A Year without Fear: GOING STEADY WITH GOD

going steadyThere’s a scene in Private Benjamin where Goldie Hawn enters an army recruitment office and is shown a beautiful, slick brochure on the benefits of modern military life. She’s so impressed, she enlists right on the spot.

But when she arrives at bootcamp in Mississippi, she’s confused: Quonset huts. Latrines. What the hell? This is definitely not what she signed up for.

“I think there’s been a mistake,” she tells the drill sergeant. “I joined the other army. You know, the one with the condos, and the private rooms.”

•          •          •

Asking to know spiritual truth is a lot like that. The brochure looks great, and plenty of us sign up for it right there and then. But it’s never what we think it’s going to be. We imagine a perfected “spiritual self” who never gets upset, never has issues. A luminous, blissful peace-bunny spreading divine love and joy to a thankful world.

The truth, it turns out, seems so distastefully alien by comparison to our spiritual fantasies—so upside-down from everything we think we want—that it’s damn near impossible to stand still long enough to even consider it.

At least, that’s how it’s been for me. For years I’ve been patiently shown the truth over and over, and over again. I’ve seen it in videos, I’ve read it in books, I’ve witnessed it in visions. It shows up in my email inbox.

But each time I’ve brushed it away.

Because that’s not the truth I signed up for. I wanted the one with the condos.

•          •          •

I really want to know God. It’s been an unstoppable urge for a while now. In the last post I spoke of being in the goodnight-kiss-at-the front-door stage of my relationship with God—but the desire to go all the way, so to speak, is a craving that seems to emanate from the depths of my soul. It’s really my one great desire.

And that’s a fairly uncomfortable predicament to be in, when the only way to know God is to get with the program and agree to accept the irritatingly, disappointingly unacceptable truth of existence:

There’s nothing to fix. Nothing to teach. Nothing to learn, and nothing to heal.

Everything is perfect exactly as it is right now, because everything and everybody is composed entirely of God. Joined in perfect oneness with God. No matter what things look like, and no matter what disastrous effects those things may seem to be having on your life, or the world…innocence and safety, love, peace and joy are the only things going on in truth.

 There’s nothing to accomplish or do. You already have it, and ARE it. Stop striving to be better. Stop yearning to wake up. Stop trying to escape from your perfectly imperfect circumstances. Your job is just to be. Recognize you don’t know anything about anything. Refuse to judge anything you see. Have faith that it’s all innocent. Disbelieve everything your mind tells you, and instead walk through life snuggled deeply, blindly, trustingly in God.

 There is no “you,” no spiritual self who can heal the world. You can’t bring love into this world—bodies can’t bring love to other bodies. You can only see through the illusions this world of bodies presents to you, and find your one true love in God.

 

Needless to say, I had some wee issues with all that—particularly the business about there being nothing to heal or fix or teach. Also the bit about being just dandy, thank you very much, exactly as I am right now. Come to think of it, I’m not crazy about big chunks of the truth, to be honest. My mind is still spluttering its indignation.

But I got sick of seeing the truth gauntlet thrown down in front of me every time I turned around. And even sicker of stepping daintily over it, pretending it wasn’t there.

•          •          •

Last night, before falling asleep I finally agreed to drop my resistance to the truth (despite its distasteful appearances), and to try joining fully with All-That-Is.

But on one condition.

A prayer, of sorts: You know everything about me, my thoughts, my beliefs. You’re there when I fart. You’ve seen me have sex. But I know nothing, really, about you. Give me a hint. Show me how you see things. Help me know you better.

I slept as I normally would, dreaming about nothing in particular. But then I woke in the early morning with a strong sense that I was in the presence of a huge entity of some kind. It was vast, deep, powerful. It felt thoroughly benign. No…more than just benign: It was wholly suffused with God.

I felt I ought to recognize who or what this entity was. It seemed somehow familiar, yet I couldn’t quite place it. And then suddenly I realized:

Oh. My. God. This is the devil.

I was seeing Satan—as viewed through a completely sane mind.

•          •          •

Well, I asked for an example of God’s truth. That was a pretty good one.

Alrighty then.

A radiantly gentle, spotlessly innocent Satan is pretty clear testimony to the fact that I know abso-freaking-lutely nothing about anything. (Not to mention that my lifelong terror of the supernatural is a pointless joke.)

If the devil is perfectly, luminously innocent, you might ask…then what the hell isn’t?

That’s a very good question. Oops-a-daisy. I may have made a teensy mistake here, wasting my time judging and condemning everything and everybody, 24/7…

Because, apparently I’m entirely wrong about everything. I mean, like, ENTIRELY wrong. About EVERYTHING.

Which means my distaste for God’s truth is probably all wrong, too.

Probably. In all likelihood.

•          •          •

So it’s looking like God might be marriage material after all. Possibly it’s time for me to get serious, and stop playing hard to get.

I guess I’d better start picking up the phone whenever the truth calls, instead of letting it go to voicemail. Because I suspect we’ll probably be seeing a whole lot more of each other from now on.

 

WAKING UP. SMELLING THE COFFEE.

love me some coffeeThere’s been a lot of talk among God’s students lately about food’s perfect innocence. How it’s neither good nor bad for you, how it doesn’t make you thin or fat, sick or healthy. How (like every other aspect of this 3-D illusion), food is entirely neutral. That I’m the one who gives it all the meaning it has for me. If I say it’s fattening, in other words, then it is. If I say it’ll make me sick—or well—then it will.

I get it in principle. I’ll bet many of us do.

Well, forget the theoretical realm. I decided to test it out for real. And I had just the perfect test subject in mind:  Lately coffee disagrees with me in a big way. And you know how I love my morning coffee. That sexy siren scent wafts in from the kitchen and I either give in and have a cup—and then spend the morning wishing I hadn’t—or I deny myself a cup and spend the morning wishing I had.

So it was a perfect test candidate, then.

Today I wanted a cup, but decided to check in first to see if it was a good idea or not. It’s the first time I ever asked for internal divine wisdom beforehand, instead of just making the decision unilaterally.  The few times I tested this food innocence business in the past, I made my choice to eat or drink something, then after that I asked my Highest Self to be present with me while I ate or drank it.  Then I ate or drank consciously, together with Spirit, giving it my best attempt to enjoy those foods I thought were bad for me.  Doing my best to let them be neutral while I consumed them.

My results were always inconclusive.

•                •                 •

Today, when I checked in prior to pouring the coffee, I got schooled on how it’s really done:

By drinking coffee with your digestive tract in its current state, worldly laws indicate you will suffer for it.

 If you want to experience no ill effect from this coffee, you must withdraw all belief from your self-created universe of hate and rage (which is the only power that upholds worldly laws), and place FULL trust in me. Through me, you will be able to see and feel the coffee’s true innocence. Not a concept of innocence, as your thinking mind would generate, but a true knowing of its innocence.

I silently agreed to withdraw all belief from worldly laws, and to lean into holy truth instead.

The coffee is neutral. Do you feel this?

“Yes.”

Good. In its neutrality, the love of God shines through it.

I saw that the moment my beliefs about it were released, the coffee’s true God-nature was revealed: It was lovely, gently radiant in its ineffable holiness.

Now look at your stomach and digestive system. They, too, are perfectly neutral. They, too, are suffused with God. More than suffused, actually. They are composed of the God Self, as is the coffee in its cup. As is the cup.

 Can you feel your wholeness, dear one? All is the God Self. In this knowledge (which is always felt, and never intellectualized through the thinking mind), nothing in this world can ever harm you. You are just pretending to shuffle bits of your God Self from one spot to the next. It’s all you. It’s all equally innocent and harmless, and it all cherishes the infinite perfection that you really are.

I relaxed into the profound safety and joy of this simple truth. My world shimmered with God-awareness.

Now, in this peaceful certainty that coffee is your own love shining its holiness, you can temporarily reunite it with a dream of a 3-D digestive system which is also shining its holy God Self. By resting in this truth, coffee can have no ill effects. Nor could it ever want to. It has been reminded of its own perfect innocence in you. It has been liberated, dear one, and welcomed back into the one holy Self.

The awareness of divine gentleness, love and safety has persisted all morning, coloring every aspect of my perception.  And oh my, that cup of coffee went down easy.

I think I’ll have another.

WHEN IS A BACKLASH NOT A BACKLASH?

[pinit]
Rooster Crowing at Dawn --- Image by © G. Baden/zefa/CorbisBack in the day – say, 5 or 6 years ago – it seemed that every time I got on a spiritual roll, every time I felt big breakthroughs in wisdom, trust, love or peace, I knew this wonderful sense of expansion would come only as the first half of a 2-part cycle: I could expect an inevitable ego crash shortly afterward. You could set your clocks by it; a dreadfully fuzzed-out period of lethargic contraction that would arrive right on the heels of all that glory, every time, as night follows day.

2 weeks of confusion, stagnation, depression and/or ‘spiritual amnesia,’ of the sort where one actually forgets both the original breakthrough and the beautiful clarity that accompanied it. I’d watch that slo-mo wave of sickly ego backlash rising up to engulf me, and feel utterly powerless to stop it. After all, what goes up must come down, right? And who am I to mess with Newtonian physics?

•          •          •

Thankfully, after several years of deepening spiritual maturity, the 2-week ego crashes are no more. These days it’s more like a very occasional few hours of temporary insanity. But regardless of the duration or frequency, I see these egoic backlashes in a very different light, nowadays.

Now, they’re interesting opportunities.

•          •          •

Lately, as I’ve traveled the world and stayed in homes and accommodations not my own, I’ve noticed how very narrow my tolerances are when it comes to bodily comfort: Heat vs cold; light vs darkness. Too dirty or too clean (oh yes, there is such a thing as excessive cleanliness.)

How just a few degrees one way or the other can make or ruin my experience. How European daylight at 4am is so much harder than Californian daybreak at 6.

And don’t even get me started on the topic of plumbing. Talk about narrow comfort preferences! I really had no idea just how high-maintenance I really am.

So I’m noticing very keenly how much energy and effort are spent trying to keep the body comfortable and the personal preferences satisfied. Full time job, really. And the reason I’m noticing it so acutely is because lately these tolerances and preferences of mine have been taking a beating. Bigtime.

All of this observation of my own brittle needs and preferences occurs against a backdrop of huge recent leaps toward spiritual freedom: I’ve been happily getting my mind blown and perceptions shattered – yes, again! – by the Way of Mastery series of books and videos. They’re a pointblank invitation to ‘stop being a spiritual seeker, and start being a spiritual finder.’

They present a stark challenge to just get on with it: You say you want the fully awakened, 100% embodied experience of knowing yourself as One with Heaven? Then start right now. This minute. And here’s how to do it.

Because our Creative power is unlimited (even if we don’t yet recognize or believe that fact) it turns out we can actually just decide to reach out and start creating a bridge between our current state of limited egoic perception, and the limitless vastness of perfect Reality. Just like that. We can start that bridge-building process anytime we want, just with the power of fully committed choice.

(In my last post I talked about relinquishing the quest for enlightenment, releasing the identity of the perpetual spiritual seeker. It’s one of those paradoxical things; it seems it was a necessary prerequisite for me to release the “goal” of future enlightenment, before I could seriously entertain this next exploration – right now — into that which is already here.)

So in my exploration, I discovered that right now I’m just exactly strong enough and sane enough at this point to sincerely give bridge-building a try; not just theoretically, but actually.

But not actually sane or strong enough to ease into that practice gracefully. Because of course it includes a vow of 100% commitment to want the peace of God instead of all else. In every circumstance, in every moment of every day, no matter what.

I was only sane enough to go for the committed vow. And that’s pretty darn good all things considered – even a couple of months ago I doubt I’d have been able to get that far.

But honestly, between you and me, my follow through leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Speaking of follow through – and ego backlashes – a mere couple of days after making this electrifying leap into active bridge-building, Steve and I left England (where scarves and woolens had been the order of the day) and headed for California, Land of the Record-Breaking Heat Wave. Along with the blistering temperatures came a change of habitat so uncomfortable, so opposite my preferences in nearly every way that it gave my ego permission to do its worst.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m incredibly grateful to have this house for the next couple of weeks. The home’s owner very generously bailed me out of a jam, an awkward period of time where I needed to be available locally for business but had nowhere to stay. This is peak tourist season, so there was, quite literally, no room at the inn.

This lovely friend has been remarkably patient, kind and accommodating. In fact, she cleared her family out of this house and went on vacation so that the place would be available for me to rent during the days of my visit. I’m incredibly blessed, all in all, and I know it.

But. (Ready for some churlish ingratitude? Here goes…)

The heat and jet lag threw a party and invited the rooster that lives next door. The one that crows nearly every hour of the day and night. And added to all this, the caretaking duties of this temporary rental include looking after a gaggle of willfully incontinent pets. Willfully. Incontinent. Pets.

Are you starting to get the picture? After 24 hours of this, my ego was feeling really, really justified in letting it rip.

 

Virtually everybody has that tipping point. That moment where it seems fully justified and natural to unleash the hounds and let the ego run roughshod as it chooses. For some the tipping point can be a very small big deal; like maybe when the waiter screws up the coffee order and brings caf instead of decaf.

For others with far deeper reserves of peace and tranquility, it might take a tsunami or other epic disaster to rock their boat and give the ego mind an excuse to take over and reinterpret the story for awhile.

Regardless of where a person falls on that scale, nearly everybody has a point where the story is no longer neutral; where it isn’t merely difficult to want to forgive…it’s more like the event is so jarringly unpleasant that all ideas of forgiveness fly right out the window.

External events decree that it’s time to misbehave, the ego says. And as it’s decreed, then so it is.

In my case, that means it’s time to wallow in unhappiness, to muck around in spiritual amnesia and get utterly lost inside the story of my own discomfort and unmet needs.

And that’s where I was for a good 8 hours, the other day.

•          •          •

In the old days, I’d have called this an ego crash, an inevitable ‘course correction’ that I was powerless to stop. And I’d have waited it out, feebly offering snippets of helplessly unfocused prayer and meditation. And then eventually the momentum would shift and a more comfortable, more recognizable degree of sanity would return.

But I recognize something quite different is afoot now.

Here I am, vowing to start consciously choosing the reality of Heaven above all else. And what do I get as an immediate response?

Not an ego crash – unless I choose to see it that way…in which case that’ll be exactly what it is: a 2 week diversion steeped in pain and lethargy. But no, this is no ego crash. It’s not my ego mind devising a punishment, nor is it an attempt to stall my momentum. This circumstance has been presented to me as an act of purest Love.

My vow to want Heaven above all else has been duly noted. And my own highest Self has helpfully, lovingly arranged the perfect mix of off-kilter circumstances designed to push me off my foundation and press all buttons at once, so I can see firsthand where my weakness lies. The places where I’m still hanging onto those pesky blocks to Love.

Because I won’t be living the 24/7 experience of Heaven anytime soon, if I get rattled when a cat knocks a lamp on my head at 2am – twice – and then a rooster crows me awake an hour later. Because if I’m rattled, that means I’m choosing that story instead of the peace of God.

A 100% vow means the willing relinquishment of ALL tipping points.

Even the really big ones. Even the really petty ones. That vow is a specific request to set in motion the necessary training to be able to view all worldly events as equally neutral; equally meaningless in the face of perfect Heavenly joy.

And I want that training. I really do.

So actually, I’m pretty damned incredibly lucky for the customized curriculum. And I’ve been walking around with an odd feeling of tingly joy and unspeakable gratitude, mixed, of course, with clammy sweat and general sleep deprivation.

Life, my friends, is good. It’s just the 3-D living of it that sometimes sucks.

God, I’m dripping. Is it too early, do you think, for another shower?

 

 

 

The Meaning of Christmas – random thoughts from a Jewish Buddhist Voice-Hearer

Let me state this right up front: My relationship with Christ has always been complicated.

Messed up, really.

I was born into an Orthodox Jewish family that was still very busy mourning the effects of World War II when I arrived on the scene in 1958. Christ was a complete stranger in our household, Christianity seen as nothing but a dark catalyst for terrifying world events.

My resulting relationship with Jesus is summed up in this story (from the book) called He Who Must Not Be Named:

…On the one hand He looked like a nice enough guy—His blond, blue-eyed portrait smiling down on my sleepovers at the neighbor kids’ house. And of course it was widely known that if you believed in Him, Santa brought you all kinds of magical swag on Christmas.

Yet He was also the reason I wasn’t allowed into some of the other kids’ houses. I was a dirty Jew, or so their mothers informed me, and Jesus wouldn’t like it if I spread those cooties around.

Meanwhile, school brought a whole different kind of challenge. I learned nothing at all about Christ or Christianity at home or in my Hebrew school studies, except that He was somehow associated with unspeakable evil, and so the name of Jesus was never to be uttered aloud.

“Why? What happens if you say it?” I figured it must be bad because nobody would ever tell me. Maybe saying Jesus’ name was what killed those six million Jews?

This was back in the day when public school kids were routinely made to sing religious songs, so for these occasions I was forced to adopt a weird sort of ventriloquist’s dummy approach:

Wag-wag(soundlessly my jaw moved up and down)

Loves me, yes I know

For the Bible tells me so.

…………………….Yeah.

Does it seem insane to you that anyone would teach a child to equate Jesus with Voldemort?

Well, you’re probably right about that. But cultural context is everything.

The Jews who taught these lessons were not the slightest bit nefarious in their intentions. Just scared. Traumatized. And deeply worried that their bacon cheeseburger-loving American offspring were in danger of forgetting recent cataclysmic history.

Now fast-forward several decades to our post 9-11 world, and that 2007 story about the Muslim Mickey Mouse with his own TV show. And we think: How could anyone be so evil? And are they insane, using Mickey to teach children to hate and murder?

Well, yeah. They’ve already proven they’re at least a little insane, if only by ignoring the global reach of Disney’s fearsome legal team.

But the very embodiment of evil? I’m gonna go out on a limb here to say: I don’t think so. I think maybe they’re just wounded citizens of a deeply damaged world, trying to pass their belief system on to their kids.

So. Back to the meaning of Christmas. (Or maybe it’s the meaning of Christ that I’m really after.) It’s taken me a half-century to undo all that well-intentioned cultural conditioning from my early years. But I don’t regret any of it, because that outsider status has allowed me to approach the subject with fresh eyesight.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think:

There’s no such thing as pure evil. There are only degrees of damage and desperately misguided ways of coping with it.

And let’s face it, we’re all at least a little damaged and a little misguided.

So my personal practice – all year long, but especially now during the Christmas season – is to overlook the damage and the mistakes as best I can, and try to see only the Oneness and perfection that lie deep within each person. I’ve been told (and see no reason to disbelieve) that everybody who’s ever lived is equally perfect and worthy of unconditional love. So, what the hey, I’m giving it my best shot.

Do I slip and forget? Constantly. That’s why they call it a practice. But on the days when I manage it, I’m enveloped in peace and joy and a sense of…holiness, really, that feels like warm cocoa wrapped in a cashmere blanket. Or something like that. To be honest there are no words to describe the feeling, except to say it’s real good.

So I think that’s the meaning of Christmas. Joy. Oneness. Letting the world off the hook for its collective “sins.” From that guy in the SUV who steals my parking spot at the mall (dammit, he SAW me waiting), to the Muslim Mickey who teaches hatred to yet another generation of children.

I’m hoping to let a whole lot more people off the hook as the season progresses.

Because practice makes perfect, you know?