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.

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.

Inner State, April 2014

This post is the first in an intended series detailing how I got from the intense “click” of awakening to where I am right now. And where exactly am I right now? Well, I am just right here, in peace, living a simple life where I write, meditate, and connect with others. I step into the sunlight with music in my ears and dance-walk wherever I go. This joy, this peace… it cannot be taken. If it could, it would not be the real thing.

Sometimes my mind offers up loneliness and I am not aware enough to leave that loneliness be. I grab onto it and contact men from my past, even though it could not be clearer that I am supposed to be by myself at this time in my life. I go to bed alone, thinking I’d marry the next fool who asks, if only we could do what needs to be done in this world together. (This point—about men and my compulsions towards them—is relevant, as you will see.) Still, on the whole, I am deliriously happy.

This is not meant to come across as braggy. I try to be mindful about sounding proud, in part because pride is a function of an egoic mind that likes to fancy itself as something So Great. Also, it’s no fun to listen to someone talk about how great their life is when we aren’t in the same place. I gather, from looking around, that most of us are not in a similar position of peace. We humans are still greatly deluded, fearful, dramatic, internally split, and confused… all synonyms for “suffering.”

The significance of my joy now is that it hasn’t always been this way—not by a long shot: Two and a half years ago, on December 1st, 2015, I was released from the mental hospital into the absolute darkest time of my life. As I tried to carry on, my entire being felt saturated in shame and despair. I was emotionally fragile, insecure, and very defensive as a result. I had no idea what had happened to make the fabric of reality fall to shreds before me.

Trying to assimilate the experience of psychosis into a rational worldview feels, in a word, impossible.

So, how did I move from one end of the spectrum to the other, especially if my financial/relational circumstances have actually deteriorated? What happened?

I will tell you, though my ego-identity is hesitant to do so. I am choosing to ignore that ashamed voice in my head, because I know it is only interested in preserving its small self. My ego-identity believes that if it is seen fully, no one will ever love it. That is a powerful bargaining chip for my mind to have, and it is one I suspect many of you can relate to. Luckily, I know that that little “person” is not the true Me.

So, I am just going to try and stay grounded in my Being and do what I have been sent to do: Write.

April 2014

I’m 26 years old. It is mid-afternoon, sunny outside, and I am alone in the house. My countryside home is beautiful yet humble, and was built by my great-grandfather. My husband and I were married in the backyard nine months ago by a family friend of his. It was a truly blessed event. We love each other, and are slowly trying to make this house our home.

On the surface, in all regards, I am The Luckiest Woman Alive. Look at all I’ve got: A marriage to a good man, a handsome yet dopey long-haired black cat, a yard with the perfect garden patch my own grandfather tended to into his 80s, a shop for my husband to make music and/or build skate ramps in, and a healthy body. Right across the street, there is a whole field of tulips in bloom.

Sounds pretty good on paper, right?

Except that inside, I am deeply angry and negative. I judge people incessantly, finding them at fault for all kinds of things. I drink a lot—as in, I black out at least once a month, and am drunk at least three times a week. I smoke cigarettes, especially when drunk. I smoke weed and make horrible food choices when I am hungover. I say thoughtless things that hurt people’s feelings. None of these are my worst most shameful habit, which I will discuss in later posts, after I’ve had time to cope with the fact that I have been called to write about it.

I go in and out of hating myself on a regular basis. There is no logical reason for this self-hatred other than that I know, somewhere inside, that I am not acting like the human I know I can be. I am not creating enough; I’m not doing enough for others; I’m missing something. Through the (totally inaccurate) lens of pain, I interpret this to mean I’m so defective I cannot even begin to pull myself into a higher echelon of thought and behavior.

It’s not that I am without my bright points. Historically I have been loved by some for speaking my mind, being brash, being a (mostly) fun drunk and not giving a fuck. I am capable of being somewhat charming when occasions require it. I like making homemade gifts for my family, and there have surely been times when I’ve been deeply heartful and compassionate.

I am smart, and being smart is The Most Important thing to me. Having beer after beer (and smoke after smoke) while engaging in rigorous philosophical discourse is my absolute favorite thing to do. My dearest friends appreciate this in me. My favorite people are all deep and brooding and addicted, and to my monkey-mind, it is fun.

Overall, I see myself as maladaptive, and probably actually evil somewhere inside. I am convinced that if anyone saw this evil, they would have nothing to do with me. They would vanish in a heartbeat, and they would be right to do so.

So much for the husband, the cat, the tulips. I am a Dark Thing, a Bad Thing, and when you believe this about yourself sincerely (as I did), there is no outward configuration that can bring you any joy.

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

Onto the Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– lish

location: Burlington, WA

Disbelief in Mitchell, OR

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

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

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

I wish you all nothing but everything.

– lish

location: Mitchell, OR