Awakening, Consciousness, Spirituality, The Soul, Truth

Three Spiritual Truths

A few days ago, someone asked me to share three things with them about spirituality. Just three? I thought. Given the opportunity, I’ll go on about this shit forever, which is exactly while I have this blog. It took me a minute to generate an answer, but when I did, I wrote back fervently and had to cut myself off because I knew he was probably getting a lot more than he bargained for. My response turned into this post.

This conversation actually occurred in a Tinder chat window. I’m sharing this piece of information a) for the sake of openness, b) to illustrate that opportunities to share truth can come in unexpected places, and c) to point out that really, no activity is more or less “spiritual” than any other.

I’ve actually made some very nice connections through this medium, even though for a long time it was something I was completely closed to. Being closed has probably protected me at times, but it’s also shut me off from a lot of really awesome people, including those I wouldn’t normally consider “my type.” We all have people in our lives who like to categorize and mock “other kinds” of people. This is, quite frankly, super ignorant. I have yet to meet someone who is incapable of showing me some depth if I ask the right questions. I have let go of thinking I have “a type” and of meeting people any particular way: The divine leaves nothing out and holds no thing or person in higher regard than another. It is only our minds that do this.

Still I admit that Tinder is largely a weird distraction I stumbled into while traveling. Even though it’s resulted in some interesting conversations (and a couple I ducked out of pretty quickly), I’ll probably delete it because really, what do I think I’m even doing? Any sort of partner for me (which I guess I’m not so much avoiding as I am trying to navigate with significantly more awareness than I have in past years [also, I’ve been failing at this again]) is not likely to be someone who is swiping through Tinder.

Then again, I’m on Tinder right now, so I guess you never know. I’m becoming less and less convinced that our outward choices (aside from things like, you know, murder and war and abuse) are very indicative of what’s going on inside. People do things for all kinds of reasons—most of them are surely unconscious—and sometimes people do things for no reason at all. In most cases, it’s been my projection to assume I know why anyone does anything, and that’s a projection I’d like to let go of.

Somehow I’m rambling about Tinder at this point and that feels absurd, so I’m gonna stfu and get on with this list:

1: Consciousness/Truth/Self/God/Soul/Reality/Pure awareness are all synonyms. They are also literally the same in all beings. Everyone’s true identity is this ineffable thing, but we routinely mistake ourselves for the body/mind.

We get so hung up on words and their precise definitions, as if knowing them will get us somewhere. Aside from the fact that there really is nowhere to go, it’s important to remember that when it comes to reading spiritual lessons/listening to spiritual teachers, we stop trying so hard to nail down concepts. Truth isn’t conceptual. It is also important to learn how to listen to energy more so than content, because anyone can say these things without ever having a deep insight. We all know how to read energy to some degree. If you start to pay attention to this skill, it will sharpen on its own.

From our average conditioning (inaccurate perception), the words generally get defined like this:

Consciousness: Human thought and thinking.
Truth: Different for everyone.
God: An external creator of reality. If one is religious, God is tied to a particular prophet.
Soul: Something special and individual that every human has.
Reality: The world we appear to live in and the events that go on in it.
Awareness: Mental knowledge of something.
Who we Are: An individual with unique traits and life situations.

Waking up turns all this on its head. I know I use a whole lot of words, and I appreciate them. But I see quite clearly that with regards to teaching, they can only be used to point the mind back inwards towards Truth. We see that instead of there being multiple definitions that are super important to understand, there really is just this one thing that is beyond definition. We learn to use words differently according to the situation, but loosely, the above words refer to the same Absolute.

This brings me to # 2…

2: Pure consciousness cannot be understood by the mind. I have said this before. I will say it again. Many teachers say this, and yet the vast majority of us continue to approach spirituality by thinking, and then we end up frustrated.

This is why meditation has been the recommended practice for so long: In time, it puts distance between you and your mind, allowing you to truly examine your crazy and then get it out. While changing the way you think can be extremely powerful, Truth cannot be talked to or thought to. What can we do then? The answer is always the same; it is never new: Change habits, start sitting with yourself regularly, read some spiritual books, and see what emerges.

Sometimes I get in discussions with those who are entirely in their minds, like Truth is another idea or a piece of trivia to pick up. It is not that. In order to effectively have these conversations, we have to drop into a different kind of energy and be ready to be wrong about everything we think we know. This is problematic for many people, because most egos don’t like to be wrong. At some point, we can round a corner where being wrong is welcomed and interesting, but early on, when we are still trying to have “debates” about spiritual matters, being wrong is avoided. As soon as we’re identified with what we already think we understand, we will defend it. I still watch this happen inside of myself sometimes, but it seems to be fading.

Intellectual understanding is a function of the mind, and the mind is couched within pure consciousness. Truth can be known but this knowing is different from intellectual understanding. In the same way that I can only weakly describe what it’s like to get music-tingles or fall in love, I can’t explain this thing to anyone on a mental level.

I end up in a lot of conversations where I can feel, energetically, that we are approaching the discussion from the level of mental understanding. The person I am talking to is looking for evidence, reasoning, and other intellectual functions. These conversations don’t go very far anymore, because I truly have no interest or emotional charge caught up in arguments. This change was pretty hard for my ego to digest at first because my top two favorite things used to be getting drunk and entertaining philosophical discussions.

But, Truth is not a piece of trivia, a set of beliefs, or any other kind of dogma. It simply is.

3: The ultimate truth of existence can be known. Sometimes I run into this maxim when I end up in talks about spirituality: “We can never really know these things for sure.” It feels like I am expected to agree with it, but I don’t.

Actually, we can know. If I had any doubts about Reality, I would have never changed my life. If I went through hell and back only to be wading through the waters of doubt about who I am, what would be the point? The goal is to firmly know, and this is possible. Having the ability to realize the Absolute is the greatest privilege of being human, even though it can come with the experience of egregious suffering as well.

Lots of times people insist that it is impossible to be sure, generally because they are still looking for answers in their minds. Usually they have not started any spiritual practice and are engaged in consciousness-lowering behaviors, and yet they still say it cannot be known. This is always kind of weird to me. It’s like saying we can’t know for sure what color the sky is, but they’ve never even looked up.

In this case, “looking up” would be to give up habits that lower consciousness and commit to a life rooted in pursuit of self-knowledge. This only happened for me after I was graced with a strange and totally unexpected awakening. It can happen in an instant, truly.

Many of us are not consciously seeking Truth, and that is also fine. Know that it is always in your power to walk the path, but it’s serious work, even with the huge energetic boost of an awakening. At first it is deeply uncomfortable to see how wrong and ignorant you are about life and your identity. Now I find it to be generally fun, and have a little laugh at my mind when I notice it’s got me caught up in all the same bullshit as always (Oh hi Tinder/preoccupations with dudez).

In any case, we all arrive here in due time. It’s all happening just as it should, and it’s always an individual’s choice if they’d like to put in more effort. I highly recommend it, but also have no desire to convince anyone of anything.

lish ❤

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Addiction, Inner Work, Mental Health, Personal, Sobriety, The Mind, Transformation

The Glory of Sobriety

You never could have convinced me that being sober was going to be this awesome. From the drunk side, sobriety looks like it sucks. It looks like the thing you “have” to do when your drunken behaviors sadly catch up to you, like you have to sit down in a room full of people and say things like “I’m an alcoholic” with a bunch of strangers. The idea of sobriety seemed very depressing and fluorescent-lit and full of bad coffee and store-bought pastries. It felt stale, and I really had (what I thought was) fun getting drunk.

Interestingly, there are probably only a few individuals in my life who knew how bad my drinking was. When people find out I’m sober, usually they say something along the lines of “I didn’t know you struggled with alcohol*.” To most, I probably looked like something of a “normal” drinker who occasionally overdid it. I’d never lost a job to it, I didn’t drink and drive, I didn’t become violent while drunk or use other hard drugs… I just drank. A lot. Still, I managed to keep it just to the side of the line most people deem problematic, and only talked about it with people who were very close to me.

However, I knew that drinking was a destructive behavior rooted in the need to avoid generations of pain and also as a way to maintain my energy (which, as it turns out, can get pretty ridiculously high). I felt deeply ashamed of the way I routinely sickened myself. My father was an addict and I was addict and I felt like would only ever perpetuate this issue in my family. Hiding it was part of it.

I knew it was a problem by the time I was in my early 20s, and by my mid-20s I was launching all kinds of “cutback” campaigns: A four-drink max, a month off here and there to make sure I wasn’t physically dependent, a relinquishing of hard alcohol, etc. I suspect anyone reading this is familiar with the game we play before we’re finally hit with the understanding this has to stop now. It takes all of us something different to get there. As this game went on, I still hated the idea of quitting full-stop, in part because I thought it meant I wouldn’t be social anymore.

But you know what’s so awesome about being sober now? I still party. I stay up til all hours in conversation, I go to shows, I dance my ass off, and I meet amazing people. I definitely had to sit totally alone eating cake in front of a TV for about 8 months before I got to this point, but my travels have taught me that I can still be outgoing and do even more fun stuff because I’m not nursing hangovers and/or feeling awkward without a drink.

The flipside of drinking is that, in time, it totally erodes your self-confidence. You begin to only feel capable of interacting with others in a real way when you’ve had a beer or two. You start to drink out of habit, alone, while writing or reading and don’t even care to interact as often anymore. Even if you don’t feel you cross the threshold into “addiction,” it really does begin to isolate you and keeps you from pursuing a more interesting life. Alcohol becomes your bestie, and all kinds of opportunities slip away.

For a good number of us, drinking slowly yet predictably becomes warm, easy, and eventually life-denying.

*Just because I get asked so often: No, I don’t smoke weed either. Although the physical effects are far less damaging than most other drugs, the path to true freedom is about releasing attachments without exception. That includes weed, my loves.

I’m not going to bullshit you: The work of getting sober is the work of a lifetime—that’s because it’s you, literally reclaiming your life.

And you should be prepared for literally everything to change as a result of getting sober, including those things that seem fine right now. It is possible that once you are in a clearer, more elevated headspace, certain friendships/relationships/employment situations won’t feel right anymore. You’ll start to get a sense that much more is possible for your life if you can give up drugs and alcohol.

I now consider getting sober to be something of an overall “life upgrade” rather than simply the illness-oriented idea of “recovery.” Yes, we’re recovering, but getting sober changes your mind dramatically as you heal your brain and body. If you upgrade your mind by clearing it of toxins, you’ll also upgrade your perception of reality (a function of the mind), as well as begin to uplift other people’s as well. I don’t know if that sounds too hippie-dippie for you all, but this is my experience with getting sober.

Some things will immediately improve (my skin was smoother and shockingly not-dehydrated after about two weeks), and others will take some time (feeling confident enough in my writing to launch this blog, submit fiction to publications/pursue writing in a real way, peace out on my life to move to an ashram with no guarantees, etc.).

In any case, if you stick with it, changes will occur.

I want to be clear that none of this is about “changing your relationship to alcohol.” That’s what I thought I wanted to do for a long time. Now, when I talk to people about sobriety, I hear them say these kinds of things, but I don’t buy into the rhetoric. It reveals that they still think alcohol is a “good thing” they’d like to “be able” to partake in. It is not that. Drinking actually sucks; we’ve just all been culturally programmed (and then psychologically and physically programmed) to believe otherwise.

From where I sit now, this sentiment appears to be little more than a bargaining chip the mind uses to keep us entrenched in its existing patterns. The mind will rationalize and justify in many (MANY) sneaky ways why it’s okay to keep doing what the real You knows needs to stop. Odds are that you’re going to end up just as drunk as you always were in a short amount of time. Alcohol is a drug of dependence; that’s its whole thing. No one is special and immune, it’s just that some of us are more sensitive than others.

The sane way to give up alcohol (rather than the disease-oriented narrative) is to see it clearly: Alcohol is poisonous and consciousness-lowering, end of story. Are any of us trying to “change our relationship to arsenic”? No, we are not. The primary difference is that we are all heavily socialized to believe alcohol plays a vital role in being an Adult™ and many of us cannot imagine our interactions without it. Just because it’s the drug of choice for the masses that doesn’t mean it’s safe, healthy, or something we should be using like we do.

Having said all that: I love my friends and family members who drink (which is pretty much all of them) and hold no moral judgment in my heart about… well, anything really, especially this pattern of behavior I understand so intimately. I still like being around drinkers and feel no temptation in their presence. I will wholeheartedly support anyone in their path to sobriety, and wholeheartedly accept anyone who isn’t even close to thinking about being sober. I do love all human beings without exclusion and see my Self in them.

Personally, I just don’t drink anymore. The result? I’m clear-headed, not saying/doing stupid shit while intoxicated, I remember everything, I don’t fall over when I dance or make out with people I wish I wouldn’t have, I hold cogent conversations well past 2AM, and when I wake up I feel great, like, every single day. Even when I get two hours (or zero hours) of sleep, I feel great. On top of that, I get to post things like this and feel really good about it.

Really, the only downside of sobriety is that my energy is sometimes off the charts. I wake up and I want music going, loudly; I want hot coffee while doing jumping jacks; I want to run, to sing, to dance, to create. Nothing is fast enough. I think all of this is generally part of awakening spiritually, of being labeled “bipolar,” and of being creative. We go hard naturally and alcohol helps to keep us somewhat palatable and even, so much that we often end up abusing it. I’m still learning how to best maintain my energy without lowering it in that way, and when I feel I have it more streamlined, I’ll share that wisdom for sure.

Instead of alcohol, what feels warm now is laying my head wherever I happen to be sleeping, listening to music and feeling my heart expand, going over whatever I’m writing and knowing without a doubt that I am getting better. When I say “getting better,” I don’t even mean recovering from alcohol addiction. I mean as a human, I am rising and improving, little by little, just by virtue of not clouding my mental space with the toxic and emotional baggage that comes along with drinking and smoking.

It’s a beautiful life, even when I uncomfortably feel kinda like a rocketship. Though life be uncertain, I know alcohol could never be a replacement for the solidity of knowing for sure who I am.

– lish

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Personal

I Know Nothing

So it’s been awhile.

For whatever reason, I didn’t have a lot of motivation to write in L.A. Los Angeles really is its own unique kind of crazy, one that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I am constantly surprised by how I hang in situations that would’ve really been rough for me a few years ago. Guess what? There is no need to mentally label big cities “pavement shitholes,” which is what I used to do to some degree. I mean, it is obvious that humans tend to do better when there’s a higher degree of things like oxygen, fresh water, life-giving trees, biodiversity, etc. However, when those things aren’t around, I no longer end up dwelling in resistance and disturbing my natural peace.

I will admit though that L.A. is where I lost nearly all tolerance for all the “where are you from/what do you do” kind of stuff. This is because it was basically the same conversation most of the time and I didn’t have the desire to weird it up. Also, I’ve lost all sense of how to respond to these questions, in part because they feel meaningless. The ego is a collection of trivia like this and I’d prefer that we don’t go on playing the ego-game. Also, the past feels largely irrelevant; it’s not real except for in our minds (this is true of everything, but, I digress). Sometimes I dig into it for writing purposes, to explore my array of emotions, but I no longer believe that a shared past is a reliable tool for how well we know one another (in part because we are always changing, and sometimes very rapidly).

Of course, I do not think anyone really likes small talk. I think that because if you end up in a conversation with someone for more than like fifteen minutes, they usually say something along the lines of “I don’t like small talk.” It’s one of those things we all keep doing even though we don’t like it, just like we keep on asking each other “how are you” every time we meet, even though it is unnecessary and usually invites some degree of dishonesty.

Point is: By the time I was ready to leave L.A. it was like “okay yeah it’s really time to go.”

Just like in every other city I went, I spent some amount of time taking really long walks to nearby places, music in ears, sun on face. I really can’t express how necessary this feels to me, music and walking. It is meditative and energizing but not with the same goal-oriented kind of feeling you get when you move with the intention of “getting a work out.”

Clearly I’m all for physical exercise, but I’m not a huge fan of how we tend to treat every single thing in life like a means to an end: “I’m running to live longer, to be healthy, to increase my mile time, to lose weight…” The truth is, you don’t have to have a reason to do anything at all, and the reasonless heart-stuff is The Best. You can run or walk just to do it, because it feels good; you can live your life however you want to just to do it, because it feels good and right. That’s all there is to it, honestly.

Never have I gotten done with a music-walk and felt like “oh, I wish I’d gotten done faster.” It really is just fun; it feels like the way I am supposed to move my body. And there were definitely times when I knew how weird I probably looked—walking down the sidewalk, passing strangers with a huge grin. Somehow I have become a genuinely happy person with no interest in unnecessary negativity (and most of it is unnecessary) and this kind of blows my mind.

Now I’m back in the physical location I call home (the Pacific Northwest), though I cannot stress enough that on the spiritual path, we begin to feel like almost everywhere we are is a place we can call home. Can I find somewhere to sit quietly for a few minutes and meditate? That’s all I need to have home, inside, and even that’s not really a requirement. I’ve lost a lot of the need to “my own space” and a lot of privacy, and I sort of think that these things are mostly egoic (and generally Western) luxuries. I believe this is the result of most of us not knowing how to maintain our energy without distancing ourselves from others physically. Learning how to stay balanced anywhere is highly valuable.

The flipside of that is that in L.A., I really did feel like it was necessary for me to put my headphones in and retreat into “my own world” in order to maintain my energy at times. I don’t know; there are no hard and fast rules. On the path, you learn to be around anyone and yet retain yourself solidly—sometimes that means you have to tune everyone else out for a minute, and hope that your friends are understanding of that.

Part of what makes this physical place home is that my blood family is here. Even though I also believe that on the spiritual path we embrace the entire human family without exception, there is something pretty awesome about having my 2-year-old niece come running to see me and jumping up for a hug. It is warm and good.

I cannot emphasize how little I know about my future right now. I have a few leads on things that will help me make money that I would feel super good about, but I haven’t heard back yet, and yeah, that’s kind of uncomfortable. The last couple of months (continuing into this period of time) have been filled with uncertainty and wobbliness, but they actually don’t feel all that uncertain or wobbly because I feel solid in myself. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t mean I have to freak out about it. This is all great practice for simply sitting in the unknown. When we seek to grow spiritually (or personally or creatively; it’s all the same), we learn not only to sit in the unknown but throw ourselves into it willingly and with full trust.

And here’s something we forget almost every moment of every day: All certainty is illusory. You really do not know if your heart is going to stop, if someone you love is going to die soon, if the floor’s gonna open up and swallow you into nothingness. According to physical laws we might contend that the last one is less likely, but really, truly, I don’t know. I have never known, I’m just finally at a place where I’ve decided I’m not going to pretend like I do. The egoic mind loves the illusion of certainty because it helps it to feel safe, and the ego wants nothing more than to be safe and unchanging, even though the world we live in is anything but safe and unchanging.

On the other side, things like predictability and likelihood just feel ridiculously presumptuous. What are the “odds” of any of this existing in the first place? What even is non-existence, and how do you presume to know what that is like? Is non-existence synonymous with permanent unconsciousness? Is the life experience a blip of consciousness sandwiched somewhere in between two infinite periods of unconsciousness? The glory of being human is that we have the opportunity to think these kinds of things in the first place. Even better, we have the opportunity to not think about these things anymore because the mental chasing actually leads to nowhere. This is why we sit down to pull back from the mind, watch it go cray cray, and at some point emerge in stillness.

Life and the world can (and do) change extremely fast, and we do ourselves no favors by trying to deny this. The next breath is not a guarantee. The sunrise is not even a guarantee. So what is?

When I ask this question I’m trying to get at the undying foundational thread that runs through all things, which is consciousness itself. In its pure, limitless form, it can be found and and fallen into—honestly, this is the first thing we should do as human beings. If you are not undoubtedly solid in your self-knowledge as pure consciousness, totally immortal, there is work to do my friend (and I have mine, too! For all the patterns I’ve broken and divine flow I’ve dropped into, I am not a sage).

If you believe you are solid in your self-knowledge as pure consciousness, it should inform a way of life that is happy and free in practice. I can’t even begin to say how many self-described “spiritual” folks I’ve seen get super angry about relatively small things and blame it on someone else’s ignorance, someone else’s “stuff.” They maybe know all about chakras and meditate regularly but are still happy to pass the buck and blame others for their personal anger, which they also take fully seriously. All of this is rooted in egoic thought and a current inability (or unwillingness) to look at oneself and the way we create energy and situations. The path of turning inward ain’t easy or comfy, but it’s the only game to play.

In any case: Inward/outward, self/other, spiritual/non-spiritual, same/same. All these words are equally just symbols that the mind turns into something meaningful.

– lish

Oh, P.S.: My one year of sobriety anniversary came and went on March 25th. I spent it eating a plate of veggie enchiladas in Echo Park, and then I slept on a friend’s couch. (I am also learning how cool I am with sleeping on couches.) I feel so gangster about being totally sober, you guys. I’ll write more about that someday. I’ve also made the choice to be consciously unpartnered for a time. I like this phrase a lot more than I like the word “single,” but that’s also a whole nother topic.

I generally don’t like to restrict my behaviors harshly, and believe that a free life has no absolute “I’ll never do this” attitude, even though that can be helpful for a time (a long time, even) when it comes to breaking habits. But my travels have brought me a more comprehensive vision for my life (not that I have the details worked out or anything), and it just seems like the wisest thing to do is remain on my own, write, enjoy my friends and family, and accept any and all additional blessings.

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