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?

There Are No Others

Q (to Ramana Maharshi): How are we to treat others?
Ramana Maharshi: There are no others.

Rarely do we notice how often we think of and speak about “others.” In such times, it is as if we truly believe “other people” are separate and different from us. “Otherness” is a chief symptom of the egoic/delusional mind. It is not true that we are separate, but so goes our longstanding hypnosis:

“We are right; they are wrong.”

“Christians are closed; Buddhists are open.”

“We [insert specific branch of religion] are open; other kinds are not.”

“My spirituality is more evolved than his.”

We can also sub the spiritual part out for our political affiliations, family grudges, or any other nonsense we find ourselves feeling superior about.

I see these attitudes often, and they are untrue. In many cases, the ego-identity has merely put on a new sweater. Perhaps we have experienced a snapshot of peace and freedom and built a new identity out of it. Now we are the born-again Christian. Now we are the meditating yoga-guy. Now we are the misunderstood American Muslim. Now we are a monk.

Picking up new identities and building stories around our spiritual experiences is extremely common on the path. This is where many stop investigating, thinking “they’ve got it.” But if we are sincere in our thirst to know God and be happy, all of this will fall away. No new “person” is constructed from a space of true freedom.

The above statements energize this idea that we are not one, when we really are. And further, we are not even one (which implies, to me, a single unchanging thing by itself, surrounded by nothing). We are actually nothing.

To the conditioned mind, this is not a positive statement. To one who is on the path, it is a great truth and relief: At last, I’m nothing! A burden is lifted when this is realized. We actually do not have to constantly strive, heal, grow, or be fixing something. We can Be, and it is fantastic just as it is.

More than being “all one,” it feels more appropriate to me to say we are all zero. We are this great vastness together, and this vastness is sewn into all that we can see within the dualistic world. It is a substance that is not a substance, comparable to light, in and behind everything that appears to be real. It alone is the only thing that is Real.

You are it.

There is a blankness, an emptiness, a stillness that underlies all that can be perceived. It is unbound. Of course the egoic mind finds these words totally unappealing. Blank? Empty? How boring! What’s the point? What does it do? The mind is disinterested in this kind of peace, because it knows the end of its reign over the being is coming near. It will find any excuse to avoid practices that could point to this imagined “end.”

But about that question: What’s the use anyway? Well, it is your destiny to abide in this place, to return to the state of clarity and harmony that you never truly left. Additionally, coming back to this place does more to eliminate all atrocity in the world than a lifetime devoted to humanitarian aid and/or activism would. I know that is a lofty claim, and so I invite everyone to sit down and find this thing I am writing about. When you do, please tell me if it is a false claim.

We are the vast peace of God as well as the temporary projected figures of said God. We are all God made manifest, and when we realize this, a flood of joy washes over us and our minds undergo a transformation that is hardly worth writing about.

If we allow it to happen, we move away from the small, “me”-centered mind and come to reside in this state of great internal emptiness. This is the True mind. It is already present, and the glory of humanity is that we are able to recognize it if our thirst becomes strong enough.

As I stated above, the “otherness” hypnosis of the ego is the primary delusion of humanity. It is the fall of man. The fall from grace in the Garden of Eden is precisely when humanity slipped into this dream. It is this mind that believes sincerely in the world as “reality,” and that it is a distinct, individual entity. How quickly we forget the energy of our hurtful words, the impact of our consumptive habits and addictions. How immediately we ignore the way every signal we put out reverberates into the world.

When operating from the personal mind, we live unconsciously. When humans live unconsciously, the result is a culture mired in darkness: Confusion, addiction, avoidance, thoughtlessness, apathy, boredom, cruelty, war, inequality, greed, obsession with very trivial things. We trade around our old trauma energies and insist there is nothing we can do.

The solution, as always, is to turn around and see your true Self.

If you are reading these words, believing there is something special about your pain or constitution that makes it impossible to realize Truth and be in peace, pay attention to who is saying such things.

Is that really you? The ego often likes to offer up this idea that its pain is somehow very special. It feels so alone. Its suffering knows no bounds.

I will say that healing is often a necessary part of the path. To some extent, suffering is often a result of collected negative energy of suppressed emotions. Our culture does not teach us how to safely and healthily release these energies, only how to blot them out (drugs, alcohol, food, television) and/or let it explode when it cannot be suppressed any longer (yelling, vicariously watching violent movies and sports, impulsive acts of violence). However, healing is not the primary goal of the path, and should not be entertained longer than is necessary.

And in any case, do not make your pain so precious that it cannot be let it go. The ego-identity will surely hold onto pain, and make even pain into “something special.” This is exactly why I am not a fan of mental illness labels, for the mind can be quite happy to latch onto these labels and build them into the identity. It likes any explanation for “why it is the way it is,” but these are all lies. Once depression is taken to be a significant part of the identity, it is much harder to let go of.

A dismantling of who we believe we are must be done and faced courageously. Without courage, we back down and make up lots of excuses when we deviate: I don’t have time for this Truth business. If we press on, the ego can get quite dramatic: If I move toward ultimate freedom I will be impoverished; no one will love me; I will be alone; I do not want to be a vagabond beggar!

Come on now. Are these things really going to happen if you start deconstructing the lies of your life?

My mind has said all of these things—even recently! And yet they are not Me. They are clever tricks of a mind that cannot exist without my say so.

On the other side, we begin to see that people really aren’t so different from one another. Uniqueness is merely superficial, and delusion still runs the gamut.

In time, we even begin to feel silly for our attachments and unsolicited opinions. These things exist on the level of the mind, which is to say they are impermanent, which is to say why bother with them?

Until we discover that which is not impermanent—abiding consciousness, peace in God, same/same—we do ourselves a tremendous disservice, traipsing around in the mind. We are like toddlers with hand grenades at this state in our evolution.

And always, there is this thing that is undying and ever-complete. Find that and confirm it as your true identity, and live from this place. Only then will the humanity we often profess to love have a true chance at flourishing.

Inner State, April 2014 (2)

This post is a continuation of a series on what happened during my awakening process.

April 2014

So. There is a significant discrepancy between what my life appears to be, and what my inner life is like. Externally: Bright, warm, normal, contented. Internally: Lost, hurt, addicted, ashamed.

I am so blessed I can’t believe it, and yet I am made of poison and Hell on the inside. I have been diagnosed with depression, yet something about this “diagnosis” feels partial, and I’m not sure I believe it myself. Something about the diagnosis feels fraudulent.

Very few people in my life know how I suffer. I put on a decent-enough show to those who are not very close to me (also, not many people are very close to me because I do not want them to see how Bad I am). There is little congruity to my personality: I can be scathing with my words in one minute and extremely sweet in the next. If pressed to justify this, I cannot, except to say I have no idea; I don’t know how to connect; I feel very far away from everyone all the time; I don’t know what is wrong with me.

My God, we feel so alone in the world when we don’t know who we are! It is the work of the egoic mind to convince us of this separation in the first place, and then to be dramatic about said separation because “connection” feels impossible when we are brash, discomfiting people who kinda want to destroy ourselves—except for with our own ilk, of course. This is the spell I am under.

Anyway, apparently everyone else can do stability and make stability for themselves somehow. I am incapable. I am shaky and hurt, trying super hard not to let anyone see how I’m pretty much in a constant state of crumbling.

Being in such pain and feeling so isolated, I’ve developed a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms. I know I am an addict; that is no question. If something is pleasurable I want all of it, forever, in as huge of quantities as possible. Ultimately I want to be destroyed by the things I take pleasure in. I want things that are very bitter, very smoky and caustic. I want things that are heavy and intense. I want all of them right now.

I’m not out for oblivion, which sounds like a state of floaty half-consciousness. No, I want to be going a million miles an hour towards a cliff with the sunroof open and the music on full-blast. I want to be on the edge of death but not quite there. This is how I would live my whole life if it didn’t guarantee societal/familial disapproval: I would teeter on a very fine line of self-destruction until at last I did self-destruct, and that would be totally okay with me. (Here’s a thing non-addicts don’t usually realize about addicts: In the clutches of addiction, we are 100% accepting of our fates and sorta just wish you’d leave us be. We do not want to be cared for or worried about.)

All day, this is the kind of intensity I want. Unfortunately real life does not have this flavor, and some other (higher) part of me knows it is immature to desire it anyway. I deal with real life okay (not very well, but okay) but honestly I just want to be in a hole with my indulgences.

In my addictions, sometimes I’m out to numb (food and television are great for this), but more often I’m out to feel excruciatingly alive (drinking way too much whisky, smoking, and listening to nostalgic music are great for this). I can only thank God that I was born with the intuitive power to avoid things like cocaine and amphetamines, which would have definitely ruined my life.

I also suspect that everyone around me has something figured out that I don’t. Do you know this feeling? Like somehow, all the adults in the world were given some kind of script or playbook that taught them how to Be A Person, and you missed it?

Anyway, it is obvious that there is definitely something wrong with me. I know this for sure.

Addiction is a tangled web rooted in generations of trauma, and very few addicts manage relationships well. We don’t have harmonious human interactions and just so happen to gravitate towards self-imposed obliteration. I am no exception to this rule. I’ve had intimacy issues for as long as I can remember.

On top of the alcohol thing, I am always preoccupied with some man (other than the one I am dating and/or married to) and suffer from the delusion that one will “save” me. Subconsciously I think the right relationship will stop me from hating myself. I think the right man will solve my problems. I think the “right love” will make life easy, I won’t have to fight with myself everyday; he will make me normal and happy. If asked outright, I would be clever enough to deny this. I know how delusional and weak it sounds. I don’t want anyone knowing how delusional and weak I am.

My chief addiction goes way back before whisky and cigarettes. This addiction is to men and male attention. Honestly, I remember being 12 or 14 or some horrifyingly young age and feeling the rush of knowing a man was attracted to me. It shames me now to write that sentence, but, it is true. If I didn’t feel called to write all this, I definitely wouldn’t, because it’s embarrassing, you know? But that is the first time I remember getting a noticeable emotional high, and I can’t be the only person who knows this feeling and its draw.

Getting male attention felt like some kind of power. It felt like I had something, and most importantly, it served as a nice substitution for a love I needed but did not receive at a very young age. My father, for as sharp and fun and handsome as I’m told he once was, slipped into his own addictions and he did not recover. I have very few memories of him. It hurts.

Of course, I’m nowhere near the point of accepting how much pain I am in over this, even 25 years later. To face that level of longstanding pain would be unimaginable; it would shatter me. Also, something about being intelligent (I graduated summa cum laude!) and introspective (people say I’m deep!) has made me believe I am more clever than, you know, basic human needs. Arrogantly I believe my big brain can out-think the absence of paternal love.

I am blind, so blind.

I believe I can logic my way out of this hole, so I have been journaling about these issues for as long as I can remember: How do I get fixed? How do I be one of those normal-seeming folks? How do I be wholesome and sweet and put-together? They seem to have some gene I was not born with. I have been looking into all this since I was 14 or 15, right when my childhood wounds began to metastasize into widespread angst.

I have no answers. So here I am, on the couch, 11 years later, still journaling about all my problems. I am writing about the current dude-I-am-unreasonably-obsessed with (not my loving husband) and trying to sort this out: What do I really want out of my relationships? More importantly, what the fuck is wrong with me?

I am also under the illusion that if I just think hard enough about my stupid life and all of my dysfunctions, they will somehow get ironed out.

This is also false, but I don’t know it yet. I don’t know anything, and I don’t even know that I don’t know anything.

I am just writing about why I can’t stop thinking about this dude-I-am-unreasonably-obsessed with, and feeling ashamed. This is somewhat of a standard practice for me. I am writing, writing, looking into this core issue, trying to put the pieces together at last.

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

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

Love from Bend, OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want whatever is given.

– lish

Location: Bend, OR

 

From El Paso to Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– lish

Location: En route to Vegas from El Paso

Facing Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– lish

 

location: Austin, TX

You Can Live Your Life Any Way You Want

The essence of this post is super simple: You can live your life any way you want. I expect that most of my fellow weirdos and path-walkers know this well by now, but there is still a large number of people (particularly young people on the precipice of crippling debt) who haven’t yet had this message communicated to them. I’m writing it in the hopes that it will one day stoke the spirit of someone who isn’t sure what they’re doing in life and is tired of being asked to figure it out by well-meaning loved ones. I am here to say that not-knowing is more than okay, and that you can live your life any way you want.

Unconsciously, we compel one another to follow a pretty standard route when it comes to life. We are encouraged to make plans, to act as if we know what we’re going to want to do for the rest of our lives, and to affix rigid ego-identities to ourselves. Anything outside of this ego-identity is regarded with suspicion. When our lives are uncertain, this uncertainty is treated as a problem. Really, uncertainty is not a problem, and certainty is actually an illusion.

At every turn, the message is to cobble a rather predictable “person” together, to wear several masks to get through life no matter how awful it feels, and to do something that guarantees financial security over all. Many of us have also inherited scarcity complexes, meaning we feel like there is just “never enough” when it comes to money and things. Because of this, we end up chasing this stuff rather than living, hoping this will make us feel safe enough to truly live one day. It doesn’t work like that.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with choosing safety. To the ego-identity most of us operate from, security and group acceptance are Everything. Without these things, we feel we might die. This is why we end up acting so similarly even when doing this totally goes against our own best interests. If you choose a life that looks not-so-assured (particularly if you’re a woman, I think), you’re likely to find precious little support.

But the truth, still, is this: You can live your life any way you want. Really. You can. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do this—besides, they are not going to give it to you. Any time you publicly step out of convention (i.e. quit your job without another one lined up, pursue a lifelong creative dream, live in a car/van by choice, make money in a stigmatized way, challenge your whole culture, step out of a nice but not-quite-aligned relationship, get into cars with strangers,), you are likely to be questioned and/or criticized.

These kinds of questions are usually couched in concern, but very often, this concern is rooted in old fear stories. It is very common for us to be closed off to one another, to be mistrusting and assume the world is going to destroy us. We project our stories onto others, and the result is all kinds of “concern.” Why do we do this to each other? Fear, of course. How to handle harsh judgment and avoid projection is something that will require its own post.

Fear is a piece of information to witness and respect—nothing more, nothing less. Even in a state of expanded awareness, we notice fear sometimes, though far less often than when the ego runs the whole show. We can decide then if the fear is unreasonably coming from prior conditioning (such as the false belief that the whole world is full of cold, shitty people), or if it’s valid and we need to change course (such as someone coming towards you with a knife). This may sound like a calculated process, but when we sharpen our intuitive skills and keep our minds clear, this all happens in a fraction of a second.

Very simply, we don’t let fear determine our lives for us. We surely don’t feed it with the fear-inducing garbage our culture tries to force down our throats (seriously, turn off the news, loves). Instead, we just watch fear. When it is reasonable to do so (and it usually is), we face the fear and do the thing we’re afraid to do anyway.

When you begin to do this and step outside of your own comfort zone, it challenges the comfort zones of others. That is another reason why you may be met with criticism. There can be some degree of jealousy when we see people finally start to embrace the revelation that they are alive. I know I’ve felt that way before.

Most of us want to be living bigger lives. (Important: by “bigger,” I do not mean wealth and fame—these are empty ego goals. Living bigger means embodying freedom, experiencing more love, more openness to one another, and more creativity.) When we want to try, we often find ourselves steeped in the first kind of fear—the kind based on egoic conditioning. Before we even do anything new, the mind threatens us: What happens if I “fail”? What happens if I get hurt? What happens if something happens to someone else?

Except in cases of true physical danger, the fear is coming from the challenged ego. Above all, the ego wants to remain safe and unchallenged. If it had its way, all we’d do is sit in a room doing nothing, being warm, eating a lot, and never stretching ourselves. True, we now live in a culture where some of us do that. I expect that we all know this kind of stagnant lifestyle brings about tremendous suffering, even though it seems comfortable.

Beneath the ego, a deeper part of you wants liberation and self-knowledge, and somewhere in the middle, the “bigger life” thing is desired. The problem (if it’s fair to call it that) is that freedom and safety are necessarily at odds with one another. As soon as you start to challenge your ego, it’ll muscle its way in and use all kinds of tactics to keep you stuck. Fear is its favorite one because it is so effective. As soon as you’re on the cusp of something that could truly change your life, your ego convinces you to be afraid.

Facing fear is truly essential here. Start small and stay the course, pushing the ego’s comfort zone little by little.

So, you don’t want to pick a major or go to college at all, get married, have children, have one job for the majority of your life, have a boss, be a boss, drink alcohol, do yoga, be a vegan, etc.? Awesome! Because you can live your life however you want! It really is nobody else’s business how you do this thing! (Yes, we do all affect one another, and we don’t get to opt out of that. I expect that we bear this in mind when we start to live consciously.)

When someone compels you to live one way and/or “have answers,” this person is generally speaking from the conditioning handed down to them. Conditioning is basically socially acceptable ignorance, so feel free to remember that with most “life advice,” it’s basically the blind leading the blind.

Now, learning how to reject conditioning and figuring out what you truly want—as opposed to those things our collectively ill society urges us to think we want—that’s a skill for another post. Mostly, though, I’d say figuring that piece requires a lot of solitude and at least some removal from said ill culture. Otherwise it’s too easy for the crazy to leak in, to be afraid of things that are not real, and to fall back into the unskillful patterns laid out by others. That’s why things like meditation retreats and ashrams can be great, and why it is wise to turn your own home into a sane space to live. I feel I’m getting ahead of myself, but you gotta protect your space if you’d like it to stay clear.

For now, I just want to encourage anyone who stumbles upon this post to go live whatever life you feel most passionately about. Work on yourself and fall in love with life, and everything will really be fine.

– lish

P.S. Oh, and in case this needs to be said: I am not advocating that we shirk all responsibilities or leap into all of our impulsive desires. We can still learn to think ahead without being coerced into a routine life we don’t really want. The path = practical living/common sense.

location: Burlington, WA

 

I Know Nothing

So it’s been awhile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Lish

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

location: Portland, OR