Onto the Next

On Friday I’ll be moving to the small town I briefly wrote about in my last post. I haven’t written more about Mitchell because I don’t want to jinx it or make it sound too pie-in-the-sky, but the truth is that I fell in love with it the second I stepped off the van from Bend. I realize that my interpretation of this town is not going to be the same vibe that everyone else would get from it. Not by a long shot. Nobody is as excited about this choice as I am.

However, I trust my ability to read energy, and the energy in Mitchell, Oregon is good. It is small and I like that it is small. The hostel I will be helping out at is beautiful and a true labor of love from its owners. On top of all that, my intuition has not only kept me safe while vagabonding, it has led me to many beautiful situations. It is that intuitive power I’m trusting now.

Throughout my travels I have been well cared-for in Godand when I say “in God,” I include every single person who has helped me along my way, because all of them are also God. When I reflect on the past five months, mostly what I see is myself sitting blissfully in the sun. I also see various men who have dropped off out of necessity; I see me crying on roadsides and praying. I see music and tan lines and a window of experience I will pluck memories from in the future if I so choose.

And yet none of this brings me nearer to my Self. Many times, my travels have been referred to as some kind of “finding myself” mission by loved ones, and that has always felt a bit off to me. I am aware that there is nothing to be found “out there.”

The world as we know it is a projection of our own minds; the underlying consciousness is primary. If we were to realize these things within our own beings at once, the world would drastically change—and this is not impossible. The belief in its impossibility is actually one of the great obstacles to this change. I am also sometimes accused of being “idealistic,” but I just think everyone else is settling for way, way too little when it comes to how beautiful life can feel and how much peace we can dwell in. The depths of You are immeasurable, truly.

No matter: I have seen what I am and know without a doubt that this fabric is the same as all else. I “found myself” on the living room couch in April 2014. Everything since then has been a re-acclimation to a world I didn’t feel I belonged to anymore.

This brings me to another point: I feel like I’m supposed to write more personally about my awakening. I want to be clear right now that I really, actually don’t want to do this. If the last five months of my life call to mind visions of sunshine and music and bliss, the last four years overall call to mind shame, imbalance, instability, and fear. Putting all that out there sounds really unappealing to my ego-identity, which annoyingly means I should probably do it.

For some reason, I think I am supposed to share that mess. It is common to enjoy this idea that there is some magical “click of enlightenment,” and suddenly you’re a master with an ashram and a beautiful spiritual community. 

The middle parts (which can be very raw and not so pretty) are usually left out, or rolled into some charming lore about “The Realized Ones.” When you hear about Eckhart Tolle, there was a time when he “slept rough” post-awakening. Somehow it has turned into a cute story, the way he couldn’t really do job interviews anymore. It gets glossed over, how disorienting that time period can be. When we read about Mooji’s past, “grace came in the form of his sister’s house.” This is spiritual-speak for: “He crashed with his sister for 6 years because awakening laid him out and made his old life impossible.”

These people experienced some kind of divine realization, and by the time we learn their names, life has pulled a bunch of shit together. From that vantage point, awakening looks easy, but for most of us, it is not. There is a lot that happens in between the click and the transformed life, and it can get ugly.

It is my intention to write about how awakening can take intense and seemingly catastrophic turns, based on the only reliable source I know: My direct experience.

A final note: Walking through the town I went pretty publicly insane in actually feels okay. For the first two years after getting out of the hospital, it was like everything and everyone was a thorn being pushed into me, this very raw and wounded thing.

I sucked it up. I (somehow, miraculously) went to work. I went to the pub and eventually stopped drinking beer at the pub. I saw people who remembered me while I was crazy (I did not remember them) and it was awkward because apparently I’d been pretty entertaining in some cases, but by the time they were bringing it up, there was only shame in me.

It’s gotten a lot better, but there are still people I see and places I visit that hit me right in the solar plexus. Honestly I wish it was chill to break through those invisible barriers, through that old energy I sowed while unwittingly going through some unstoppable shifts. I know I violated social contracts and that it resulted in suffering. I have atoned for that within my own being in a very real way. I have apologized where it was appropriate, where it didn’t feel like the relationship would be made worse by doing so. I also know that it is presumptuous of me to wish anyone was “more okay” with me since I lost my shit or whatever; it is not my timeline to decide.

But sometimes I do think it would be nice if we could just get real and be like, “Hey, isn’t life hard sometimes? Aren’t we are all trying to take care of ourselves and be good people and sometimes we fuck up again and again and again? Aren’t we all struggling with our own pain? Aren’t we all just doing our freaking best?”

In this daydream we group-hug and thank one another, and the healing process inches slightly forward for us all.

– lish

location: Burlington, WA

Disbelief in Mitchell, OR

I can’t even write this post right now because my heart feels too big, too expansive. There is too much joy in me and if I try to explain it, it’s going to come out all overwrought.

It is a (very) small desert town that will, for sure, be a larger desert town in the coming years. The painted hills are nearby; I think I may head that way tomorrow. The hostel is unbelievably beautiful, and the couple who own it are alive and committed to a life in God in a way that seems true, practical, humble, and genuinely at peace. They work hard for this place, and it shows. The energy is pure and devoid of pretense. The spirit of generosity and joy is just unbelievable. I’m listening to this amazing super synthy song I found a couple days ago that is throwing me even further off a cliff.

I’ll write more tomorrow, but I needed to make an update and say that following the breadcrumbs on my path has led me to the exact place I need to be right now. I can’t remember the last time I felt so warm and open.

I wish you all nothing but everything.

– lish

location: Mitchell, OR

Love from Bend, OR

Hey guys. My last post was a bit of a reflection of what can happen when we follow our hearts and go where our intuition leads us. It is not always a good time, and anything can happen. By the time I post things of that nature, I’m usually already in a way better headspace, and it really only took me one night of good sleep to be back in peace.

The moral of the story here isn’t “oh hey, everything’s going to be fine; don’t worry.” Sometimes we like to believe these things, and they are just a sort of cold comfort that discourages further inner looking. Yes, ultimately, everything is going to be fine; it already is. Love has prevailed. Truth is our nature; always has been and always will be. We are all helplessly seated in the lap of God, with nowhere else to go.

However, until we realize this in our own being by way of seeing through the illusion of the ego-identity, things can be very much not be fine. On a real world level, that looks like suffering. We create the same hurtful patterns for ourselves over and over again, all while saying “oh hey, in the end, it’s fine; God loves us.” What a wonderful way for the mind to allow us to keep up our bad habits! No need to do our work or healing if everything’s going to be fine in the end, right? Why ever quit drinking, smoking, or traumatizing one another if everything’s already perfect?

The mind is so cunning, you guys. It can certainly use spiritual truths to stop us from dropping into deeper awareness and seeing through the ego completely. Mine still does that, for sure.

Similarly, sometimes I hear people casually mention that the whole world is illusory. While true, it is of little practical value when absorbed solely on a mental level.

Today I turned 31. I woke up on a couch at a hostel in Bend, Oregon, in the same pair of jorts I have been wearing for about 4 months. At 4PM I’ll be taking a bus out to a town called Mitchell, where there’s a couple—a pastor and his wife—who own a church that has been converted into a hostel. The idea of a hostel with a spiritual component is very appealing to me and something I’m interested in exploring. I will always write, but the idea of providing an affordable refuge for travelers that also offers regular meditation is feeling aligned, practical, and like something I could do… today anyway.

Any of this can change at any time. One day I’m working on a novel, the next day I’m ghostwriting novellas, then I’m hopping in a craigslist rideshare to travel to another state, then I’m writing this blog, then I’m wandering around by the Deschutes River staring at the same tree for 20 minutes. Now I’m being led out to a hostel in a small Oregon town to see what’s there. What happens after this is honestly a mystery.

As far as teaching goes: I’ve mentioned it before, and it does feel like I’m being moved into that role as well. However, I really don’t feel ready, and the main reason is because I’m still in process of watching my own “spiritual” ego. It is so common, and I’ve seen it in just about everyone who is consciously walking the path, including my teachers, and of course including myself.

Something happens after that first “aha” spiritual moment, or after we do a bit of meditation and begin to get a taste of our limitlessness in God: The ego latches onto what it has seen, and feels superior to those who haven’t peeked beyond the curtain, so to speak. I am very, very wary of this place. It feels “chosen.” It can justify any behavior. It judges and then convinces itself it is acceptable to judge “less awake people” because “it knows better.”

This is no good, even though I fully understand it.

And while it is true that someone who is liberated really can do whatever they want without karmic consequences, I still want to live in the world where self-realization results in togetherness, kindness, and a sense of worldwide community—no more hierarchies

I cannot allow myself to slip into this new kind of hypnosis, into an ego that believes it is “further along” or “special” in any kind of way. The whole point is to return to an original, non-special state, prior to anything being conditioned into us. If I teach, it will be because it is handed to me and because it is intuitive. I am not going to pursue the role, or anything else for that matter. A simple unfolding is all I desire, and a simple life. I will strive for ultimate freedom above all else by keeping my life simple and continuing to reject all else but my inner knowing.

On an energetic note: Oregon feels really good. Bend is the first place I’ve woken up where I don’t feel still kind of tired and headachey. I like how close I am to a river, and the community at this hostel is really beautiful. I may come back here to stay longer. I may get to Mitchell and have everything change on me yet again. Anything can change at any minute, and I am accepting of this.

I want whatever is given.

– lish

Location: Bend, OR

 

Sobbing in Reno

I just spent a good 20 minutes on a street corner in Reno, Nevada, sobbing. It was one of those bald and intensely lonesome moments, where I could only think “wtf has happened to my life.” It felt like damn, I miss my husband, I miss my most recent partner, I miss another guy I also fell in love with, I miss my cats, I miss my family, I miss it all. But, of course, that is the nature of the mind: When we start to venture out and loosen our attachments, the mind bites back. It does not let us go so easily. And further, I know I have to do this thing—whatever it is—or I will never feel right inside.

The only person I know in this town is my spiritual teacher, and we have never met in person. I am not about to be like “oh hey dude remember me we’ve had like 5 Skype sessions can we hang?” There is no one else, and the casinos are littered with a dismal melange of avoidance: Cigarettes and social security going down the drain. In the play, all of this is fine. It is just unfolding before me, but it’d be a lie to say it doesn’t affect me energetically.

What happened is that I was sitting on the steps of The Silver Legacy, using their wifi connection to try and find a cheap room. After I was there for about five minutes, two security guards approached me. A woman said “are you going to patronize this establishment, because you can’t just sit on the steps.” And all I could think was, Why the hell not? I am a human, this place is deserted, and the wifi is going to be on whether or not I’m here. Instead all that happened was that I got up and started to cry. I told her I was just looking for a place to stay and then I put my sunglasses on and walked as fast as I could down the street for somewhere to let myself fall apart.

I wanted it to be a park bench, somewhere by the Truckee River, tucked away near grass and trees. But I didn’t make it that far and I didn’t care. I just sat down on a corner in the sun with my sunglasses on, crying, thinking I’m done, I’m done. God kill me; I am done. (When I say “kill me,” I mean that part of me which continues to seek and suffer; the lingering ego-identity.)

It just felt like man, I can’t do this anymore. Two time zones in two days, five hours of sleep in Vegas, shitty Greyhound bus sleep, for what, for what. Yes it is all very romantic, hitching rides, living out of a backpack. People keep comparing me to Jack Kerouac and I guess that’s kinda neat on an ego-level. I have been taken care of by so many incredible people I don’t even know how to start explaining it. They are beautiful, and I love them. But I’m telling you, all I want is to feel at home, and I don’t feel at home, and I don’t know where home is.

I mean, no. That’s a lie. Of course I know it is in my Being, and sometimes I feel solidly rooted in that place in my Heart where all is incorruptible. This always has been and will always be my true home, and in this way, I don’t need to be in any particular place.

But, at some point, as you become more established in the Self, it really does become all about energy. The places you used to resonate with don’t feel right anymore—it’s like trying to squeeze into an old bathing suit. The conversations you once had feel impossible to have. The loved ones you still love, for sure, don’t feel like a refuge because you know they can’t protect you anymore from the intense process unfolding inside. Especially when I was newly awakened, I just kinda knew I was going insane, and that no one outside could help.

When things are shifting and growing so intensively inside, it becomes really obvious that nothing external really matters. In this way, finding places that feel energetically supportive/nourishing can be pretty challenging post-awakening, especially when you’re in a super-nebulous financial situation (which I am in, for the exact same reason: Very few employment situations feel aligned, and I just won’t compromise my inner state for money anymore).

It is hard. I am not going to bullshit you and say some stuff about how only the ego dreams awakening to be hard (although that is true on an Ultimate level, and I’ve probably said that before). I am going to say that awakening is difficult and filled with friction and it is only up to You to live a life that is grounded fully in Truth.

May this be the life I lead, no matter the cost. May this be the life you lead as well.

I do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. All I can say is that in this moment, I am extraordinarily exhausted and trying to do normal things like eat dried pineapple while watching reruns of Friends. But all I can wonder is why it’s so funny for these characters to be so bad at communicating with one another, why jealousy is entertaining, why Monica’s insane control issues are soooo hilarious. Of course I know it is because it is relatable: We like to see these parts of ourselves validated and poked fun at by the culture. I get it, but I can’t stop analyzing it. Like I’ve said, nothing is soothing in the same way.

And I can’t stop thinking: For the love of God, can we please just allow one another to do things like sit on steps and use wi-fi? On that note: Can we just allow homeless people to live in vacant apartment buildings, of which there are tens of thousands? Can we just give money to everyone until the monetary system falls apart and we simply share our spaces and resources? Can we give up the illusion of ownership? Can we stop programming our existing madness into our children? Can we just trust one another? Can we stop bombing each other? Can we stop denying one another’s humanity?

These are the kinds of thoughts that crowd my mind when I tantrum. It is never about the casino steps or the lady who was doing her job. It’s about the unconsciousness that causes us to lock our doors and shut each other out; it’s about darkness ruling the world and knowing it does not need to be this way at all. The suffering of all beings reverberates in me and my tears are not just about me and my journey, they are about you and yours as well.

And here’s the thing: I own every sin in the book. I still shut down sometimes. Name something shitty and I have done it, either in this life or in another. Even so, I am made pure by the light of God which is my basic nature in consciousness itself.

– lish

Location: Reno, NV

From El Paso to Vegas

I write this from a car on the way from El Paso to Vegas. I have no idea why I am still traveling in physical space. All I desire is a place to Be, but energetically nothing has felt quite right. From Vegas I will go to Reno to see my teacher, Jim, have a talk, and feel where to go next.

I should say that even though I referred to Jim as “my teacher” in my last post—and he certainly is one of them—I consider all human beings (and life circumstances) to be teachers and students of one another. The question is whether or not we are conscious of it: Do we know that everything we are going through is an opportunity for practice? That we need every experience, no matter how bad, to point us to Truth?

Many of the situations I’ve been on throughout this journey have been teachers of patience. Before I was very invested in self-work and thrust into the shitstorm that was my awakening, I was an impatient person and saw no problem with that. In my view, the problem was not my impatience or lack of acceptance, it was that others were too slow and stupid. It was all very judgmental, and I own that. That is the work of the egoic mind: It imagines separate “others” and blames them for our suffering, which is really the result of our own existing unconsciousness.

Today I find myself spending time with people I would have never hung out with before. I shudder to think of all those I have shut out of my life by virtue of once having such a closed heart. Today, even if I don’t feel a deep connection, I know that we are each playing a role on one another’s paths. Most of these people do not consciously see me as a teacher. At some point, though, we come to see that the entire play of consciousness—what we tend to consider “the life experience” and/or “the world”—is, in innumerable ways, pointing right back into our divine self-knowledge. At this point, there is no escaping the lessons that begin to unfold around us. Sometimes it is so heavy-handed, it feels like too much: How was I so blind before?

Then, we begin to gently direct others back inwards. As I move more intuitively into the role of a teacher, I do this. It is challenging when people have not consciously accepted me as a teacher, because I know that is what I am called to do in this body/mind/form. It is becoming less and less possible to avoid doing this work, but not everyone has signed up for it on purpose. This is just another thing I’m learning navigate so that I can continue to be a light in the world. It is very important that I don’t build up an air of conceit over spiritual matters, and continue to accept everyone wherever they are at. 

When light is bright it hurts the eyes of those who are in darkness. As always, I say this firsthand: The light of God (which is ultimately Me and You) terrified and burned me greatly, such is its power. Not everyone wants to see their light—and in fact, when we are exposed to it for the first time, we often reflexively turn away. I turned away many many times before embracing what had actually occurred. Sometimes I still backslide into my old programming, but at the very least, I am aware that this can happen.

Until we are really ready, expanded consciousness can seem like terror, boredom, weakness, maybe even evil depending on the ego-identity of the one who is looking. These are all simply negative labels the mind places on Truth to avoid being blown away by it.

About my time in Georgetown: It was a pretty nourishing environment and a lovely little town. But I felt acutely my heart’s need to be in delving further into itself rather than building new relationships. I am still coming into my light, and feel a strong need to be alone, and/or near a teacher.

What good teachers really represent is pockets of powerful energy. I am reminded of a couple times Jim has mentioned on his blog this situation we get into after awakening: We have been broken and hurt for so long, and part of the awakening process is to heal. You can heal without awakening, but you probably are not going to go through an awakening without a significant period of healing.

Surely it is possible to have the ego surrender and dissolve completely, all at once, but this seems relatively rare, for reasons I am not going to guess at other than to say that the ego-identity is deeply entrenched. Usually it takes a bit of digging at rather than being pulled out at once on the first go.

Anyway, most of us will need several reparative surgeries as we integrate our awakening. We’re all walking around full of broken bones and open wounds, but we’ve been taking pain killers for generations and generations. Awakening says, “it’s time to heal now,” and takes all of our painkillers away so we can actually see and feel what needs to be dealt with. The things that used to work excellently for avoidance—watching television, drinking, Tindering, binge-eating—don’t numb us out in the way they used to.

It is very unsettling when you try to “go back” to your old habits for comfort, only to have them feel hollow and useless. I’m convinced this can even happen with habits such as yoga or meditation, even though they are considered spiritual. If we’re used to getting a certain sense of stability or comfort from them and spontaneously wake up, these things can also feel “off.” A fundamental inner change is taking place, and yep, it really hurts and it’s super weird.

Depending on your own personal lineage and history, you may need dozens of surgeries to “reset your bones,” so to speak, or even re-break them if they’ve healed up improperly at a previous time. What this amounts to in real day-to-day life is you needing a fuckton of rest as you undergo a complete energetic overhaul. Each time you come back in a little better shape; then you try to do something new and discover you still have some broken bones. You have to keep going back to the surgeon—in this case, divine intelligence and awakened energy—until your body is back in the condition it was meant to be in.

Some procedures, like having a cut on your knee stitched up, can take place anywhere, and almost any doctor can handle it. Other, deeper wounds may require a higher level of skill, and a super hygienic operating room. Good teachers are essential here. Our deepest wounds probably require a super-clean operating room and a surgeon who really knows wtf he/she is doing. It feels really important to say that this is not about “other people” being unconscious or having “bad energy.” It’s about honoring the healing process, doing what we know is best for ourselves, and choosing to be in places that are suited for the “energetic surgery” we require.

To be sure, it really does just feel as though God is pulling me along by a string. And when I say god I mean consciousness. And when I say consciousness I mean a state of Being beyond words, thought, or imagination. I also mean the most mundane, ordinary things, including stuff we don’t like. None of it is separate.

– lish

Location: En route to Vegas from El Paso

The Trauma of Forcible Hospitalization

The other day, with the help of my spiritual teacher*, I realized that I’m still dealing with the trauma of being forcibly hospitalized. Of course I knew this on some level, but I’ve admittedly been trying to bypass the healing process. Why? Because, to put it simply, healing sucks. It’s necessary and feels great afterwards, but during, it’s no fun at all.

Thinking about the hospital and its surrounding events still triggers shame and grief in my being. Of course, avoidance never works forever. We live in a culture steeped in deep avoidance, which is something I would love to see change soon. Since I can’t make that happen on a wide-scale, I’m starting where I can: With myself. In an effort to face that trauma, I’m going to share some of the feelings I experienced while in the hospital.

I don’t know if posting this will help me to release anything, but I’m going to do it anyway. There’s been a tight/blocked sensation in my throat for over a week now, and as I continue to watch it, I know it is indicative of something I’m not expressing that needs to be expressed.

*My teacher’s name is Jim Tolles and his website is www.spiritualawakeningprocess.com. I have referred back to his website more than any other to help integrate my awakening. He’s amazing and I recommend reading his blogs and/or reaching out to him for a session if you feel you’re ready for a teacher.

First things first: Being hospitalized during a spiritual emergency is really traumatizing, and that should not be dismissed. A spiritual emergency can be something like an ego collapse/death, a psychotic break triggered by the use of drugs, or any other variation of someone’s “reality” breaking down that they simply cannot cope with. What these people need is compassionate care from those who understand that the human being is much more than a collection of chemicals. They need truly nonjudgmental care, not the kind that calls itself “nonjudgmental” and then literally labels us “disordered.” That is, pardon my language, a fucking judgment.

From the outside, it seems “right” to sedate those who are having a psychotic break/spiritual emergency. From the inside—well, you honestly have no idea until you go through it yourself. Not even a little bit.

The following paragraphs flew out of me. I’m aware they may sound hyperbolic, but they are accurate in regards to what it felt like to have my physical body restrained and my consciousness altered against my will:

Basically it felt like I was processing the sins of humankind through my own being. I felt the rape of every human who has ever endured such trauma and the persecution of every prophet. I felt the shunning and isolation that every outcast has ever experienced. I felt extreme, undeserved rejection. I felt the harsh punishment of every child who has done something their parents deemed wrong, even though they had no idea what they were doing. I felt horror and fear on levels I did not even know existed.

I felt like a baby whose leg had been cut off, and like everyone around me was standing by laughing as I tried to crawl around. I felt like this especially afterwards, when my friends (and myself) tried to joke about it out of discomfort, or when my loved ones expressed relief that I’d “finally accepted” I had been “crazy.”

I felt like every prisoner who was about to get their hands chopped off by the state. I felt like every person who had been in a concentration camp, subject to unthinkable injustice. It seemed like everyone around me was unconscionable and cruel and merciless—and stupid. Really, really stupid. To me, the hospital staff were no better than Nazis (I’m pretty sure I called them that, too) in the sense that they were “just taking orders,” “just doing what they’d been trained to do.”

Honestly, I still don’t see much of a difference between a Nazi and those who are still just moseying about life today, refusing to challenge a culture as murderous as ours. I recognize that it’s all fear and unconsciousness and so it is forgiven, but we are still killing each other. It is happening everywhere all the time for no reason other than widespread insanity. I don’t feel as though we have made much progress in this regard.

Being forced to take medication was an extreme violation of what I wanted in my own body. When I was taken to isolation, everyone just looked on like they didn’t hear me screaming to be let out, like my pain wasn’t real, like my extreme suffering didn’t matter because I was “hysterical.” I felt like everything I said fell on deaf ears, even though I know at least some of it was valid. Because no one knew what to do with me, they to took me to a bed and allowed strange men to shackle my body down when I was incredibly vulnerable and angry. To someone who is psychotic, it doesn’t matter if said men are apparently licensed to do this. It reads as terrifying.

I bit a male staff member for trying to touch me. I do not even feel ashamed of that now, although it was used as “evidence” of my insanity more than once by the psychiatrist and my caseworker. To me, it was very reasonable: I didn’t know him, I didn’t want him touching me, and my teeth were my only weapon. I never consented to him touching my body. More than one staff member actually laughed at me while I was psychotic; I saw it in their faces and heard it in their voices. I still believe that those people do not possess the emotional maturity to work with those who are in acute mental health crises.

Just so we’re clear: I’m not trying to assert that my actual circumstances—being a patient in the mental hospital—were “just as bad” as every human experience I just described. I don’t play the “suffering Olympics,” because it is a simplistic and unhelpful game to play. If anything, this is a testament to how one’s external circumstances are a poor measure for what they’re actually dealing with inside.

I’m just telling you how it felt, and it felt like Hell to an unimaginable degree.

There was no one. I don’t really like saying that, because my family and friends did the best they could. My husband came to visit me even though I’d just stepped out of the marriage. Some of my friends came to see me while I’m sure I was saying shit that made absolutely no sense. Everyone did what they could.

But really it felt like (and still does feel like) there was no one who saw my experience as deep and real and significant. Way too many times, people talked about how hard it was for them to see me in the hospital. I know they meant well, but it just made me feel worse for troubling them. Afterwards, a lot of people said “I wasn’t myself” in the hospital, but I didn’t even feel like I knew who I was. It was very confusing. I also felt like whoever they thought they’d “known” before wasn’t the True me. I felt, overall, horribly ashamed of myself and tossed in a corner to recover from the most intensely awful time in my life.

I felt these feelings for months and months after I was released. Everyone around me was still somewhat scared and worried, and my feelings of loneliness were staggering. I had no idea what had happened, and I felt so looked down on, so pitied, so mislabeled. I laid in bed with just saying “I’m scared; I’m scared,” even though I didn’t know what of.

Whatever explanations anyone had for my breakdown, I knew they were incomplete, and it was maddening.

Before I was hospitalized, I was highly sensitive and unstable and in violation of many many social contracts, but I was not violent. When I got into the hospital, I became violent. I want to say clearly and openly: Being forcibly hospitalized worsened my overall state of being during my spiritual emergency. Every professional failed to understand what was happening at a deeper level. They did not provide me with an alternative to the “disease” story, and the experience overall worsened my prognosis.

For as hurt and resentful as this post may sound, I do not begrudge anyone. People were trying to be there in every way they knew how, and I retreated from a lot of potentially nourishing spaces and people because I was just so shaken up. I had no idea what had happened. I just knew I needed to hide, lick my wounds, and turn my attention inward. I had to look into other explanations outside of “you got dysfunctional genes; your brain chemicals are all screwy.” Fortunately, that is what I did.

With this post, all I mean to do is share some of how it felt. I have no doubt that someday, someone will read this and it will help them feel understood. If you’re one of them, I hope it lets you know you’re actually not alone, and that you can move forward from the experience and even have a life filled with more joy than you ever thought possible.

Still, I mostly wrote this for my own self. No lie: I sobbed as I wrote most of this post as I recalled what it was like to be shuttered away, talked down to, drugged, watched, confined, and perhaps the worst part: judged, judged, judged at every turn.

I also want to get across something very simple: We can do better for one another. We can do so much better.

– lish

location: Georgetown, TX

When Life Throws Pies

I’d like to start this post with a Mooji quote I only remember loosely: “As soon as you think you have life ‘figured out,’ life will throw a pie in your face.”

This is hilariously true. Every time I think I’ve “got it,” or even that I know what my “next step” is, something strange happens. The universe corrects me: You know nothing, lish. Stop trying to make things happen and dissolve yourself. At least now these lessons tend to be gentle as opposed to the ego-obliterating experience of having a public mental breakdown. At that time, God was hitting me hard, showing me all the secrets of the universe while simultaneously humiliating the small, egoic me.

In case you’re new to this blog, what I’m talking about is the “manic episode” I had about 2 and a half years ago. I put “manic episode” in quotes because I no longer buy into conventional stories of mental illness. If anything, I believe there is an illness that afflicts the vast majority of humanity, and it is the illness of conditioning. And I surely don’t see myself as illhell, I don’t even regard that time in my life as “bad” anymore. Don’t get me wrong: It was totally chaotic, unstable, and exhausting, but it went the way it went and I learned a lot from it. I now regard the episode as a blown-out expansion of consciousness that I was unprepared for. It occurred about a year after a spontaneous click of soul realization, a moment that changed everything forever. As Emerson might say, I was “blasted with an excess of light.”

Sometimes life is rough with us and grinds us down with a heavy hand. We have a choice to either be humbled and take the time to look into ourselves, or to feel angry and resentful by “what life/the world has done to us.” Often, we fluctuate between these two perspectives until the former becomes the only tenable position to take. I am now accepting of every life experience that has pummeled me into whatever I am now. In my heart I say to consciousness, Truth, God, whatever: Make me dust and nothingness, because I know You are there.

So there are your manic episode/forcible hospitalization-sized pies, and there are your “oh you think you’re going to be single, really?”-sized pies. I’m dealing with that second pie now. Life is catching me, yet again, but I am also being reminded that even my best-laid plans can be upended at any moment. I have no control; you have no control. Control is illusory. This has been made real in my experience over and over again.

Here’s my most recent example: Yesterday I planned to fly from Austin, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana. Why? Cheap tickets and a dear friend.

When I got to the gate, I learned that my flight would actually be departing from the other side of the airport. At that gate, I ended up in conversation with a man who was also planning to fly from Austin to New Orleans. We chatted while listening for more announcements regarding our flight, but didn’t hear anything about the departure gate getting switched back. When our flight time rolled around we decided to go back to the original gate. We weren’t allowed on the plane since it had already boarded. They gave us the “you’re supposed to be here 10 minutes before take-off” spiel, and our tickets were refunded. This is the first flight I’ve ever missed, by the way, and it didn’t happen because I was late.

At that point, I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing—like, at all. I didn’t really have any official business in New Orleans, and to be honest, I hadn’t even made solid plans with the friend who lives there. If I’d been alone I would’ve just gone back to Austin. But the man I’d been talking to offered to take me to his place in Georgetown, Texas, and I took him up on it. We had a delicious dinner followed by several mineral waters and then I stayed at his place. I informed him early in the evening of my intention not to date anyone on account of my fucked up man issues. He was chill with it; I slept alone.

So here’s the pie: The universe hands me this person three days after I decide not to date anyone for three months. I wonder, is this a trap set by my mind to see how committed I am to my true self? Or is this life handing me something I didn’t think I wanted but that is actually really beautiful, and to push it away would be foolish? Are both of these questions pointless? Should I quit overthinking every unforeseen twist in my life?

My answer for now is to just bask in gratitude, to sit on the deck in the Texan humidity drinking Topo-Chico as my heart beats out of my chest. It is to listen very closely to my inner wisdom, be honest, and enjoy the hell out of my life.

Anyway. He had to go to Los Angeles for work tonight so now I’m staying at his (beautiful) apartment until he returns. The last thing I said to him before he left was “I have literally nothing to offer you.”

Of course I don’t know how this happened. If you’d asked me 28 hours ago, “lish, where will you be tomorrow?” I would have said something like “drinking espresso and eating beignets while writing.” To be fair, that also sounds dope, but I’m pretty sure this is better. I am alone and at peace. I have a very comfy bed. There is a lot of healthy food here. I like this guy. All is well.

So I have no idea about life, you guys. I just have no idea. I continue to drop into myself and take chances and the universe/God/whatever continues to provide in all of these unexpected ways. This is what I mean by “divine flow:” Trusting that you can fall into yourself and your path, leap into the great unknown, and that you will land somewhere soft.

To be sure: I do not mean you should expect to meet only kind people who will take you in. But you might. You might also end up sleeping on the street. It might be pretty bad in physical reality, say, if you are shivering with cold and unable to secure food. I recommend doing some light planning before you drop out of your whole life, but simultaneously, I’m like, shrug. Wake up to Reality and do what you will. Simplify and find happiness there. If you experience a deep spiritual realization, you may be moved to do any number of seemingly stupid things, and my blog is not going to change that one bit.

Besides, this is the gamble we take when we decide we want to go further on the path. The “somewhere soft” place you land is a field of awareness inside, not anywhere in physical space-time.

I want to say that there is a deep, powerful knowing inside of you that you really can trust. Your ultimate destination is your true Self, which is also where the thought of “you” began. “You” are also just a thought, subject to the fleeting nature of the phenomenal world. What you really are is not a thought or a feeling or even a collection of these things. Every time you say something like “Yes but I’m just so…” you are falsely identifying with a temporal mental construct.

When it comes to the evolution of consciousness, the first step is the last and the last step is the first. There is no first or last and truly no sequential events, because there is no time. Consciousness is all there ever was and all there ever will be.

All of this is in you to remember, and when you do have a click of realization about who you are and what life  is, everything changes. I mean everything, including those things you might think you don’t want to change. If you seek to awaken, there is probably an intense ride ahead of you. There is also no other choice, because awakening to Reality is the destiny of all beings.

To quote one of my favorite Smiths songs, there is a light that never goes out.

– lish

location: Georgetown, TX

 

Facing Fears

It feels appropriate to follow up my last post with something about fear. This blog is now private, but I’ll probably make it un-private some point soon.

All of this is on par with the way I tend to deactivate/reactivate/install/uninstall my social media. I want to be seen and heard when I feel open, light, and truthful—then I want to retreat and become invisible when I acknowledge how much work I’m still doing. Yes, it feels neurotic. As far as the blog goes, I often have a sense of being “unqualified” to write about the spiritual process, the ego, or collective transformation just because I am not perfectly enlightened, whatever I think that means.

This is a pretty crazy illusion/false belief I carry: That “until” I am at some (imagined, delusional) standard of perfect beingness, I have no business writing what I know is true. Some part of me is convinced that I should just drop everything, go sit in a park and be a transient beggar until, until… something. And that word—“until”—reveals the part of my mind that wants kick my fate further and further down the road.

By hiding, I reveal that think I must protect something. I reveal that I am afraid of vulnerability on some level. I seem to have deemed some part of myself and my work as “not good enough yet” or “not ready yet.” From a greater space of awareness, I see that this is my ego talking itself out of speaking the truths it’s been exposed to, because: fear. It’s also an avoidance of responsibility. I could just hop around the country going on dates and meditating on benches, you know? And yet, as fun as this is (for my unconscious ego), that is not what I am ultimately moved to do.

Also: Something happens to me at airports, especially when I’m flying one-way. Without any return plans, it feels unsafe, even though in reality it’s just me sitting at a gate with a piece of paper we call a boarding pass. Like most people, I overreact when I feel threatened. Next thing I know I’m sending text messages to people I haven’t talked to in a while—of course they’re men. That is my go-to method of ensuring a sense of safety: Make sure a man is willing to pay attention to me. 

I am aware this is at least partially rooted in the fact that my father was a volatile and neglectful figure all throughout my life. I am aware that I carry the emotional wounds of his behavior towards me in a program known as my unconscious ego. As I write this, I am living proof that all the mental “understanding” of your pain and its origins won’t erase it. We place so much emphasis on the mind in our culture, and it really is a poor tool when it comes to deep healing.

At this point, I do a lot of sitting and watching of the blockages in my heart (and in my throat a lot lately, which signifies that I do need to speak more truth). I exist with these blockages rather than labeling them “bad.” Sometimes they are there, and I accept them. I also see these “blockages”—which is really just another way of saying unconsciousness or darkness—as communicative. They are teaching me what needs to be done, which is continued heart-healing and more expressing of Truth.

I’ve also made a commitment to myself to avoid dating and all other ill-defined date-type scenarios for three months. The reason I’m doing this is simple: Since I was a teenager, I’ve been pretty screwed up about men. At present, I’m not even able to discern if I want a relationship and if so, why. The only way I am going to get clear on this is to put some distance between myself and all that tangled up nonsense. Then I will know if partnership is even something I’m truly suited for. If it is, I’ll be more likely to be in a deeply open and honest relationship if that is what arrives.

I have never had this. I don’t know very many people who have.

So, even though I don’t prefer to energize my own stories by writing about them ad nauseum (dad stuff, man stuff, nervous breakdown, alcohol alcohol alcohol), it would be a lie to act as if I am not impacted by my ego story anymore.

Again, all of this comes down to fear. I know I’m called to do this work, no matter what. I know I’m called to write about mental health and its relationship to consciousness and the spiritual process. I know I’m called to write about the ego-identity as the root of all external structures we profess to loathe (if you complain about late capitalism but do not at least strive for a meditation practice/other practice of inner work, I really don’t know what to tell you).

And yet I get scared of all the things we get scared of: Being misunderstood, ostracized, criticized, and believed to be simplistic or platitudinous. As someone who was once mired in anger over the state of the world, I am aware of how “the spiritual answer” sounds to people who are at the level of intense frustration and outward blame. (This is the level most of us are at—if we even care at all.) I don’t want to be thought of as stupid or be disliked if I refuse to buy the ego-stories around me. I feel tired already at the thought of arguments I may have to face. I am saddened at the thought of “losing” those relationships and situations that are not fully nourishing to me on an energetic level, even though it isn’t really a loss.

Basically, sometimes I’m still a human who gives a shit what people think of me. The need for validation is a very deep egoic need that I haven’t let go of. Sometimes I hear people casually (and somewhat immaturely) say they “don’t care what other people think.” Usually, if ever the approval of our friends/family are pulled, we’re quick to readjust and fall back in line.

Even those who are “anti-” society in some way have their social circles they seek to appease. Sometimes, these kinds of circles demonize others. If we express the view that the “worst” people in the world are filled with unconsciousness and that there is nothing to be gained from hating them, there can be some push-back. I have found that people can be quick to defend why their hatred, their judgment, and their derision are acceptable, but other kinds aren’t. The blindness is staggering. I have also met a great deal of spiritual people who are still very much stuck at an “us vs. them” level, as I was for a long time.

In short: Living in a way that truly embraces humanity means you don’t really have a clique. The thought of losing a “group” or those people I consider “especially kindred” stokes fear in me.

But, in the end, it is not a service to me or anyone else to stay quiet when there are things I need to express. So I’m here, posting this thing, even amidst my fears and with the awareness that I am still working through issues. I am not free of desire. And even though I have seen enough to understand Truth conceptually, I am not always in peace. I’m still doing this thing. Sometimes it sucks, and at least I’ve released the fantasy that there will be a magical moment when it all “comes together.”

Unlike some of those involved in spirituality, I don’t believe we are “endlessly growing” or “always healing” or anything like that. There comes a time when we drop into divine flow and learn how to keep surrendering our small selves. It is no longer about healing at that point; it is about giving yourself up to the timeless, all-powerful stream of consciousness over and over, and trusting in it fully. Surrender and healing may happen simultaneously or one after the other, because there is no singular path. I seem to drop into flow, and then hit a karmic issue again. Then I heal, understand myself better, and begin to flow more.

Hitting the same karmic issue (have I mentioned yet that I’m kind of fucked up about men?) is annoying, but then again, it just is.

The very essence of spirituality is that it is triggering and bothersome. It is ultimately unhelpful to constantly chase mystical experiences, or to seek comfort in any New Age practice du jour. These types of things make us feel temporarily good and may seem to help us “make sense” when our lives fall apart or when unimaginably awful things happen in this world. However, just like when we use drugs or alcohol or any other form of avoidance, this reassurance always fades. We are left alone to face ourselves, time and time again.

Many times we go seeking solace and peace in our preconceived ideas about spirituality. Usually, we have very little appreciation for what lasting peace requires of us. What it requires is intensive inner digging, and a commitment to keep digging even when you feel totally exhausted of healing, self-analysis, and inner looking. It requires that you take all external authority with a grain of salt, and turn away from those who do not line up with the truth of your heart—including turning away from close friends, family members, and spiritual teachers. It may require you to live a strange and distant life for a while. It requires that when you see something in yourself you don’t like, you don’t recoil or deny its existence, but see it honestly. It requires that when it is time, you’re willing to disidentify from victim stories and statements about how other people/the world “make” you feel.

What we are after is complete responsibility for our state of being. With the exception of the severely ill or those who are fighting for survival (probably not you), we can learn to work with our minds. We can get our emotions in order and become vessels for peace rather than people who continually create enemies with our illusions. We can stop overreacting to the pain that exists in the world and learn to see it from a place of true, solid compassion.

We are all capable of these things with inner work and commitment to the Truth. What I have in this life is that commitment. I am still working to renew my commitment to myself and to this world every day, even when I feel fearful of walking further through my own fire and sharing the things I just did with you.

– lish

 

location: Austin, TX

A Quick Note

I’m at SeaTac airport, on my way to Austin, Texas. I am seeing very clearly what I need to do right now, which is the following:

  1. Deactivate my social media, and
  2. Make this blog private in about a week and not think about it anymore.

I am not completely free. I continue to slip into the dream that I am my ego-identity and from this hypnosis I reenact old patterns. I am a vastly better and healthier person than in years past, but I am not free. The ultimate aim of the spiritual path is liberation from the belief in false personhood/ego-identity, and that is not where I’m at.

It is not wise for me to write about freedom until this is no longer the case.

That’s all I am going to say for now ❤

In love and Truth,

lish

location: Seattle, WA

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