offer. If you truly hate working in non-profits but think you have to serve the world in that way, you are actually doing the opposite. You are sowing the seeds of suffering. An enlightened accountant is just as needed as enlightened non-profit executive directors, but you will only get to the work you truly want when you've dissolved into love. At that point, it all is so effortless, and you realize that the struggle and suffering you've put yourself through in the past only created more of the same. In this way, many of us often fall into the work we love, and that kind of effortlessness tends to lead to a lot of joy even as the jobs we do may stay the same or change a hundred times over in our life.

Arising Into Duality and Melting Back Into Oneness

In some ways, we are always arising into duality--tending to our bodies, interacting with people, and so forth. At night in sleep, we melt back into oneness. That feels wonderful to most of us, and while this isn't conscious oneness, it is a type of release from duality (putting aside the dreams we have). Thus, there is a way that we are already traversing the two spaces. In awakened consciousness, we will find old issues arise, and this is okay. This too is part of love and the divine unfolding, and I always encourage everyone to have a little bit of a sense of humor. "Ah! I got hooked into this old story of me. How foolish I am!"

Then laugh.

The laughter makes it easier to forgive and to let go. In the letting go, you release and can drop deeper into that inner oneness that has always been there.

I know for some there is this fear that if there is nothing left, why would they want to live? But I've found that the fewer attachments I have, the more joyful life is. It makes me WANT to live even more, not less. The despondent ego will throw its last snares and set its traps to create this idea along with others about somehow you are not being responsible or will not be able to take care of yourself. These are all lies. The more grounded you are in awakened love, the more you naturally want to take care of yourself and those who are dear to you. It all becomes much clearer as you set your feet firmly down on a foundation of love. As you look around at the world, there is nothing but love left. So there is also nothing left to do than to follow your heart and discover and create the unfolding in your life that you must truly and whole-heartedly enjoy.

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Humbling of the Ego

It's been awhile since I talked directly about the ego, and yet thanks to popular spiritual teachers and discourse, it's now a regular subject among spiritual path wanderers, wayfinders, and travelers. In truth, the ego is just another facet of being a human being. It is no better or worse than a foot or an elbow. However, in its unconscious state, the ego certainly can cause a good deal of trouble. The more we identify with our ego-selves, the more trouble we can get into.

That's why so much discussion has popped up around destroying, removing, incapacitating, obliterating, or otherwise undermining the ego. But it is an important distinction to say that we're doing this to the "unconscious" ego. It is fully possible to have a conscious ego--which is an ego that knows it's just a part of the whole and doesn't know everything in the world. So when we take apart the old, re-inventing the new is also important. It is part of coming into the natural flow of things in life. Eventually, even the ego becomes an evolving expression that emerges from oneness into individual expression and then can easily dissolve back into union.

Inhale and exhale. The beauty of the natural rhythms of life.

After the Spiritual Awakening

However, many people are still really committed to their old ego habits and patterns even after a spiritual awakening. It doesn't really matter what the story is--victim, perpetrator, comedian, leader, beauty queen, mother, father, mover, shaker, whoever. If you are attached to a certain idea of yourself, you are in for quite a ride--usually a painful one. Because the true you is not an idea. It is not a certain dress or shoe size. It is not a certain type of feelings or expressions. You are. That's all. From that space of being, you can re-create yourself in a thousand different ways, and you also realize the freedom of destroying (but in a nice way) the old creation to make way for the new. Too often we forget that the sacred destruction of our old selves is equally a part of making space for new growth. That is part of the sacred process of life--birth, growth, decline, death, rebirth.

Here in awakening, you are at the death and rebirth moment. In my really popular post about "Facing Your Ego's Death," I talk about letting go and letting this old false you die. But today, I'm writing for those of you who are fighting and are co-creating the process of being humbled. This humbling is part of the medicine you are creating for yourself so that you can fully embrace you.

Finding Attachments Here, There, and Everywhere

The proud ego is attached to many things. Maybe it attached to trophies, awards, and accomplishments. Maybe it is attached to relationships. Maybe it is attached to feelings and experiences. It certainly is attached to ideas. All of these attachments will bring pain. Because in awakening, you know and see the truth, but the unconscious ego in you is fighting this truth. It's like being drawn and quartered by four horses (It's hard to believe that people did this to others as a form of capital punishment). You're going to be torn apart.

Yet, this is needless. Awakening and dissolving into this new space does not have to be so painful. Only the ego wants the pain anyway. Some egos think they need an ordeal or initiation to validate themselves in some way. But 30 years of seated meditation rarely gets anyone anywhere, and most spiritual tools really are meant to simply cut away old lies so you can live your life in love. Holding onto spiritual tools often becomes part of the folly in embracing an awakening. But regardless, whatever you are attached to, you can expected that it's connected to a 100 pound anvil coming quickly to strike you on the head.

Depletion of Energy and Resources

I've talked a little bit about how spiritual awakening can bring a lot of fatigue because of how much is going on inside. But if you add even a little bit of resistance to this concoction, and then you're flat-out floored. This kind of fatigue is a sign of inner resistance. Few people truly have that much inner trauma that this should be a natural phase, and for those that do, I believe that it is imperative to find the loving support of others to help you clear and heal. Most people's energy body is very alive and vibrant, and it naturally heals and opens when it is allowed to. But that's the problem, you see. The unconscious ego keeps getting in the way.

If I often talk about awakening like a flood of energy into your life, the ego is like the crazed little builder who keeps damming it up or forking the energy into dry river beds that go no where. You will see that much of your fatigue is caused by your own misconceived ideas. These ideas can be things like:

  • I need to help others--No, you need to learn how to help yourself first. Then you will naturally serve life.
  • I don't have the time for this spiritual stuff--Of course you do. And your inner division will continue to stymie you, and you'll self-sabotage yourself until you make time. This can even lead to serious illness.
  • I feel too overwhelmed--This can happen. So stop trying to understand it all. The over-active mind thinks it can intellectualize everything; it can't.

So long as the inner split continues, you'll run out of more and more energy. This often means people run out of money. Sometimes, this is simply a time to find a spiritual caretaker to help support you and allow you to go through your process. Other times, the lack of money is indicative of going the wrong way and not trusting where the flow is going. When you are united in yourself, life will take care of you or guide you to the appropriate support.

Anger and the Rising of Shame and Fear

As we step deeper into this topic, many of the attachments, stories, and emotions that are part of the ego will arise. Anger starts to arise as the old ego realizes that it has no control--not even a little bit of control. We delude ourselves into thinking that we can control life and ourselves, and wherever we think we can do so, we will be shown that this is a lie. The awakened self leaves no aspect of ourselves untouched and no stone un-turned. So get ready for a lot more raw emotion to boil up. This happens to pretty much everyone to some degree--although that doesn't mean it will happen to you. As I often remind everyone, awakening and embodying that inner truth is a unique experience for each person. But most of us are walking timebombs--emotionally speaking, and when things start opening up, those emotions can explode.

But it is important to mindful of the exploding. The unconscious ego simply throws a huge pity party. It bewails its lot in life and wishes that this spiritual awakening thing would just go away. This is not embracing the situation. This too is a type of resistance, as if throwing a tantrum ever got us much from God. Especially for those of you who have not done much work with self discipline and emotions, it is really important to practice watching your emotions and taking a step back from the stories. It's one of the most powerful ways to  expand your awareness and to take ownership of this shift in consciousness.

The Removal of Life Structures

I think I'm making up a new term with "life structures." Haha. So life structures can be many things. They are things that we build in life. As I once mentioned in my post called, "How to Build Your Sandcastle," all things are impermanent. No matter how many times you build your sandcastle, the seas of consciousness will knock it over and wash it away. The unconscious ego doesn't believe this. It thinks that if it builds a tall enough wall and strong enough foundations, that it's stuff will last forever. Alas, this idea is in error, and it brings so much pain with it. Life structures like marriages, businesses, friendships, houses, and anything else that you've created will all one day be destroyed.

In awakening, anything that does not align with your soul path is destroyed. If you are working too hard to save something, you may want to pause and see if you are truly following your heart. A lot of relationships are forged upon need, desire, anger, shame, and fear. As you heal internally, the relationships around you are all dissolved. It doesn't mean you can't still be with some of the same people, but the social contracts must be re-forged. And this time, it is more important that you talk about what those social contracts mean because most of them are unspoken between people. Those unspoken contracts have caused many people more than a few issues through misunderstandings, so this is actually a very healthy thing to do, regardless of if you are embodying the awakened self.

The Hammer Swings Harder

Still, the ego may cling, frantically, to any and everything. It will cling to spiritual teachers. It will cling to victim identities. It will cling to old relationships. Depending on your path, you may be absolutely relentless with you. That's right. This isn't God trying to smite you; this is you joining with God to try and get you out of that jail cell that you're so attached to. Later on, this will all seem kind of silly. You may say, "How did I ever want to stay in there?" But if this is where you are today, you're probably more than a little mad. You want me to give you the six magic words or the location of the two golden pigs that will get you out of this intensity. Sorry. It's not like that. You just have to let go. (I suppose those are six words, but there's no magic in them. The real magic is in you).

One of my favorite allegories that I wrote is called, "A Chance Encounter With Love." I recommend it to any of you who feel this hammer striking you, and I encourage you to pay attention to what is feeling hit or hurt. That's a clue to what you're holding on to. There are so many fears, angers, and shames that we gird ourselves with, and we think that this somehow makes us safe. But instead we've caged ourselves in rusty armor with nails poking inwards. We are the divine architects of our own suffering. While the world may never be safe place nor free of difficulty, so much of the pain we feel is self-inflicted.

We must come to that important realization. Because when we see that we hold the hammer and we put on the rusty, nail-encrusted armor, we can start to have the humility to let go and take it all off.

The Shift Still May Feel Harder or More Intense

If you can at last find this humility to let go, you have come to a very profound space. Enjoy it, but do not expect that life will have gotten easier. All soul paths are different, and many of us did not come to this planet to walk easy, luxurious lives. We all have our reasons and our paths. What is important is that you continue to go inward for your guidance to sense if you are walking your path. Because if you are trying to let go as another ego game to get out of intense feelings, you may find yourself sorely mistaken. Your soul and God are far too wise to be out-foxed that way. If anything, you're just fooling yourself, and running to spiritual teachers to make it better won't help either. The ones who tell you that they'll make it better are caught up in their karmic issues around the idea of helping people, and the ones who truly understand will just point you back to yourself. It truly is not an easy path at times, but the love and the interconnection that comes with letting go is phenomenal.

I'm not much for promising anything. I know that any promise I can create are just ideas and words on this page. But I do promise you that being free feels indescribably better than being caught in a cage of ego ideas. So let this ego go. Let yourself be re-born, and trust that where this humble path takes you is where you've always wanted to go.

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

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Return to Inner Stability

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And then...and then you come back to a regular inner resting point.

Ahhhhhhhh...the long sigh of relief. The seas have steadied. The inner shifting has quieted. Thank God. Oh thank God, I'm stable at last.

I know many of you want and need to hear this. In truth, we all come to whatever amount of stability or continued shifting that is natural for us. Much like trees, bushes, and all plants come to a kind of adulthood, we too come to that space where growth continues, but on a much less intense pace. It's a beautiful thing to return to, and yet it is brand new. It is not like the stability that you'd had before, and you certainly are not the same old you anymore.

The Stability That Was Before

Most of what we all knew as stability in our lives before this spiritual thingy happened to us was a sham. It was made up of lies we told ourselves and a whole variety of distractions (music, drugs, alcohol, sex, work, exercise, and other ways of keeping busy and/or numb). Some of that stability was actually being stuck or stagnant. Sure we were regularly in the same place, but it wasn't really where we wanted to be. Many of us felt frozen in place, trapped, and even a little lost.

Yet, this familiarity was considered a kind of stability that we could trust. It's crazy. Right? For those of you who have greatly shifted or awakened, that old stability is clearly a miserable trap with no way out. Even though many of us have glanced over our shoulders at that old life, the more we rest in our natural awakened awareness, the more ridiculous it is to even consider that old stability as stable. So many painful things often played themselves out in our lives, and we were the regular and willing saboteurs or at least co-saboteurs in these sad little dramas. So when things went sour again, we could feel like we'd been there before and say, "Well, this is just my luck in life." Such is said by the cynical ego that needs to have its cynicism affirmed to affirm itself, and yet in this kind of "affirmation" you are kept locked in pain.

That is no stability I want any part of ever again, and I hope for those of you still glancing over your shoulder, you can start to see the truth of it now.

The Inner Stability of Resting in the Now

The interesting part of this awakened inner stability is that it is so fluid. It's feeling like a mountain and the wind at the same time. The gift you've given yourself in embracing this inner shift is to be able to shift as life demands you to do. There are times for standing firm and resolute in beliefs (like the mountain). There are times for letting go of beliefs and moving with the currents of the moment (like the wind). This is not stupid, servile, weak, pandering, or in anyway unwise. This is simply being present in the current moment and understanding what you are called to do. Life makes us make difficult decisions. That does not change because you awaken. For many of you, you have to make a lot of really difficult decisions during the shift to re-align yourself to yourself. It's such an amazing strange thing to wake up and realize that we've been thwarting ourselves our whole lives. If someone loves writing, but they've gotten an MBA in accounting, following their passion will change their work situation, many of their relationships and personal associations, and quite a few other things. That's all part of you learning to trust yourself and live your life.

The time of immense change is often what I call the spiritual awakening process. We wake up, and then we must re-align to embody the truth within and bring that out into the world around us. As some of those initial changes subside, it's like you come back together or come back down to the earth. And the strength of being united in speaking, doing, and being love is so profound that it can feel like you can never again be pushed over or moved from a spot if you do not choose to move.

The Ups and Downs of Life

Yet, I like to remind all of you that life has ups and downs. That's why many of us continue meditation practices, journaling, chanting, spending time with spiritual community, etc. It's not because they "get" us anything. It's not getting lost in the self improvement trap (that's where we're constantly trying to "improve," which requires you to judge yourself and create a whole process to get from point A to a perceived better point B). We do these things because it's like taking a shower; it's a way to stay clean and clear energetically. It helps us be in this world, which is still slinging mud.

We are not perfect.

We can still be upset.

We are still human.

Certainly, the veils of illusion continue to dissolve as and when we're ready, and as additional levels of illusion melt from your eyes, you will see even more deeply. You may find old issues come back, and then some of them dissolve further. The awakening was never about becoming some flawless avatar, but now, you can see what truly does need to change and when to change it. You will experience difficulties and moments of ease in life. This is natural, and it doesn't necessarily reflect that you are doing anything right or wrong. It's too simplistic to say that because you did something in such and such a way that another outcome in life happened because of it. Life is so immensely complex that it makes anything we do excessively minute in importance.

And yet, you will also become very aware of your profound power and that some knowing and actions require the greatest care. Some of you who are reading this are caretakers and wielders of great gifts, and so I hope that you continue to use them wisely especially when life doesn't go your way.

The Removal of the Need for Stability

One of the things that I've noticed in my own process is that I have much less desire for stability. The thawing out of the iceberg of my life has brought me into an immense amount of fluidity and freedom. Initially, I had a lot of difficulties letting go of my need for stability, but after awhile, it kind of dawned on me that the jobs that I thought were offering me this had me in a mindset that lived for the evenings and weekends. I was living for the moments when I wasn't at work. How sad.

Now my life is much more uncertain, and yet it is so much more joyful, loving, and harmonious. Why in the world would I want to go back to that old idea of stability? And ultimately, there is no such thing. The external world can never give us the stability that we want because in many ways, the stability we truly want is on the inside. Most people don't have that, and many who appear to are simply hiding behind a huge ego mask. So I encourage you to go into this desire for stability--beit in relationships, financial, or something else--and let go of the desire. See what happens and what comes up as you face it.

No Where to Go, Everywhere a Possibility

For many of you, you've clung on to some place or some area for far too long. Now may be the time to leave. And why not? The more you are resting in that inner stability, the less it matters where you are in the world. Yet, there also isn't a reason to run around. Many people use exploring and traveling as a way to run away from themselves. In the awakened awareness, you know yourself, however. Now you can make conscious decisions--perhaps some of the first in your life. This is a humbling thing, but as you look at the old conditioning from which you were acting initially in your life, you may realize that you've made almost no conscious decisions at all. You were just doing what you were told and what was expected. So you had to find out who you were and figure out what you truly wanted. The more you rest in awakened awareness, the more you naturally know who you are and naturally do what you want to do. It becomes so effortless when you are no longer fighting yourself.

Which opens up the world to you. So you truly can go everywhere, but most likely, you'll have a calling that draws you somewhere from time to time if not more permanently.

The Release of Old Patterns Continues

As I mentioned, the shifting and healing will still continue at times. The cycles may simply lengthen out. Or maybe some of you really are done. Your shift has done what it needed to do, and there really won't be too much inner change for the rest of your life. It doesn't really matter. Whatever happens is happening perfectly for you. I know for myself that old patterns are still releasing. I'm seeing more and more deeply into myself and others, and I am finding that love and compassion is more and more present for me in all situations--difficult and painful as well as easy and loving. It's a beautiful, although still challenging reality in my life.

I encourage you to trust your process and to trust this inner stability. It truly doesn't feel like the old kind of stability, although at times you may not even remember what that old kind of stability was like. As you integrate into the same energy vibration throughout your energy system, you no longer have a way to really compare this stability with the old because you don't have the same points of reference anymore. Usually what happens to give you a comparison is that someone you knew from when you operated from the old stability shows up in your life again, and that person becomes a kind of reflection of where you were.

But it doesn't matter. It's not like you consider yourself to be better. That person is just following his or her path, and with a revival and rebirth of inner stability, you will feel more free than ever to follow your path.

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

Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs

It's time to update this spiritual awakening blog post list with some of the most popular posts on this site. I originally wrote this spiritual blog post with a list for the blog posts that were most popular based on the amount of the Web traffic my site received in 2012. Now, for the fourth year, I'll take a look at what caught people's eyes in 2016.

After you've checked out the current 2016 popular spiritual blog post list (and other lists), hopefully you'll take some time to peruse the many other spiritual awakening blog posts on the site. There are now more than 650 spiritual blog posts!

If you're new to my spiritual awakening blog, please feel free to click the link below to join my newsletter.

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By the way, here are some spiritual awakening posts that I'd love to see get popular. 

Unwriting Family Beliefs and Behavior Patterns

Healing Silent Wounds

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs of 2016

10 5 Signs of a Spiritual Awakening

This blog post managed to sneak its way into the top 10 for 2016, edging out a blog post called, "How to Make a Spiritual Awakening Happen." I try to keep the signs of a spiritual awakening very simple. The most important one is the way that the energy abides and moves on its own. This aspect is how I distinguish between the many spiritual openings and glimpses people have, but which don't last compared to a spiritual awakening which takes over people's lives.

How Long Does a Spiritual Awakening Take?

People are always thinking in terms of time, and so I try to help people understand that time is kind of irrelevant to a spiritual awakening. This is also an ego question. The ego wants to know how long before it can go back to business as usual, but that business is ending. It's really important to not worry so much about how long your inner changes will last as to what kind of space you need to embrace these changes.

8. 9 Spiritual Truths to Live By 

I try to make spiritual truths as practical as I can in this spiritual blog post. Too often, "spiritual truth" gets presented in arcane and esoteric ways, and that's just straight up confusing for people. It is difficult for people to live by a spiritual truth if they do not understand it. Hopefully, this spiritual blog post makes things easier.

Facing Your Ego's Death

This little post is getting pretty old. I think I wrote it in 2011, but it is still just as popular and useful. In essence, it's about the importance of letting go and realizing that you are not your ego. You are much, much more!

Spiritual Awakening 2017, 2018, 2019 and So On

As always, my predictions for spiritual awakening remain the same. The main point is that the awakened state is always with us. We may have vastly different experiences that we call spiritual from year to year, but the awakened space is always here. That divine presence within us gets called a lot of things like presence, consciousness, the true Self, love, and other things. But what's most important to remember is that it is always here and now.

5 Types of Spiritual Awakening Sleep Problems and Insomnia

This topic goes hand-in-hand with the chronic fatigue spiritual blog post. Energy is one big reason people can feel wired up all day and all night. If you can't calm down enough, your sleep gets disrupted. When people are working through issues for the first time, they can have their fear of the unknown triggered, which causes further inner upset. Helping yourself sleep better requires you to accept the inner changes you're going through. The more you resist, the more disturbed your inner space will be. That makes it hard for a lot of people to get any kind of decent sleep.

Chronic Fatigue and Spiritual Awakening

There are lots of reasons people get tired after awakening, including what I mentioned above. Lots of inner changes and healing are can be part of the reason. Everyone's bodies respond differently to stress too. I recommend meditation and other calming spiritual tools to help people take better care of themselves and to put less demands on themselves in what can be an already demanding time of life.

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

The title says it all for this blog post. But in a time when there are so many definitions of spiritual awakening, it's a good one to take a peak at so you understand how I'm talking about spiritual awakening on this website.

Understanding How to Hold Space 

I've recently updated this blog post a little, so hopefully, it's even more useful to you in understanding how to hold space for others. A lot of holding space boils down to being okay with your own discomfort so that you can be okay with another who may be upset. Holding space is also a practice in open-hearted listening.

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs

This is perpetually popular as are most of the above blog posts, so I hope you take some time to dig around this website for some of the other posts that aren't as popular. 

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs of 2015

Here's a run down of the most popular posts on my spiritual awakening website.

10 How Long Does a Spiritual Awakening Take?

As always, this is a popular topic, and I expect that it'll continue to be in 2016, 2017, and so on. There's nothing wrong with that, and I hope this post helps you understand how to look at "time" on your spiritual journey.

5 Types of Spiritual Awakening Sleep Problems and Insomnia

This is a newer blog post that got popular on the StumbleUpon website. There are all kinds of ways deep inner work and energy can disrupt our sleep patterns. Of course, not all sleep disruption has to do with inner work, so I always like to advise people to check in with doctors. It's good to get as much information from multiple sources as possible as well as listening to your own body and your intuition about what is going on.

Facing Your Ego's Death

This is one of my oldest blog posts and another long-time favorite. As our original ego sloughs off, we go through a phase of not knowing who we are. This is actually a great freedom. Click on the link above to read more about this transitional point.

5 Signs of a Spiritual Awakening

There are long lists of "signs" and "symptoms" of spiritual awakening out there. But most of those are what I call secondary signs. If you are having sleep problems, that may not have anything to do with awakening if the primary signs aren't there. Click above to find out what I consider to be the 5 primary signs of a spiritual awakening.

Chronic Fatigue and Spiritual Awakening

Fatigue, tiredness, and even exhaustion often arise after awakening. Here are some of my thoughts about why this is and how to engage with it.

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

This is one of my oldest blog posts, although I have updated it from time to time. It's a funny thing that I've written a bunch on that topic because it's such a simple and under-stated thing. Spiritual awakening is the seeing and realizing of what Is. Often, we have all kinds of pent-up energy burst forth that can feel quite euphoric initially and offer some people blissful feelings. But as we rest more deeply in our inner space, a natural human maturing arises. For thoughts on spiritual maturation, you might check out this blog post that didn't make the list: Signs of a Maturing Soul.

9 Spiritual Truths to Live By

In this newer blog post, I wrote about some spiritual truths and offered some practical thoughts about what they mean to everyday living. Obviously at the number 4 slot on this list, it got more than a little popular.

Spiritual Awakening 2016, 2017, 2018 and So On

This post is popular every year, and I update the year in the title every year. Spiritual awakening is a timeless event, and so this post is meant to help people looking for future predictions understand the power of the present moment, which is with us in any year and every moment.

Understanding How to Hold Space 

This long-time favorite helps people understand how to lovingly support others.

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs

This is just a super popular post. So I'm hoping that you continue to enjoy these annual lists for this year and many years to come!

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs of 2014

Let's start off with some honorary mentions. At number 12 is a newbie: Energy Sickness and Feeling Drained Energetically. This was written in 2014, and it grabbed lots of people's attentions. Perhaps it'll crack the top 10 in 2015. At number 11, Chronic Fatigue and Spiritual Awakening couldn't quite catch "The Dark Night," but obviously, this is a really common issue people can have when going through spiritual shifts.

10 The Dark Night of the Soul

This is a popular phrase that people use a lot when things aren't going their way in a fairly significant manner. In this spiritual awakening blog post, I help people understand what is really going on here and how to let go of ego preferences that are misconstruing the change happening in your life or which are creating extremely challenging and/or unhealthy situations.

The Process of Releasing Pain From Your Energy Body

This is a regular on the top ten list. I still highly recommend it to help people have a better sense of how healing and spiritual growth work in everyday terms.

Opening a Closed Heart

Here's another long-timer, but then again, most of the top 10 are long-timers. Opening a closed heart is so important. It's how we can feel ourselves, enjoy love, and figure out things that don't feel good to us. When our hearts are closed, we feel nothing and can subsequently get caught up in a lot of unhealthy situations because we can't feel how bad they are for us.

7 5 Signs of a Spiritual Awakening 

People want to know what's going on with them, so this post helps people understand what awakening is really about. These signs are what I call primary signs, the fatigue and other things are secondary signs. If you aren't melting into love and clarity, then being really tired could easily be something not related to awakening.

Understanding How to Hold Space 

Holding space is a beautiful gift to offer ourselves and others. This post continues to help thousands of people each year appreciate and cultivate this important practice.

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

Moving up from number 8 to number five makes this blog one of the big movers and shakers on the list from earlier in the year. But, of course, it's not that surprising given the context of this Website. In 2012, it held down the number 2 spot.

Facing Your Ego's Death

To be clear, ego death is the death of the unconscious ego. We'll always have an ego, but the conscious ego is simply a clear lens to help us filter through billions of stimuli and external and internal data we encounter so that we can make sense of living our lives.

How Long Does a Spiritual Awakening Take?

Ah! When do I get off this bus? I get this question a lot. It's no wonder why this is the third most popular topic on my blog.

Spiritual Awakening 2015, 2016, 2017 and So On

This post gets its title updated yearly. Next year it'll start with 2016 and 2015 will be removed. Ultimately, there is no grand new meaning to each year (the new year is an arbitrary date after all). But we can choose any year and any moment to be the one to embrace our spirituality more deeply.

1 10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs

What can I say? This is a popular blog. It beat out the runner up more than twice over, so thanks to everyone for enjoying it!

I encourage you to read on to past years to see other blogs that didn't make the list this year.

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs of 2013

10 Understanding Spiritual Sexuality

This post has dropped a few places since last year. It is actually a compilation of spiritual sexuality posts. I tend to disappoint people because they still think of sexuality solely in terms of relationship with another. While sex with another is stupendous fun, it is even more so when you truly know your own sexual energy and space. This blog helps people get started in that space of inner knowing.

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

This post has been hugely popular in the past, and while it didn't make the list last year, it's back in the saddle again. In this post, I help people to understand the difference between the natural arising of an urge (like wanting to eat) and the need for a specific kind of fulfillment (like I need to eat a hamburger to feel good).

8 The Process of Releasing Pain From Your Energy Body

I'm really glad that you've made this a popular post. I put a lot of time, energy, and focus in it to do my best to distill what it can feel like to release pain from our energy bodies. Since this isn't exactly common knowledge, I'm glad to see it growing in popularity to help many of you better understand the subtle levels of your own nature.

7 Opening a Closed Heart

This is another oldie, but goodie that seems to come around and pick up in popularity every so often. It is pretty much what it says it is. There's also a video at the bottom of the post about the topic that you can check out.

6 Spiritual Awakening 2014, 2015, 2016, and So On

This was originally "Spiritual Awakening 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and So On." But clearly, those first two years are long gone. Nonetheless, the point remains the same: awakening is here and now.

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

Dropping down from number 2 is "What Is a Spiritual Awakening?" Personally, I'm glad that people are trying to understand my definition as well as creating their own. When you start to look at your definitions, then you start to understand your world and how you create meaning in it.

4 Letting Go of Resistance

I love this line, "Awakening comes because at some point in time, you fully let go." When we let go of our stories and all the resistance we have to how life is, we naturally drop into ourselves. The more deeply we release, the more profoundly connected we may become to ourselves and to all of consciousness.

Understanding How to Hold Space

Jumping way up from number 10 in 2012 is this post. I'm really happy that this spirituality blog post has been so popular. I think learning how to hold space for each other is an essential tool for all relationships because we learn how to respect others and look and listen with non-judgment and love.

Facing Your Ego's Death

Moving up from number 3 is "Facing Your Ego's Death." For many of you shifting in awakening, you will be watching aspects of your old ego self dissolve. At times, it can feel like you are dying, but this is why it is important to dis-identify with the ego self. The more you can see that an old way of acting and seeing the world is dying, the more at peace you will be during the process.

How Long Does a Spiritual Awakening Take?

Holding strong at number 1 once again for 2013 is the question, "How much longer do I have to stay on this bus?!"

Indefinitely. You chose it. But the initial shift will come to a resting rhythm. You will find that life still shifts and changes, and you will change with it. But the initial part does come to a completion. Click on the above link to find out more about that.

10 Most Popular Spirituality Blogs of 2012

Read on to see what posts used to be popular, and maybe you'll bring them back around for 2014.

10 Understanding How to Hold Space

Well, you already know what I have to say about this one. For the posts already mentioned above, I've left the link, but without additional commentary.

9 Spiritual Awakening Signs Subside: You Come Fully to Life

This post was written for those who want to know if the inner shifting ever will end. During the initial shift to embody your light, you may never feel stable or safe. Everything is being churned up and cleared out so that you can be a clear vessel for your own light. But as with all transitions, this too will pass.

8 5 Signs of a Spiritual Awakening

I'm careful about talking about "signs" of a spiritual awakening, so whenever I do, I try to distill it down to the essential signs, which typically are deep senses of love and service to yourself and others.

7 Understanding Spiritual Sexuality

6 Soulmates and Other Myths that Bind Our Love

Ah, soulmates. This is one of the ideas of perfect love, although lately the term "twin flames" is trying to replace it. Relationships are beautiful. However, true beauty in love comes with complete and total self-love. From that space, having a soulmate isn't quite so important. Click on the above link to see what else I talk about with that one.

5 Awakening the Mind: The Intellect Knows Its Place, The Internal Waters Still

I think this one got popular partially because of StumbleUpon traffic and partially because people just want to know that its possible for their minds to finally quiet down. So, yes. It is possible, and you don't have to wait around for an awakening if you want this. You simply start to go within and pay attention to your thoughts instead of getting lost in their stories or fighting them.

4 2012, the Global Awakening, and the Apocalypse

 Egad! Are we all still here? Did we survive the Apocalypse? When you read this spiritual post, you'll see that how I view these "events" is very different than the commonly accepted ideas.

3 Facing Your Ego's Death

2 What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

1 How Long Does a Spiritual Awakening Take?

I hope you enjoy these posts, and I look forward to serving you all in 2014 with more interesting spirituality topics. Much love to everyone!

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Using a Spiritual Teacher to Get to Enlightenment

spiritual image, spirituality image, spiritual picture, spiritual awakening
One of the common misunderstandings about enlightenment or spiritual awakening is that you need a spiritual teacher to get there. This is a problematic idea that unfortunately is a part of more than a few religious and spiritual paths. In the not too recent past, I had someone email a long description about the how the teacher is supposed to transmit some kind of supernatural cosmic energy that will enlighten the student. But this is not how it is. Yes, spiritual teachers such as myself radiate a kind of energy. Yes, we can be tuning forks to help others find their own pitch, but that inner pitch or harmony is still yours. It will emerge into enlightened awareness on its on reconnaissance and at a timing that only the divine will can choose.

Letting Go of the Quest for Enlightenment

For many of you who packed your bags and gave up everything, it is now time to let go of your quest for enlightenment. By now, you've sat with many teachers--good, bad, and indifferent--and somehow today you've found this blog. Congratulations. I am here to tell you that what you have been searching for all along is inside you.

Undoubtedly, you've heard this many times, but unfortunately, you don't actually believe it. This is not meant to sound punitive in anyway. The fact is that this world really gets us caught up in believing in external influences and forces. We are usually taught to believe that happiness is some place else other than right here and right now, and that's the very ego programming that has to break down. In many respects, you aren't ready for a true spiritual teacher in the external world until you no longer are looking for one. Because when you turn inwards, you can now hear your inner teacher, and hearing that inner voice makes it now very easy to work with a spiritual teacher in the physical world. The two kind of work together because you are no longer fighting both of them to try and get some place.

The Evolution of the Spiritual Teacher's Role

Clearly you can see what most spiritual teachers have to do first: get people to go within. That's the first and last step, and it's usually the most avoided step. It's amazing and sad how much going within for most people is like staring at a big dark scary cave with strange animal noises coming out of it. Most people are like, "What's in there?" and "It sounds really scary. I don't want to go in there." But this is you. This is your own soul. Whatever is in there was put there by you about 90% of the time (I'm leaving a 10% for the random crazy karmic stuff that we carry, but you get the point). So when this turning inwards happens, the role of the spiritual teacher can now change.

What does it change to? Usually, it changes to whatever it is the student needs next. This varies widely, and for some teachers, their whole role in working with you was to help you turn inwards. Now that relationship resolves, and you are ready for a different external world teacher if you need one.

The Loss of the Desire for Enlightenment

Along the way, the desire for enlightenment will be illuminated. For many people, this desire is nothing more than the hope that a different state of awareness will make life happier or kinder for them. It is a very juvenile, yet very common idea. Furthermore, some people are actually looking for power, and this too is not what this path is about. Any power that comes to you is meant to be used responsibly. Otherwise, there are a lot of hard lessons on their way to teach you the lesson of arrogance and the misuse of "spiritual" power.

But more to the point, turning towards the awakened self that already is within you will remove and dissolve a lot of these desires. Where you resist this dissolution is where your path will stop or get stuck. People often get stuck around the idea that they can't give something up, but with enlightenment or spiritual awakening (they're pretty much the same term to me), you can't keep anything. Every attachment, desire, pleasure, passion, fear, and happiness gets tossed into it until there is nothing left but the pureness of you in this moment.

The Spiritual Teacher and Intellectual Training

Today, I will say there are three core steps of the spiritual path and awakening. Tomorrow, I may make something else up. It's all made up, however. That's important to remember. It's important to remember that these are just my words, and that only as you go to your inner teacher can you find what truth is most appropriate for you today. And tomorrow, you may need to re-read this to hear the truth that you weren't ready for.

With that said, intellectual training is the preparation of the mind for the spiritual path. There's a whole kind of preparation through life and the necessity of the soul being ready that also happens. That can't be forced, and I'm pretty keenly aware of whether someone is actually ready for this path or is simply playing a game with themselves. However, there is a point when someone really is ready to be taught. That teaching generally starts with breaking open the ego and mind so that you can think in new ways and see different perspectives. This can go on for a long time. There is no time table to it, and if it goes on for a long time, that is not a bad thing. Any ideas around getting enlightened quickly are misconceived, and in truth, this type of training isn't about getting enlightened. This is about tilling the soil for whatever is ready to sprout in your life to sprout, beit enlightenment or something else.

The Spiritual Teacher and Experiential Exploration

The intellectual training is meant to prepare the student to understand the experiences s/he has on the spiritual path. Without the proper understanding, it's easy to lose oneself in different experiences. This happens all the time when someone has an amazing experience--meaning that it feels really good. They think that this is how the spiritual path should feel or how enlightenment would be. Then they get lost in trying to recreate that scenario again and again until they are utterly frustrated.

But enlightenment is a kind of state-less state. It's in all things. So there is no one enlightened feeling. There are many. It has many qualities, tastes, touches, and sounds, and with the proper understanding, the student begins to see the truth, lessons, and love in each experience that arises in their life. This can go on for life-times, but gradually, the student is letting go of their desires for the outside world on many levels. I think Herman Hesse's Siddhartha illustrates some of this quite well. Because enlightenment is ultimately simply in the space of being.

The Spiritual Teacher and Resting in Being

The teacher does not take you to being. You are already here. If you did have a teacher helping you through the experiential phase, there aren't going to be too many teachers who can help you rest in being.

And how could there be much to do anyway?

Being is. You are already right here. I'm going to use Hesse's Siddhartha again (I encourage you to read it or re-read it) because I think this is a nice literary illustration of coming into presence. After awhile, all is the river of life. There is nothing to do. You can enjoy listening to the river of life with its many different sights, sounds, and what not. You can join in when it pleases you, but there is nothing to do.

The spiritual teacher at this point is usually just you. If you do have someone in the physical world, this person is a powerful ally and reminder of this truth. But there's nothing to be said or done or learned. You are both resting in being.

Am I Enlightened Yet?

The funny thing in all of this is that after awhile, becoming enlightened doesn't matter. You will know if you feel like you've crossed that inner threshold. You will know that there is no going back without trying to re-create a whole lot of inner separation and pain again. To try and unenlighten yourself will generally seem absurd. But walking the spiritual path and having a spiritual teacher won't necessarily lead to enlightenment the way most people think. It will simply lead you to you. If awakening arises into your everyday consciousness, then that is what happens. If you are meant to walk a difficult path full of pain, then working with the spiritual teacher will take you down that direction. The teacher--the true teacher who is not working from some hidden agenda either to be a do-gooder or make money--is simply in service to the path of the student's soul. And there are many sacred paths that souls will walk.

So, you may not be enlightened. Instead, I encourage you to simply do what you love, and if you don't know, the spiritual path is a great way of finding all the things in the way of love in your life. I have come to enjoy sharing this saying that I made up, "Before awakening, do what you love. After awakening, do what you love." Because enlightenment/spiritual awakening is just about love anyway, and the true spiritual teacher is a servant of love. Remember that wherever you are on your spiritual journey, and if enlightenment arises then, it is a welcome gift that will help you be more present in love than you could ever have imagined.

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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Phantom Physical Pains and Spiritual Awakening

spiritual photo, spiritual flowers, spiritual awakening, spirituality
One of the often discussed, but rarely understood topics of spiritual awakening is the pain that many people experience in their bodies as they embody this awakened awareness. I've seen plenty of long lists of so-called symptoms, but generally speaking, there's a limited understanding of what this pain is about. There is also the unfortunate reality that people with actual medical issues may avoid seeking appropriate help by immediately trying to assume that because their issues are on an awakening list that they no longer need to do anything with doctors. This is not true. Western doctors are as much a part of this world as energy healers and other healers.

But with all of this said--and a firm encouragement to seek out help if things ever get too painful--there is the very real truth that you may feel discomfort to intense pain during a shift from the unconscious to awakened state. If you truly are in this transition, there will be nothing actually wrong with your body, and for those who have gone to doctors and been told that there's nothing wrong, you can simply trust in that assessment. You are transitioning into your natural awakened rhythms. A lot of old pain is coming up. It may continue that way for sometime, but you are not imagining the pain. It is real, so don't ignore it. Face it, and give it space to release.

Forms of Resistance to Awakening

In regards to the spiritual path, pain is often a sign of resistance. Consider that you are an ice cube transforming into water vapor. The energy needed to move you to the water vapor state can be intense. A lot of energy is needed to excited all those molecules into a faster vibration. That's not necessarily comfortable. But what's worse is that we're usually committed to different states of awareness. We say, "No, no, no. I was happy being an ice cube." So we resist the shift, which exacerbates the pain. Anywhere that we resist this shift, there will be an intensification of pain. There may already be pain and discomfort, but active resistance makes it worse.

I'd say that there are two main forms of resistance we all have:

  • Active resistance
  • Passive resistance
Active resistance is when we are making a decision to fight something inside of us. Passive resistance can be the resistance within us that we are unaware of. As we become more aware of ourselves, we often see new levels of passive resistance. Say for instance that you've always thought you believed in yourself. Then as you better understand yourself, you see that you have huge self-worth issues that you've covered up with an arrogant ego, which was what you considered believing in yourself to be. When you see that self-worth issue, you can then see other ways that you've been resisting this process. Once this is in your awareness, you can let go of this next level of resistance that you didn't even know you were doing. Then you bring in more awareness to see even more about yourself because often these types of passive resistance are layered. One layer hides the next, hides the next, and so on. This is where humility is vital because you will suddenly be confronted by truly how little you know about yourself.

Karmic Resistance and Past Lives

I'd say 90% of people will have more than enough work to do with the first two types of resistance (and yes, I totally made up that percentage). However, some of you will have karmic resistance and resistance stemming from past lives (although I'd call them concurrent lives. There is no time. Everything is happening all at once. Think about it for awhile. It's a good way to make the ego mind go to mush because it thinks so linearly). Invasive past lives interfere with your growth and develop in this lifetime, and that kind of resistance needs to be met as much as the other forms of resistance. I don't talk about past lives too much because there are people who are more interested in escaping the difficulties of this world or spiritual thrill-seeking than actually doing work. But I've always found that clearing past lives is a pretty simple matter of becoming aware of what the attachment is with that life. Then I create a visualization with a giant pair of scissors to cut that cord. That's worked for me as far as I can remember, and as always, there are people who can help you clean up this kind of issue if you need it.

General karmic resistance is kind of like the black mold in the garage or basement of the spiritual path. We don't really know how long it has been there. We don't really know how it got there or what caused it (okay, so we do know the causes for mold. Just go with the metaphor here. Imagine this is some kind of unexplainable mold). But it's here, and it's uncomfortable or down-right painful. For me, I know I'm dealing with general karmic crap build-up when I really have no feelings, thoughts, or stories coming from it other than general discomfort. The discomfort can be anywhere in the body too. So you can imagine that this old, old issue is lodged in your voice. Your eye-ear-noise-throat doctor says nothing is wrong and tells you to suck on some more lozenges. But that's not getting at it. I've found energy work and visualization in my meditation helps. But mainly it's just about being aware of it, and that awareness is like a beam of light. Over time, it burns that old karma away. Then it releases, and much like my blog about releasing pain, there usually follows a whole new level of opening in your life when something so dark, deep, and uncomfortable releases.

Mystery Body Pains Remain a Mystery

So for the karmic junk, many of the pains you will have felt in your body will remain a mystery. It's not a conclusion I recommend running to. All the other tools that I recommend on this blog (journaling, meditation, spiritual healers, spiritual teachers, spiritual community, etc.) are aimed at helping you to know your space. That's really the big thing about spiritual awakening in many ways; you are suddenly getting to know you. For many of you, that awareness brings the awareness that you are living in a lot of pain. Many people unfortunately try to blame the awakening as the generator of that pain. While awakening is kind of like a flood that pressurizing everything, what is it that is being pressurized? It's you and all your resistance to...well, to you. In many respects, the illumination of enlightenment shows you how much you don't like you and have fought yourself your whole life. Seeing that reality under a big spotlight by itself can be overwhelming for many people, and when it comes time to clean up your inner space, the accompanying pain may feel excruciating. I felt divorced from my body for about a year and a half. It was a terrible feeling, but there was much that I didn't know about myself. Until awakening, I was pretty much a mystery to me, which is a sad thing to say. And then I learned about me.

With that said, there are some things that you will never really know what they are. Some phantom pain in your chest, your ear, your left foot, and so forth comes and goes. You feel better, and not just better, but it's like you're renewed when an issue leaves during this time period. There is a big difference between relief and release. When someone feels relief, it's just because the issue isn't being activated anymore. The issue, however, is still there. So when another similar situation arises, that issue will cause more pain again. With release, similar situations can arise, but you won't be in pain anymore. If you truly released your issues with your mother that were lodged in your heart, when she suddenly tries to start running your life again, you won't be bothered. Your body won't resonate with what she's saying. You may actually feel love and compassion even if she's being cruel.

Listening to the Stories of Your Body

But most of all before we start blaming karma or claiming all body pains are mysterious, it's important to listen. Listen to your body. We live in a culture that abuses the body. Your body may have a lot of pain simply because you've been abusing it this whole time. Maybe your whole brow ridge is sore constantly not because of a third eye/6th chakra opening, but because you've been plucking your eyebrows for most of your life. Now, that you're listening you can hear your body yelling, "OW!" Sometimes, it really is as simple as that. Your body is saying, "What you did hurt me, and I don't want to do that anymore." For many women, they've tortured their bodies their whole lives, and awakening shows them this truth. Men do it too, but generally speaking, not as much for beauty. More commonly, men torture their bodies emotionally. Many men are walking powder kegs of pent up and unexpressed emotions, which can lead to all kinds of physical discomfort. Most men in Western Society seem to wait for a heart attack to actually tell them how emotionally wounded they are.

The main message here is to start listening. Maybe you need to journal about it. Maybe you need to ask for forgiveness from your body for whatever you've done. If you've been into contact sports, imagine all the times where you've hit someone. That shared pain is stored in your body. The body may want you to remember and release that pain. There can be so much pain stuck in the body, and it is important to remember that the body is a sacred vessel. So to embody the awakened self means that you need to allow your body to heal the old wounds and pains that you've experienced in this and other lifetimes.

Problems With Sexuality and Sexual Pain

One of the darker aspects of this culture is how we ignore sexuality, but the body does not do this. Sexuality and sexual organs are as much a part of the body as fingers, teeth, and hair. For anyone who has had sexual abuse, these issues are often even more greatly repressed. The resulting pain memories that surface as awakening dredges all things up to the light from the bottom of the river may be really intense. Some people lose the ability to be aroused because it's like the body is saying until you know how to heal this space, you can't use it. A lot of things can go on down in this space, which is why I'm such a strong advocate of a personal spiritual sexual practice to loving reclaim this space. Sexuality is not segregated from spirituality, and it is unfortunate that this idea ever took root. So if you are having phantom physical pains in the space of your sexuality, then now more than ever is an important time to develop a personal practice to lovingly and mindfully bring awareness to this space.

Releasing of Phantom Pain, Arising of New Pain

As you integrate the awakened self, you will notice that almost as one phantom pain dissolves, another arises. This is natural. Your body is finally doing the healing it has been trying to do all your life. Because most of our lives we've learned to ignore, avoid, and repress pain, we've built up a nasty backlog of pain and discomfort. It's not that awakening and integration is meant to feel painful. It's that we've stored up tons of pain through neglect. If we have two broken legs that we've walked on our whole lives, we have to heal them before we can start running. And that may take awhile depending on how much damage--conscious or unconscious--we've done to ourselves. Hence, many of you will go through intense healing cycles before you can really expand into the awakened presence. It's normal, natural, and healthy even if it isn't a whole lot of fun. But this kind of inner purification will also make everything so much clearer in your life, and it becomes increasingly easy to just do what feels intuitively right.

I'm not going to list out all the pains you can have and associate them with awakening. Ultimately, I encourage you to go within when a strange pain arises. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • "Is this just physical in nature?"
  • "Do I need external help to heal it?"
  • "Do I only need to be present and lovingly aware of it?
  • "Do I need to dig into it to understand it and release it?"
  • "Is this something I am actively or passively resisting?"
  • "Do I just need to rest?"

Then listen to your first intuitive answers and trust them. More often than not, I've found that rest is the most important part of the whole process. Given space, your soul and body are an amazing team. They can figure it out. So as fear arises that something might be horribly wrong, just let that go. Don't let the fear take hold and create new issues. Release that. Be present to how you are feeling and do what feels intuitively right for you. It is all part of a sacred process of integrating and holding the beautiful light that you already are.

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

You can watch this video for more on physical pain and awakening:
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