NOTE TO SELF

secret doorNote to self: There isn’t a single thing I would change about you
Even if I could.

Everybody talks about unconditional love. And it sounds awesome.
It also sounds like nothing we actually know how to do.

How to give love unconditionally to others?
This is how.

When you can sit in the presence of your own darkest shadow
And see all the stuff about yourself that you hate,
Or fear,
All those things you find ugly,
Everything you’re secretly ashamed of…

When you can embrace your own shadow self
Including all its cringe-worthy elements,
When you can say to your darkest self—and really mean it:

‘There isn’t a single thing I’d change about you
Even if I could…
(Yes, I still don’t like the things I don’t like about you. That hasn’t changed.)
But my love for you is way bigger than any of your limiting beliefs,
Way more constant than any of your dreadful behaviors.
My love is bigger than those extra 15 pounds you refuse to lose,
Bigger than the way you snort when you laugh
Bigger than the scars you insist on carrying
From way back when you were little.
My love for you is completely unaffected by all that stuff.
I’m here for you, no matter what.’

This is unconditional love.
And the moment you feel it authentically for yourself, you will instantly recognize
This is the only kind of love that actually exists.
The rest of it is shadow-puppet love.
Placeholder love.
Something to kill time (and relationships) with
Until the real thing comes along.

Be the real thing for your own beautiful self.
This is not a selfish act.
Once you feel the real kind of love for yourself
It becomes clear how to give this gift to others, too:

Feel absolutely no need to change a thing about them.
Let them remain as flawed, as blind or annoying as they want to.
And love them anyway.
It opens you up to a world of joy.

THE TERRORIST IS WITHIN

jailbird-withinThese days I can’t help but notice the vast number of unconscious agreements we all make with each other throughout our lives. We make them between individuals, between families, between nations. Not all of these agreements are bad things, of course; some of them are meant to keep the world running smoothly.

It’s just that these agreements we make are…well…unconscious. Nobody is reading the fine print before signing these contracts. And because we unknowingly sign up for these agreements, we’re unaware we have other options. It all feels like it’s out of our hands. A done deal.

And of course, many of these unconscious agreements are not intended to provide harmony or stability for the good of all mankind. Quite the opposite.

Which brings me to the topic of terrorism. It’s on my radar screen right now because I leave for Bali in a couple of weeks—just as Indonesia is heating up once again as a potential terror target.

The point of terrorism is revealed in the name; no secrets there. A few people can create a very large effect in the world, by carrying out acts designed to shock and traumatize its citizenry. The point of their effort, obviously, is to instill terror.

Except nobody is forced to feel terrified in response. Nobody is forced to feel unsafe, outraged, horrified or angry.

It’s only the unconscious agreement we all signed that says you should respond in this way. That guy over there did something horrifying; therefore I have no choice but to respond with horror. But is that really true? Are there no other options? And is horror really the most appropriate or useful response to a horrifying act?

There are any number of large public institutions and corporations throughout the world today that profit greatly from mass fear. Too many to name, really. (No point in getting angry about that, by the way—we’ve all signed the contracts that allow for it.)

What do you suppose would happen if, one by one, we all sat up, rubbed our sleepy eyes, and then erased our name from those contracts that agree to uphold mass fear? There’s nothing preventing it, you know.

Terror is a two-part agreement: One – Somebody does awful, shocking things.

And Two – You agree to feel terrified. The actual terror happens within you.

This was a pact made innocently, of course. You were sound asleep when you agreed to it. Nevertheless, this is the two-part structure that allows terrorism to work. It’s only through your participation and mine that terrorism is able to make a complete circuit. So when enough of us start withdrawing our consent from that arrangement, the whole structure soon collapses.

You can choose to withdraw your participation and unplug from the terror machine any time you want. Well, that’s what I’ve chosen to do, anyway. I look at the work of ISIS, and I’m not responding to it with fear anymore. So now there’s one less person completing that circuit.

I’m not immune to the invitation to fearfulness that ISIS is sending out. I recognize they’re doing plenty of things I can be afraid of, if I want to be. But I’ve consciously decided not to attend that party. How quickly do you suppose terrorism would fade as a viable tool for world manipulation, if more and more people simply refused to RSVP to that fear invitation?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Draining terrorism of its primary food is an important start, but it’s not an actual solution. It still implies that there’s an enemy that must be vanquished. So I’m personally going way beyond simply unplugging, because I know how energetic intention and vibration work.

Energetically speaking, the action of unplugging alone still contains the vibration of Us versus Them. It means I’ve found an efficient way of bringing terrorism to its knees—but this vibratory Us versus Them intention is the very thing that keeps the whole unhappy dance of terrorism locked in that same old perpetual motion machine of victim and victimizer, of revenge and one-upmanship.

So for a change, I’m quitting that, and instead trying what truly works: I’m standing up to squarely face the terrorists responsible for the many acts of terrible violence all over the world. And I’m refusing to judge. I simply stand firm as I hold them in my unflinching gaze. And as I face them I consciously radiate the love that I am.

The love I radiate is agenda-free. It doesn’t seek to annihilate any structures or institutions. It doesn’t seek any outcomes at all—if it did it wouldn’t be authentic love. Love sees only the perfection that it knows itself to be. It doesn’t insist that anybody has to change. And that’s a good thing, because trying to force anybody to change never works. Not really.

Authentic love is the technology of the spiritual badass: By seeing no enemies anywhere, love works to unravel fearful mass agreement, and detangles the energetic bonds that hold things like terrorism in place. Don’t ask me how. I just know that it does.

What?!, shouts the mind. No judgment for such terrible acts? Unthinkable!

Yes, I know. The mind doesn’t get it, and it never will. The mind wants you to believe that non-judgment of terrible things makes you a co-conspirator. The mind believes refusal to engage on the same old battleground means you’ve turned your back on the victims, and now you condone, or even applaud the terrible things that terrible people do.

But that just isn’t true. It’s time to put the arguments of the mind aside, because frankly they don’t work. Fighting enemies just brings on more of the same. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Contracts that call for fighting fire with fire can easily be broken.

So forget the arguments of the mind. It’s time for something different. This is a job for the ultimate superhero: The heart. The limitless transformational power of unconditional love is one of those paradoxical things that the mind can’t seem to figure out. But the heart, the very seat of spiritual bad-assery…well it just knows.

So I’m grateful to ISIS, in a way, for this beautiful opportunity that has arisen on my personal radar screen. It gives me the chance to discover more of who I am in truth. More chance to experience the unconditional love that I am, in action.

If spiritual bad-assery is a technology that appeals to you too, I invite you to respond to ISIS with open-hearted, agenda-free love instead of fear. If you’re inspired to join my party of one, feel free to RSVP to this invitation instead of theirs. You know where to find me.

A Tree Grows in Dorset

tree wingsActually, lots of trees grow in Dorset—England is a very green and beautiful place. But this particular tree sprouted only a few nights ago, and it may well be the first of its kind. This is a tree of freedom. A tree of safety for all.

••

Here’s one way of describing the human condition: Each of us lives in our own little fairytale cottage, and all of these cottages are set in a beautiful forest. We all deeply love the forest. Our ancient family roots are there.

But we’re each sealed up in our own little house. There’s no door to the outside. And the windows are coated with the grime of 10,000 years, so no light gets in. We long for a view of the forest, our true ancestral home—but we can’t see a damn thing out those windows.

So we spend all our time looking through magazines, tearing out beautiful pictures of forests instead. And then we tape them up over the windows and pretend the view is real. When those images yellow with age, we tape new ones over top.

It’s just what we do.

And yet it doesn’t satisfy. Magazine pictures don’t smell like a forest. Birds don’t make their home in them. Putting up pictures (an activity designed to alleviate the ache of homesickness) actually makes the pain worse.

I got bored with putting up pictures long ago. I wanted to be able to see the forest outside my window. So over the past few decades I’ve been persistently clawing away at the crackly, yellowed scotch tape that holds those magazine pictures in place. Layer after layer, the old faded pictures were removed. Every so often I would take a break from this activity, and run to a different window—the one in my office, say—and put a new picture up.

It’s a habit that’s very deeply ingrained. It took some concentration and effort to learn how to stop doing it.

In recent years, most of my windows were now no longer covered with magazine images. There was still sticky goo from mountains of ancient Scotch tape around the edges, and a few torn corner fragments still remained here and there. But the false pictures themselves had mostly been taken down.

This didn’t mean I was then able to see the forest outside. All I saw was the impenetrable grime that caused me to put up pretty pictures to cover it up in the first place.

So now I was severely bummed out by the view. Poor me. All that hard work for nothing. My windows were so dark and ugly, and I was no nearer my goal of seeing what was outside. Seemingly.

But of course that wasn’t true. The decision to stop wallpapering over the grime is itself a huge step in the right direction. Taking down old pictures is a necessary start. But what now? I looked around at all my grimy windows and sat down on the floor in a puddle of tears. After I stopped sobbing (a year or two later) I looked up to notice a beautiful, luminous, heavenly gift had been quietly placed by my side.

It was a mop and a bucket.

The window grime was my own. I put it there, and I was the only one who—with divine help—could remove it. It was time, clearly, to get busy and clean my own damn windows.

A funny thing happens when you start to clean your own windows. Even though you’re focused on washing the window glass, the outlines of a door start to automatically appear all by themselves, over there where only a blank wall had been before.

The door was always there. You just couldn’t see it, for all the shmutz on the windows. The light was just too dim.

••

So all this talk about grimy windows (and reappearing doors) is all well and good…but what does that actually mean, to clean your own windows? What does that look like in practical terms, and why bother doing it?

First off, this is why it’s important to attend to one’s own grimy windows before doing anything else: If the world outside my window seems to fall off its collective bicycle—yep we’re introducing yet another metaphor into the mix—gashing its knee and howling with shock and pain, it’s my own wound that actually needs attention first.

I won’t be able to correctly perceive anything about the world’s so-called knee injury unless I’m willing to address my own throbbing knee, right where I am. Because in truth I wouldn’t be seeing a bike wreck in the first place, if I hadn’t first pasted a picture of it on my grimy window. It’s me who needs the paramedics.

Those of us who want a clear window view, bless our hearts, we tend to try and scrub down the outsides of the windows first. Fix the problems we see ‘out there.’ But we’re not on the outside, so we can’t get at them. Besides, in truth the outsides of the windows are sparkling clean. They just look dirty from in here.

Everything depends on cleared perception. Because as long as my windows are grimy and covered with magazine pages, all I’m actually looking at is a picture of a bike accident.

But as my own injured knee responds to my loving attention and care, I’ll be better able to recognize what (if any) action should be taken to help heal the ongoing bicycle mishap that seems to be happening out there. Until my own knee is attended to, outward efforts to fix the pain of others don’t mean a damn thing. Not really.

So I’ve been patiently cleaning my own windows first. Taking responsibility for the distorted lens through which I view myself and my world. And here’s what that means:

I’ve been welcoming in my own stuff, my own uncomfortable baggage. Not necessarily to try and fix it. I invite it in so I can accept it, just as it is right now. All that stuff I dislike about myself—the stuff I judge, the stuff that brings me pain, fear and frustration—I’m not suppressing it, or wallpapering over it anymore.

I’m not fighting with it or denying it. I’m letting all those discarded, rejected bits of myself come back and be seamlessly reintegrated as newly remembered, newly loved and respected parts of my one indivisible self.

I’m cleaning and kissing that infected gash on my own knee, as it were, before even trying to bandage the giant, collectively wounded knee I seem to see out the window. And ever since I started doing that—instead of focusing my attention on the wreck outside—the changes have been profound.

••

It dawned on me not long ago, in one of those spectacularly mundane DUH moments, that instead of working hard to get my own needs met first, and only then helping all others—my spiritual and worldly method of operation up until this point—I could simply focus on meeting the needs of all beings, for the highest good of all.

Why? Because ‘all beings’ includes me. (DUH.)

When the highest good of all is my firm intention, my own highest and best needs for safety, survival, love and all the rest of it, are automatically met—just as everybody else’s are. Not only that… my own life is bound to be that much safer and more beautiful if everybody in it is happy and released from pain, too. Right?

So why wouldn’t I choose to live in this way? What the hell took me so long?

••

A few nights ago I was reflecting on the whole idea of fear. Recognizing that it all boils down to a simple desire for safety. All those terrible things we do, all the awful effects out in the world, are really just cries in the dark. We all just want to feel safe. I just want to feel safe.

And all of a sudden, a shaft of very clear light shone through one of my less grimy windows. And I realized: I can do something about that. For the highest good of all—and therefore for myself.

On behalf of all beings, I open myself to receive the fearful anxieties and terrified emotions of the entire world. All of the pain and misperception, all of the naked hunger for peace and safe harbor—including my own. Bring it. I welcome it all gladly. And let a heavenly recycling plant operate as me, through me, allowing all universal pain and fear to be dissolved, transformed and purified within. And let my smokestacks belch infinite pristine peace and healing back out into the world, for all eternity.

And you know what? When I set that intention, when I agreed to stop screwing around inside the cottage, and finally try my hand at stepping out the door to take on my true job description…my own remaining fears and anxieties melted away. And for that moment at least, I experienced myself as not only being outside in the forest—I was the forest itself.

I am the forest.

Or at least, in practical terms, I’m a single tree—quietly absorbing the world’s pain and fear, and allowing heaven’s divine essence to perfume the atmosphere via my branches, leaves and flowers.

Imagine what the world might be like if lots of people were doing that same thing.

I’m not actually ‘doing’ anything, by the way. It’s all done for me, through me. As me. My only job is to let the process take place. And that’s amazingly easy to do. It’s only the decision to do it, that seems so ridiculously hard.

The world can use a few million-billion more of this kind of tree. Don’t you think?

So let every day be Arbor Day. And if you feel inspired, consider this your invitation to come on outside and rediscover the forest. Smell the fresh air. Dance in the sunlight. And maybe decide to be the fantastically beautiful tree of divinity you were always born to be. For everybody’s sake. For the highest good of all—which definitely includes your own.

— Carrie is the author of 3 books. Her latest, Tastes Like God, will be released July 30, 2015.

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: 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.

 

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

A Year Without Fear: I AM $600,000. (AND SO ARE YOU.)

prosperityAt the end of my previous post, The $600,000 Gatekeeper, I reported that the internal arbiter standing between me and limitless creative expression seemed to have permanently abandoned its mission.

Afterward, a friend asked, “So if the gatekeeper is gone, are you now able to feel you deserve $600,000?” I didn’t know. I said I’d get back to him.

When I first met the gatekeeper, it showed itself to me as a frightened figure trying singlehandedly to hold back all of creation. It didn’t seem terribly interested in whether or not I deserved a randomly large amount of money. The outsized request itself was the threat.

In general, I would say the gatekeeper didn’t much like or approve of me. But there wasn’t much it did like or approve of, frankly. It was a very tired and cranky young sentinel, and I didn’t know whether judging deservedness was even part of its job description. Now that the gatekeeper had left the building, did all disapproval go with it? I grabbed my lamp and merged with my highest wisdom self, to find out.

We went within to have another good look around. I made the same exploratory statement as before: I’m in the mood to receive $600,000. Then my highest wisdom self and I watched carefully, taking note of all feelings that arose in response.

The answer to the deservedness question wasn’t entirely obvious at first. Where a sense of constriction or limitation used to be, I found only silently peaceful expansiveness. Nothing inside there cared about $600,000 one way or the other. But if I wanted to have it, there seemed no clear, self-generated reason why I shouldn’t.

I shone my lamp more deeply into the question of what I deserve, or what I am worth. I wasn’t prepared for what I found.

A fundamental sea change had taken place. A shift so profound, I can barely find words to describe it. And I hadn’t even noticed it happening.

•          •          •

I need to back up a bit here, to put this astonishing transformation into perspective for you. Throughout this lifetime, in my deepest unconscious core I always believed I was a hatefully unlovable troll. An abnormal, unforgivable blight on the universe.

No amount of spiritual work has ever convinced me otherwise. Not down there, in the deepest slumbering places where the sun don’t shine. This fixed core belief in my desperate unworthiness and unacceptability seemed forever out of reach and beyond help.

Until this week. Until I got to experience myself as creation itself. The higher wisdom self and I brought our light of conscious illumination into that great internal vastness for the very first time. It became a wonderful, softly welcoming experience, very beautiful to witness, as our light made tracers in the darkness and gently awakened bits of my comatose creative self.

Apparently the hate-filled unconscious core thing had been watching this whole event. After it witnessed the spectacular movement of universal creation flowing through me, AS me—well, this core thing seems to have radically revised its opinion.

It’s actually starting to think I’m pretty damn cool.

•          •          •

Do I deserve $600,000? What a goofy, charmingly irrelevant question. How can I not deserve the limitless creation that I already am? I am $600,000, for God’s sake. And I’m Buckingham Palace and the Taj Mahal thrown in. Which kind of makes me want to start singing a Cole Porter song to myself:

I’m the top

I’m the Coliseum

I’m the top

I’m the Louvre Museum…

 

I haven’t mentioned it much yet, but it was fully clear to me as I witnessed myself in my spectacular universal function of creation, that you are that same identical thing too. You are every bit as vast, as grand, and as unstoppably limitless. (I know people say that kind of thing to you all the time. Books are full of it. But I’m reporting my own eyewitness account, here. And I’m telling you: Really. No shit. YOU ARE ALL THAT. And a bag of chips.)

•          •          •

But here’s the fine print on that contract:

If you want to know yourself as the limitless creation you truly are, you don’t get to cherrypick only the parts you like.

Yep, I’m the Mona Lisa and the Tower of Pisa (to go back to Cole Porter for a minute). But I’m also the slums of Rio. I’m the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and I’m every guy who ever drowned a sackful of unwanted kittens.

Write a song about that. I dare ya.

As I sat merged in meditation with the highest wisdom self and our lamp of illumination, I recognized I am responsible for all of creation. And my responsibility is to stop turning away from the creation that I am. I don’t have to like it all. But I must accept the whole package without resorting to the sort of schizophrenic denial I’ve been using since time began. I am required to know myself consciously and willingly as I truly am, in other words, or not at all.

The contract is to love without judgment. To help where I can. To step in and intervene if called to, but to do so without employing rejection or denial or a wish to find anyone or anything guilty–for those I would condemn are all very clearly parts of my own creation. Parts of my own creative self.

That’s what my creative self actually is. Its only function, its sole identity is constant, nonjudging, impartial creation. It couldn’t pause, take a breather from 100% neutral creating, even if it wanted to. And it doesn’t want to. In fact it doesn’t want anything. It already is everything. And it makes no judgment whatsoever about the unholy unconscious purposes you and I put our creative function to. It just endlessly creates, creates, creates whatever we ask of it.

So that’s what my larger self is. It refuses to judge its own constant creations. I know–I’ve seen it, felt it as me. Do I go on denying that nonjudging creative self? Running away from it? Being terrified of it? Blaming others for it? Hating others? There are no others.

And I’m done with that whole self-hatred business, really. The self-hating unconscious core and the vast creative self are the same self. There’s only one, you know.

I’m inclined to stop fighting City Hall. So I agreed to the contract as wholeheartedly as I could. And as I did it, I felt my spine gently slip out of alignment. All by itself. (Ow.)

Not all parts of me are equally on board with this, it seems. I literally do not have my own support. At least not yet.

How does this contractual agreement change things? Does it change things?

My chiropractor and I haven’t a clue. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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?

 

 

 

ENLIGHTENMENT-AHOLIC


Road-to-NowhereFunny, isn’t it. You’re positively sure you know some fact or other; you understand it completely from your head down to your toes. And then one day the candle of Knowing spontaneously ignites, and whoosh!  It’s made a liar out of you, just like that.

The other night I came to know — really know — there’s no point to the goal of attaining future enlightenment.

Mind you, I would have said I already knew that chasing a phantom “future enlightened state” is an exercise in futility. I seem to recall I wrote a book on that very topic.

And yet I discovered I was doing just that.

I realized I was still seeking enlightenment as a future-based end goal, complete with checkered flag and trophy cup. One more item to check off the to-do list. But there is no end goal, and no finish line where enlightenment is concerned. How could a limitless state of awareness ever be brought to completion?

I honestly thought I knew better. [You probably know better too.]

But when an authentic knowing floods in and rewires your perception, as it did the other night, you can’t help but recognize with a shock that up until now, you really didn’t know what you thought you knew.

That you didn’t, in fact, know squat.

Because now, suddenly, you have become the knowing — and no amount of shriveled-up previous mental “knowledge” compares, once that fully integrated whoosh of living, breathing, juicy, mind-body-Spiritual embodied wisdom takes permanent hold of you.

•          •          •

It happened this way:

Having recently vowed to live our lives as “loving servants of God *with plumbing*” (it was me who added the plumbing clause to the contract, because I do enjoy a good hot shower in the mornings), Steve and I have taken to spending big chunks of our day in meditation or contemplative prayer, since we have no clear idea of what form that service might take.

But we haven’t been praying in the sense of asking or telling Spirit what our ego minds think should happen; rather we’re doing our best to simply stay open and empty and trusting, and rest in God while listening for…what?

Inspiration, I guess.

Mostly I get Big Silence. Peaceful, sure. Grounded? Absolutely. But not much clear direction happening on the topic of loving service – or any other.

This particular day’s meditation was much the same. But then suddenly at the end, the candle whooshed, the dominoes fell and a fully formed knowing clicked into place:  It’s pointless for me to go on chasing the goal of enlightenment. It’s only my ego mind that seeks it, and what’s the mantra of the ego? Seek and do not find.

I had long ago convinced myself that awakening was a necessary step toward choosing Love instead of fear, because theoretically if I’m awakened I’ll be present enough at all times to remember to choose correctly between them.

Sound enough logic, as far as it goes. But it’s a future-based ego trap, designed to put an end goal on something that has no finish line.

And then a second knowing whooshed in: I needn’t wait for, or struggle toward enlightenment (which is a pointless effort anyway because the time and circumstances of my awakening are not within my control). I need only choose to let my life be guided by Love in every moment starting right now. Awake or not awake is kinda beside the point, when one’s life is being shaped and moved and art-directed by God.

So I let go of enlightenment as a goal. And I chose to let every moment of my life be guided by Love instead.

I can’t say it felt good, letting go of that firmly entrenched goal – which is a pretty fair indicator of how deep my attachment actually was.

I felt disappointed, deflated in the pit of my stomach. And alarmingly close to tears. My identity as a spiritual seeker was a huge chunk of who I thought I was. If I was no longer chasing enlightenment, my ego mind would now be forced to give up acres of prime real estate.

And then a third knowing tumbled in on the heels of the other two: Letting go of the cherished goal of future enlightenment allows me to have less resistance to what’s going on right now, in this moment.

THIS moment is the classroom, the treasure, the eternal choicepoint. Every gorgeous, messy, imperfect, confusing moment of it is a fresh opportunity to be guided by Love. But if this moment is chronically unworthy because there’s no awakening happening in it, how can I hope to embrace it fully and receive all the infinite gifts it has to offer?

Ah. Oh I see. Ok, I get it now.

It’s all well and good to agree to let my life be guided by Love. But it’s not quite the passive activity I imagined it to be. (Not at this stage of my development, anyway.) I’m no leaf, peacefully surrendered to the eddying stream; I’ve got a very bossy ego that is still mostly sure it knows best in every situation. And that ego will not hesitate to grab a motorboat and tear upriver at full throttle against the current anytime I let it.

So am I serious about living my life in alignment with Divine Will? Do I really want to let Love guide me?

If so, then an ongoing commitment to action is required. It’s my moment-to-moment responsibility, as crap hits various fans, to pause, step back and ask: How would Love have me respond in this situation?

To ask it over and over, as many times a day as I manage to remember to do it. And this is key: To ask it and listen. And not assume I already know the answer.

Oooh, another small whoosh: Yes, forgiveness will always be a component of the answer. But Love is chiefly concerned with extending Love. So the decision to be guided by Love is a request to be used by Love as a conduit for actively healing, nourishing and replenishing everybody and everything I encounter.

Them, before myself.

And I haven’t a clue what’s the best way to do that in each new situation. Only Love knows.

So it’s a whole new moderately unfamiliar landscape here that I’m looking at, one with several key landmarks missing. And a certain amount of mildly uncomfortable newfound humility heaped on top.

I haven’t entirely made sense of it all yet, but there seems to be a faint, sparkly joy playing around the edges of it. But I can’t absolutely swear to that.

We’ll see.

I’ll let you know.

 

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.