A Disorienting Silence

A seemingly strange thing happens when you wake up to Truth: The mind gets turned way down. If you can imagine your ongoing mental noise like a stereo, awakening arrives and turns the volume down by about 80 to 90%. Many of us are not even aware of how much chatter has been going on until this occurs.

From the True position as the witnessing consciousness, we can withdraw from the remaining thought-energy. This is a safe place, for here the mind is no longer suffocating in its own projections. Personally I admit there are still some crumbs of attention I give the mind over its longest-standing patterns. It is on me to continue to pull back the interest in these patterns, because interest is precisely what such patterns rely on.

Let us be clear that what we really are is never “people with bad patterns.” However, we can imagine this, and become so hyper-focused on these stories that they come to seem very real.

But upon awakening, you will discover a pristine emptiness, perhaps overlaid with a kind of negligible background noise. I am so grateful for this, and my God, I wish I could share with you the glory of this emptiness beyond the marks on this screen.

But, you must go there yourself. I recommend this for everyone.

It appears to be rare that one experiences “total enlightenment” in one fell swoop, but what a beautiful thing that must be. A realized master may act as a kind of energetic “guillotine” for the mind, but in spontaneous or “unprepared” awakening, this is unlikely. I suppose sometimes God is so powerful and merciful that our delusions are destroyed all at once, but that is not what happened for me.

If you are reading this, my guess is that that is not your situation either, and that is fine—as long as you do not cower to the mind. After a deep spiritual realization, it will try every trick in the book to get you to go back to the old regime of thinking, acting, and being. Even if you do appear “go back,” it is my steadfast belief that once realization occurs, its pull is too strong, too bright. Our minds really do not stand a chance against it.

Once you have begun to awaken spiritually, or have taken any passing interest in it, please follow it. Do not give up. Believe me when I say that your mind cannot exist without You. It is secondary to You, and you can become its master.

Even after awakening, the egoic identity is a pernicious and sneaky shadow. It is like a dark vapor inhabiting the being. It will creep into every remaining possible crevasse until we step fully into our light. Even then, we are watchful of it. The egoic mind will use every single weapon it has to get you to back down, and in these times, the mind seems very formidable.

Have no fear: It is not, and there will be a day when your mind bows to You, and I say with a true heart that such a day could not come soon enough.

Immediately after the click, the world is experienced differently. We become much less concerned with the past and the future as we come to see that they do not exist outside of the mind that holds onto them. There may be a stillness inside that we do not know what to do with. (The advice here? Don’t do anything!) For me, it almost felt like an unwelcome entity, because my entire life I had been habituated to instability and ceaseless mental movement. The vast majority of us are conditioned in a similar way.

This brings me to this notion of “disorienting silence,” and my urge to say that there is nothing wrong with a silent or simple mind. We have a tendency to revere overactive minds, believing this is synonymous with intelligence. On the contrary, a mind at rest is more functional and operational. A still mind—one that is not chasing its tail trying to get somewhere or find all the answers—is capable of reflecting the world more accurately, and seeing itself for what it is.

And it is important not to imagine peace on Earth as some ongoing Utopian bliss phase. True peace is the ability to sit and see clearly what is real. It is nothing glamorous, but so simple that the conditioned mind cannot access it. It simply is what it is, and must be realized here and now.

For someone who is used to being totally consumed by a babbling thought-stream (as most of us are), this kind of silence can be downright frightening.

So it went for me: The initial bliss passed (if you are having spiritual highs, they too will pass) and was replaced by a foreign silence. Much too soon, I started one of my first blogs. I knew intuitively that something significant had occurred. I was burning to share that significant thing, even though I didn’t know what it was. The unconscious ego immediately latched onto this “now I am a writer” story, and I was sucked into delusions of becoming “something great.” This can also happen. The egoic mind is equipped with many mechanisms to stay rooted in the being, and awakening really is a big deal. But for a time, our job is to reject the stories of the mind and continue to get humble before God.

I started many blogs prematurely. I was trying to piece it together, why there seemed to be a sudden (if inarticulable) understanding of humanity on a wider scale than ever before. Prior to the click it was all “oh what’s wrong with us; why are we doing this to each other and the Earth?” I was both dramatic and confused. I myself did not know who I was then (and it feels right to say that this is true of almost everyone). I spent much time locked away in private judgment of others. I was doing all kinds of things I didn’t approve of, and I could not explain why.

Realization opens the floodgates to a whole new kind of wisdom which circles back around to become very basic: You are here. You are Truth. Handle life as it comes. Be silent. Understandings about the nature of mind and consciousness will come later. These things should not be striven for solely on an intellectual level.

Another thing that happened: Everything felt “meaningless,” which, to the conditioned mind, may sound like a very poor state to exist in. Really, it’s just that the mind ceased to label everything so automatically. The material world was simply there without an accompanying narrative, or additional inferences about what any “type of person/object” meant. It is hard to appreciate this state from a state of inner chatter, and the mind is heavily conditioned to take what it sees and infer false meanings from it.

If you do spontaneously awaken, which can happen to anyone anytime, by the way, please take your time before sharing anything about it. I am only just now feeling confident in my abilities to responsibly discuss the nature of Truth and the profundity of awakening. By God’s grace, my being has become sufficiently “detangled” to know when I am speaking as the True “I” or if I am telling an ego-story. It usually takes a great deal of time, energy, and grace to know this difference.

It may be like this: God shows up in front of your face, says see Me? and then pushes you off of a cliff. A process of refining occurs, and it may truly feel that psychologically, you are an infant again, trying to learn how to interact with the conditioned world.

Yes, it can be stark and perplexing, but in time you will come to see how truly blessed you are. We can then dwell in the silence of God, for it is utterly perfect.

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?

The Click on the Couch (2)

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

April 2014

I am light.

I mean this as a physical sensation: It is as if a flock of iron birds has flown from my being. I didn’t even know I was carrying this weight until now, in the contrast of letting it go.

There is little else to report about the click itself except to say that it feels like a clear “eureka!” kind of moment, except that this “eureka!” is about something I cannot define. It’s not like I know the solution to a complex mathematical problem. It is not like I’ve been hit with the right ending to a novel I’ve been writing. I know something, but I don’t know what I know. It cannot be put into words. Something has changed; I have been made aware of something. However, if asked to explain it, I couldn’t.

In some regard, it is like I’m looking down at the self-recriminating, self-loathing, self-abusing one from all those years and smiling. She feels far away, but not in a bad way. It is almost like she is my own child. All this time she had made a big deal about life and felt so awful for everything she’d ever done. She believed her badness into existence and held onto that badness for dear life because she believed that’s who she was. It is clear that she (I) just didn’t know any better. All the pain I’ve ever felt has simply been a mistake in my perception of life and who I am in relationship to it.

I laugh and cry simultaneously for nearly an hour, feeling relieved, unburdened: Oh, of course! Oh, of course! This is what it feels like. It is something very obvious I cannot articulate. It is laughable, how serious I have been taking everything.

How is it possible that I have been missing what was right here all along?

I even try to bring in thoughts that once caused crippling emotional pain. I want to see what their effect is. I am remembering the one I refer to as “my Big Ex,” a guy I fell in love with at age 19. He was a musician (oh how they used to all be musicians), and when we met, I felt very happy and childlike in his presence. Even still I think of our first meeting and that summer fondly; I recall the sweetness we were both capable of.

In our immaturity, we clung to one another, which is generally a recipe for disaster in a relationship. I mistreated him and we broke up more than once. I had never really forgiven myself, even though I dated others. I held onto him psychologically for entirely too long, mistaking “him” and “our relationship” for a state of innocence I desperately wanted back.

Throughout my early 20s I thought of this guy, and a deep sense of loss accompanied the thought. Sometimes while drunk I’d contact him, and always I’d wake up with a black-pit-of-shame in my stomach. I did not want him knowing how intensely I “carried a torch” for him. A deep nostalgia for the way our relationship felt remained within my mind for a very long time.

In short, I mistook that relationship for the joy of my own Self, as many of us do when we have not recognized the Self.

Now this feels important to say: No lover you ever have will be The Reason for your happiness. If you believe this, you are on wobbly ground. In such a state, they can leave anytimeeven if by death—and take your happiness with them. To believe this is an error in perception, though I know it is extremely compelling. By the time you read these words, I’d guess you’ve suffered a great deal over what you imagined to be “love.”

But the truth is that whatever we feel in the presence of another was first present within ourselves. The energy of some others may be refreshing, or (even better) help pull you deeper in towards your true self. The right teacher will do this naturally. When we find another human being who resonates with us on many levels, it is natural to want to be with them. But it is very important to remember that the happiness you feel in these cases actually pre-exists the person you love.

In an amorous new relationship, you are each falling in love with your own selves, remembering what it is like to just be pure and alive. If we don’t keep this in mind and learn to abide in our knowing of it, codependency can arise. When we are in the true mind, we enjoy one another in the play, but we do not become emotionally dependent. All of these pop-culture tropes“I cannot live without you;” “I need you” and so forth—reflect a collective insecurity it is time we grew out of.

Crediting your happiness to another person is to renounce your own power. It is rare to see two people “in love” who understand this deeply and truly.

Meanwhile, back on the couch: The mind, as if to test me, presents the thought of the “Big Ex.”

Something miraculous occurs: There is no sting accompanying the thought of him. It is obvious that the one who mistreated him at age 20 was doing so unconsciously; she didn’t know who she was or why she even did anything at all.

When you see your true face, you will also forgive yourself of your wrongs. The things that haunt you from your past you will not have sharp teeth. Your mind will not cut you up, because you will see that what you are simply cannot be cut up. When you are no longer identified as this person with these sordid memories about what “you” have done, there is no one inside to be harmed. There is such peace in this space.

I wish that for you so much: That you will see all of your mistakes as the simple result of ignorance, thereby ceasing to beat yourself up over them. “Beating yourself up” is not only unhelpful, but delusional as well. We in the West seem to be very good at beating ourselves up, perhaps because we receive (and internalize) the message from a very young age that we are not enough, not enough, not enough.

There is a real and true sensation that accompanies self-forgiveness. It occurs when you see that who you are is not that little person. That little person, if it has been “behaving badly” was doing so because of unconsciousness—we are born wired with latent darkness, and the wider culture can add to this. 

Yes, we can tap into our higher minds and rewire ourselves, but that is not what I am getting at here. Even the best person in the world is still nothing in the end. Truer to my point: We can dissolve the psychological wiring altogether, and let go of this striving to be “better people” with what we imagine are “better lives.” We can let go of all these little ideaswhich are almost always rooted in the egoic view and smack of the illusion of controland allow awakening to do its work.

We can see who we are and end all this silliness now, today.

I’d like to say that this moment on the couch marks the end of my preoccupations and “bad” behavior, but that would be a lie. If that were the case, it would be a very short awakening story indeed.

But, for as beautiful as the click is, its blissfulness does not last. Bliss is not permanent, but Truth is. This click pushes me into myself to find that which is everlasting. It marks the beginning of a new life that is ever-unfolding.

What we discover is that there actually is no end to Me or to You.

The Joy of the Path

I woke up in a great mood this morning. I felt at home and cozy in my skin, and my body felt just right. There was a sense of warmth and softness. I felt inspired to write something quick about how this process of discovery, while sometimes fraught with friction and inner resistance, is also full of great joy.

I know sometimes it seems that what I write about is very serious. On one level, this is true. If you find yourself suffering from the same troubles over and over again, you must get serious about finding the root of the problem and inquire into its existence. And because we as a species are absolutely suffering from the same troubles over and over again, we need to get serious about understanding ourselves. We must find a space of shared humanity and see ourselves as one family (because that is exactly what we are). It is time to get over our childish preferences and imaginary borders. Yes, on one level, the need for the hivemind to transform is urgent.

Then again: The path is not serious at all. When you walk this road, you find out exactly how many things you’re caught up in that are really, very silly. Things come into an honest perspective, which means they are serious while also being not-at-all serious.

When you come into contact with your true nature, life gets lighter even as you sink deeply into self-awareness. Existence emits a happy kind of fragrance and becomes somehow much funnier. When we are caught up the role of the “seeker,” always meditating and trying to “get somewhere,” we can forget this.

There arises a great breadth to life when you no longer have a fixed idea about what “sort of person” you are.

I have met a lot of people in a short amount of time. As far as ego-identities go, some of them have been businessmen; some have been Buddhists; some have been involved in the porn industry; some have been college students; some have been computer programmers; some have been millionaires; some have been retirees; some have been spiritual teachers; some have been mentally disturbed. Some grew weed; some loved guns; some were opposed to both of these things. As far as political egos go, some considered themselves leftist, and some were on the far right. Some were proud capitalists; some hated capitalism.

All were humans on the way to finding themselves, and this is where I tried to meet them. They have taught me (and are still teaching me) patience, compassionate listening, and how to read energy. I can say sincerely that I have appreciated the presence of them all. I have not felt out of place in any environment, though if given the option, I’ll usually choose spaces that are green, bright, and quiet.

There is a thread that runs through all things, and if you are able to find it, you will see how beautifully similar we are: We pretty much all want to be heard, understood, and loved. We want to be fascinated and fascinating, and to find those pockets of life we can become blissfully absorbed in. We want wonder and connection. We want community and good health. We do not want to see one another suffer. And even if this is not at the forefront of our minds, we all want to know who we are.

What you find is that everyone you don’t know yet is a potential friend, if only you are able to be open and find your meeting points instead of what to argue about. From such a position, you are able to find common ground with anyone. Sometimes there are those you intuitively don’t want to talk with much, but no conflict arises out of this. You step away from their energy, and that is all.

Yes, often the need arises in me to say “Hey, what the hell are we doing on this planet?!”

I have literally lost my mind over this concern. A huge theme for me when I was hospitalized was along the lines of “Why doesn’t anyone care?! What is wrong with everyone?! These doctors are the insane ones!”

I know many people do care, but more often than not, we mistake the problem for being outside of ourselves. We can even turn something like activism into a game of avoidance, and if we are heavily identified with a “savior” role, we are missing the point. If we are busy trying to “correct” past wrongs, we are also missing it, because we are still clinging to various cultural identities. There is something very precious-seeming about the costumery that is ethnicity, history, and gender identity. However, these things still amount to false identification, which is to say they will continue to create great suffering if we take them to be ultimately Real.

At best I feel I can quietly write about this, minimize my own worldly impact, and remain grounded in Being. If and when I feel moved, I act.

The root of “what is wrong” is very clear, but avoidance is still our favorite game, and we can see this play out in the culture at large. Television, drugs, alcohol, overworking, “keeping busy…” it is as though we are desperate not to get real with ourselves. This can seem disheartening, but, we carry on, and we do not dwell in judgment.

Having said all that serious-sounding stuff: When we are not caught up in any ego-driven “mission” to “wake people up” (that’s God’s job, not mine or yours), we can just sit and deeply enjoy life. I write stories and doodle and cook meals, and it is all lovely. I listen to music and enjoy how it feels to be in this body. It is so much fun to appreciate the play, especially if you aren’t so attached to it and know that it is a play. I even find that it is wisest to hide my joy at times because the energy of it is overwhelming.

The mind often pulls us into believing life is so dire, but it is so very sweet at the same time. Every flavor is available to us all, as is that untouchable, foundational stillness within. This thing is so powerful and so boundless: It is the great animator that is Consciousness itself.

Why I’m Not Into AA

As you may or may not know, I’ve been sober since March 25th, 2017. Like, sober sober. No I do not smoke weed. No I do not microdose or do acid, nor do I recommend these things for spiritual reasons. Yes, I did eat some mushrooms last summer and perhaps that “disqualifies” me from the March 25th sobriety date in some people’s minds. If anything, that experience taught me that I am still not into mind-altering substances. I apologize if all this comes across as self-congratulatory; it really isn’t meant to be. I take no personal credit for my sobriety (or for anything), and do not feel it’s something to be proud of. My truth here is that drugs feel unnecessary, and I am very happy that I was moved to set them aside.

Drugs can provide us with interesting experiences and expose us to other relative realities. They may give us a broader lens through which to view the traumas we have endured, and if one finds a psychedelic experience to be deeply healing, I take no issue with this.

However, seeking Truth is another matter altogether. I have done the drugs and can say that these experiences do not come close to Realization. If we feel we are on the path, the best way to keep our minds is in a state of clarity, and the best way to keep our bodies is in a state of good health. If you spontaneously wake up and have been abusing your body for 10 years, that much more damage will need to be repaired. It is not fun, and it is avoidable.

I know that “sobriety for higher consciousness” isn’t a popular view to hold, but it is a true one. Drugs are for those seeking experiences. Truth is for those who are done seeking experiences and wish to come home to themselves. If we feel we need a biannual drug trip to “reset,” there is something we have missed.

Before March 25th, 2017, I was a drinker.

I started drinking heavily when I was about 18, finding it a very effective way to a) socialize, b) deaden my extremely overactive mind, and c) sneakily release aspects of my “shadow,” or, that suppressed part of me I regularly tried to deny. The shadow is the one with unhealthy preoccupations and deep negativity. It is revealed in all the “bad” things we do when we’re drunk that we wouldn’t otherwise do. We all have this “shadow,” and until we shine a light on it, it will escape somehow.

I loved drinking, and it is not an exaggeration to say that in my early 20s I blacked out at least once a month, sometimes once a week. That person I thought I was felt that it was “fun.” I was not ready to examine what was so fun about becoming less conscious, less present for the life I was living. Being that alcohol is an addictive drug (please never forget this, btw), I was pretty dependent on it in order to even be in large groups by the time I was 25.

The normal progression of abuse ensued. I won’t get into such details here, because they are literally the same for every single person who has stumbled down the road of addiction. It started out like “NBD this is totally normal,” but within a few years I found myself walking through Whole Foods with a terrible hangover as I confessed to my partner, “I definitely have a drinking problem.”

By the time I was 26, I was doing the thing where I semi-regularly took online quizzes with fun titles such as  “Are You an Alcoholic?” I always hoped the answer would come out differently than I knew it would. I bargained a lot, fudging the answers: Do I have more or less than five drinks per week? Who counts? 

Seriously, who counts drinks? If you are drinking straight out of a bottle of wine or drinking beers all day, as I surely did, this whole “measurement” thing is truly laughable. Also, if you are taking these kinds of quizzes and asking yourself these kinds of questions, the answer is “you’d do best to stop drinking, yo.”

After many attempts to quit, I finally did at age 29, and I did it without going to AA meetings.

I am going to say straight away that this was made possible largely due to an undeniable spiritual realization. If you’re trying to quit drinking, I do not recommend waiting around for a click of light. Please, do whatever works for you. If you are reading this and find AA beneficial to you, that is beautiful. But I want to share why it is that AA was never appealing to me, if only to offer a different perspective that may resonate with someone someday:

  1. AA reinforces the false dichotomy of “alcoholic” vs. “normie.” What is going on here? Alcohol is an addictive neurotoxin that our culture just happens to approve of. We are conditioned to believe that it is “normal” to “be able” to regularly ingest this drug. This is a ridiculous piece of conditioning I would like to see fall away entirely. I do not believe alcohol really has any place within a healthy society, again, because it is a poisonous drug that kills a whole lot of people in many different ways.
  2. AA encourages us to view ourselves as “moral failures.” I have written about this before in a much more long-winded post. Talk about a vicious cycle: Do you know why people want to deaden their pain with drugs and alcohol and/or kill themselves? Because they sincerely believe they are moral failures and the world is better off without them. The connection between “moral failing” and addiction needs to be broken. We already know we are fucking our lives up and hurting people we love, and we feel terrible about it. I had no desire to go crawling to an organization (in a church, no less!) to rub my nose in this more and more and more.
  3. AA encourages us to keep energizing the story that “we have a problem.” It asks that we to keep on identifying with a false story. Being that the ego-identity itself is ultimately false, all of our personal stories are also ultimately false. I am aware that this is a quantum leap in spiritual understanding, and to get to the point where we are ready to let go of our cherished stories is no quick task. But it surely does not help to keep telling them over and over again, always upholding the identity of “addict.” There is a time and place for processing trauma, but if we want to be free, we have to drop these stories someday. AA does not encourage us to let go of this story.No one is an alcoholic. No one is a “normie.” These are all surface-level stories. No one is an individual entity at all.

I could keep going, but I’m just going to include another link to Hip Sobriety, because this kind of talk is their whole purview. The founder of the company, Holly Whitaker, has written many blog posts about these things. She wants to live in a culture where addiction is viewed in its appropriate context, and so do I.

Ultimately, though, I think we both want to live in a culture where addiction is a non-issue, one wherein we actually take care of each other and cease our unconscious cycles of trauma. This can only come about by way of radical transformation made possible by realization of the Self.

 

 

The Click on the Couch

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

It feels important to say that from where I am now, there is little belief in the person who once seemed to exist, the one who felt so isolated and shameful. When the occasional shame-pangs hit me now, there is a steadiness and ability to watch them pass. Who “I used to be” is really not the point. No one’s individual “story” is the point, nor do I find my own or others’ to be particularly interesting.

And yet it can be helpful to see how one goes from tremendous self-abuse and ignorance to deep peace, because this is the story of humanity at large. In a way, our entire species is recovering from a nightmare we have unwittingly created for ourselves.

I am often caught in an inner dialogue about whether it is beneficial or not to share the details of my awakening. I wonder, am I energizing something that does not need to be chewed on any longer? Each day I think I will delete everything I have ever written, because it is so paltry compared to This Thing, because countless others have come before me (Lish) to say such things far more eloquently, and because sometimes I sense my lingering ego hoping for some kind of attention from it. I guess I’m saying, don’t be surprised if all this disappears one day.

However, something in me still feels pulled to share this for now, and so I will.

April 2014

I am on the couch writing about what I think I want out of intimate relationships. The funniest part is that I am already married.

You’d think we would give due consideration to such matters before making our commitments, but I do not think this is very common. More often, we find someone we love and just hope for the best. Or someone gets pregnant. Or someone feels obligated. Or both. Of course there is also genuine happiness in the relationship and I don’t mean to dismiss this. I do not have a cynical view of relationships, but a sober one: Usually, on some level, we are clinging to one another for some kind of safety, emotionally or financially (or both, because they are related). Then we do neat tricks with our minds to convince ourselves this thing is really, truly what we want, what “makes us” happy.

Yes there are rare, conscious relationships in which both individuals understand what the whole point of life is, if it is even fair to call it a point. That “point” is to wake up from the egoic dream and live in the peace of God. If you are both aligned on this level, healthy and challenging companionship can result. If one of you desires this and the other doesn’t—or if one of you suddenly wakes up—the relationship will naturally change into something less intimate.

As of this journaling moment, I haven’t even really dove deep enough into myself to see if I want a relationship. (I still don’t know the answer to this question, and am leaving it up to Life to provide me with the all the right external situations. So far, this has not failed me in the slightest.)

As I journal, I think maybe I want an open marriage. Pro tip: This is never the solution if you are confused about what you want. Really, I want something that allows me (what I imagine to be) greater freedom. Something about being partnered has always given me a sense of dependency and attachment; I suspect that you know what I mean.

There is a nagging thing in me that has always pulled me from kind lovers who mean me no harm. I have since learned that that thing is called a wild heart and it is not a bad thing unless you are stuck listening to a mind that says you are supposed to be in a singular lifetime relationship only forever. It is only a bad thing when we lack the awareness to say to our lovers “hey, I’m not looking for anything in particular.” It is only a bad thing when we think getting married will somehow fix the wild-heartedness which, again, is not even really a problem.

This “one lifetime relationship” conditioning makes many of us very ill at ease in the relationships we believe we are “supposed to be in.” We hang on desperately even though our hearts are pulling us elsewhere, to someone else (in my eyes, another teacher), or, ideally into our own selves. Usually when we are hopping around from lover to lover we are only seeking our true selves anyway. Sometimes this habit needs to be exhausted until we finally catch on to the silly game we are playing. There is no need to label it as “bad.” Others will do that for you, but pay them no mind either. Just do as the heart commands.

Also: Yes, I am aware this restlessness is partly due to abandonment issues, my addict father, blah blah blah. That is not the story I want to focus on today. The point is that I need to know myself desperately and yet I keep thinking I will find myself in “the right love.”

No matter what our compulsions, the underlying root is the same: We have no idea who we are. We believe this answer lies outside of us, in the configurations of our lives and in our achievements. We are terribly mistaken.

As I was saying: I think perhaps an open marriage is the solution to the fact that I am preoccupied with other men and that I desire more freedom. Oh how the egoic mind seeks to have its cake and eat it, too! It wants to preserve what it thinks it “has” and also collect more and more. So blind, this mind.

My ticking mind then starts to imagine what kind of life this would be, what others would think of me if I were to pursue this. Also, this is so not what my husband agreed to. There is something of a storm of fear about what others will think, and I am trying to sort out what I think I want. So much useless thinking, so much wasted energy.

And further, there is the underlying, humming question I have been asking myself since childhood: What the hell is wrong with me? This is a question I think many addicts can relate to, as well as those of us with mental illness labels: What is wrong with me; what is wrong with me?

And I cannot help but write again that the thing is always the same: Ignorance of the True Self. Psychologically speaking, that is all that is ever really wrong, and yes it is that simple.

The thought-stream continues: Well, so what if people think negatively of me? This is my life. This is the thought that does it for me: This is my life. Oh! This is my life! It’s like I’ve never fully realized it until just now!

The thought swirls a couple more times, and I experience a vague sensation of being sucked into a hole, a space in my mind that feels further inside than I normally go. I am looking into something; it is pulling me inward. Then, what truly feels like a light-switch is flicked in my mind: Click! An epiphany. I am fine.

A wash of relief overcomes me. I feel very light, and very happy. There is such peace in this moment. Somehow I know nothing will ever be the same, and I cannot undo whatever has just been done.

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

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

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