Depression, Mania, Mental Health, Narratives, Reality, The Mind, Yoga

The Lenses Through Which We See Ourselves

I really don’t like going more than a week without posting something new, but my novel has sucked me back into it. This is a blessed joy that also feels kinda like a violent storm.

I’m convinced that giving birth and creating art are pretty similar in terms of intensity and magic (though I’m sure a billion mothers would roll their eyes at this). But what I mean is that artistic creation can also be an incredible, laborious process gifted to us from the great beyond. The gestation period here is much more unpredictable, though. And at least you know what you’re getting when you’re pregnant, and in most cases, it comes out all beautiful and squirmy and warm. I’ve found that when I write, the more I think I know what I’m creating, the more my creativity laughs in my face. (Surprise! You’re giving birth to a hairless purple giraffe that shoots lasers out its eyes! Hope you still love it!)

When something I’m working on says “please pay attention to me,” I listen. This necessarily means that other things have to fade into the background. Sometimes these things fall into the category of “basic necessities,” such as eating and sleeping. Doing these things feels so irrelevant when a project needs me. If you love me and this worries you, just know that I’ve also begrudgingly accepted that eating and sleeping are things most people need to do on a daily basis.

But I feel like I should say that very advanced yogis (like decades-long trained, hella deep yogis from India) tend not to eat and sleep as often as we in the West do. The human body doesn’t require anywhere near 8 hours of sleep if the rest of the system is kept in good balance. This is especially true if the mind isn’t given free reign to burn through psychic energy with all of its cyclical thoughts; such thoughts further exhaust us when they intensify emotions. Seriously, the undisciplined mind uses sooo much energy.

There’s a relationship between a yogi’s feelings of wakefulness/decreased need for sleep and bipolar mania: What is referred to as full-blown mania is an unchecked, unplanned expansion of consciousness. Whereas a yogi has trained to feel awake, alive, and supremely transcendent, a manic patient hasn’t. It’s like jumping straight to the top of a very precarious ladder: The view is phenomenal, but of course we fall.

This is extremely meaningful with regards to the way we look at bipolar disorder. Like perhaps it’s inaccurate to label these experiences symptoms of severe, chronic illnesses?

Speaking of bipolar mania: This is one of the lenses I want to discuss self-beliefs through.

Beliefs are extremely powerful things despite the fact that they are, by definition, not based on personal experience. Here’s an easy way to understand what I mean, inspired by one of my most favorite mystics, Sadhguru: Do you believe you have ten fingers, or do you know it?

The things you know for sure don’t require belief. They’re solid and you don’t question them because it’s all right there in front of you.

Direct experience is the only thing to trust regarding all things existential and God-related.  My awareness of God is based on things I have felt and seen, and I would never dream of picking up a belief system—this includes atheism, by the way—instead. I would not even believe a famous prophet if he were standing right in front of me. This would be an insult to curiosity, a slap in the face to the incredible opportunity I’ve been given to seek and find out what reality is. It’s important to live from Truth based on what you actually know, and frankly, it’s a bit weak to put faith in a thing that has never been made really real to you. Millions of people do this. (I find it equally weak not to seek at all, but that’s a different conversation.)

On the other hand, I’m more than willing to simply believe that mankind has set foot on the moon. I didn’t see it and I wasn’t there, but if pressed to say if I “believe” it happened, sure. The evidence seems sufficient enough. (Mostly, I just don’t care if it’s true or not, but that’s a thing I believe.) “Beliefs” really should be saved for stuff that doesn’t matter so much.

But the big stuff? Re: Life and death and reality and God and who you actually are? You shouldn’t “believe” a thing! Find out for yourself. Until then, it’s far more honest to admit that you just don’t know.*

*But please don’t insist that just because you don’t know, the Truth “can’t” be known. I have heard this from more than one skeptical person. The most interesting thing about this statement is that usually, these people (whom I love) have not even really looked. They’ve consulted their minds up to a certain point and explored themselves no further. Truth cannot be found in the mind.

And yet, to make it through the day, we all have beliefs about ourselves.

The relationship between stories and beliefs is close: Beliefs reinforce stories, and stories reinforce beliefs. They hold each other up. If one starts to fall, the other one does, too. I’m inclined to say that stories come first in the form of tiny micro-stories (memes) traded around in the hivemind, but I haven’t parsed it all out yet.

The most powerful stories and corresponding beliefs are those that are about ourselves. Stop and notice: What kind of narratives do you have going on in there about yourself, right now?

“I am a failure;” “I am a good person;” “I am lost;” “I am an American:” These are all tiny stories that we can come to believe throughout the course of our lives. While meaningful, they are still just stories, and to me, every story becomes less true with every added judgmental adjective.

These beliefs can fluctuate a lot based on our mood and what has happened to us lately, and ultimately, they depend on whatever is most commonly reinforced in our own minds. We all have the capacity for self-hatred and/or self-love; it just depends on which one of these things we cultivate regularly.  Positive or negative, beliefs are strengthened the more often we tell ourselves stories (i.e. have thoughts) about ourselves.

Your self-beliefs are inextricably linked to your emotions. This is why Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (which commonly guides people with depression to question automatic, negative thoughts) works statistically just as well as antidepressants do—no side effects, bodily poisons, or Big Pharma required. Of course, in dire need, use both! Do all the things! (Unfortunately, CBT does not prevail for existential depression because you can’t think your way out of death.  Existential depression is where the deep, deep work begins.)

Today I felt like drawing pictures, so I drew some. My goal here was to represent the way we view our mistakes through various lenses and their corresponding self-beliefs: Depressed, manic, healthy (by Western parameters), and ultimately, from the perspective of higher consciousness. I don’t know if it’s going to make any sense to anyone who might be reading this, but it does to me, so here goes:

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In the grand scheme, mistakes aren’t even a thing. Everything you’ve done that you regret has been necessary for your growth and evolution, and for the evolution of those whom you affected. Some part of you created the mistake so that you both could move into deeper understanding.

I don’t just say this as someone who has made a lot of mistakes (and who is probably currently making them). I also recognize that the mistakes which have harmed me were also part of what brought me to the truth and the light. We can acknowledge when past behaviors have caused emotional harm, and we can apologize for those behaviors—and we should.  We can honor another’s feelings when they say “hey, that hurt when you did/said that thing.” This helps us to understand one another and ourselves.  Understanding is a prerequisite for love.

The balancing act is this: It’s all already perfect. It’s all exactly as it is. Events are occurring and you have done things; it is only the reactive mind and emotions which codify these events into things that are good and bad. There is another dimension of you that doesn’t need to do this with everything, and really doesn’t want to. (Psst: This is what Nietzsche was talking about when he wrote, “That which is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.” I freaking love that quote, and only after I lost my mind did it really become like, “oh DUH!”)

Does this mean we go forth behaving however cruelly we wish, knowing that morality is false? On the contrary: When we see how perfect the truth is, we naturally become more mindful of our behaviors and guided towards less harmful courses of action. The whole Universe is an exquisitely balanced math equation on its own; behaving in harmful ways screws up the beauty of this equation.

The whole notion of morality is actually based in higher consciousness; it’s just that the mind can make everything way too complicated, trying to intellectualize things like normal human decency. In an expanded state, love and compassion are as logical as drinking water when we are thirsty.  Explaining the “why” would be pretty silly, no? If we know we are all each other, we automatically lose the need for morality and self-beliefs. It’s all just so clear.

Then, after we realize it, living in such a state of balance as a human being is possible with only one thing: Practice.

Have an awesome day!

– Lish

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Conditioning, Narratives, Reality, The Ego, Well-being

Happy 4th!

Nations Are Illusory

There has never been a need to cut the world up into nations. There is land. There are climates. There are variances in topography and coordinates which correspond to unique geographic locations. But there is no such thing as a nation once you have become unconditioned.

What we refer to as “our country’s history” is a collection of stories passed down from one generation to the next.  Stories can be twisted to fit any agenda; they are the most manipulative device known to man. I could tell you stories about myself that would make me look awful, and I could tell you some that would make me look great. I expect the same is true of you. Neither one would be based in reality because reality only exists here and now; also, everything is so much bigger than any single story can touch. 

Stories are the things your mind holds onto in order to keep your ego intact, or in this case, the ego of the nation. And so, from moment to moment, I am a woman without a story unless I choose to make one up. I do this often—and we all do. The only question is whether or not we’re aware that that’s what we’re doing.

According the story that is perpetuated in American culture, today is Independence Day. Here’s that story as I see it: A few hundred years ago, some people freed themselves from the tyranny of one guy and went on to oppress a bunch of other people. In the following years, some people ended up way better off; others ended up way worse off. Today, the remaining people are among the richest, saddest humans in the world. Regardless of their comforts and rights, they remain neurotic. Many are outright miserable.

I know there are more poignant aspects I could focus on, and that with the right intonation and rhetoric of glory, I could say something  patriotic: “The founding fathers emancipated themselves from an oppressive, greedy monarch and went on to build a country based on the ideals of liberty and individual pursuit of happiness.” See?  I can do it; it’s just so obviously one-sided.

Anyway, if the goal was for us to be very materially wealthy and very psychologically ill, I’d say this thing is a great success.  But of course it wasn’t.  The goal was freedom, and we are still so far from it.

Freedom is a State of Being

This isn’t meant to be a rant against the US or against Independence Day; it’s meant to be a post discussing actual freedom.  I’m so totally pro-freedom that I want us to be free of nations.  I want us to be free of limiting beliefs.  I want us to be free of borders and security agents with guns and hostility towards one another.  I want us to be free of fearing our fellow humans and free of fearing death.  I especially want us to be free of fearing life. I want us to be free of suspicion. I want us to be free of fearing that at any moment, freedom can be taken away, so we best militarize and lock up.

True freedom can never be taken way, nor can it be granted by another.  It is an individual’s personal work to get and remain free of his/her limiting mentalities (and, of course, to understand what that “self” actually is). Someone who is retired with millions of dollars can easily be mentally enslaved. Someone who is in jail can live outside of the confines of the body and mind and dwell in a kind of peace that eludes everyone else.

It is the work of the collective to create functional communities wherein we don’t treat each other like equipment, constantly assigning value to one another. In this made-up lala-land I inhabit in my imagination and envision as a real possibility, we would give of ourselves as we could and accept when needed. No one would fear for their survival, thereby becoming free to devote energy to inner development. This is the place I want to live, and it is one I know can exist because I can think of it. It is also clear to me that creating such a culture is a requirement for allowing the Earth to heal itself from years of abuse.

The story I want to be able to say regarding the transformation of consciousness goes like this: “Humans freed themselves from their own oppressive minds, ceased to identify with illusions, and came together to clean up the mess they’d unconsciously made.”

What I am Free From

I get that this has all been very pie-in-the-sky: Nations dissolving, people treating each other with love, blah blah blah.  I know it seems like there are a million steps we have to take before we get there, but the truth is that awakening happens in just one moment. One click of light and it’s all over. The self that thinks of the self falls away. The self that is separate from others is revealed as a facade. It all seems so idealistic until you get a taste for it and begin to feel the changes within yourself.

Suddenly, it’s feasible: We really don’t have to keep waging war on this planet or on one another if only we could drop every single lie that stands between us. The war within us is the war without. The things that leave us feeling like we’re 50 different people all the time are the same things that divide us on the whole. Total system overhaul is dependent on us transforming ourselves and  moving forward consciously.

To round this little post out in a much more normal and personal note: Today is my 100th day alcohol-free! I didn’t plan it, and if I had, it wouldn’t have been as good as it is. I’ll be spending the day playing outside, being with loved ones, watching fireworks, and drinking a bunch of nonalcoholic ginger beer and grapefruit soda. I choose to see today as a celebration of my freedom from alcohol addiction.

I’m working on a big post on alcohol right now: Why I don’t drink (it isn’t because I’m an alcoholic) and how I’ve practically spring-boarded from poor decisions, constant shame, and self-recrimination into positivity and actions that are more in accordance to who I know I really am just by giving it up.

The post will go up when it does, and until then, I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful summer. May you celebrate real freedom, as well—whatever that means to you.

Love,

Lish

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Meditation, Podcast, Reality, Spirituality, The Ego, The Mind, Yoga

Happy Solstice!

Dear Readers,

I wanted to post something quick today in celebration of the solstice and to recognize International Yoga Day. Happy summer for now; happy divine union forever.

Full disclosure: I don’t do the yogic postures, and I don’t really know why. Okay scratch that—I meditate, which is a part of yoga, but that’s it. At this point I’m more interested in yogic philosophy and its overlap/departure from the mainstream points of view in the West.

On that note, here’s one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read. I recommend that everyone give it a once-over, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder:

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Gifted to me by someone I once considered “my unwitting guru.”

I’m also working on a bigger post about how this book has helped to integrate my awakening as well as view my “illness” (bipolar disorder, type 1) in a new light. Seriously, it’s awesome.

First up: My friend Jill and I recorded a podcast yesterday. We’ve decided to call it The Free Fall. 

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I also scored this (enormous) whiteboard from a friend. I’ve been receiving a lot of help and love lately, and when I start to think about the magnificence of these things, my heart can get overwhelmed. Thank you to all! ❤

Essentially, that’s what we’re doing whenever we make the choice to live in alignment with our souls. It takes courage to follow our intuition and do what we know we’re supposed to do (as guided from a deeper place, not external/societal parameters) even when it doesn’t make logical sense. We’re free falling from moment to moment, being okay with the fact that we’re here and breathing in the present moment. It’s the wide-open unknown we’re traversing, after all. We’re following the breadcrumbs and trusting; always trusting and being grateful for what we’ve been given, big or small.

The mind prefers neat, seemingly clear paths: Get the degree, get the job, get the house, get the marriage, get the stuff, and then you arrive at security. This is the story the mind makes up in order to serve the ego’s need for safety. Of course, life tends to throw things in the way, and many people find that once they’ve finally arrived in this configuration there’s still a sense of dissatisfaction and anxiety.

There are many reasons for this, but it generally comes down to the fact that the truest parts of ourselves have been largely (if not totally) ignored in the ego’s grand plans. And, just like the rest of you, the soul wishes to be known, loved, and expressed. It’ll keep bugging you until all the parts are finally aligned. As always, I say: I’m not there yet! I’m always in process over here.

The first episode of The Free Fall will be up in the next week or so. It’s really just a thing Jill and I felt pulled to do, and after we got done recording it, we both felt so much lighter and freer. I feel very honored to share that space with her and with you.

And now, a few pictures I drew the other night when I felt like conceptualizing consciousness vs. the ego. I mentioned this in the podcast, I’ve mentioned it in other posts, and I will probably keep saying it until it feels understood: The ego isn’t a bad thing. The poor ego gets such a bad rap, and this is unnecessary.

I assume this categorization stems from our strong desire to have life be black-and-white, because this way of looking at the world is just easier for the mind to digest than the highly complex truth (so complex it becomes simple, really). Also, facing this complexity necessarily turns us to self-inquiry, and most of us have a lot of stuff in ourselves we’d rather not look into.

The ego is not bad; it’s just illusory. When we don’t know it’s illusory, we often make a mess out of life, trying to use this limited idea of what we are to get whatever it is we think we want:

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& one last thing…

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Love,

Lish

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Reality, Spirituality, The Mind, Well-being

What Consciousness Is

A lot of people think they understand what is meant by the word “consciousness,” and this is paradoxical because the mind cannot understand it. It’s like trying to explain water to a fish: It just is. It’s here; it’s everywhere. It is either experienced directly or not at all.

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You’re in it, you breathe it, and it moves you.

And yet here I am.

There has never been a more crucial time for humans to collectively realize the Truth. It has been crucial for a long time, but this whole Internet/globalization thing could actually be the key to getting us over the threshold. I don’t know how it’s all going to go, but I do know that the continued existence of human beings on this planet depends on raising our overall consciousness. This is the most important work we can do, for consciousness is the thing that gives rise to all beliefs and viewpoints (and the actions which stem from these things), for better or for worse.

Head’s up to any super-rational readers: Often, this stuff seems cool to talk about until suddenly it sounds like nonsense, and at some point it kinda does. I’m confident in my nonsense, but ask no one to accept it without consulting themselves first. 

Regarding the human mechanism, consciousness is:

  • The higher faculties which lead to behavioral changes, emotional regulation, and increased well-being: Higher human consciousness is where free will lives. It is where non-transactional, unattached (true) love abides. It is where the logic of forgiveness is made clear. Without it, we’d be stuck in our same cycles forever, continually holding grudges and living in fear. This is why mindfulness meditation is so beneficial for patterns of addiction as well as other forms of personal growth.
  • Woven into your very body, not just your brain: It’s the thing in you that knows how to make food into skin cells and to contract your heart muscle every few seconds. You have no control over these processes, and with a deadened view of life, they seem rote and unimportant. If we grasp the enormous sophistication of this instrument, we see how intelligent our bodies really are. Further along, we wonder what might happen if we could tap into the level of intelligence our unconscious bodily workings depend on. (I personally have no idea, but it is very exciting to consider.)
  • The quality of being awake: This is the most standard definition, but what do we actually mean by that? Millions of people walk around with their eyes open all day, utterly unconscious. It is easy to see when you pay attention. Those who are not sleeping often have no idea how much more intensely awake they could feel. But to be sure, it’s also that simple: Being conscious is to be alert, awake, and present, not just existing with eyes physically open.
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The machine beneath your ribs. Incredible.

Universally speaking, consciousness is:

  • The principle phenomenon underlying all that we can perceive: Emotions and thoughts, too. There are also many things floating around that we cannot perceive, such as invisible forms of energy (radio frequencies, infrared light, etc.). Deepening our awareness increases the subtleties we are capable of taking in. This can be awesome, but also feel like a burden in a world where such subtleties are not also perceived by those around you. Those of you who are sensitive will feel me on that.
  • A formless intelligence making all potential possibilities manifest. Nothing to extrapolate on here.
  • The one true reality: All that you see before you is an illusion held together by your mind*. What you think is “real” is based on the workings of the mind, and if it gets stretched beyond its capacities, your reality will also necessarily change (hello, psychosis). Thus there is no stable reality to be found externally. True reality lives in the inner dimension that can be uncovered with the uncompromising light of conscious attention.
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YOU.

*This is in line with the popular “we live in a simulation” stuff that’s going around. The idea of it being a simulation is accurate enough, but for me, that word removes our role in its co-creation. It’s like, “So what? I still hate my job and my marriage/body/state of mind within this simulation.”

Video game characters are pre-programmed to behave a certain way within their simulation; there can be no deviation from this. But as a human being, you can alter your programming by tapping into your higher faculties. If we want to call it a “simulation,” it is important to recognize that we are the junior programmers of this thing.

Rather than a simulation, I like to think of it like a lucid dream. We operate in a collective lucid dream, all too often acting like it’s soooo serious and totally missing the point that it’s a dream we can change—and quickly.

Existentially speaking, consciousness in pure form is…

  • A formless, timeless thing from where we come and to where we go: I really don’t want anyone to take my word on this. You’re the brainiest creature on the face of the Earth and you know how to think for yourself. This kind of spirituality does not dole out beliefs for people to attach themselves to for some kind of false comfort. Nonetheless, this is a truth I realized that one time I sort-of died, and so I am sharing it.
  • Not a thing you “have” but your truest identity: The ego loves to make consciousness into a “humans only” thing. It is treated as a unique tool for the ego to wield, and when thought of in this crude way, the world becomes a mess. Perhaps some of us extend this property down to our pets, and maybe some to insects, but that’s where the line generally ends. This limited view allows us to continue feeling special in comparison to the rest of Nature, and the ego indulges in specialness. If we place our attention in the aliveness that is inherent in Nature, we realize that all of it is conscious, albeit in a different way than us. You are Nature, too, and so you are it; you have simply come in a form hardwired with the ability to know this.
  • Life and death: The two are not separate or different and always exist in equal measure.
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Yin and Yang. For as cliche as this symbol has become, its implications and meaning are still entirely missed under our current paradigm.

Intellectually speaking, consciousness is…

  • Paradoxical: Getting comfortable with paradoxes is key. The mind won’t like it because the mind is much much smaller than this thing, and the ego wants “you” to remain small and identified with it. At some point, intellectualization has to take a backseat to the living world. If we cannot distance ourselves from rationality (which we often falsely equate with intelligence and as necessary for morality), we can never “get it.”
  • Frustrating: Pure consciousness cannot be proven to you by anyone else. It requires deliberate self-exploration of spaces that aren’t entirely comfortable. 

Globally speaking, consciousness is:

  • The thing that determines what is done with our cleverness: For physically modest mammals, we’ve done quite a number on this Earth, and it is all due to our cleverness. Cleverness split the atom; a low level of consciousness is what resulted in the bombs being dropped. Cleverness makes enormous scientific advances; low consciousness results in the fact that people are still dying of hunger when there is plenty of food in this world. Cleverness without consciousness is essentially what’s killing us. It is the combination of the two that has the power to lift this world into a holistically better place.
  • Still evolving: I almost said “rising,” but that implies progress from a human perspective. Some people ask, “If it’s rising, why does everything look more messed up than ever?” And the answer is that the ego has a death grip on those who cannot accept evolution and change; i.e. those who are exceptionally delusional and still in power. Just as a highly ego-identified person lashes out when the big reveal arrives, a highly ego-identified culture tries to close itself off just as things are starting to open up. Here we have your Brexits, your rigid borders (and proposed walls), and anger towards immigration and refugees. It’s just an unconscious preservation of the false self on a worldwide stage.
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Big shifts are occurring.


So there you have it. 1400 words that get you no closer to experiencing the heights of consciousness, but hopefully illumine why this thing is The Thing.

To any eyes that fall on this post, I send you love and light.

– Lish

 

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Reality, Spirituality, The Ego

Your Ego is Always Dying

Although I avoid using words like “mission” and “purpose,” I will say that I have a loose goal with this thing: It is to write about human consciousness—the most powerful force on Earth and the biggest issue we collectively face—in a way that is relatable to those who are new to the journey. I could’ve really, really benefited from this information in the last couple years, but I largely ignored spirituality because it seemed so irrational.

When you start digging around for stuff related to “consciousness” online, you usually aren’t too many steps away from stumbling across some archangel-and-alien stuff. To me, it has always felt premature to go on about the “5th dimension” while millions of human beings (on this Earth, in this dimension) are starving to death. These are the kinds of things that need to be addressed, and this is what the rise of consciousness could solve very quickly.

There are ways to understand consciousness without going that far. In the end, firsthand experience is necessary for full awareness, but there are still precepts we can grasp along the way.  One of the most important concepts in all this is the ego: It’s everything you think you are (except you’re not).

The most common metaphor for the ego is a bubble. In my first post on the ego, I likened it to a balloon because I didn’t want to plagiarize the metaphor from some unknown lineage of buddhas. Don’t think I’m missing the irony here: My ego’s desire for specialness decided it should use a more unique analogy for itself even though the best one was probably thought up by a nameless sage many centuries ago.  The ego really delights in specialness.

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Air = pure consciousness.  The bubble’s surface = ego.

The metaphor works great for a few reasons:  Within the bubble—and the very thing which gives the bubble its shape—is air. No matter how big or small or how long it stays afloat, it is always made of air, and all bubbles are made of this same thing. Consciousness is the primary principle of the universe; it is that which imbues all that we can perceive, as well as that which lies beyond conventional sense-perception. Beyond the mind there is this thing. Within and throughout all phenomena, there is this thing. It is your true identity, and it is mine.

Secondly, the surface of a bubble is ever-moving. This is a response to the way the outside air interacts with its properties—chiefly, water and soap. The surface of a bubble is truly beautiful: A cluster of them may look similar, but a close looks reveals that they are all undulating independently, constantly acting out a subtle play of iridescence. And of course, because a bubble has no thoughts, it doesn’t resist this movement in a frantic attempt to find “stability.”

It does not try to force the outer environment to stop moving for its own comfort. Clearly this would be a ridiculous thing to do, and yet we do this all the time. Whether externally focused (as in desperately trying to control others and our surroundings) or internally focused (as in mentally resisting every situation we find ourselves in that doesn’t suit our desires), the human mind has great trouble simply being. Similarly, we struggle with allowing nature to simply be around us. The bubble, being mindless, simply behaves in accordance with its nature, within and without*. If stability is to be found, it will only be in the air within.

When we cease to fight the constant change of the outside world and abide in the consciousness within, we are in peace and in power. We each move in unique and beautiful ways: Higher essence animates the ego rather than conditioned impulses, and we become both exquisitely complex and very simple—just like the rest of nature is.

*The point is not to glorify mindlessness, of course, but to learn how to put distance between you and the mind.

I will reiterate again: The ego is the false self, or, if we prefer, “the temporary self.”  The ego is human; the ego is of a certain profession; the ego is race and gender and belief systems and even personality. These kinds of things are usually taken to, altogether, make up who we “are.” On our temporal surfaces, this is true, but considering how fleeting and fragile a biological human life is, we cannot find much safety in it.

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Another common metaphor is a shadow: Yes it exists, but only because our bodies do.

We can do incredible things with our egos: Play music, share stories with friends, write blog posts about our egos, dance, make love—everything.  It is this “separateness” which makes individual creation possible.  And yet we can also do horrific things with our egos: Kill others, make war, rape, abuse, and exploit one another as well as many other living beings. The ego on its own has no quality; it is the state of consciousness within that determines what is done with it.

The goal with the ego is not to drive it out or to “kill it,” as some people seem to think. The ego is a necessary part of this human experience: To move throughout the world independently, the ego is what holds you together. Without it, there is boundless expansion of consciousness.  That can be super fun (until it isn’t), but without assistance and understanding, it is not an experience that can be easily navigated.

The idea is to continually occupy a state where the ego is seen as a neat illusion. From here you can inhabit the pure consciousness—your true identity—within. This is the only place of true power and balance:

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When we are acting from an unconscious ego, believing ourselves to only be the surface of the bubble, we are prone to much suffering. We’re unstable and unsafe, constantly looking outside for security, where it simply cannot be found. This can result in frustration and derision (or reverence) of others who seem to have something better “figured out” than us.

As soon as we see shine the light of awareness onto emotions such as jealousy, anger, and pride (all based in the ego’s need to be separate, special, and “more” than “others”), we become a little more free. This psychological process of checks and balances can be demanding and seemingly endless, but, hey: Freedom. I am still very much in the phase of checking and re-checking the impulses I have that serve my unconscious ego. This usually occurs in the form of tiny thoughts that place me either “above” or “below” others. From a higher space, I know how absurd these thoughts are; that we are all on the same crazy ride. When I’m hurt or tired, it can be hard to remember this.

The ego thrives on false identifications. We cling to these identities because a loss of self can result in a meltdown if one is not prepared—take it from me. Even seeing oneself as “good” and acting in ways that are “compassionate” can lead to a superiority complex, and imagining ourselves like this denies the parts that are shameful and sick. Integrating the self into one whole being requires us to face this stuff—all of it. Ego-based goodness is limited in what it can achieve, because it is still delusive.

The process of setting aside/humbling the ego is seen in most spiritual journeys. Possessions are given away, family is left behind, and the mind is given a total work over to explore and dispel delusive ways of seeing the world. Basically, anything we’re using to make ourselves feel “complete”—including our believies—must go.

Giving stuff up is not merely done for the sake of generosity: What’s being done is a systematic, deliberate relinquishing of the ego. The idea is to discover what is left when all has gone away, and to avoid becoming identified with any Earthly thing:

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However, there is only one difference between someone who is “on the path” and someone who isn’t: Conscious recognition. Consciousness evolves just like everything else, and since you are conscious, you are evolving. It isn’t an opt-in/opt-out thing we have going. The shedding of the ego is an evolutionary leap that is usually made up of a lot of little steps. Sometimes it all collapses at once, and if this happens to you in a highly ego-identified culture, you’re probably going to have a bad time.

Whether or not you are seeking to go through the process of ego-shedding, your ego will be taken from you in death. And before then, it will be injured in myriad ways: Losing people and things you are attached to, offhand comments that offend you, self-created thoughts that harm you, societal “failures,” etc.—these are all things that weaken the ego. That is to say, your ego is always dying.

The question is only whether we are accepting of its pre-physical death in order to find the peace beyond it, or continually propping it up in search of transient safety.

– Lish

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Mental Health, Reality, Spirituality

Awakening Chooses You

If you had told me five years ago that one day I’d be writing a blog with a spiritual bent, I would’ve laughed in your face. I also wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me I’d soon have a spiritual awakening, lose my mind over it, and ultimately find my true self through the process. Actually, I probably would’ve listened, internally freaked out, and continued to push it all away. Nothing of the “spiritual” sort would’ve made it through my closed, unconscious mind because I was—well, closed and unconscious.

For a long time I fancied myself an atheist (lowercase-a; I know these things are Very Important in the atheist community). I worshiped intellectual stuff and science and believed in only That Which Could be Measured.  There are a lot of reasons I arrived at this mindset, and no small part of it was due to my Western upbringing.  Our culture values academia to a fault.  Being “smart” gets you into the good careers (or, it used to), and so it was good that I was book-smart.  Furthermore, doing well in school was a reliable way to receive validation from adults, and I needed that.  So, the mind that was loaded up with information and well-thought out belief systems became sacred to me.

Today I see how limiting it is to look at life like this, because the most important parts of the human experience cannot be objectively examined. Things like love and joy and harmony and inner stillness cannot be objectively analyzed by any kind of study, and yet these are the emotions that propel the human spirit onward even in the bleakest circumstances. Sure, we can locate oxytocin and associate it with loving intimacy, but the feeling itself is immeasurable. We must take it on faith that anyone else feels it at all.

Back then, I also really disliked the word “spiritual.” It was the word people used when they were half-in and half-out of religious dogma. “Spirituality” was the mind’s way of convincing itself it could get to Heaven no matter what it did on Earth. Whether an oil executive or a non-violent activist, spiritual nonsense made Heaven available for everyone—at least within certain religions, there were rules: Don’t kill people, at the very least. This wishy-washy perspective could never change the world. The whole thing was way too soft, and I hated soft things because sharpness felt more comfortable to me.

To me, “spirituality” was delusion without the willingness to commit to a particular faith. It was when people said, “well, I believe in something…” and that tepid statement did nothing more than allow the believer to stay asleep; to keep on living whatever way they’d been conditioned to live while The Machine™ ended all life on Earth.

Okay, I thought, so you’re a part of the machine and then you die and “something” happens.  What a weak conviction.  Also, I was really angry, so everybody in the world who didn’t behave in ways I approved of was stupid and/or shitty.  I had the trifecta going on that I see in a lot of educated, empathic young adults: Smart, angry, and lost.   This common combination is founded upon suffering, as many orientations to life are.

In short, that I’m sitting here writing about spirituality is as surprising to me as it might be to anyone reading this who knows me personally.

To be sure, I’m definitely not saying that people who claim to be “spiritual” aren’t delusional.  On the contrary, everything that used to annoy me about “spiritual people” is still there; it just doesn’t annoy me anymore.  Delusion is ubiquitous and in every spiritual tradition, but delusion is also outside of every spiritual tradition as well: It’s in universities, laboratories, and workspaces around the world.  The social structures of the world are founded on and made up of delusional individual minds.  Even though this is true, we all experience short-term breaks from untruth.  These breaks come about in the form of spontaneous joy, love, laughter, and a kind of whole-body peace many people don’t even know can exist.

One of my problems was that I had an inaccurate concept of what “spirituality” meant.  All I knew that none of it could be verified via reason or empirical evidence, and I favored these things because being intelligent (as measured by Western academic criteria) was a big part of my self-worth.  Therefore, to entertain any notion that didn’t serve reason/science felt not only worthless, but like an attack on me and my value as a human.  This is what the unconscious ego does, guys.

But after I lost (and recovered) my mind, I did a lot of reading and compared it to my experiences.  Finally, it all lined up, and it was so simple: Oh, I’d had a spiritual awakening.  Plain as day.   There’s actually nothing wrong with me or my brain—and there is nothing wrong with you or yours, either.

This is the way I learned how to interpret the word “spirituality:” It has nothing to do with archangels, poltergeists, crystals, horoscopes, or tarot cards.   It does not require joining a monastery.  We may find these such things helpful or fun, but they’re no more or less spiritual than anything else.

The path is ultimately about one thing: Awakening to reality.  On Earth there are at least as many realities as there are human beings.  Elsewhere, in a place that is only accessible through your own consciousness, there is but one.  To wake up is to see this fully, and then do in life what you will.

Awakening really doesn’t care if you consider yourself an atheist, agnostic, Christian or Jew, though the preconceived notions that go along with these labels may determine how the awakening is interpreted.  No matter: A full awakening will strip every label from you.  And though many seekers spend their lives making themselves available to it, most of the time, awakening chooses you.  Whether it seems like a blessing or a curse at the time depends heavily on how much inner work you’ve done so far.

Sooner or later, denying that it has happened becomes ridiculous.  If the moment comes and you didn’t ask for it, you have the choice to resist or to join the Universe in its flow.  Because of the power of conditioning, many of us run away—or at least we try to.

But without persistent, focused denial, awakenings cannot be stopped.  They fundamentally (and quite literally) change the way the world appears and, eventually, how you appear to the world.  To act like this enormous thing never really happened brings deep insecurity, not to mention a feeling of phoniness.  And maybe once upon a time, you could deal with being fake, because hey—who isn’t fake once in a while?

But as you become more grounded and come to know your true self, the masks just fall away.  You know something incredibly real and powerful happened to you, and you can’t deny it to everyone because you’re worried about what they’ll think.

Soon I’ll be putting my name on this blog and writing more about my personal process from intense suffering (labeled by medical professionals as depression and bipolar disorder) to regular joy and bliss.  I also hope to examine how this process translates into the greater world, since the individual is a microcosm for the whole.

Mostly I wanted to post this to be clear, to myself and any readers: This is a spiritual blog.  For some time, I was leaning towards philosophy or some combination of psychology and spirituality.  After a few conversations, it became clear that this can’t really be done.  There will likely be a lot of overlap, since the integration of awakening tends to get medicalized and outright denied the West, and that needs to be addressed.

Very quickly, the limits of logic are hit in these matters, and I have no interest in arguing. The things I choose to write about are not my “positions” or “beliefs;” they are what I know to be true via my direct experience.  I admit, freely and happily, that none of what I know in this regard can be verified by external measures, and encourage all people to deeply explore their own consciousness.

I am not seeking to “convince” anyone; I simply trust that what I write will resonate with those who need to read it.

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