A Year without Fear: (IM)PRISONER

open-cageI thought I was done with the war between the sexes. For me, that battle was so, like, 1975.

I am woman, hear me roar, and all that.

I’m not making light of the very serious and ongoing worldwide challenges women face at the hands of men, mind you. I’m just saying that, by and large, it hasn’t been my fight.

Over the decades of spiritual practice, my early gender rage and frustration have slowly given way to genuine empathy for the other half, the hairier half of the human race. Sure, as a global group, they make some seriously appalling blunders based in fear and anger. And the consequences of those actions are never pretty. But let’s face it—the stonefaced and steel-balled ideal of masculinity (as the world defines it) is a nasty bit of business altogether. And trying to live up, or down, to that code of behavior can’t be easy. Most guys, in my estimation, are honestly doing the best they can.

•          •          •

These days, I’m all about the attempt to go home to God with empty hands. And that’s an interesting process. You look down and notice all the useless baggage you’re carrying. The old grudges. The phobias, the various beliefs in limitation.

And as each one comes up for examination, you ask yourself: Would I rather remain scared of this spider, or hang out with God?

Or maybe it’s: Would I rather be disgusted with the banking system/oil companies/government corruption/insert your pet peeve here? Or would I rather spend quality time resting in God?

Because of course you can’t have both, you know. You always have to choose.

So I’ve been agreeing to drop the mismatched set of luggage, piece by piece. Because I’m starting to finally recognize that all the juice, all the peace I crave can only be found in God. And the peace of God is way better than any baggage I currently own, no matter how much I might enjoy carrying it around.

But after the hands are empty of readily visible suitcases…well, that’s when it really gets interesting. Because the other stuff—the bigger stuff—has to go, too. The opinions and behaviors that run so deep, they form your worldview. The ones that are so automatic, so unquestioned as truth that you can’t imagine who you’d be, or what your life would be like without them.

•          •          •

So I was surprised to find myself triggered a bit by all that old gender stuff again recently. Only this time, I was seeing it from completely outside my own frame of reference, as if my spaceship had just landed and I was viewing this aspect of humanity for the first time.

I saw and felt the vast scope of the world’s rage and hatred toward women. And it kind of took my breath away to notice how we, as a species, have all collectively agreed upon the idea that women, simply because we exist, are so scorned, so feared, that we are therefore legitimate targets of violence anytime the opportunity arises. That this is an unfortunate, yet unavoidable fact of life.

By ‘collective agreement,’ I don’t mean to imply that we all approve of this concept, by any means. I would guess that most men, and virtually all women, are appalled by it. But when we fight an idea—when we take karate classes, or choose a jogging buddy, or helpfully offer to walk a woman to her car, we reinforce the solidity of the very structure we rail against. We accept this hatred and control of women as a real and permanent condition, and we plan for it by fighting fear with fear. Rage with rage. And in doing so, we guarantee it will persist as a fact of this world.

I don’t really know why I found all this enmity so astonishing. It certainly isn’t news.

I guess I just personally noticed in full enormity for the first time, that I am not welcome on this planet. And in age-old response, I seem to have been sporting some hella thick emotional armor all this time. I also noticed I never go out walking by myself, and never, ever alone after dark, if I can help it.

So here’s the truly interesting thing about all this: I absorbed that hateful message way back when, without even knowing it. And only now have I suddenly recognized that, in response to this collectively agreed-upon belief in my own vulnerability as a target, I’ve chosen to live my entire life in a self-made prison. The armor keeps me in, a whole lot more effectively than it keeps anything out.

And I don’t go to the park by myself. I rarely walk alone at night. Hell, I rarely do much of anything alone at night, really. Because you never know who might be out there hating me tonight.

Why have I agreed to live this way? Why do so many women choose to live this way?

For every actual attack that takes place, ten thousand other women attack themselves every day by not going where they want to go. Not doing what they want to do. Not feeling free to simply exist, just as they are. Without airbrushing or apology.

We clip our own damn wings.

I suddenly noticed I’ve chosen to live my entire life in a cage that’s no wider than my shoulders. Clipped or not, I’ve never even bothered to raise my wings and try to fly. I don’t even know if I can.

•          •          •

So who might I be without this shoulder-width cage? No idea. It’s very hard to imagine a “me” who is unbound by these constraints. And honestly, it’s even harder to imagine a me who is free of the old, calcified fear and rage that make up the bars of that cage.

But really, who is there to be angry with? The jailer is me.

Nobody in the world has the power to do to me what I freely chose to do to myself. Men are certainly not to blame. And I’m not mad at myself for choosing the cage—not really. I know I did the best I could with the choices I thought I had at the time.

So…am I willing to open my hands and drop this rage I feel at nobody in particular, in order to hang out with God?

Yes, definitely.

Ok, then. Am I also willing to know myself in a completely different way—as somebody who is unconstrained and unafraid to walk the world in safety and confidence in my right to exist?

Ummm…sure?

Yeah. That one’s a little bit easier said than done. Because it’s hard to imagine that which is hard to imagine.

Meaning, the mind can only grasp what it knows from experience. And that kind of fundamental change in worldview is beyond anything this particular mind has ever known.

But I’m willing. And I’m pretty sure willingness is all it takes.

So. How to go about taking a leap beyond where the mind can go? The first step is to believe that you can.

No, seriously. I’m not launching into a song about ants and rubber trees, here. This is important. Significant change comes only when we allow the possibility for it. Prayer without believing that what you’re asking for is possible…is just aimless wishing.

Luckily, I’ve already learned that anything is possible IF I SAY IT IS. This world of dreams is infinitely malleable—and as the collective architects of this dream, we can change the rules on it anytime we choose to. I, as an infinite creator, have that power. And so do you.

So if I can manage to authentically believe it’s possible for me to experience myself as being free of fear, free of rage…hell, just plain free… then it is possible. Even if I have no idea what that freedom actually feels like, or how to go about it, I recognize that it’s possible.

So I’ve been choosing that possibility all week. Feeling it fully, believing in it completely. Claiming it as my own.

Step two: I’ve been stating clearly to the universe that it’s my choice to start walking this earth in confidence, safety and trust. Open and un-armored. And just by claiming the possibility and stating this intention, I seem to have broken free of the collective agreement for fear-based gender control.

(This doesn’t mean all worldly precautions should be ignored now. I still probably won’t lounge around in Central Park alone at midnight, festooned in my most ostentatious diamond jewelry. That would be foolish. But it does mean willingness to learn how to walk in trust and open-hearted forgiveness, seeing the world—and my place in it—with fresh, loving eyes.)

So the collectively agreed-upon structure of gender-based hatred has lost one pillar. I’ve stepped outside the building. Actually, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me who did the stepping. My job was just to recognize that it’s possible to see another way…and then to make good on that recognition by choosing to release all crusty old fear and blame. That’s where the empty hands come in.

Step three:  Yes, I recognize that it’s possible to release my grip on fear, hate and rage. Because anything is possible. EVERYTHING is possible, including this. I can know myself without fear, without hate for my so-called oppressors, even though I can’t yet picture what that’s like. So I open my hands now, and because it’s possible to do, I agree to let these old beliefs and old protections slip through my fingers and be gone forever.

And once I’ve let my attachments to the old hatred slip away…hello, Step Four: I can then ask to be airlifted higher than my current perception would allow.

As far as I can tell, this method seems to be working. The view seems a bit different up here.

•          •          •

Yes, sometimes major shifts really can be that easy. Airlifting is my new preferred mode of travel.

But be warned: This method of release is accomplished without drama. Without plumbing the depths to revisit old pain. I let it all go without examining every injustice I suffered, every wound inflicted, in an attempt to find resolution and healing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when that kind of excavation is very appropriate. But take it from me, because I’ve done it both ways: Hard work and pain take a whole lot longer than simply letting yourself be lifted. And they’re way less fun.

WAY. Less fun.

So this is my heartfelt advice, if it interests you: Take the quick and scenic route. Let your liberation unfold in a way that’s free of agony. Stop rolling boulders uphill, and let yourself be lifted instead. Four easy steps. Really. That’s all it takes.

If you’re anything like me, and your wings don’t work so good yet…divine helicopters are standing by.

A Year Without Fear: LOVE IS A THING WITH WINGS, DAMMIT

thing with wingsIn my chosen spiritual ocean, I’ve spent many a pruney year dog-paddling in circles around the idea of unconditional love. It’s an authentically healthy love (I’m told), one that offers complete freedom and true healing to all who experience it. And all, apparently, are equally worthy of it.

It’s a beautiful theory. And to practice unconditional love feels totally great as an abstract exercise—always performed on my own terms, of course, and only when I’m in the mood for it.

But in real-life daily practice? Where it actually counts? I’ve barely dipped a toe into that pool. I’m talking about real, true, healthy unconditional love. I want to see how it applies on a blood-pumping individual, interpersonal human level—you know, the one where we actually live.

What does truly healthy love even look like? I mean seriously—I want specific personal knowledge of how it works. How it feels to do it. (This is where the spiritual books all scurry forward to fill the experience gap, flipping open to well-thumbed pages:

Healthy love, they inform us, is given freely and without a need to get anything in return. It’s a love that holds no creepy crawly strings or hidden clauses: I’ll love you IF. Healthy love is our true identity, they say. We become whole as we remember our own wholly loving nature.)

Yes, I know all that. But I’m tired of letting book-knowledge substitute for lived experience. There’s no liberation in it.

 

•          •          •

 

These days, I’m all about bringing my own interior darkness to light. Historically, some areas have always seemed darker and more persistently painful than others. They refused to go away, so I told myself they were beyond my power to heal or transcend.

But I’ve grown bored with telling myself the lie that I’m helpless to transcend my own crap. In fact I’m not the slightest bit helpless, and never was. (No one is.) In my mostly unconscious misuse of my infinite God-given creative power, I have created my own suffering entirely by free-will choice. I accept this truth; I own it, I take responsibility for it. And having recognized and embraced this unlimited creative force within, along with its unconsciously crappy effects, I am therefore free to un-create those effects anytime I choose.

So there was this black hole of self-hatred and unworthiness that I spoke about last time. I reported that it had miraculously healed all by itself. But I didn’t tell you that in the months leading up to that profound transformation, I had chosen to shine a light into that deeply unconscious black hole for the very first time, to see what was in it.

(A black hole is not a place that readily accepts illumination, by the way. And nothing can escape from it. Which was why I had never seemingly been able to touch its interior in all my years of trying. Until I finally recognized the black hole’s existence depended solely on my permission. I had created it, and my choice to let it endure was the only thing holding it in place. It behaved as a black hole would, in other words, until I saw I was bigger than it was. Upon realizing my own power over it, I found I was suddenly able to access its secrets, because I had granted myself entry.)

Upon examination, I saw that the black hole was a sort of a cosmic bucket without a bottom. And forever falling through that bottomless bucket was a tiny, terrified self in search of a worldly identity. A ‘me’ that was unable to offer itself the smallest crumb of love or compassion. A self that fruitlessly searched the external world for evidence of its own lovability and worth. But even when that evidence showed up, there was no ground to hold it. No matter how desperately the small self grasped at those bits of external validation, nothing could stay. It all fell right through the hole.

That black hole was the very essence of neediness and terror.

We are told in spiritual practice—and in every self-help guide ever written—that real love is within. And it’s clearly true. Real safety, real peace, real wholeness and real validation can’t possibly come from anybody but the self. Trying to get any of those things from another person (who, let’s face it, has their own black hole to deal with) is, in the immortal words of George Carlin, like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.

It has to be an inside job. The external approach simply can’t cut it. But I knew no other way. I tried doing what the spiritual teachers said. I really did.

I looked very hard for a very long time, searching determinedly within for all that juicy good stuff.

But the black hole just couldn’t love me back.

 

•          •          •

 

I’m married to a gorgeous guy who is delighted to be married to me, and isn’t shy about telling me so. I luxuriate in his loving approval. I know exactly how lucky I am.

He and I find ourselves participating in spiritual retreats together fairly often, either as presenters or attendees.

Retreats are funny things. Due to the nature of the exercises involved, everybody wanders around with wide-open hearts. Beautiful souls who are often starved for true communion (with the Self!) gain temporary nourishment from the next best thing: In the safety of the retreat setting, we all let glimmers of our true beauty out. A bunch of magnificent open-hearted angels, holding up shining mirrors to one other. And everybody falls a little bit in love with everyone else’s light.

Is this a problem? No, of course not. It’s beautiful. It’s an honor to participate in it. But the needy Black Hole Troll has been known to have an issue with it now and then—like when the husband’s light gets admired a little too much, if you know what I mean. Or vice versa.

But how much is too much? Degrees of anything is a fool’s game. I know better. Trying to manage something by degrees is a slippery slope that leads directly toward suffering and away from liberation. There are really only two choices: There’s either healthy, authentic unconditional love (which has no degrees, and means total freedom is extended to the spouse, to give and receive love as he sees fit)—or there’s guaranteed darkness and pain.

I’m not talking about monogamy or fidelity, here, by the way. That is a closely related subject, only because we humans who are so starved for authentic light and purity of love, often confuse its beauty for the kind we’re more familiar with. And then complications ensue. But that’s a topic for some other blog post.

Right now I’m just talking about my own exploration of the perceived danger, the extreme threat that seems to rear its head when a loved one is allowed in fullness, as a sovereign being, to receive love or express open-hearted admiration for the light of others.

Last month, the husband and I attended a retreat workshop at a beautiful monastery in Israel. Our group took over the entire monastery. The only other person staying there at the time was a lovely woman on a personal silent retreat, who spent her days in walking meditation out in the garden.

She did nothing to call attention to herself. She wore no makeup, her hair was pulled back in a simple low ponytail. She wore plain white cotton shift dresses and flat shoes. She was the essence of humility. The women in our group (if they noticed her at all) saw her and smiled at her lovely simplicity, and then gave her no second thought.

The men in our group zeroed in on her like flies to honey, like moths to a candle flame. They obsessed over her, speculating about her, telling themselves and each other stories about her presumed state of elevated ethereal awareness. Some of them even followed her around and made general pests of themselves.

Observing her effect on all of the men, yet none of the women, I would ordinarily be inclined to call it a simple case of pheromones, dressed up in spiritual claptrap. Except for the effect she had on my husband.

The first time he saw her, he didn’t actually see her. He was facing me, and his back was turned to her as she walked quietly past our group. He nearly fell off his chair, swiveling to see who it was that possessed such a powerfully tranquil vibration of stillness and peace. Screw the workshop. He wanted more of that.

I didn’t like it a bit. And I wasn’t entirely sure why. What possible threat was it to me—I mean really? I did quite a lot of conscious spiritual work around it while it was all going on. But I admit it, I was not crazy about Stillness Girl’s effect on my darling spouse.

It wasn’t until days after we’d left the monastery behind that I realized why. Steve and I were playing hooky that day, relaxing on beach chairs beside the Sea of Galilee while everybody else was being carted around on a tour of the area. I was deep in thought on my beach chair, sitting with crossed legs as I often do, one foot swinging rhythmically in tempo with the noise in my head. Steve gently put a hand on my leg to stop its incessant motion, before sitting down on his own beach chair. And as he did it, a flash of insight showed me what the hell my problem was. What it had always been.

I am not still. I don’t exude profound tranquility. If I walked behind you, trust me, no swiveling would occur—not for that reason, anyway. So it seemed to me that the Lady in White had something I lacked. And that’s the part that felt so threatening. That’s the part that felt like a rebuke, a judgment, an accusation, whenever the spouse admired a quality in somebody that I believe I lack.

Stillness. Straight hair. A lyrical recording voice.

Whatever it might be that I think I lack, his innocent admiration or love of it in another felt like abandonment, betrayal and finger-wagging all at once. And that made it the worst possible kind of identity theft—it threatened my identity as the one who is loved. But that’s the black hole that was doing the talking. Not Steve.

Steve actually has never agreed with my troll-self in its unloving assessment of me. So he couldn’t figure out why I would find such a thing threatening. The way he sees it, his open-hearted admiration of the Lady in White (or anyone else) did not in any way take away from his love and admiration for me. And you know what? He’s right.

But I didn’t truly know he was right until the Black Hole Troll gave up its post a week or two after our return from Israel. I’m not 100% free of dark misperceptions about myself yet, but I am truthfully beginning to recognize myself as the Beloved. Yes, the Beloved, with a great big gorgeous capital ‘B.’ And that recognition is a breathtakingly short hop away from seeing everybody and everything else as that, too.

Case in point: The other day in the car on the way to the post office, I suddenly choked up and cried a little. Because the English countryside in bloom is just so fucking lovely, I became overwhelmed with joy.

It—and I!—were indescribably beautiful and perfect and whole. So much tenderly magnificent Belovedness all around, my lumpy little emotional system couldn’t cope.

In those brief moments of authentic Belovedness, I know without a doubt that inside where it counts, I am approved of to an unimaginable degree. And because of this, I now know my safety and my true identity can never be withdrawn. External events can’t touch it.

 

•          •          •

 

So how does all this Belovedness change things, in the neediness/jealousy/control department? I’m not sure yet what the changes will look like, but I’m guessing it will shift the landscape profoundly.

I still observe myself wanting to clip Steve’s wings, to limit his freedom, as a knee-jerk response to perceived threat. But I know it isn’t the way forward. I know it doesn’t lead to safety or happiness. So I immediately bring a “sun of illumination” into that dark desire for constriction. And as this gently brilliant searchlight streams its loving rays into every shadowy corner, I allow for the (terrifying? unthinkable?) possibility that my husband can actually be free to give and receive love as he wishes without it harming or stealing anything at all from me personally.

Gasp.

Is this really true? Am I safe whether Steve’s love is kept for me alone or extended freely like blown dandelion seeds? It’s mighty scary territory, even with the newfound knowledge that the Beloved is within. Because letting love out of the cage is just about the most frightening step imaginable for this tiny little ego self. And once love is out of its cage, I’m pretty sure there’ll be no stuffing it back in.

But I do know this: I have thoroughly clung to the alternative throughout my entire life. And for fifty-something years, my futile attempts to contain and control love have brought me only pain. So I’m setting aside the books and the teachings of theoretical unconditional love, and am finally taking my own shaky steps onto the diving board.

I hope to God I can swim.

 

PS, if it interests you, I have a free e-book that touches on some of these same topics. It’s called I AM THE LOVE OF MY LIFE (a field guide to unconditional love for self and others). Download it from my website or from Kobo.com

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?


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?

 

 

 

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENCE


Lately I’ve been happier and far more peaceful than ever before in my life.

Of course, that’s not saying a lot.

From day one, I’ve always had far more heart-thumping, grindingly antsy anxiety running through my veins, than actual blood.

Mind you, it’s about a thousand times better now than when I first began my spiritual journey. But (as anybody on a similar path knows), when this painful ego stuff gradually begins to clear and sanity is strengthened, the crap that remains becomes seen in ever-sharper focus. And it’s that clear-eyed perception that makes the remaining bullshit far more acutely unpleasant than the dull, unfocused ache of the old days.

•          •          •

In recent months, Holy Presence has become the basis of my spiritual practice. This form of present moment awareness is very unlike the earlier ‘now moment’ flirtations I’ve tried through meditation, or chanting, or stopping to smell the roses, or whatnot. This is a sort of up-close-and-personal, in-your-face form of presence. A vast and muscular and very Loving presence.

Back in May, I embarked on Michael Brown’s Presence Process, a ten-week breathwork course that emphasizes consistent morning and evening periods of sustained presence. In the book, he describes these steady, prolonged periods of present moment awareness as being very different from the usual spiritual practices that are meant to put us in touch with the now moment.

He says it’s the difference between visiting an old friend often for a cup of tea, (and assuming you know their house well because you’ve stopped by so many times) and actually agreeing to house sit for a few weeks. Suddenly you’re in this house by yourself for a prolonged stay, and you have all the time in the world to notice the hundreds of things about it that you’ve never seen before.

So I did the breathing, in presence, as prescribed. And I started to notice something right away that I’d never realized: Presence has a distinct vibration.

At first I thought it was just a ringing in my ears caused by the super-oxygenation of the breathwork.

But no.

Presence is a living thing; it has a mind of its own – and it comes calling for me whenever it wants my attention. My ears become filled with its unmistakable ‘sound,’ and I am gently reminded to withdraw my focus, my belief, from whatever silly ego story I’ve sucked myself into at the moment.

This has been a lasting effect of my presence and breathwork explorations, and I’m delighted to say that the phenomenon seems to be growing more pronounced all the time.

I wish I could find words to describe for you what I’ve found inside the ‘house’ of Presence, now that I spent those ten weeks house sitting. But truly, it enters that sacred realm where words can’t go.

It isn’t just that Presence has an intellect. Presence is Holy.

Presence is not only where Spirit dwells, the now moment seems to be made out of Spirit. And vice versa.

And I know…I can feel…that if I could just manage to spend quality time hanging out in Holy Presence, entirely nonresistant to it, then this experience itself would be Heaven on earth.

(See? I told you, words are fumbly nuisances here. But I’m doing my best.)

And so it has become my practice to melt gratefully into Holy Presence, and sit there non-resisting. And to try to string together as many moments of that experience as I possibly can, before my chattery ego mind slips away and drags me someplace else.

It’s sort of a combo of intensely focused present moment awareness, and a joining pool exercise. (If you’re unfamiliar with the joining pool, see The Enlightenment Project, page 141.) Except this is the funny thing – and here comes the failure of words, again: I’ve discovered that true present moment awareness IS a joining pool exercise.

So there you go — it’s the best description I can come up with. If you’ve managed to make any sense out of what I’ve written here, and feel inspired to try this Presence practice for yourself, I highly recommend it.

•          •          •

Anyway, the benefits of it are wonderful and many, including a gentle, ever-unfolding clarity.

The other day I was snugged up in my cozy English digs. It was cold and blustery outside, but I was sitting warm by the fire with my hot tea and Afghan throw, the Christmas lights a-twinkling. And I noticed I was truly happier, more peaceful and more free than I’ve ever felt before.

And then Presence came gently calling. And I was very softly pulled into it, taking me several layers deeper than usual. I adjusted my focus accordingly, and as I did it, I could see that at this more buried level I was actually seething with anxiety.

This was a profound antsiness, a thorough dissatisfaction with myself, for sitting by the fire with a mug of tea instead of using the moment more productively. I should be writing a book or something, shouldn’t I?

This dissatisfaction, this self-criticism runs so deep in me that at its lower levels I’m completely blind to it because it seems so much like what my world is constructed out of. It’s the lens through which I view and experience my 3-D reality, so I would ordinarily never back up enough to notice it as a stand-alone thing – just a lens, not reality itself.

But here’s the great thing: Unlike the old days when I believed in the anxiety message through and through, I knew this present moment was perfect and Holy, exactly as it was. And nothing at all was required of me right then, except to relax and allow it to just be.

It was kind of a startling moment of worlds colliding. But thanks to the reassurance and Love emanating from the ongoing song of Presence that was playing so sweetly in my ears, I took the time to examine that old buried ghost story of anxiety very carefully. And I saw it had no relevance here. So I made the conscious choice to relax and melt my habitually anxious worldview into present moment peace instead.

•          •          •

I’ve been experimenting with this very delicately ever since. And I find its effect has been equally profound, no matter what the present moment happens to hold.

A couple of days ago, we went on an outing to the lovely city of Bath to do some Christmas shopping. I had a client phonecall scheduled for 7:00pm (to accommodate the 8 hours difference between England and California), so there should have been plenty of time to shop and get back before then.

But as we all piled in the van to head for home, we discovered the roads were seized up in absolutely stupendous gridlock — which they specialize in, in these ancient cities where cars and traffic are always a patchwork afterthought.

A half hour went by and we hadn’t moved more than a car length or two. And suddenly the hours of extra padding between me and my client call didn’t seem quite so cushiony. And I had no way of contacting them to let them know I might miss the call.

This should have been a prime recipe for anxiety, but it wasn’t. Presence was in my ears, and I was steeped in the profound peace of this-here-now. And I knew the client call would either happen, or I would apologize when I got home, and reschedule.

The folks in the front seat started up a game to pass the time: What’s your version of paradise? Where would you be right now if you could have anything in the world?

I had to really think and think. But when my turn came, my mind was blank.

Because honestly, this moment was already it.

Stuck in traffic in the back of a van. Nothing could have been more glorious than that.

 

So on this day of Christmas Eve, dearest friend, I wish you peace, and happiness, and freedom.

And most of all, I wish you Holy Presence.

 

THE BREATHWORK CHRONICLES


Have you noticed? There’s a bewildering cornucopia of seemingly contradictory forms of breathwork out there to choose from. Some kinds have you breathing through the nose only, others say to use just the mouth. Some want you to focus only on the inhale, others only on the exhale.

Some forms of breathwork super-oxygenate the brain and body; certain other forms of breathing do the opposite, consciously restricting the oxygen in the brain to create an altered state of spiritual readiness.

All agree that breathwork is very healing. Except, of course for when it’s very damaging.

It can be confusing as hell to know what to do.

And this is no small matter. Because (as Yong made abundantly clear to me) breathwork is extremely powerful. I’m told that in the wrong hands, it could have very undesirable effects.

So you’ll understand why I spent a few days doing the bunny-in-the-headlights thing. On the one hand, I’m being asked to do LOTS more breathwork as part of this much vaunted ‘legacy’ I’m supposed to leave. But on the other hand I received not one, but two very hard spankings in recent days (one from a Being, the other from a human being) over the potential dangers of breathwork.

And so I put my prayer, my confusion, my fright, my petulance about breathwork in a big old suitcase, and flung it off the cliff of trust and surrender. As in: I don’t have a fucking clue. You want me to step forward and do this thing? Show me.

(Fortunately, Spirit always pardons my French. And my bratty attitude.)

•          •          •

It took a few days to get my answer. It arrived in a huge download of information in the middle of the night – the kind that drags one’s ass up out of bed to write it all down, because the sheer volume just keeps flowing and flowing — and you know from experience it’ll be gone by morning if you don’t get up now and document it.

So this is what I got. This is my knowing:

What matters is the intention.

Powerful Spiritual beings that we are, our intention is the universal force that moves mountains. Our intention is what creates and destroys worlds. Literally.

So all forms of breathwork are nothing more than neutral tools, like everything else we toy with in our 3-D dream existence. It all boils down to how I INTEND to use those tools. And thanks to Yong and others, my intention about breathwork has become completely clear:

 I only want this tool to serve the highest good. Always.

And the details of how that intention comes to life are none of my business.

So all tools that flow through me must function for the highest good of all, or I don’t wanna play. (I’ll pack up my tools and go watch tv instead.)

So these are my conditions:

I ask that these tools be truly, authentically and deeply helpful for each individual who is drawn to them. And that the tools always be profoundly loving in nature.

Part of the scary unpredictability surrounding breathwork is the unregulated power with which it is able to drag up insights from the unconscious into the conscious mind, whether that mind is prepared for them or not.

So I also ask that each of these breathwork students receives only as much insight, only as much healing and light as is perfect for them to absorb in that moment. (These are things I can’t possibly know or control, left to my own devices, so I’ve handed my full intention over to Spirit permanently on this.)

And that’s how I know that whatever breathwork program I develop will be completely safe. {Which is not to say it will always be comfortable. My intention is to use the breath as a tool to help self and others wake up. And sometimes that process ain’t pretty.)

But because the great power of my intention has been surrendered to Spirit, I know without doubt that my breathwork programs will always function for the highest good, and could never be damaging or destructive to anyone.

But. Will I still make people read disclaimers anyway, stating all the benefits and potential dangers of breathwork, and then make them sign waivers before moving forward with it?

Yup. You betcha.

I’m going for broke with God, but there’s no reason to be stupid. This is the 3-D world I live in, and it’s chock full of lawyers.

•          •          •

So this is the nature of the program I’m currently developing — it’s a two-part process. (It’s not necessary to do both parts.)

1. A guided meditation/breathwork session whose purpose is to gently open us to the holy light of Presence, drinking that Divine light deeply into every cell of the body. (Those very cells are where deepest illusory pain and misperception are held.)

This exercise reveals areas of darkness and deep resistance almost by default – nobody can drink in holy light 100% unless already fully awakened.

So very naturally, our dark matter is revealed to us.

And that gives us the opportunity to gently observe those areas of dark misperception that arise, using nothing but our loving and nonjudgmental awareness. By just agreeing to be aware, and feel this thing we’ve suppressed and denied for so long — that’s where freedom lies.

(The power of our own loving awareness is right up there with the power of intention. There’s literally no limit to the healing it can bring.)

 

2. The second breathwork exercise, for those who wish to go the Indiana Jones route, and intentionally excavate the deepest caverns of their own unconscious misperception… (bullwhip optional…)

…for them, another guided meditation/breathwork session, this one designed to actively access and release the unconscious blocks to Love.

In both of these guided breathwork sessions, we intend to use a combination of music, sacred sounds, specific vibrations and tones that are precisely calculated to access these targeted areas of the unconscious mind and body where stuck pain and old frozen energies are stored. The intention is to facilitate as deep and thorough a healing result as possible.

But again, the vow remains the same for both exercises, even though the second one is designed to be much more proactively intense than the first. I only want to be an instrument of highest good. I’m not attached to any of these processes that we’re developing; if any of this breathwork falls short of that goal of being truly helpful, then I won’t use it. I’ll move on and wait to be shown what to do instead.

•          •          •

When I was first Guided to explore this breathing stuff (first through Michael Brown’s Presence Process, then Judith Kravitz’s Transformational Breathwork), I saw the immense value right away, in its ability to help us undo our ego thought system and release our unconscious blocks to Love.

On a 3-D physical level breathwork also has great healing benefit — because we, as a species, typically starve ourselves of oxygen. We shut down our breathing to almost nothing as a way of hiding from our trauma, and refusing to feel our own unconscious gunk. (That’s why relearning to breathe with full capacity unlocks the unconscious stuff we’ve been suppressing.)

All organs, all cells, need full oxygenation to be healthy. In addition to the emotional/spiritual healing that can take place through the release of unconscious trauma, many seemingly intractable illnesses of the body respond in dramatically healing fashion to the rich oxygenation that breathwork delivers.

But beyond those benefits, I noticed something else: Breathwork seems to facilitate a much easier, much deeper and more profound connection with Spirit. Judith Kravitz’s guided breathwork CD is about 45 minutes long, but each time I listened, by around the halfway mark I would spontaneously feel inspired to join deeply with Spirit in Divine Presence…instead of whatever Judith was instructing us to do.

I was working daily with this CD, roughly two weeks prior to the October Power of Power retreat workshop that Nouk, Stacy and I were to be teaching in Colorado. And I started to feel really inspired to share this breathing practice at that workshop, despite my near-total lack of experience with it.

So during one breathing session, while joined with Spirit in holy Presence, I asked if it would be appropriate for me to teach this at the workshop. And the answer, stated powerfully, was: THIS IS THE PATHWAY WITHIN.

And the unspoken feeling surrounding the words was: Yes, Yes definitely. Yes. Teach it.

So I did. At that retreat I led a couple of guided breathwork sessions, and just let the inspiration flow through me for how they should go. And I have to say, the results were amazing.

But that was beginner’s luck. (Or beginner’s Grace. Either way, it had nothing to do with me.) So I’ve been slowly studying, researching, developing it ever since. Just so that I have some kind of clue about what I should be teaching, here.

But it doesn’t really matter what form the breathing ultimately takes. Now I know my only real job is to keep my intention on the highest good. Eyes on the prize. After that, it really isn’t up to me.

 

 

 

 

 

JUST BREATHE


Ever been spanked by an ancient Chinese Entity?

Yeah, me neither…until last week, that is.

Last Tuesday, Ken Bok [of http://acimexplained.com] came down to the farm for a visit. Although he’s interviewed me many times online, we’d only met once in person at last year’s UK ACIM conference.  Now that I’m staying in Dorset — a mere trainride away from London — we thought it an excellent opportunity for hanging out, so Ken came down and spent a couple of days with us.

And with him, it turned out, came this ancient Chinese Being. And the Being wanted to talk to me.

•          •          •

Ken has only recently poked his head out of the closet to announce that he’s psychic. (I’m told his readings are quite good. Contact him at https://www.facebook.com/kennethbokpsychic if it interests you.)

What I didn’t realize is that he’s also a psychic medium. And the guide he channels is actually a whole group of ancient Chinese intelligences that go by the collective name of Yong. Sort of like Abraham, I guess, except not nearly as cuddly.

As it turned out, Yong had plenty to say to me. I’ll share just a few of the highlights here:

Apparently I ought to be a lot more prolific than I have been thus far. It seems I’m supposed to leave a ‘legacy,’ a comprehensive body of work that will continue to help others after I’m gone. But apparently I’m being a bit of a slowpoke, output-wise.

So I’m ‘strongly urged’ to get off the stick and get to work in earnest. I’m told to write more, and speak more, and give more workshops.

And speaking of workshops, we (the Undoing the Ego team http://undoing-the-ego.org) also are told to hold a lot more Power of Power workshop retreats. It seems we haven’t even scratched the surface with those. As mindblowing as they already are, they will apparently evolve way beyond this current level and make a huge contribution to the collective Self.

Or something.

So we need to leave a legacy of work from those retreats, in addition to our own personal legacies.

And there’s more: The breathwork that I’ve been developing – it seems I haven’t yet begun to tap its true power and immense value. It hasn’t yet become even a fraction of what it will be. (I thought it was pretty unbelievable before. But what do I know.)

I’m supposed to do a lot more hands-on experiential breathwork. I need to experience it as often as possible myself, and also facilitate it for others.

A lot. Like, really a lot.

Each time I do it, I’ll learn more, and new avenues of exploration will open. I should also start to talk publicly about the breathwork. Like in my blog, for instance. And I should maybe start some breathwork groups on the internet. (Yes, apparently ancient Entities do keep up with modern technology.)

•          •          •

Honestly? I’m exhausted just thinking about all this. Partly because most of my seeming to-do list doesn’t even exist yet, and I have no clear direction or idea of which way to head, to get there from here.

And yet, I’m actually not worried about any of that.

This is where trust and surrender play such a big role. It means setting the bone-deep prayer and intention that I want to be truly helpfulwhatever form that takes. And being absolutely unattached to what the result of that prayer looks like.

And then wandering out into the world at large, eyes peeled for signposts. Trusting that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, even when no signposts are yet visible. Or maybe they’re visible, but they look too weird at first glance to be right. (Tricky, but I’m getting much better at that part.)

And the inspirations have indeed been coming. A whole new exciting avenue for breathwork exploration has revealed itself just in the last few days. (I’ll get into the details of that another time.)

And a group of beautiful, courageous friends-in-Spirit have shown up and agreed to be my beta testers – yes, on the internet! – as I work to fine tune these powerful new breathwork processes.

So it’s all good.

And the spanking? That came after all this glorious hoo-hah about legacies and such.

It seems I needed, er, an attitude adjustment. A big chunk of this very long message was spent sternly admonishing me for my childishly foolish/cavalier behavior towards this breathing business. Breathwork is not a toy, and I need to use a hell of a lot more wisdom and discernment, going forward, because its power must always be wielded consciously and with clear Spiritual intent.

…Ok, then. Um, thanks.

I responded to this fairly overwhelming and moderately disturbing 40 minute communiqué (which had lots more juicy bits than I’ve described here) by promptly catching a cold and going to bed for a few days. Sometimes a girl just needs some blocked nasal passages and a cup of hot tea.

But now I’m back, and the ‘legacy’ is still waiting patiently right where I left it.

So here we go. Trust and surrender.

Excuse me while I go someplace quiet and just… breathe.

 

SAFE CRACKER (SAFE part 2)


I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this business of safety, trust and surrender, because my life has changed so radically ever since I put all three of these into action last month in Sedona. In fact, I barely recognize myself these days.

A number of things have happened over the past few weeks that would’ve previously sent me spinning into waves and fits of anxiety and fearfulness. But now…nothing.

From car breakdowns a thousand miles from home; to stolen credit cards; to computer malfunction and potential loss of income; to howdy-do visitations from ghosts (or possibly angels, I don’t know – one invisible entity is much like another in my book).

Anyway, my point is, it’s been a cavalcade of what used to be code red anxiety-producing events.

But apparently there’s nothing that presses those fear buttons anymore. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the buttons themselves seem to have been permanently dismantled. And strangely enough, I would actually characterize the events of the past month or so as peaceful and enjoyably stress-free. Because I didn’t really blink an eye at any of it.

And there’s more.

In addition to the total lack of fear, I seem to have unexpectedly acquired a brand new ability to differentiate between the actual facts of a situation, and any stressful story I would’ve told myself about it in the past.

For example, when my credit card information was stolen, I was fully aware of the same old stories I might have chosen to attach to the event: Oh no! I’m not safe. Oh no! What will be stolen from me next? Oh no! What if my replacement card doesn’t arrive before I leave the country tomorrow?  But I clearly saw they were optional embellishments, not the reality itself. And so I wasn’t tempted to indulge in them anymore.

Instead there were only simple facts: My credit card was used to make two purchases. The card company reversed those charges and cancelled the account.  My new card would either arrive in time or it wouldn’t. Because no stories were woven around the facts, there was no anxiety – indeed, no suffering of any kind, associated with the incident. There was only joy. And gratitude. And profound peace.

After a lifetime of habitually anxious hand-wringing, I cannot begin to tell you how new and wonderful and utterly bizarre it is to live inside this unrecognizably serene new version of myself.

•          •          •

And so I wondered: What was so incredibly different about the trust and surrender I offered up at the Sedona cabin, versus the hundred thousand-odd other times I’ve tried it? I mean, I’m sincere as hell when I pray. Why did this particular set of prayers cause such deep and fundamental shifts in perception?

I took a long, careful look at this question, because I wanted to crack the code. To tease out the primary catalyst for the miracle I’ve experienced, and hold it up to the light so that I – and you – can get a good look at it.

The nucleus, the core difference between the Sedona Cabin prayer and all preceding ones seemed to be the fact that I was at the end of my rope when I offered it.

I guess I have a hard-ish time fully letting go of ego control under normal circumstances. (Perhaps you can relate.) But these circumstances were hardly normal. I accepted the possibility that surrender might cause my death and then surrendered anyway, because I couldn’t stand to be tormented by my own fears for one minute longer.

And so, I completely and fully surrendered my imaginary “control” of the situation to Spirit for the first time, I guess. Even though it felt like I was putting my life in extra danger by doing so. And I managed it despite being unable to trust even a little bit at that point.

And that’s the tricky thing about trust and surrender. The ego mind so dearly wants it to happen in just that order: Prove to me that I can trust, and THEN when I know it’s safe, I’ll surrender. (Maybe.)

 But unfortunately that just isn’t the way it works. Surrender comes first, and then the trust floods in afterward, along with the beautiful miracle of prayers answered.

Having to surrender before we trust isn’t some kind of twisted test set up by God to doublecheck on our worthiness, by the way. That’s not how God rolls.

Our inability to trust in advance is just a hurdle set up by our own ego mind as a means to protect itself.

Yes, it’s kind of a bummer that it works in that seemingly backward order. And your ego mind might want to convince you that surrendering first is some kind of dreadful “lady or the tiger” trick: be suckered into surrendering, and then discover too late that you’re worse off for having done it.

But that’s honestly never the case.

In my experience, anytime we manage to surrender, there’s a guaranteed jackpot waiting in the wings. (The jackpot is always there either way, of course. But surrender seems to enable us to accept it.)

•          •          •

So is “end-of-rope” suffering necessary in order to surrender deeply to God and accept all the good stuff that comes as a result?

Strictly speaking, no. Of course not.

We just tend to vastly prefer the suffering (i.e. hanging onto ego “control”), wrongly believing it’s the road to peace and freedom.

Oh honey. Au contraire. You want peace? You want freedom? Freedom is having a sense of peace and safety no matter what kind of stuff arises in your 3-D world.
If what you truly want is peace and freedom, then what you truly want is surrender.

Great big gobs of it. Run toward it with open arms. Ask for it with joy and gratitude, even if it feels scary as hell while you’re doing it.

You won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

 

SAFE


Being female in this world, I’ve always held certain unexamined assumptions about How Things Are. I believed the story that I’m weak and vulnerable. I believed my gender made me an automatic target for crime, and therefore I must be constantly on my guard against theft or bodily attack.

And so, like many women, I developed behavioral responses to my environment:

Never walk down alleyways at night.

Always check the back seat before getting in my car.

Listen for footsteps. Be aware of any cars that might be following mine.

Paranoia, in this case, seemed the smart and rational response to a dangerous world. And this hyper-vigilance gave me some illusory sense of control over my environment.

Despite ongoing enquiry into the nature (and trustworthiness) of my own beliefs, I had never seen fit to question this particularly far-ranging and pernicious set of fears.

I’d spent decades feathering my nest and arranging my life into the reassuring picture of comfort and control, you see. So my fears rarely had the chance to parade themselves in full.

Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Uh…no. They festered ever-present just below the surface of my consciousness, oozing low-level anxiety into every corner of my life instead.

•          •          •

So it’s been an interesting several months.

After 21 years as a comfortably married lady, I moved out of the house June 1st and gratefully spent the summer at my dear friend Kathy’s place. While there, my primary hobbies including staying awake nights and obsessing about lack of safety, potential loss of steady income, and fears of destitution and/or homelessness.

The theme was survival – was I capable of taking care of myself? And that age-old unconscious question at the base of all things: Did I really have any right to thrive in this world?

I discovered all my buried fears now had ample opportunity to come out and play: How would I live? Where would I go? Could I run my business without Kurt (I.T. Guy Extraordinaire in the next room), ready to bail me out of any technological jam?

There was more: Without a home base to call my own I’d be traveling around with all my worldly goods in tow, having no permanent place to stash my valuables. How would I protect myself from the constant threat of theft? I felt utterly vulnerable and unsupported in the world.

(Interestingly, I was surrounded by beautiful people on all sides who were offering huge quantities of loving support. But this frightening and pervasive lack of support was an inside job. And it welled up in me unceasingly, no matter what anyone around me said or did.)

•          •          •

At summer’s end, I packed up my little car and drove it across the desert to Sedona. I had no idea why Sedona, or what I might do there. But I had eventually gotten so bored with torturing myself over questions of where to go and what to do, that I surrendered the whole scary bag of worms to Spirit.

And Sedona it appeared to be, so now I was just uneasily following the prompts that seemed to point me toward red rock country.

One of these Spirit-inspired prompts was a Sedona house-share rental that I had taken sight unseen from Craigslist. It was a massive three-story log cabin in the woods, with broad balconies on all sides. It had spectacular views of Thunder Mountain.

So far so good.

This place was quite a bit more expensive than other house-shares I’d seen, but sounded a hundred times better than any private apartment I was likely to find for a similar price. So I took it.

I would have the whole second floor to myself — a huge bedroom with office area; balcony; sitting room; a closet big enough to park my Mini inside (if only I could’ve gotten it up the stairs) and a large separate bath. And there was a very spacious loft area at the other end of the second floor that was also mine – except for Wednesdays, when that space would be used for New Age chiropractic sessions of some sort.

All of that sounded fine, and the pictures looked good. But then I arrived, and saw what the photos hadn’t shown:  There were no doors on my room…just a bunch of curtains across an open expanse. No window coverings in most of the house, either, including my bathroom.

And when I asked for a key, I was told they didn’t use them. None of the locks worked on the house’s several exterior doors, apparently. Which didn’t seem to trouble my roommate Maurice (or any of his friends) because he never locked the doors anyway.

Okaaaaaay….

And then three days after I arrived, Maurice left town for two weeks and I was all alone in this giant, exposed, unlockable cabin in the woods. All alone, that is, except for the fifteen or twenty strangers who converged on the place every Wednesday to have their chakras tuned up and spines realigned.

Not only did this place push every safety fear button I had, it seemed to invent a half-dozen new ones.

I was especially terrified of coming home alone after dark to an empty, unlocked house. As I entered, I would turn on every light, methodically checking every room, every closet, under the beds and behind the shower curtains – investigating every potential hiding place to assure myself no unseen attackers were lurking.

I was also afraid that some of those chiropractic patients would surely recognize this house for the easy mark it was; over and over in my mind I’d picture them casing the joint and coming back after dark to steal the aforementioned worldly goods.

Or worse.

Every night in bed my mind ran obsessively through all the horrifying scenarios of What Might Happen. And I couldn’t seem to stop it. The heart-pounding, sick-making terror of it.

Oh yes. I knew these were all just ego stories I had invented.

I knew these fears weren’t real.

I knew I was One with all these horrifying “others” who populated my feverish imagination. And I certainly knew they were innocent in Truth.

But knowing all this didn’t make it a damn bit better. Not when it felt like my very survival was at stake.

•          •          •

But here’s the thing: These days I’m in a period of consciously examining all my deeply buried unconscious pain, fear and general gunk, together with Spirit. Just the action of witnessing all this hidden crap – just agreeing to bring my awareness to it and be with it unconditionally – this is powerful stuff, and it causes huge leaps in healing.

So whenever dark, difficult emotions crop up, I see it as a gift, and I welcome the emotional turbulence as a prime opportunity for transformation. And back at Kathy’s place, I had prayed to be able to witness my deepest fears and surrender them to Spirit once and for all, for total healing.

Hey, prayer answered.

Or the first half of it, anyway.

So I knew it was no accident I had come to stay in this funhouse of the damned. Besides, even while it made me sick with terror, funnily enough there was something about the house itself that felt like a big, warm hug. On some level I knew this cabin was a loving, gentle laboratory for working out my fears.

A safe place to feel howlingly unsafe in.

But. The obsessive scenarios of violent crime still played out in my head every night and refused to go away. Upon deep examination, I realized my pain stemmed from being helpless to control the situation. (Had the doors been lockable, I could’ve maintained the illusion of control. But in this wide-open vulnerability, I had no choice but to rely on those terrifying “others” – hoping they’d choose not to target this house. But clearly I would never have control over that.)

The truth, of course, is that none of us has control over such things, ever. But we whistle past the graveyard, and we buy alarm systems or firearms or life insurance policies; we build up savings and retirement accounts so that we can stop being afraid. So that we can sleep at night. So that we can give ourselves the illusion of control. But outside forces are outside forces, at least here in the 3-D world of illusion. And outside forces simply aren’t controllable.

The only way to be free of fear once and for all is to meet it where it actually lives:

Within.

After awhile, I found the pain of trying to control the uncontrollable was even more unbearable than the fear itself. So it became comparatively easy to surrender the whole awful situation to Spirit. And that’s saying a lot, because when push comes to shove, we all unconsciously believe surrender to God leaves us completely unprotected and vulnerable to attack.

In that ass-backwards, upside down logic of the ego mind, hanging onto the fear seems to offer some measure of protective armor. Some scrap of control. So if I was going to hand over my last scraps of protection and control, it meant I had to get to a place where I felt willing to die. Where surrender actually seemed a better solution than hanging onto the agony of “control.”

Like: I might as well agree to possibly be murdered in my bed, because living with this kind of mental pain – the endless imaginary future enactment of that murder – is worse than that.

So I surrendered and I trusted, mainly because I saw no other viable options.

 

Relief was not immediate.

It took days or weeks. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but one day I turned around and realized the fear had gone away completely.

The house was still the same.

The people, God love ‘em, continued to come and go, treating the cabin like a benevolent frat house.

It’s me that’s changed. I’m totally comfortable now.

•          •          •

Here’s a related subject: The other day in the late afternoon, Fran and I hiked Cathedral Rock. It had been years since I’d done it. Cathedral combines elevation hiking with a substantial amount of rock climbing, so it’s not a hike that can be rushed through. It takes some time.

I wasn’t thinking. It was sunny when we started out, so I wore my prescription sunglasses.

The sun had dipped below the horizon by the time we reached the top. By halfway down it was getting quite dark, so I had to choose between two less-than-ideal options: Make the rapidly deepening dusk even darker by wearing my shades? Or take them off and be as blind as…some kind of blind thing with its eyes closed?

The dilemma made me recall my first “midnight hike” in Sedona. (If you’ve read Long Time No See, you know about that hike.) How terribly anxious I’d been. And how astonished I was to emerge from that pitch-black wilderness experience entirely unscathed.

The lesson that night had been about trusting in Spirit, which was something I was unable to do back then. Then some time later, in another nature setting surrounded by towering Sequoias, I found myself once again worrying about dangerous predators and other safety hazards. And a lesson from Spirit emerged, which referenced that previous midnight hike:

“…The truth is that the bears and the ice are One with your holy Self. In perfect gentleness they support you and keep you safe within this dream world – just as the cactus and coyotes functioned to keep you safe during your pitch-black Sedona hike. Your One Self (which includes all bears, coyotes and prickly desert plants) supports you in your lesson plan as it lovingly awaits your awakening.”

At the time, it was too much to take in. Oh sure, I understood it intellectually. But it wasn’t until the other night, as I shimmied down a mountain in near total darkness, that I got it. I was entirely calm, without a shred of fear or anxiety, filled instead with a sense of total safety and trust in Spirit.

And, just as Spirit had described it back then, I could really feel the rocks and cactus and crickets and sky as my One holy Self, lovingly supporting my progress every step of the way. I felt our mutual gratitude. And our mutual joy.

In fact I felt like the richest, luckiest, giftiest person alive. And pretty much every minute since then has felt like Christmas morning.

•          •          •

The most extraordinary thing of all: So much more seems to have been healed than just the particular set of fears I thought I was handing over. These days I find myself striding through life in wholly unaccustomed ease and safety for the first time ever.

I have no concern for my personal security or the safety of my stuff. Yes, I remain mindful. I don’t leave my things unattended, or take foolish risks. But fear is gone. I am truly comfortable wherever I find myself.

And even more miraculous than that: For the first time in my life, I now know I have a right to be here. I mean, really know it.

I am safe in My own embrace. And I am Loved. Very, very Loved.

And it’s all an inside job.

I leave this crazy log cabin in a week or two, headed for my next adventure. I will be forever grateful for the things I left behind here. And for the new riches I carry with me, wherever I go.

 

 

 

I, PITBULL (or: how I learned to love the world)


I’ve been staying with my dear friend Kathy and her adorable dog Coco recently. The other day our little household swelled temporarily from three to four when Coco’s best buddy, a darling white pitbull named Cloudy, came for an extended visit.

Cloudy is a big snuggly ball of sweetness encased in 65 pounds of hard-packed muscle. And when he smiles – which is often – it’s literally from ear to ear. So delicious you could eat him with a spoon.

He has no idea why anybody would ever be afraid of him.

Pitbulls get a bad rap, in my opinion, and they don’t deserve their rotten reputation.  The fact is, I’ve never met a pitbull that wasn’t sweet natured; it seems to me if you really want a mean pitbull, you’d have to go pretty far out of your way to train him to be that way.

And yet.

To pretend a pitbull isn’t capable of great violence is to do the dog a disservice. The fact is, pitbulls were bred specifically to clamp down and hang onto other animals with those powerful jaws. That instinct is buried deep in the DNA.

If I were to assume this dog was a harmless jello baby made strictly for lovin,’ I could put him (and maybe also the neighborhood cats and Chihuahuas) at risk. In the wrong sort of threatening or confusing situation, those deep down genetics just might kick in.

A pitbull can’t help what he is. It’s up to me to see the dog clearly: To see past the unfair reputation so I can appreciate the cuddly nature, yes — but also keep one realistic eye on those fearsome jaws at all times.

•       •          •

And, in a rather roundabout way, that brings me to the topic of humans.

Like the folks who unfairly characterize all pitbulls as vicious thugs, I used to only see the worst in our collective human nature.

Oh sure, we were capable of great art. Great leaps of spirit. Occasional acts of selflessness, even. I acknowledged these anomalies grudgingly — but mostly I saw us as irredeemably miserable bastards, out to ravage the Earth and each other. And despite my best efforts over many years of spiritual practice, that attitude toward the world persisted for a very long time.

In fact I used to shake my head in bemusement at those eternally rose-colored optimists who insisted (despite all evidence to the contrary) that mankind was essentially noble and good. And that given the opportunity, we humans could be counted on to do the right thing most of the time.

Well. Clearly we can’t be counted on for any such thing. Our minds aren’t hardwired that way. And yet (just like pitbulls) when it comes right down to it, we’re not the slightest bit evil, either. We happen to have some nasty jaws on us, sure… but deep down we really just want to be loved.

Yet I was unable to truly feel any of that compassion for us in my heart. I could cut a dog all the slack in the world, it seemed, but when it came to humanity I just couldn’t seem to forgive us our trespasses.

•       •          •

Not to change the subject, but this has been a hell of a year for me. Deep spiritual crises followed by even deeper spiritual openings. The fledgling emergence of a profound new Self I never knew existed…which is totally awesome, at least on paper. But these shy introductions to this wise, powerful Carrie 2.0 have turned my life completely upside down. Let’s just say I’ve been both shaken and stirred.

But uncomfortable as it’s been, I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Getting to know this eternal Self has caused some amazing shifts in perception. Suddenly I can step outside many of those deepest (conscious or unconscious) beliefs that have caused me pain and kept me imprisoned in my own mistaken stuff for as long as I can remember.

And one of those deep beliefs – not just deep, but miles wide – was my casual certainty that the world was evil. That humanity was irredeemable. It wasn’t something I ever thought about consciously; I didn’t have to. The bleak facts of our existence, and our endless catalogue of crimes spoke for themselves. It was undeniable.

Wasn’t it?

One day a few months back while I was brushing my teeth, my newly emergent eternal wisdom unexpectedly asked this gentle question:

What if I’m wrong about the world?

As in: What if nobody’s actually guilty here? And what if every assumption I’ve ever made about our inherent evil is completely baseless?

(As is often the case with such communiqués, the words were accompanied by something much bigger and altogether wordless: A perfectly neutral snapshot of humanity as a whole, an overview of us as we’ve trundled along throughout our messy history — but witnessed now from beyond my own dark and narrow vantage point.

It was an invitation to see more clearly. To notice our deadly jaws, as it were, but to look beyond them for the very first time, to appreciate our inherent sweetness. Our yearning to know God, even if we often don’t call it that. And to let a lifetime of rigid fear and judgment melt away in the process.)

It was an opportunity, if I wanted it, to entertain an entirely different possibility about how to live in this world.

This was staggering. It had never before occurred to me that my attitude was mere opinion, subject to interpretation. I was so certain of the world’s evil, I had never even bothered wondering whether or not it was true.

(I know. WTF, right? I wrote a book all about self-inquiry; all about revisiting our deepest assumptions and asking ourselves if they’re really true. And I practice and teach A Course in Miracles, which is all about the world’s innocence, for God’s sake. Well. What can I tell you. I knew all those things in my head, but sometimes it takes frigging forever for such important information to travel from the head to the heart.)

And now, I’d experienced firsthand that the world was neither good nor bad. Wow. I realized that everything I had ever done, everything I was up until this point, had been constructed with defense or preemptive attack in mind.

How should I start to behave now that the world wasn’t evil?  This would surely change everything.

•       •          •

And it has. Just by acknowledging the possibility that I was wrong about the world’s nature, a spontaneous release of my old crusty stuff seems to have taken place.

Nowadays I mostly feel tenderness and empathy for us. I can see our hurts, our skinned knees where we’ve repeatedly fallen down on sharp gravel; I still have days when I’m appalled by our antics, but mostly I just want to clean the scraped knee, kiss it and make it better.

Yes, I acknowledge it’s possible one of you might pop me in the back of the head with a slingshot rock the moment I turn away to grab a clean bandage. Humans are like that – we haven’t stopped acting like little bastards. But knowing this, I watch carefully for signs of possible bad behavior and go on dressing the wound anyway. Because we’re all in this together.

Violence is programmed into our genetic code, but I’ve found if I look carefully beyond that surface aspect of our collective makeup, very quickly our truest nature begins to shine through. And you know, it ain’t half bad.