Watching the Egoic Mind

The ego is the most misunderstood and underappreciated concept in the history of human evolution. This word gets thrown about casually all the time. Many people believe they have a hold on this notion, and perhaps they do on an intellectual level. However, intellectual understanding is not what we are after on the path. This is because intellectual understanding will not free you or reintroduce you to the Self.

As I’ve said, I once loved deep philosophical discourseor rather it felt “deep” because the mind was busy tying itself into ever-tightening knots. The depths of ourselves are not actually known until the egoic mind begins to thin. All of my conversations occurred while the core questions, “Who is speaking? Who even are we?” went ignored and/or unanswered. Intellectual conversations carry on like this all the time.

The reason for such misunderstanding is because 99% of what we hear, think, and talk about comes from the ego itself. In this post I am going to refer to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave* and compare it to the experience of living inside the egoic identity versus seeing through it and to the Self.

*The Wikipedia link says that the allegory is about “the effect of education and the lack of it on our nature.” But the allegory is not about education in terms of mental knowledge or accumulation of worldly facts. One with a Ph.D in theology is no closer to Truth than a farmer who dropped out of high school.

The allegory is about self-knowledge. It is about the way we can come to know true reality as opposed to what most of us accept as “reality” without looking very far inward. The allegory has survived for so long in the collective consciousness precisely because it is about the egoic mind, not “education” in the modern sense.

Most often, when we say we understand ourselves or others, it is ego talking about ego. Here we are still in the cave, theorizing about the light outside rather than just walking out into it. If we once had a spiritual experience, we might be remembering what it was like to be out there for a split second: Spacious, peaceful, open, clear. It is much rarer for one to walk outside the cave and never look back. I would like to see it become much less rare.

And it is almost only the “bad” human qualities we attribute to ego. We think it only means arrogance, greed, hot-headedness, and an inflated sense of importance. And while these traits surely do stem from an unexamined ego, they alone are not an accurate description of what an “ego” is or its effects on the being.

Here is the simplest description of your ego: It’s your false identity. It is a construct (truly just a thought) made up of personal history, belief systems, and group affiliations. It is a collection of labels and stories that have been assigned to you since (or even before) birth. You have taken on these labels and stories unconsciously, and believe they are what “you” are.

This falsenesssomething that is a clever lieis driving nearly all of our thoughts and actions in this world. Do we understand now how the world has gotten into the shape it is in? We live upon it while believing unquestioningly in a huge lie. This lie is so obvious it goes overlooked all the time.

Just for fun, pay close attention to the next new person you meet. Most of the time, if you ask them about themselves, they will launch right into their ego-story: “I am John, I work at a pharmacy, I have a dog, etc.” Or just ask someone “who are you?” Again, it will almost always be about personal history, personal relationships, their profession, interests, etc. Straight away, they are speaking from their ego. It is rare for someone to go “off-script.” The ego is what we are usually talking about when we use the word “I:” It is “ourselves” as particular individuals. These small stories represent the cave we are all living in.

What is the origin of this cave, this ego-identity?

It is conditioning, through and through. Everything you believe about yourself is the result of conditioning. This is easy to unravel: The body you were born with did not come with a name. Your parents gave you one, and slowly conditioned you to respond to this name. We are all conditioned to believe we are smart or stupid, worthy or unworthy. We are conditioned to believe that certain self-expressions are acceptable and others must be suppressed; we are conditioned to believe all kinds of things like “money equals safety,” “nations are real,” and “a partner will make you happy.”

Consciously conditioning another person to believe something is negatively called “brainwashing.” But even if we “reject” all beliefs, we will find that this root constructthis false “I”—will happily latch on to the belief that “it is a person with no beliefs.”

If you take yourself to be any kind of person at all, you are missing the Truth of your Self.

Sometimes we read or hear truthful statements about the ego and dismiss them: “I’ve heard all this already; I understand all that,” etc… Well, what are we trying to defend, then? What is the source of our restlessness and lack of ease? Why do we continue to chase experiences and live in unpleasant life situations? Why do we find it so difficult to sit quietly in peace?

Once this “false one” is unmaskedonce we walk in out into the sun from the cave—the struggles naturally come to an end. Because we are not separate from one another, it is true that the whole world is uplifted when even one being makes it out.

But I don’t want it to seem so hard! There is actually no cave or ego to “get out of.” See this and you will know freedom right now. And you do not have to sacrifice everything in your life to look within. I am of the belief that most realized beings move towards lives of simplicity because silence just becomes preferable to conditioned chatter and noise. However, peace is still an inner experience everywhere they go. Living from the Truth, a sage is also capable of having relationships and jobs and other “normal” life situations, but many don’t. These things are often a kind of energetic drain.

The main difference is that they have seen who they are, truly and doubtlessly, and allow life to unfold before them. There is no fixed “person” within them. They tend to radiate peace and stillness, but are capable of any unabashed expression—yes, even anger and sorrow. They are simply not identified with their emotions.

As far as getting free, it isn’t very helpful to “think about” the ego-identity. When we think about the ego from the ego, it is tantamount to painstakingly wandering around the cave, taking inventory of its nooks and crannies: “Ah yes, here is the water drip; here is the crack in the cave wall; here is the rock where I stubbed my toe…”

We are also fascinated with the projections on the walls, always discussing them and pointing at them. The obsessiveness over worldly “stuff” is truly silly. You are given no aerial view this way, and no idea about how beautiful it is outside.

To see the ego in its entirety, we must start to make steps towards its exit. If we are lucky and our minds are ripe, our efforts will fruit in no time. We will run right to the edge of the cave and into the sunlight to find that none of those projections were real in the first place. From this position, it will seem bizarre how steadfastly most human beings fight to remain inside of it.

However, it seems that most of us prefer to live in the hallway towards the exit of the cave: We want the imagined safety and familiarity of the cave (the cherished personal identity) and an open free life in the sun.

My friends, this is not possible. It is the work of the egoic mind to convince you the cave is safer. The exact opposite is true: In no time at all, the cave is going to collapse and crumble in on you, so why waste another moment inside of it? The desire to have both can easily create many lifetimes of discord for you.

The true way to live is in complete freedom from the egoic mind. This is also the way our culture goes about transforming into one that is actually healthy and responsible in the long run. Our way of life in the egoic hivemind is much like a snake eating its own tail. It may seem tasty and interesting until we see, with horror, what is happening. Only then will we say, with shock, “my God, what have I been doing?!”

Perhaps the Self is realized right then.

The question is, will we realize these things?

Depression: Micro to the Macro

Ultimately, the spiritual path brings you back to good old common sense.

What to eat? Mostly fruits and vegetables, and no poison, thank you. When and how long to sleep? When you’re tired, as long as you need to. What do do or say? Whatever comes into the heart. Life takes care of itself in various ways, with the help of other loving human beings (and with continued work, of course). There is no need to overthink every conversation, event, or behavior. Things are fine.

As you may know, one issue that is dear to my heart is mental health. At the root of this concern is my awareness that we are an ill species acting as a scourge upon the Earth for no good reason. I believe this phase in evolution—the phase of the egoic mind—will one day be remembered of as a time of collective mental illness. This collective mental illness could best be described as “the delusion of separation and death.” Almost all suffer from it, though to varying degrees.

We have gotten so deep into this delusion that when someone senses “hey maybe this isn’t right; something feels off,” we tell that person they are the ill one. They “have depression,” or, in my case, also “bipolar disorder.”

I feel I am constantly seeing the condition of depression get overthought, when it is very simple: An ill culture creates ill people, and vice versa. A vicious pattern has been in place for a long time. We do not have to look very far to see how our culture, on the whole, is very much in the grips of insanity.

I find it strange and ridiculous how we are still studying and medicating depression, while only a small number of people are out there saying “hey our culture is screwed up, and this is why we are depressed.” When people do say this, they are not fully heard because our impulsive minds want a less complicated fix than “actually, everything needs to change. Maybe—just maybe—we need to rework the entire way we live and then see how depressed we are.”

Additionally, when I see someone talking about cultural transformation, they, too, are often still under the spell of the egoic mind. This mind usually wants to blame all of our pain on government, the patriarchy, capitalism, civilization as a whole, etc. An egoic mind also often believes it has The Answer in things like “sacred medicine” instead of Western medicine. It can create a whole new list of “woke” rules that will not, in and of themselves, heal humanity’s illness in the long-term. The only thing that can really do it is to wake up from our delusive dream.

In short: To see depression truly healed, we must create a world we can feel at peace within, as well as lives worth living.

Saying that depression is the result of “bad brain chemicals” is like saying someone is thirsty because they haven’t had any water lately. While technically true, this answer is so surface-level and isolated that it is barely any help.

Following this metaphor, imagine that instead of taking a thirsty person to a spring to drink, we give them a small cup of water that has all kinds of sediment (and perhaps bacteria) in it. “Drink this,” we say, “and it might help. It may leave you with grit in your mouth and possibly infect you with another disease, but, it’s the best we got.”

Still following this metaphor: We accept the glass of dirty water because we have forgotten where the clean stream is located. We know it must be somewhere because we do remember, even if faintly, how it feels to be simply happy/not thirsty all the time. So someone in a lab drums up a poor substitute for water. Some people think “hey this is close enough, and I can market it.” And rather than focusing on the fact that we need to remember where the clean drinking stream is and get ourselves to it pronto, we continue to suffer the thirst and drink dirty cups of water day after day. What else can we do?

Man, I hope this metaphor resonates for someone out there.

The clean spring is within us all, beyond the egoic mind we suffer from. The dirty water is the half-effective antidepressant-bandage. And if we’re going to go see healers about our depression, please let it at least be to someone who knows where the spring is located, someone who isn’t so ill themselves as to believe a glass of dirty water a day is a solution.

tl;dr: Depression is the direct result of a living in an unconscious culture that is completely deluded about itself.

As a whole, we have been decimating other lifeforms and one another for a while now, and we know we are connected to each other. Are we so arrogant that we believe this shouldn’t hurt? How are we so ignorant as to think we, as individuals, just have “chemical imbalances,” and that these imbalances have little or nothing to do with the fact that we are exacting a mass extinction event on the planet? Apparently I should’ve just been okay with going to work and “having a nice life” while the rest of Me burned alive and starved and cut its own limbs off? I couldn’t, and I will never be okay with that.

Of course, no one’s depression is consciously related to the way our planet is in utter shambles. Instead, we think “I need a better job; my marriage is strained; if I just had enough money; my kids are driving me nuts…”

These things may play a part in your personal depression, because the egoic mind believes sincerely that its job/marriage/finances/kids are more important than seeing what is Real. But from an evolutionary perspective, you’ve got an alarm bell going off inside of you whenever you feel depressed or anxious.

This world is in deep peril, and our emotions are telling us this loud and clear—especially we, the smartest, most comfortable, and wealthiest ones… probably because we aren’t doing a thing to address it, even though we could be.

The question is: Are we mind-identified types ready to we do away with these simplistic “brain-based” answers and look at the evolutionary picture yet?

And this is happening: More and more young people are taking their lives. Almost every one of my friends talks about “having anxiety” like it is on par with buying a pair of socks. No big deal to live in constant fear, and nothing they can do about it either. Millions of us take antidepressants and suffer awful side effects, all while ignoring the larger picture, which is that we are depressed because we have made this planet a depressing place to live. Period.

(Optimistic note: It does not have to be this way! At all!)

This problem cannot be legislated away. This problem cannot be medicated away. This problem cannot be suppressed with drugs and alcohol. This problem—the one where millions of us are hating ourselves and wanting to die and/or actually killing ourselves—can only be solved by deep cultural transformation brought about by waking up from the egoic mind’s hypnosis.

And if you’re waiting for me to blame some system or person like the president or capitalism, I am not going to do that. I am going to place my attention on the root of the problem, which lies inside each of us: The egoic mind. It is this mind which compels us to hoard wealth. It is this mind which denies its relationship to the rest of the world. It is this mind, in its obscene blindness, which believes it can get away with destroying one another and never face consequences.

It is so wrong to believe this. It is this mind which has no faith in its Self, and looks externally to feel a happiness that can only be found within.

– Lish

Location: Mitchell, OR

Why “Good” Isn’t Enough

The reason I am not satisfied with the maxim “just be a good person” is as follows: What qualifies as “a good person” is heavily dependent on the conditioning of the culture.

“Good people” owned slaves. “Good people” kill others in the name grandiose, ridiculous missions. You may not think the people who do such things are good, but there have always plenty of bystanders deciding that the aforementioned behaviors are acceptable. And further, our collective silence on the current way of life (borne of fear and a desire to numb out and be “comfortable”) amounts to the exact same kind of tacit approval. Even today, the vast majority of us “good people” quietly support destructive and oppressive industries. We “good people” make nice and then retreat into egoic isolation.

“Good people”—if they do not know who they truly are—are easily compelled to to act in evil ways.

Through an ignorant lens (and we are, on the whole, tremendously ignorant), a “good person” means one who contentedly aligns him or herself with the existing cultural winds. When someone runs counter to this—because it is so obvious to such an individual that the culture and its inhabitants are sick—they are sometimes charged with “disturbing the peace,” or, depending on the culture, killed. For instance, Christ was obviously murdered. Giordano Bruno, one of my favorite philosophers, was executed. Prophets and pantheistic philosophers have historically been exiled.

And for what? Well, they set fire to beliefs held dear to the ego-identity of the culture at large, especially those about God and humanity’s place in the Universe. They said things like “I am God,” and “All is God,” and “the Universe is infinite; man is not the most important creation.”

All of these things are true, but the entrenched egoic mind’s nature is to resist Truth. And you will note that it is also not enough to say or to mentally “know” these statements to be true. There was something more in said individuals—something threatening to the egoic mind. When someone awake says it and lives it, it brings about a different reaction than one who says this stuff all offhanded. The energy of an awakened individual can be felt, and it reverberates throughout the society. This energy is not always well-received.

Most of the time, those who realize Truth are at best thought strange and/or somewhat insane. At worst, they are killed or exiled. This will be the case until enough of us are done with the charade and ready to Realize our oneness once and for all.

A hyperbolic example: For occupants of Germany in the 1930s, being “a good person” meant siding with the nation’s program to systematically persecute millions of non-Aryans. Surely there were those who did not do this, and their names will never be known. We can only be grateful in spirit that such courageous individuals existed at all. The point is this: Plenty of law-abiding, concerned citizens came together to act out egregious horrors all while being considered “decent” by their surrounding society.

This is why “good” is not enough on its own. It must be investigated. And even though this may seem obvious, it is even more important that the notion of “person” be investigated thoroughly, especially with regards to yourself.

Imagine now that one Nazi comes to his senses and realizes the error of his ways. If he were to turn his back on his country, could he not be easily labeled a selfish traitor, perhaps even by those who recently professed their love to him? Only after many generations of clearer sight would this person be labeled brave and right by the masses. We can have this clearer sight now, about our own culture. We can dilute the poison in our world with the power of our presence. Then, and only then, do “good acts” start to have real weight.

We can all be Christ-like; we can all move from our Buddha-nature; we can do away with all religious terminology and call it whatever we like so long as we are established in Reality. This is done first by accepting that a recognition of our true home in consciousness is a requirement. A desire to give up our small selves to the endless, changeless Almighty must be present.

Once that is accepted, the real work begins.

I have employed the word “Nazi” consciously, because I know how triggering the word is. Today, this word that denotes the chilling power of “following orders.”

And yet, how much have we truly evolved? We are still murdering one another. Men in wealthy nations are still being trained to become killing machines. We hoard wealth (or, just as bad, desire to hoard wealth) while our fellow humans die of starvation. Of course this is due to the belief that we are different and separate from those starving humans. How sad for them, we think, how lucky and blessed for me. And, with a sigh of relief, we think at least *I* am going to be okay.

This could not be more false. If you identify only with this singular life experience—with the body/mind the consciousness occupies right now—you actually are not going to be okay. (All right, in the end End, of course you will, but you are probably facing a long journey filled with unnecessary suffering.) We all reap what we sow sooner or later. Rarely do we take the time to consider how we are creating this world or how all of our choices keep us in a state of vast inequality.

And further, no one is simply “unfortunate” or impoverished due to sheer luck. Yes, karma is a thing (this is the whole reaping/sowing thing in different language), but more importantly, we create, all of us, this state of “unfortunate” inequality.

It is surely not my aim to place any blame on any individual or any system. Until Truth is realized, we are hopelessly lost to the external world and conditioning, and we will fall time and again. We chase after and worship the unreal and rebuff the Real. This is an exhausting battle that we do not have to fight.

And when you look at it, even we civilians are still “following orders.” It is just that these orders are internal, given by our own egoic minds and accepted without a second thought. We believe we are making up our own minds, but very few of us have. We have inherited our thought patterns and/or otherwise unconsciously taken them on by the larger culture. Our preoccupations and patterns are dictated by previous life experiences, meaning that we are not living here and now. The orders we are taking are even more insidious because we consistently mistake them for our “own” thoughts and our minds for our actual selves. And then, the real kicker: We don’t even know who it is, wielding all these powerful thoughts!

There is a way we almost all continue to subjugate and destroy one another in thought. We would be wise to be be very watchful of this “thinker,” and find out who it is. This is the one which must be seen through for peace to reign in ourselves and in the greater world.

– Lish

location: Mitchell, Oregon

Christ Was a Radical Revolutionary

The beginning of this post is probably going to read like an advertisement for Spoke’n Hostel in Mitchell, Oregon. That’s because it is legitimately one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is also run by two of the kindest, most Christ-like individuals I have ever met.

Their names are Pat and Jalet Farrell. They had a vision for Spoke’n, and execute it to a tee. The hostel caters largely to cyclists riding through on the Transamerica cycling route, which runs right through Mitchell. Travelers who are out on vacation looking to fish, camp, or hike also come here. Most of them are blown away by what has been done with the space.

The hostel is also a church. Upstairs, the pews have been re-purposed as benches (I’m writing this post on one of them now), and the pulpit has two cozy chairs on it. On Sundays, there is a church service in the basement where Pat is the pastor. What I like about him is that he has a deep understanding of the message of Christ, and consistently brings his sermons back to that message. He and Jalet have experienced the peace of God in a way that has transcended a mental position. They have allowed God to work over their whole lives because they know this peace.

And on that spiritual level, I love the hostel because it takes all the best things about spirituality—generosity, hospitality, connection, community—and puts them into practice beyond a Sunday service. No one is excluded. These principles are made manifest right before our eyes, and the energy here is truly beautiful.

It can be so common to talk the talk, spiritually speaking. Perhaps we know our mantras and chants; we say our prayers; we sit down to meditate. But how often do we create something that actualizes our values so fully? And are we able to remain as open hands with our awareness of Truth, or do we feel the need to constantly be “telling” people about it, even if they are not interested?

This brings me back to that word: Christ-like. What does it mean?

Obviously it means to emulate the traits Christ Himself embodied. Somehow, we’ve gotten confused about what exactly those traits might be. This is because each human filters the parables and behaviors of Christ through their existing egoic minds. Everything is colored by what the state of mind is able to comprehend. One who wears yellow-tinted sunglasses all their life will never see the true blue of the sky.

A less egoic mind will see Christ/God more closely to his divine nature: Open for All and unconditionally loving. A highly egoic mind will place many more conditions on what God requires to achieve salvation.

Jesus Christ was indeed a realized being—God manifested as human. He was surely not recognized as such by everyone, hence the crucifixion. Similarly, the Buddha announced that he had attained complete inner freedom, but the first person he told this to regarded him with skepticism and walked away.

In general, the egoic mind prefers beliefs over Truth, and resists that which violates the beliefs it has affixed itself to.

I offer this: Christ was a radical revolutionary, and if his teachings were digested and made real by his followers, we would be creating a vastly more beautiful world. His love was of such power, it is still incomprehensible and misunderstood by many minds—even those who self-describe as Christians.

Christ took no half-measures. He made Himself visible, had courage, was God-realized and proclaimed it in a hostile environment. Upon enlightenment, He was moved to make an example out of his own life. He did this so that others could see how utterly loved (and truly in love) they are; how unimportant the external world is in comparison to what lies inside. As He said: “Neither shall they say ‘look here,’ or ‘look there.’ The kingdom of God is within.”

That is ultimately what the path guides us to: A commitment to a life rooted in the heart, even when it is unpopular. We listen to what is inside even when it pisses everyone off and confuses them—family and friends included. We listen to what is inside even when it isn’t coming through totally clear. When we are misunderstood, mislabeled, judged, and limited (as we surely will be if we are walking the path sincerely), we keep walking.

I’m sure we have all known people who are Christ-like, yet they may not call themselves Christians. So, too, we know Christians who are not particularly Christ-like.

This is the difference that consciousness makes.

What I am saying here about the path is different from the pacifying notion of simply “being a good person.”

First of all, the phrase means nothing until we thoroughly examine what “good” means and even what “person” means. All that is an intellectual minefield. The egoic mind cannot effectively navigate intellectual matters (or anything, really), because it is so preoccupied with preserving itself and its existing positions.

This whole “just be a good person” thing tends to be the weak maxim the mind reaches when it no longer wants to seek. The egoic mind likes to pat itself on the back for being however it already is. It puts no effort into experiencing deeper love and freedom. This is because in order to experience love and freedom, we usually have to change and let go of things the egoic mind doesn’t want to give up. Make no mistake: The egoic mind has no interest in You becoming free of it. Only God wants that for you.

So, it placates us for our current ways: “Just be a good person,” it says, “and everything will be all right.” Of course, the ego-identity usually fancies itself already a good person, with just a little bit of improvement to get started on… someday, of course.

Not now, but maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. Just not now.

Location: Mitchell, OR

Know Yourself First

Today I wanted to share an illustrative metaphor regarding the egoic mind and its relationship to the world we create. Many of us are caught up in attempting to force or manipulate the world into what we think it should look like. As well-intentioned as this may be, it is misguided. I drew this picture to help show why it is essential to know who we are first and foremost:

ink (2)
For whatever reason, I forgot to include violence and war in the branches: Such unconscious acts based are also on the delusion that we are not, in fact, only ever waging war against ourselves.

It is very simple: We have forgotten who we are, and are in the habit of mistaking ourselves for things that are not original to us.

We are largely in the habit of assuming things about who we are—primarily that the “I” we are focused on is a collection of memories, stories, personality, preferences, history, relationships, etc. This construct is actually a very contracted version of the true You. It is flimsy like a shadow, always changing, and subject to death. The ego-identity, for as important as the world makes it out to be, is actually non-existent.

It doesn’t even matter what the ego dresses itself up as. All are equally unreal in the ultimate sense, and none are more helpful to humanity than those who seek to rid themselves of such falsehood. All egos can become fundamentalist about whatever beliefs they take seriously.

Once this root is pulled, pure being can at last shine through. From here it becomes very clear what to do for our fellow humans, if anything at all. One realized being sitting in supreme peace actually uplifts the world far more than a hundred angry protesters.

This is not laziness, and this is not sitting and thinking. Being is neither of these things.

I was inspired to draw this picture by a Thoreau quote: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

This is an appropriate statement for the way most of us attempt to act “morally.” We choose a few good behaviors, perhaps a “cause” or two, and become concerned about them. We then go on to believe—or at least act as if we believe—that the rest of our choices do not matter once we pick said causes and invest some energy into them.

We donate money to charity and yet purchase clothing made by children in factories. We protest war and yet go home to sharply chastise our spouses and children. We claim to love animals, yet we support industrial meat by eating it. We make claims about wanting to experience our Buddha-nature, but go on to loudly judge Christians. We say we love our family members, yet fail to accept them when they deviate slightly from the family culture.

The difference between what we profess to value and how we behave could not be more pronounced. Of course the mind always has clever justifications. I have heard them all and I have made millions of excuses in my own life for my callous thoughts and language.

It is rare to see someone striving to become effective in challenging the culture cumulatively. This is the only way it can really work, because every issue is indivisible from every other. We often settle for “good enough.” It is an act that protects the ego, which gets to continue imagining itself as this great, radical person.

Conversely, it may imagine it is never good enough, again thrown into hyperbole about what a “bad person” it is. Both views are equally delusional. The mind has many tricks to preserve its hold over us… whichever line of thinking works for the mind, it will use.

So what is this incongruity all about? Who does this?

It is not enough to answer that humans are, by nature, contradictory and bad. I find this belief to be weak and unexplored, the result of one’s own belief in themselves as being unworthy.

Throughout history there have been human beings (some are alive even today) who realized who they were and let go of half-measures. They existed in peace, gave themselves up, and became examples for what humanity is capable of.

It is worth mentioning that for these people, no matter how financially poor, there was never even a sense of sacrifice. Once you give yourself over to consciousness it becomes clear how blessed you are, even with limited “real world” accommodations. Ramana Maharshi allowed thieves to “steal” from the ashram where he lived and refused ownership of land given to him, so deep was his experience of his Self as All. He had next to nothing but was immersed in God. He was also vocal that there was indeed nothing special about him. What is called “enlightenment” is available to all, and is the opposite of “special.”

As far as ignoring the whole: The true mind does not do this. One who has awakened to Truth does not do this. The dream of separation and dualism is over for this one, and it is understood how hopelessly entangled we are with one another.

Another step: “entangled” is not even correct. We do not exist as separate entities from God, or anyone else for that matter. To be entangled or connected implies there are separate parts to connect. But this seeming separation—dualism—is playing out within a nondualistic consciousness.

 

And yet, and yet… words fail. Sit and see for yourself.

Our focus is extremely shortsighted. From egoic minds, we criticize the external world without taking the opportunity to turn around and notice our own patterns of hatred. Too, we miss the largest point, which is that we are what makes the external world. All of us. Together. This is a co-creative act no one gets to opt out of. You are creating the world and the culture right now whether you like it or not.

We try to take a chainsaw to capitalism, war, big banks, colonialism, political systems, poverty, racism, on and on. But, just like a tree or shrub, what happens when one limb is cut? It grows back, sometimes even stronger. All kinds of effort goes towards chopping away that which will absolutely grow back. The only permanent solution is to pull the root, which lies in your own mind.

Pulling the root of the ego reveals the truth of who you are. We must do this first, before attempting to change the world. Only then does it become clear where our strengths lie, what uplifting work we are suited to. It may not even be in any “big, grand” way. I know many people harbor dreams of being great spiritual leaders, but even this is often the ego’s sneaky attempt to dress itself up and project an “important” vision of itself into the future.

God has moved me to a town of 130 people with no social media and one backpack. I have about $600 total, and still have student loan debt. There is no long-term “plan.” Surely I am not living any common Westerners’ dream. It bears mentioning that external conditions really are not the point: Money/no money, stuff/no stuff, relationships/no relationships… It is not my lack of belongings that “makes me spiritual.” A simple, uncluttered way of life truly makes most sense to my heart, and we will all be steered in unique directions depending on our constitutions.

Upon realizing the Self, we may find that we are still moved to engage in activism, but it will come from a far more grounded and loving place—not one of divisiveness, revenge, or anger. This charged notion that “those people are doing something evil to me/us” will have dissolved.

In short: Know who you are, and do what you will. If you do not know who you are, drop as many things as you can and seek yourself. It is not a physical journey, and anyone can start taking steps. You really do not need to go anywhere but inside of your own self.

 

Location: En route from Burlington, WA to Mitchell, OR

The Problem is in Our Own Minds

The problem is in our own minds.

Honestly, this point feels too important for me to just write once, so I am going to say it a couple more times here and probably in future posts as well: The problem is in our own minds. The problem is in our own minds. No matter our political stances, our beliefs about “what should be done in the world,” or “which side of a line we’re on,” the problem lies within. The solution does, too.

Of course I am wary of using the word “problem,” lest we turn the mind into an enemy of sorts. I have definitely slipped into the trap of psychologically punishing myself for  being under the egoic mind’s hypnosis. Ironically, this is the ego punishing itself in order to preserve itself, because what we really are cannot be harmed.

Beating ourselves up isn’t the most helpful way to approach things, but we are often operating from a piece of conditioning that convinces us otherwise.

Usually we look outward to understand the state of the world. “Out there” is where we imagine reality is. When we interpret external reality as “bad,” it is usually the work of a mind that believes things “should” be going another way. This alone implies a state of non-acceptance, and most of the time, I avoid using the word “should” for this very reason. “Should” is what we say when we are living in a state of resistance to what is. It is a life-denying space that is usually rooted in avoidance.

If we seek to understand why the world looks the way it does (and I agree—much of it is horrific), we must start looking inside ourselves. We need to do this before rushing to blame, fix, or change the world. At this stage in human evolution, we are still very much an insane species, each with the power to purge some or all of this insanity, thereby uplifting the whole world.

Can we imagine what might happen if enough of us turned around to face the proper direction? If enough of us were determined to rid ourselves of the illness that is the root of human suffering?

Being in a state of deep peace ourselves, we would naturally create a peaceful world.

Another thing to bear in mind is scope, perspective, and our own responsibility to our fellow humans. We live in a world that is fraught with violence and despair. If we believe we are safely removed from these things, all we usually need to do is examine our clothing and/or our devices: They are usually made by children in factory conditions. We usually do not need as much stuff as we have. In this way, we are each responsible for the fact that such conditions exist and that our fellow humans have to survive as automatons in this environment.

Every day there is some other catastrophic event to behold. The most common response? We sit and stare at it. We make ourselves sick thinking about it. We get Very, Very Upset, and then we proceed with our daily lives just as we always have.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and I am not even talking about organizing and changing laws (though of course I would love to see us organizing and changing laws). I am talking about examining our own habits—including and maybe especially thought habits, and how they contribute to the hivemind that ultimately creates these terrible events. Our egoic minds are not separate from one another; they only appear to be.

We can look at our minds and the various ways we put energy into the world. Most of us wield our energy unconsciously, meaning we’re usually putting intense anger and negativity out there with no understanding of how it impacts the rest of the world. The net result is that we are stewing in a Jacuzzi of fear all day and wondering why the world isn’t getting any better.

We have to cease giving our attention to the worst things in the world. Placing your attention inward is not avoidance. If you think it is, I suggest taking up an intensive meditation practice. Actually, sitting and staring, transfixed by the suffering of others and then going to get a drink or use a drug or turn on a sitcom—which is usually what we do after we hear of something unimaginable occurring—that is avoidance.

Refusing to look at the underlying mechanisms in ourselves that are co-creating this world with all of it’s horrific events because it seems inconvenient or difficult for us—that is avoidance.

So when I choose not to disturb my inner peace by getting worked up by every horrible thing that occurs (these things are unending and always have been), it is not because I’m weak. It is not that I “can’t stand” to see these awful things. On the contrary: It is that I have already seen them all, and the solution has become very clear: Remain focused inward, keep my energies balanced, and try to direct others back to themselves gently. This is tremendously more effective than simply being upset and talking about how bad everything is.

It certainly doesn’t mean everyone will like us, because when we choose to live deeply in peace in a world built upon widespread violence, it can look kind of crazy or boring. But there is nothing special about such a way of life. “Spiritual living” actually becomes only practical when delusions begin to fade.

As a species, we have been exacting an incomprehensible genocide on all living beings for some time now. When the magnitude of this suffering is truly seen and felt within your own being, you become less and less snagged by “new” day-to-day horrors. It really just feels like “yes, yes, yet again, another unnecessarily awful thing that has been caused by human delusion,” and then you get back to work where it matters: Your own mind.

It is useless to fall to pieces over every tragedy. If you are going to fall to pieces over the world, I suggest falling to pieces over all of it: Every species that our unconsciousness has wiped out, every slave that has been taken, every child who is being harmed right now. Absorb that degree of horror and suffering; see if you can even fathom all that suffering. Fall completely to pieces and allow the divine to build you into something effective at turning this pattern around.

Sometimes these feelings occur so the ego can continue to imagine it is a “certain kind” of person—empathic, sensitive, somebody who “really cares.” This lets it off the hook for doing any of the deeper work and healing that needs to be done. The ego says “look, I’m so caring, I’m crying over everyone, I just can’t take it, I can’t handle it,” effectively stopping the person from looking further.

I have absolutely felt this way before—for most of my life, even. But in the end, my egregious mess of emotions was helpful to absolutely no one, and I had to start examining myself on a whole new level.

A return to our original mind is required in order for long-term peace to prevail among human beings. Otherwise, we are only putting a new coat of paint on a home with a rotting foundation.

With Love from Santa Fe

Sitting on the railway platform in Albuquerque, I soak up the sun and notice how much it affects the way I feel. I think maybe I was only ever depressed because I didn’t spend hours walking in sunshine back home because the sunshine was blocked by cloud cover like 70% of the time. Maybe if I’d been born in Arizona or Texas or Southern California I wouldn’t have gone insane or ever wanted to destroy myself.

Of course it’s more than UV light, but it’s true that we become much more in tune with our bodies and what works for them once we wake up. For instance: I don’t eat meat or use drugs because I feel way better as a sober vegetarian than I ever did when I drank and smoked and ate meat. When I was younger, the whole no-meat thing was about ethics, and if I indulge in righteous indignation I can still get all riled up about that industry as well as the way booze is marketed (it’s cray cray).

I could work myself into a lather over any number of things I see being carried out in this world, but I’ve decided against it at this point. Why would I voluntarily disturb my inner peace? Anger is a form of suffering and I’ll never forget that. I don’t want anger; I don’t want hatred; I don’t want judgment. These things do not serve me or anyone else, even though the mind fights to hold onto them with many rationalizations. It really can be a shock when we start to pay attention to how hellbent we are on remaining mired in this kind of suffering. The mind says many things to convince us it’s necessary to dwell in certain awful emotions.

Yes, yes, yes. The culture is insane. The culture—our culture—is backwards and needs changing. We go about this by refusing to follow our cultural programming, thereby living revolutionary lives on a cumulative level. We are agents of collective transformation by transforming ourselves.

I know all of this, and yet my reasons for living the way I do are actually completely self-interested: I feel freaking awesome when I don’t weigh down my consciousness with unhealthy habits, and life has become significantly more beautiful since I surrendered to my heart. On the path, we actually sacrifice nothing even though it may look like we’ve “given up” certain worldly pleasures. Even better, when we dwell in peace and true happiness, others naturally benefit. Living freely begins to free others on its own, no matter what you’re doing externally.

That last paragraph reminds me of something I heard Sadhguru say once: “Everything is selfish; it just depends on how big your sense of self is.” So, if you’re mind/body identified and think of this current form as your whole self, you’re more likely to engage in actions that are what we traditionally think of as “selfish.” There is little motivation for someone to develop empathy if they can’t sense his or her self in other human beings.

Once your idea of self is expanded a bit, your choices and energy will begin to uplift all those you identify with (family, community, nation, etc.) If your sense of self includes all human beings, you’re probably not going to be down with violence, genocide, or hierarchical classism, because that hurts us (you) deeply. Expand it so far that it includes non-human life, and you’ll probably try to give up a lot of Earth-ravaging behaviors as is feasible, including the consumption of our animal friends. Again: This is because you truly and sincerely feel and see yourself in other living beings. It is not merely theoretical or rooted in mind-based judgment; you know you are a part of a much larger fabric than the contents of this current form. You are personally affected because your person includes everything. This is also the point where things like depression and anxiety become rampant: We feel all the suffering, but likely don’t have the strength of mind to hold it skillfully in our awareness.

Expand the sense of self so far that it snaps and disappears? This is when you merge with God and get to know/be the capital-S Self. Here, all bets are off, but you’ll still probably stick with healthier choices because they keep your energy so high and nice and clear. I won’t get into this too much in this post, but I am highly skeptical of any “enlightened being” who uses drugs and alcohol (in excess especially). It’s whack and I don’t trust it.

I arrive in Santa Fe and take a free bus to the hostel (so many things on this journey have been free and/or discounted; it’s beautiful). The guy who checks me in tells me that Whole Foods donates the food they can’t sell anymore to the hostel, and before I know it I’m stuffing my face with apples and peanut butter toast and chips and pumpkin pie, oddly enough. All I can think is “divine abundance,” and I’m laughing inside because that kind of talk used to annoy the shit out of me. And yet, here I am living in the light of God, being taken care of so well I could cry.

Within an hour I’ve made a friend who tells me about the motorcycle accident he got into 7 years ago. The brush with death threw him out of his old life and to Hawaii, where he took nothing but a hammock, essentially built a new family, and now appears well-established in his self-awareness. Around the hostel I hear him comment under his breath, “it’s all divine,” and I feel so happy. Because yes, it is all divine, and not just because we’re in this sweet little hostel grubbing on free organic mangoes.

We are both people who have experienced the terror of mortality and broken through this falsehood to some degree, changed our lives, and embraced the process of letting go. The vast majority of spiritually aware people I know are not doe-eyed and ignorant, even if some of the rhetoric may come across that way. They know hard shit and have decided not to let it rule them anymore. They have tapped into the nature of Reality on a level the mind instinctively backs away from, and worked to become nearer to this nature.

This new friend offered to show me around Taos, an spiritual/artistic community about an hour and a half away. There’s a (surprise!) free bus that goes up there during the week; in the town there’s something called The Snow Mansion, an ashram, and some hot springs. I don’t know what universe I am living in, but I am filled with gratitude.

In the morning at the hostel, I catch a ride to the Unitarian church service with another guest. I dash out of the hostel in semi-manic fashion, throwing random clothes on and chugging my cup of coffee so as to not keep her waiting. She’s a woman who has been traveling on the road in a van since October; her kids have moved out and graduated, she sold her house, and she’s free. I like her innately, though I’ll also say that the more I grow, I realize I pretty much like everyone innately. I also love everyone at the soul level.

Just like yesterday, my energy feels sharp: I’m going to do everything be everywhere save everyone yes yes yes yes. Fortunately, at the service we do a meditative qigong exercise that helps me calm down. Message received: Even if I’m flying, I have to eat more food; I have to be still. This is all aligning better than I ever could have planned, but I will not get overconfident. Humility all the way: I’m nothing, and all those whacky folks who believe in breatharians are on a whole different level (though I actually don’t dismiss any possibility).

After the service I return to the hostel to do my daily task—we all choose one in the morning as part of the agreement to staying here. I choose the “angel chore” card and end up saran-wrapping up about 50 pastries and putting them in the communal fridge. Another guest kindly drives me to Meow Wolf, an incredibly badass interactive art space (think Salvador Dali in neon 3D + Donnie Darko). I spend four hours geeking out and spending way too much time looking at everything through my phone; I don’t care, I’m sharing all of this; technology is miraculous.

On the walk to the hostel, snow starts to lightly fall but I don’t feel cold. By the time I get back, Whole Foods has made their Sunday donation and I’m looking at fridge full of dates and candied walnuts and various cheeses and salsa. I’m eating bean dip and kale salad with quinoa and goat cheese; my heart is going to burst I swear. I feel there is very little to say. I just want to sit here and shine.

The sun comes through the window and hits the orange slices I’m eating. A guest notices and mentions how nice it looks, and the only thing I can do is nod and smile. He says “you’re in bliss,” and I say “I am.”

– Lish

Location: Santa Fe, NM

Knowing True Freedom

Colloquially, the word “freedom” is used in conjunction with certain physical and political contexts—freedom of movement, speech, assembly, the right to vote, etc. What distinguishes these notions from spiritual freedom is this: Spiritual freedom is not dependent on anything external to one’s own state of consciousness. This is precisely what makes it the only true freedom. Freedom’s opposite is dependence, so if one’s sense of freedom is dependent on having certain external parameters met, we can see that whatever they have gained is not true freedom. It may be greater worldly opportunity or social mobility, and these things are important. However, we tell ourselves a tremendous lie when we tangle these things up with what it means to be free. I have no doubt that there are prisoners who meditate and that they are more free than, say, an American workaholic with a drinking problem.

It is unconsciousness itself that has mislabeled “freedom” in this way: If a large population can be convinced that they are free even as they take up soul-numbing tasks in order to survive and dwell in various addictions, the machine continues on unquestioned. We are most hopelessly enslaved when we wrongly believe we are free.

Though the idea that we are “convinced we are free” may elicit images of some brilliant (yet evil) ruling class, this is false. I do not believe there are any masterminds at the top of this pyramid. Sometimes, as we begin to peel back the layers of deceit and/or one-sided information we were fed as children, we can get lost in conspiracy theories. We come to believe that there is an order of shadowy overlords that have been calling the shots since time immemorial. Finding them out feels like juicy, privileged gossip, but, like other forms of gossip, these things are little more than a distraction. I don’t mean to dismiss that corporate conglomerates and wealthy, violent people hold a staggering amount of power in the world. They do, but there’s that key phrase: In the world. If we were each to find the part of us that is not in the world, would we be bothered so much? Moreover, would we allow such other people to run our lives if we felt empowered, whole, and alive?

The world has become this way because we believe we are small and that everyone has a “dog eat dog” attitude. When we live in such fear, these “shadowy overlords” have a foothold over us. Liberation—moksha, nirvana, enlightenment, awakening, etc.—cannot be taken, cannot be granted, and cannot be compromised by one’s outer circumstances. This is precisely why it is the answer to our ailments, both personal and collective: It happens in a place that is completely incorruptible.

A person who is truly free is the most powerful person in the world. Why is this? Because you cannot manipulate or coerce such an individual to do anything whatsoever. They move in accordance with their own compass, which is always pointed in towards truth. They will live in ways that others deem difficult or unpleasant before they sacrifice their freedom, because they know how valuable (and how rare) this freedom is. They need far less than one who is conditioned to require specific comforts in order to feel okay. Even a threat to the life of one who is free can be met with a smile.

Merely having this piece of information is enough to focus my life 100% on the path. It now feels like something of a “sidestep” to seek that which is not eternally enduring, complete, and freeing. The summit is in sight, and every distraction is a detour. As Ramana Maharshi said: “What is not permanent is not worth striving for.”

Looking around, can we find anything that is permanent? There is nothing that can be discerned with the senses that is not subject to decay and disintegration. This is not some “future disintegration” we are talking about: It’s happening now. All is in flux; we are spinning, changing, dying, and being reborn. Nothing in the play of consciousness—a term used to describe the happenings and appearances of our lives—is going to last forever.

Again, this is something most of us intellectually “know.” And yet, with attachments, fears, and desires for safety, our minds try so hard to make this not true. Grasping for safety, we think, if only everything could just stay the same. Yes, we “know” change is a constant, that nothing lasts, and that everything is subject to decay. But when it comes time to accept the end of a job or a romantic relationship, how often do we do so with grace, or even joy at the potential of the new?

Some of us spend our whole lives trying to bargain with the inarguable fact of change. The final change—death—will show us our errors in this regard, but it is not wise to wait until then to see them.

The spiritual path gets to the root of everything. Once we have exhausted ourselves trying to control this outside variable, and this one, and that one, we recognize that there is still a restlessness. It goes right to the middle of us, and it is unrelenting. We are constantly hungry for something ultimately satisfying. What is the thing that soothes this ache? How do we cease the frantic search to be sated?

On a large scale, this is what we have been doing to the planet for thousands of years. The collective ego sees the Earth as a thing to use rather than an organism to responsibly live within. We use one resource after another, taking temporary gratification over long-term well-being. The process of colonization and societal “growth” is indeed an addiction on a wide scale. Soon there will be nothing left to take, but we will still be trying to feed the ego, which, in something of a temper tantrum, will keep demanding the physically impossible: Unchecked biological domination. But nature will not have this; she has made her preference well-known in diversity, and we are inexorably chained to her rules. When we deny this, there is collapse. This has been shown in civilizations over and over again. Where will we turn when this all comes crashing to the ground? What kind of delusion are we living in if we believe this crash can be staved off forever?

There is also a reason why spiritual teachers don’t often bring up politics or systemic issues such as capitalism or the patriarchy.  It is not because they are apathetic, “above it,” or find these issues trivial. On the contrary, one who is on the path acknowledges the depth of suffering created by such hierarchies. We accept that the breadth of this suffering is unimaginable. We choose, however, to focus more intently on the root of these problems, knowing that pulling the root is the only way to effectively deal with any problem. The root is the egoic mind. This limiting, overly-personal mind lives within each of us, and in order for lasting change to occur, it is the thing that must be brought into awareness. The sprouts and weeds of real-world issues are more visible, but hacking at them while the root remains intact is not the best use of energy.

I used to feel like there were two entities within me, fighting. I desperately wanted “the good one” to win, even though it really felt like the evil one would consume me entirely. When we start to develop ourselves more, we do not treat the egoic mind like an enemy—the very idea that we can be “an enemy to ourselves” implies a belief in a caustic kind of separation. It alone is symptomatic of the egoic mind. What we do, quite simply, is notice it. We see that our minds are stocked full with unconscious conditioning, and commit, day after day, to doing what is necessary to dispel this unconsciousness.

Spiritual activists may stand for broader ideals, such as nonviolence and peace overall. To those who are very focused on specific aforementioned issues, this may feel ineffectual and weak. On the contrary: One who dwells in freedom and stands for peace is incredibly strong. They live the peace they espouse in as many ways as they reasonably can, and know that “peace” does not imply a dreamy utopia. (Inner peace can actually be experienced as a jarring stillness that stands in stark contrast to the thought-stream. It is not always welcome at first.) Mostly, they are courageous enough to stand in the middle of a world that is waging war on itself due to madness, and say, “I choose differently.” The will is exercised. The heart expands. The soul rejoices in being acknowledged, and the world wakes up a little more.

– lish

Revolution and the Soul

I have been sober for nine months. Choosing sobriety has been an invaluable piece of my growth and healing, however it still feels secondary: My real problem was never an addiction to alcohol, though many online quizzes over the course of my life would say otherwise. My problem was that I had no idea who I was, but the substitutions I accepted for this knowledge always felt, to some degree, counterfeit.

I have been on a frantic search for myself all my life, and have attempted to dowse my wounds in anything that seemed to resemble this discovery. It bears noticing that our addictions do resemble the discovery: There is comfort and assuredness in them, to a lesser degree than the soul offers, but far greater than anything else we can find. They bear a hardness, a consistency: If alcohol only got me drunk some of the time, I would not have come to love it so dearly. One secret of addiction lies in its reliability. Nothing in life is so guaranteed as the sensations granted to us when we indulge in our addictions. They do not fail us, and in the end, that is what addicts are chasing: Something that will not fail them.

When we do not know ourselves, we are automatically in danger. In this state we can become whatever the world tells us to be. The trouble with this way of operating is that the world cannot properly instill someone with a sense of self; it can only instill them with the proper beliefs and actions to further the state of the world as it already exists. If the world is steeped in war and exploitation, it turns humans into warriors and exploiters. The human being, without knowledge of itself, can be molded in any way that the zeitgeist demands: It can become a salesman or a politician or a hipster or a businessperson, depending on skills and circumstance, but it does not become who it is. Along the same lines: When one knows firmly who they are, they cannot be made them into something else. It seems that one function of the world as it stands is to rob us of our divine self-awareness in youth and turn us into automatons that further its current program. If a person truly knows who they are, this kind of conditioning cannot be done.

Most often we become decent, tangentially involved in the wider machine, doing our best yet still in many ways feeding this machine. It is not my aim to cast judgment on any specific way of life, but to highlight the way it so happens that we act together to destroy the wildness and purity that once shone gloriously on this planet. This destruction happens in spite of our best intentions, no matter how good we try to be. The question, as always, is why?

In response to this question, individuals blame industry, and industry blames individuals. Each one ignores that the individual is the micro, the industry is the macro, and that they are parasitic upon one another. If either one were to completely transform, the other would follow suit very quickly. Upon such a revelation, it only matters who has the firmest resolve.

If you are not sure how to defect from the aforementioned worldly mechanisms, the answer is always to go within, to hunker in the heart until the steps reveal themselves. Do not seek with the mind. In all likelihood, the mind does not work in service to the real you yet. If it did, this mind would not create suffering in your being.

The difference between a soul-based aspiration and a mind-based desire often lies in its specificity: As I’ve stated, the soul does not crave objects or people, but the mind absolutely does. The soul does not have itself set on any rigid outcome such as fame or even a “better world,” but the mind does. The soul is not disturbed by setbacks, insults, criticism, or judgment; the mind hates every one of these fervently. Once we are unified in ourselves, words like “heart” and “mind” come to mean roughly the same thing; they work in tandem as perfect complements. The mind and heart form a sacred marriage within the overall human being, and together their offspring is unstoppable.

When we want to know the truth and drop away from collective illness, we must dwell in the heart and wait. Little by little (or perhaps all at once) the soul will become less shy in what it asks of us. Being the source of all wisdom, the soul is what guides us to become the culture-challenging yet loving individuals we often seek to become. When I say “loving,” I mean a state of acceptance that necessarily includes every last one of us. (This acceptance also does not mean “approval.”) Love does not chop us into categories and then judge who is worthy of It. Conditional love is not love; it is attachment. Seeing this, it becomes clear how severely love-starved we are as a species.

I feel confident that to be truly loving and revolutionary is a common aspiration, but striking a balance presents a challenge. Whether consciously or not, we all desire a free society where none are deemed invalid or insignificant. We do not wish to see each other as beggars, or even ourselves as “better off.” We also wish to be gentle towards one another, because inside of everyone and everything, the same soul lives. The soul always knows this, even as the hivemind creates its separations and various class divisions. Human beings desire to be loved and to be free; all other desires are merely disguises of these two primary aims.

Peace and freedom can only ever co-exist; engagement in one furthers the other. If a free society is sought after by violent means, it will fail. Over the course of history, understandably angry people have tried to bypass this truth. And yet, for every violent revolution that calls itself social progress, humankind still stands at the precipice of complete annihilation. For all of the supposed freedoms we enjoy, our misery is unprecedented. I ask honestly: Did the suffragettes march so that I could sit in an apartment and think of suicide? Was the revolutionary war fought so that we could stare at screens all day, fall into poor health, and take life for granted? Do we, as a whole, feel proud to have a timeline that consists of little more than trading one form of enslavement for another? It bears noting that those who seek greater freedoms are not usually the ones calling for violence; rather it is brought to them by those defending structures they threaten. But the point stands: How far have we truly come? How do we bring about the sorely needed internal revolution?

When action is taken from a mind based in truth, the movement is effective in that it promotes consciousness overall. When action is taken from a mind based in anger or a sense of being wronged, the effect is neutral or worse-than. Therefore, if we have external causes that we fight for, we must be firmly rooted in the truth first and foremost. If we don’t yet know what “truth” means, it must be prioritized over our causes. In coming into contact with it, the cause may change significantly.

Conditioned minds always crave more of the same, even if “the same” is a nightmare. The common mind is but a natural machine running the program for auto-destruct. These minds combine into one big mind, until humanity itself acts upon the planet like a natural disaster so wide in scope that it cannot be fathomed. It is the soul that holds the code to override this program, but you cannot force the soul to speak this code. This is in part because the soul does not respond to force, nor does it make itself known with blunt commands. After being suppressed for so long, you could liken the soul to a frightened kitten hidden in the basement of your house. We must listen closely to hear its cries, and there is much trust to be gained before it will climb purring into your lap.

Here the metaphor breaks down into absurdity, but is as follows: The cat you restore to health and docility transforms into a wizard that burns down your house. Secretly, this wizard also simultaneously builds you another more spacious and beautiful home. You can only move in once you accept that the wizard has always known—even from the time it pretended to be a crying, frightened kitten—that it would burn down and rebuild your house.

Even when the house is rebuilt, the wizard won’t stop coming over. It keeps showing up to fix problems you didn’t know existed, whether or not you like it. One day the wizard will sit with you and ask, “do you understand why I had to pretend I was a frightened kitten?” By this point, in seeing the heights of craftsmanship this wizard is capable of, you will understand, and thank the wizard for his deception. If you’d known beforehand what that scared little kitten would become, you would not have gone looking for it, believing you were doing it some wonderful favor.

Give the soul the tiniest recognition that you are there for it and listening, and it will take you for an entirely transformative ride. It will give you much more than you bargained for, until one day you learn to acquiesce and yield to its movements because the soul knows much more than you do.

Words along these lines—“obey” and “acquiesce”—used to really bother me. In service to worldly institutions and people in uniform, they still do. False authorities ought not be obeyed, and every external authority is false. Such people are unconsciously playing make-believe, and I take their authority no more seriously than I do a little girl who insists she is a princess. When I talk about obedience and acquiescence now, I only ever mean to your own self. All this fighting we do inside is unnecessary: All there is to do is yield to the soul. Let your mind pitch its fits, watch closely how it tries to destroy you, and then resume with the original plan: Yield to the soul.

The soul, using my emotions as a megaphone, has pulled me to act in many different ways. It has moved me to be solitary and honest, and to at least admit when I am acting irrational and childish—ultimately, to relinquish the latter. I admit with pleasure that I am still not rational, though my childishness rears up sometimes and I am temporarily possessed by things like jealousy and hyperbolic nostalgia. I sometimes want things that are not fair to others, but this is fading. I am becoming more me each day.

– Lish

Empaths & Addiction

Tomorrow would’ve been my father’s 65th birthday, but he fatally overdosed on methadone when I was 17. He passed along his addictions and disposition to me, and I feel that in some way I atone for his life by living mine in this way now. If I do not follow in his footsteps and instead run in the opposite direction, his life was not a waste—though of course it is true that no life is ever “a waste.” That very notion is heavy with judgment, and I do not judge him or anyone else for the times they have fallen. I dedicate this post to him.

I said in this post that addiction is not a disease on its own, and I want to clarify that statement.

Obviously addiction is a serious condition that requires intervention as soon as possible. As far as I’m concerned, anyone struggling with any addiction (even if it’s just a “small” problem) would serve the world best by dropping everything and prioritizing their recovery now. Of course that would require us to live in a society where we took care of one another, one where people could unashamedly take a much-needed break from money-work and focus on their wellness. That is not where we live. Why is this? Unconsciousness, particularly the belief that we as “certain individuals” are “more deserving” of services and a happy life than other human beings. Also, we’d need effective treatment modalities that meet people where they’re at rather than trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach to addiction, but that’s another topic.

Why do the richest people not share more of their money? Ego and unconsciousness. Why does our society not have sane healthcare and rehabilitation policies? Ego and unconsciousness. This is always the root of that which we call greed, selfishness, and evil: The spell of the ego, the hypnosis that convinces us to act like we are not all of the same exact fabric. The only long-term strategy to lift ourselves out of this haze is to become like “carriers” for consciousness, to dispel darkness in this way. It is out of this internal process that external changes are born. The egoic human mind is what requires overturning first and foremost: Without pulling this ignorance up at its root, we are still doomed to self-destruction, no matter how democratically it is carried out.

Those that get labeled “addicts” are often intelligent, sensitive people. Not long ago, I told a friend that sometimes I feel like “the dials on me are cranked all the way up”: I mean the dials for absorbing emotions, noticing others’ needs, frustration, and impatience, as well as picking up on their underlying anxiety. These things strike a chord because they also live in me, but they are heightened in group settings. I’m sure that many of you understand this: Some people call it being a Highly Sensitive Person, or just being an empath. As an empath, daily life means taking a lot in on an energetic level, and that’s just one piece of it. Being an empath is a strength, not a weakness, but it can make life more painful.

Then there’s the intellectual part, which looks around and recognizes that the jig is just about up on civilization as we know it. We see the swarms of desperate human beings, the thirsty, the hungry, and those who will be cooked by the heat of the sun due to our current mode of living. We see the last of the snow leopards, the toxic air, the end of rainforests. I confess that I’ve sobbed at the thought of a caterpillar being run over by a car (it was a rough day). Even if it is not in direct view, we can intuit what is coming, and it’s not great, to put it mildly.

If you really see what may very well happen—what is happening—it is not an option to “spin” these images. Also, this isn’t merely a negative view I am taking: These things are just as much a part of our world as beauty is, and to turn a blind eye to either is to live in delusion. In those moments when I’ve been crippled by the sheer magnitude of suffering we’ve created, said beauty is cold comfort. We are doing our damndest to stamp beauty and biodiversity out as fast as possible for no reason other than collective insanity.

When you feel these things as part of your own being—not to mention whatever personal history you’re trying to renegotiate—it is natural to want to deaden these feelings. (It doesn’t help that booze is fashionable and totally normal in our culture.) We have no escape from a world that is infuriating and saddening—unless we choose suicide, which also occurs at a higher rate for addicts. The second-best option is to escape from the mind. We are not encouraged to speak out, to discover our light, or call bullshit on all of these systems. If we do, it tends to feel ineffective and slow, like we are still missing something (indeed because we are.). Growth is an uphill battle. On top of all this, we still have to eat food and make rent, and the things we have to do to survive can be emotionally taxing in their own right. In such a bind, what else is there to do but get wasted?

Non-addicts look at addiction and think it is irrational. But to an addict, engaging in addiction makes perfect sense. Quite frankly, I don’t understand how billions of people manage to not get drunk or high most nights of the week. I also don’t understand how billions of people aren’t losing their minds. What world are they living in that feels at all tolerable? How do they not rush to become numb as the apocalypse unfolds? (In any case, they do numb, only in a much less life-disrupting way.)

As Glennon Doyle says, what we call “the mentally ill” are like the canaries of the world. We are the ones trying to warn others of what is going on here, but we don’t yet know how to do it. All we represent is an exaggerated version of what lives in others, and that is also why mental illness is often regarded with such extreme fear. And here is something I have said and will continue to say: If some individuals are mentally ill, it is because we are collectively mentally ill. The statistic for “mental illness” in the US stands at 20%. What does this say about our culture at large? To make mental illness and addiction “some people’s” problem—to assume that there is something unique about “our” constitution that is problematic, ignoring the larger mechanisms in this stage of human existence—is shortsighted and honestly ridiculous.

The human species is like one organism that is itself ill. The most perceptive cells simply take on this illness at a higher, more obvious rate. Paradoxically, I also believe those who get labeled “ill” in this way are closer to health and sanity than those who aren’t as energetically privy to what’s happening on Earth: If you notice the presence of poison before it actually kills you, you’re one step ahead of those who don’t notice it at all.

There is also a predictable progression of the illness of conditioning that strangely involves going deeper into it before you recover. In this sense I am talking about the spiritual process, which we are all undergoing, though to varying degrees: All of your neuroses, attachments, and fears will be intensified for some time. The mind and ego pitch an intense fit at seeing their numbered days. But then, at last, one day you’re finally in the clear. I also suspect that this temporary intensification is what’s to come on a much more widespread human scale, though I hope to be wrong about this.

Back to what I mean when I say “addiction is not a disease on its own:” The precise definition of words like “disease” doesn’t concern me; everyone is always using these kinds of words differently anyway. However, there is one condition—one kind of mindset—that makes us susceptible to all other disorders and afflictions: It is the one that dreams our lowercase-s selves to be ultimately real. In this state, we feel powerless and threatened regularly. We actually mistake ourselves for the substances which temporarily stop the pain. When the mind is ignorant of the Self, it attaches strongly to anything that soothes it. Freeing ourselves from this dream is the greatest thing we can do to heal, and it is the only way to dwell in deep happiness that does not depend on anything else.

Recovery is to reenter that state of purity (the Self) which is always with you. This alone can alleviate suffering; it changes everything in ways that are as-yet inconceivable. There are practices we can take up to abide in this space, but it also goes a long way to simply be reminded that it—you, in your innate perfection—really do exist.  

– Lish