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.

There Are No Others

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

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

“We are right; they are wrong.”

“Christians are closed; Buddhists are open.”

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

“My spirituality is more evolved than his.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love from Bend, OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want whatever is given.

– lish

Location: Bend, OR

 

There is no Spiritual Hierarchy

There is no spiritual hierarchy. In a world of seekers, teachers, gurus, masters, monks, yogis, and on and on, it can be easy to fall into the mentality of believing there is someone “above” you, or with greater wisdom. This is false. Similarly, you are never “above” someone else, even if you are blessed with insights others don’t seem to see yet. Wisdom exists in equal measure in all of us, though many unconsciously lock this wealth of knowledge away under many delusions. There is no ladder on which you are “beneath” your teacher, and if you have a teacher worth a damn, he or she will know this. He or she will know that “they” as a person with a name and a title are really nothing at all.

The paradox—and there always is one—is that in the play of consciousness, some individuals surely have been hit with realizations that others haven’t experienced. These are the people we like to have as teachers. As far as I can tell, this kind of divine lightning strike occurs for unknown reasons, and is not about them being “chosen” or “special” in God’s eyes.

In such a way, we can regard some teachers as being “further” along the path while also trying to bearing in mind that there really is no path, no teacher, and no student.

When the dam of illusion breaks and great wisdom comes pouring forth, it is expressed uniquely through different beings—or sometimes not at all. Not all awakened beings teach with words. However, they do teach, because deep energetic silence is one of the most powerful states to dwell in. The still presence of an awakened being teaches through sitting alone. I have written before that some of the greatest teachers teach by silence: Unless they feel moved, they don’t compromise the supreme stillness of God in favor of words, which are often interpreted solely on a mental level.

Often, the word we use to describe words (as roundabout as that statement may sound) is “pointers.” Words are “tools” to point to Truth. There are many tools available to teachers that direct people back to their own wisdom. With this blog I do my best to use words as tools to point to Truth. Sometimes I use them to write stories and/or metaphors, which are also tools. Sometimes I ask challenging questions. Sometimes I go quiet or look at people with stoic inquisitiveness when they’re all in their minds rather than continue to have a fruitless conversation.

All of these things are tools, things to utilize given the specific situation. It is worth noting that we really are all very different in the ways we walk the path. One person may love the energy of a teacher, another may be totally repelled by it. Neither’s response is right or wrong, and neither person is above another in the situation.

If you have been told it takes x amount of years to “achieve” some special wisdom, or ten thousand lifetimes to “get enlightened,” this is simply untrue. Similarly, if you believe you possess something special that only you can “transmit” to another person, that’s your ego talking. Usually these kinds of beliefs are handed down (or circulated in a new sect of spirituality) and accepted by each person’s ego-identity. It makes us feel good to imagine we are doing something new and amazing. But no matter how deep or novel they seem, these are just additional conditioned beliefs your ego will need to let go of one day.

The essence of spirituality is that it actually breaks down all hierarchies: In our culture, a great number of false hierarchies exist around race, gender, sexual expression, economic status, cultural history, etc. They are only sustained by our belief in them, which is to say they are ultimately illusory. What we are seeking on the path is the removal of all illusions. If humans were to  be stripped of our delusive beliefs about ourselves and one another at once, these hierarchies would crumble immediately.

Sometimes people ask me pointedly: “What makes you so sure you know?” They are speaking to my ego-identity when they ask, and the truth is that “that person” has no idea. In the end, she does not really exist. She is a passing cloud in a timeless sky. I really don’t think I know much of anything at all.

What it  feels like is that I was once a lion under a spell that made me believe I was an ant. I’d been told I was an ant, tried to internalize that I was an ant, and then went about trying to behave like an ant. It felt awkward and bad, because I wanted to roll around in the sun and hunt instead of building an anthill. No part of me was suited to the work of an ant. One day I went to the watering hole and saw my true reflection—actually saw it for the first time: “A-ha! I’m not the thing I think I am—and neither is anyone else!”

For some reason, the spell started to wear off off, and now I want other people to also remember the unlimited awesomeness that will express itself uniquely, according to their own nature.

This is not a metaphor about achieving more in the world, or being “bigger” in the sense of being at the top of some pyramid. In reality, ants and lions are both beautiful expressions of the one indivisible whole, each with their own role within the animal kingdom. It is meant to highlight that the primary delusion we live under is that we are something totally different than what we really are. The thing we really are is much larger than the hypnosis we’ve been under for so long. In fact, it is limitless.

The change that occurs upon realization cannot be overstated. It flips everything around, and at first it can feel like living in Bizarro World. Things are backwards, and you don’t know how to behave anymore. And while the ego usually tries to cling to an “awakened ego”—the one that likes to show itself off as being spiritually aware, start doing psychic readings and past-life regressions—this, too, will melt away in time. I’ve had my ego rebuild and fall apart so many times since my initial “aha” moment. It is always looking for a new set of permanent clothing to have on: “Okay, I’m this now. Now I’m an energy healer. Now I’m a writer. Now I read tarot.”

This isn’t to say you won’t be an energy healer or writer or whatever when the ego has been seen through, but that you will always know these roles are like masks to take on and put off when it is helpful. You will fearlessly be yourself.

We remember that these illusory divisions we create amongst ourselves are just that: Completely illusory. You and the person you’re doing a psychic reading for are both just fleeting forms on the screen of consciousness, so it’s okay to lighten up. We can honor those beings who are established in the Self to such a degree that their energy helps us to clarify our own insights, but we do not exist in perpetual servitude to them (unless one chooses the path of service to a guru, which is also fine when chosen consciously).

We are all of one unending fabric, each as unique expressions of this fabric. This is important to bear in mind as we choose a spiritual community, and even better, to watch the feelings/thoughts that keep us trapped in these ideas of being “more important” or “less important” than others. I also think it helps us to keep a skeptical eye on certain massively powerful religions that are very much about “the spiritual hierarchy.” Even with a minor spiritual insight, we can say with near-certainty that Jesus would not have been down with a spiritual hierarchy.

There’s quite a difference between being a spiritually mature leader and being a figure of false authority who just happens to wear certain robes and have some verses out of a book memorized. Many people are of the latter group. “Removing” power from these institutions really just comes down to stepping into and dwelling within your own power, which is far greater than we tend to believe.

– lish

Location: San Antonio, TX

Facing Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– lish

 

location: Austin, TX

Three Spiritual Truths

A few days ago, someone asked me to share three things with them about spirituality. Just three? I thought. Given the opportunity, I’ll go on about this shit forever, which is exactly while I have this blog. It took me a minute to generate an answer, but when I did, I wrote back fervently and had to cut myself off because I knew he was probably getting a lot more than he bargained for. My response turned into this post.

This conversation actually occurred in a Tinder chat window. I’m sharing this piece of information a) for the sake of openness, b) to illustrate that opportunities to share truth can come in unexpected places, and c) to point out that really, no activity is more or less “spiritual” than any other.

I’ve actually made some very nice connections through this medium, even though for a long time it was something I was completely closed to. Being closed has probably protected me at times, but it’s also shut me off from a lot of really awesome people, including those I wouldn’t normally consider “my type.” We all have people in our lives who like to categorize and mock “other kinds” of people. This is, quite frankly, super ignorant. I have yet to meet someone who is incapable of showing me some depth if I ask the right questions. I have let go of thinking I have “a type” and of meeting people any particular way: The divine leaves nothing out and holds no thing or person in higher regard than another. It is only our minds that do this.

Still I admit that Tinder is largely a weird distraction I stumbled into while traveling. Even though it has resulted in some interesting conversations (and a couple I ducked out of pretty quickly), I’ll probably delete it because really, what do I think I’m even doing? Any sort of partner for me (which I guess I’m not so much avoiding as I am trying to navigate with significantly more awareness than I have in past years [also, I’ve been failing at this again]) is not likely to be someone who is swiping through Tinder.

Then again, I’m on Tinder right now, so I guess you never know. I’m becoming less and less convinced that our outward choices (aside from things like, you know, murder and war and abuse) are very indicative of what’s going on inside. People do things for all kinds of reasons—most of them are surely unconscious—and sometimes people do things for no reason at all. In most cases, it’s been my projection to assume I know why anyone does anything, and that’s a projection I’d like to let go of.

Somehow I’m rambling about Tinder at this point and that feels absurd, so I’m gonna stfu and get on with this list:

1: Consciousness/Truth/Self/God/Soul/Reality/Pure awareness are all synonyms. They are also literally the same in all beings. Everyone’s true identity is this ineffable thing, but we routinely mistake ourselves for the body/mind.

We get so hung up on words and their precise definitions, as if knowing them will get us somewhere. Aside from the fact that there really is nowhere to go, it’s important to remember that when it comes to reading spiritual lessons/listening to spiritual teachers, we stop trying so hard to nail down concepts. Truth isn’t conceptual. It is also important to learn how to listen to energy more so than content, because anyone can say these things without having a deep insight. We all know how to read energy to some degree; it is intuitive. If you start to pay attention to this skill, it will sharpen on its own.

From our average conditioning (inaccurate perception), the words generally get defined like this:

Consciousness: Human thought and thinking.
Truth: Different for everyone.
God: An external creator of reality. If one is religious, God is tied to a particular prophet.
Soul: Something special and individual that every human has.
Reality: The world we appear to live in and the events that go on in it.
Awareness: Mental knowledge of something.
Who we Are: An individual with unique traits and life situations.

Waking up turns all this on its head. We see that instead of there being multiple definitions that are super important to understand, there really is just this one thing that is beyond definition. We learn to use words differently according to the situation, but loosely, the above words refer to the same Absolute.

This brings me to # 2…

2: Pure consciousness cannot be understood by the mind. I have said this before. I will say it again. Many teachers say this, and yet the vast majority of us continue to approach spirituality by thinking, and then we end up frustrated. This kind of understanding is a function of the intellect, a part of the mind that is generally overvalued in most of the people I talk to.

This is why meditation has been the recommended practice for so long: In time, it puts distance between you and your mind, allowing you to truly examine your crazy and then get it out. While changing the way you think can be extremely powerful, Truth cannot be talked to or thought to. What can we do then? The answer is always the same; it is never new: Change habits, start sitting with yourself regularly, read some spiritual books, simplify your life, and see what emerges.

Sometimes I get in discussions with those who are entirely in their minds, like Truth is another idea or a piece of trivia to pick up. It is not that. In order to effectively have these conversations, we have to drop into a different kind of energy and be ready to be wrong about everything we think we know. This is problematic for many people, because most egos don’t like to be wrong. As soon as we’re identified with what we already think we understand, we will defend it. I still watch this happen inside of myself sometimes, but it seems to be fading.

Intellectual understanding is a function of the mind, and the mind is couched within pure consciousness. Truth can be known but this knowing is different from intellectual understanding. In the same way that I can only weakly describe what it’s like to get music-tingles or fall in love, I can’t explain this thing to anyone on a mental level.

I end up in a lot of conversations where I can feel, energetically, that we are approaching the discussion from the level of mental understanding. The person I am talking to is looking for evidence, reasoning, and other intellectual functions. These conversations don’t go very far anymore, because I truly have no interest or emotional charge caught up in arguments. This change was pretty hard for my ego to digest at first because my top two favorite things used to be getting drunk and entertaining philosophical discussions.

But, Truth is not a piece of trivia, a set of beliefs, or any other kind of dogma. It simply is.

3: The ultimate truth of existence can be known. Sometimes I run into this maxim when I end up in talks about spirituality: “We can never really know these things for sure.” It feels like I am expected to agree with it, but I don’t.

Actually, we can know. If I had any doubts about Reality, I would have never changed my life. If I went through hell and back only to be wading through the waters of doubt about who I am, what would be the point? The goal is to firmly know, and this is possible. Having the ability to realize the Absolute is the greatest privilege of being human, even though it can come with the experience of egregious suffering as well.

Lots of times people insist that it is impossible to be sure, generally because they are still looking for answers in their minds. Usually they have not started any spiritual practice and are engaged in consciousness-lowering behaviors, and yet they still say it cannot be known. This is always kind of weird to me. It’s like saying we can’t know for sure what color the sky is, but they’ve never even looked up.

In this case, “looking up” would be to give up habits that lower consciousness and commit to a life rooted in pursuit of self-knowledge. This only happened for me after I was graced with a strange and totally unexpected awakening. It can happen in an instant, truly.

Many of us are not consciously seeking Truth, and that is also fine. Know that it is always in your power to walk the path, but it’s serious work, even with the huge energetic boost of an awakening. At first it is deeply uncomfortable to see how wrong and ignorant you are about life and your identity. Now I find it to be generally fun, and have a little laugh at my mind when I notice it’s got me caught up in all the same bullshit as always (Oh hi Tinder/preoccupations with dudez).

In any case, we all arrive here in due time. It’s all happening just as it should, and it’s always an individual’s choice if they’d like to put in more effort towards reaching ultimate freedom. I highly recommend it, but also have no desire to convince anyone of anything.

– lish

location: Burlington, WA

Keep Looking Inward

I’m sitting upstairs at the Grand Canyon International Hostel in Flagstaff, Arizona. The sun and spring air are coming through an open window and I’ve got an iced Americano at my side. I’ve been listening to enough Beyoncé for her voice to be on frequent repeat in my mind, which is cool with me. All of this is to say that things are still bright and lovely on this strange part of my journey. In a couple hours I’ll take a night train over to L.A., which I can only assume is going to be romantic as all get out.

I could’ve easily gone out to the Grand Canyon, but all I really felt doing was walking around town in the sun and listening to music. It’s all I want most of the time. Often I stop to sit down for no reason but to feel the sun. The need to “do” is dissolving, which my ego-identity occasionally meets with worry: What happens when I don’t feel that ongoing push to do things? How will I survive? What would it be like if I really could just sit quietly in one place forever and be happier than I ever imagined possible?

The answer is I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.

I also seem to be losing the need to have “reasons” for any of the things I do. The heart has no reason or aim but to lead you to Truth and yourself (which are the same thing), so I trust it. This makes for strange conversations: “What are you doing here in Flagstaff?” people ask. And rather than go through the whole story about moving to the ashram and all that, I just say I’m traveling. I have no reason for being here or anywhere at all. It just happened, the same way all of life is just happening for no reason whatsoever.

People also ask often “where I’m from,” being that this is a hostel. Honestly, having such conversations already feels old and I don’t enjoy doing it. I get the feeling that it really doesn’t matter, that we are only talking based on what we have been conditioned to talk about. It’s more fun to make it weird and say I’m from Mars or something, or jump straight into jokes because hey we’re all human and where we’re from means nothing about who we are.

I feel like writing something basic (and perhaps a little challenging) about consciousness and the spiritual path. There seems to be an upswell in certain personalities who are getting famous while using the word “consciousness.” They go on and on about archetypes and mythology and their audiences are, for some reason, impressed.

On the level of the rational mind, what they say checks out, and I understand why they’ve gained such a following. But when I tune into their energy it is obvious that they are operating from a bloviating ego-identity, and this is hard for me to watch. They have mighty minds but they are filled with ignorance, which is the state of humanity at large. This is why we really need to take a step back here. We absolutely do not need more bloviating egos; we need heartful presence and the energy of pure awareness.

The trouble seems to be that a lot (see: the vast vast majority) of people mix up the word “consciousness” with the word “mind.” In reality, these are two completely different things. Consciousness is actually an all-encompassing thing; there is a reason why light is the most oft-used metaphor for it. It is both within and apart from the mind, but here’s the kicker: Consciousness created the mind, and the mind is a temporal feature within it. The mind ultimately does not exist, but consciousness will always abide. Remove the mind and consciousness will be there, but until we have practice detangling these things, we find ourselves totally mixed up and making messes.

When we go looking for answers from the level of the mind, we’re starting from an inherently flimsy place. The mind has a beginning and an end, but consciousness does not. We must look at the mind from this place of stability if we are to understand anything about humanity at all.

Another concern is the generally unquestioned assumption of who we are. This is what the path is all about: Who are you, really, underneath all that blah-blah-blahing your mind does day in and day out? Who are you, really, underneath the character you play on a day to day basis? This character is not really who you are, but you have been playing it for so long that you forgot it was an act.

I know that some of you may be reading this and feeling like you “understand” what I mean. And so I implore you to check in and see: Where do you live your life from? Your heart; your self-knowledge as consciousness? If this is so, there should be an abiding peace with you always, and a life that is generally untroubled. There should be an awake stillness to your being and a mind that does not rule your movements or behaviors. There should be no more nagging questions about existence or confusion about what you’re doing here. There should be no need to defend yourself or what you see, nor to make others “get” what you think you’ve “gotten.”

Or, perhaps more likely, do you live from the belief that you are [insert name, job, beliefs, opinions, preferences, etc.]?

My goal with these questions and statements is not to pass judgment, but to continue to encourage anyone who reads this to just keep. looking. inward. The ego is so so happy to latch onto theories. The ego is so so happy to keep feeding itself with mental concepts of what Truth is, to think that it “knows.” But, since the mind lives on the borrowed light of the heart, it does not know things about itself until the underlying consciousness is expanded responsibly and gradually. It is only from this vantage point that we have any real perspective at all. The best metaphor here is that the moon only shines because the sun throws light upon it. Most of us are stuck believing we’re the moon, and arguing as the moon that we know a lot about the sun. The silly part is that without the sun, the moon is nothing but a cold rock, and we are all the same sun.

We really all desire to be free; to know Truth with no doubt whatsoever. If you feel the need to defend, that’s actually an insecurity; it’s something I see all the time. There is a pull from the heart to become more free and totally light all the time, and this pull (or rather, the ego’s resistance to the pull) is what creates all the difficulties in our lives.

If we are interested in our minds, all we must do is learn to sit back and watch our minds. It is very simple, and yet this sentence alone carries a lot of information that goes assumed: What is the “you” and what is the “mind”? The mind cannot free itself from itself, so, what is the “you” that is going to go about doing this work?

The general false assumption is that you are your mind, but this is actually false. We go around saying this word all day long: “I,” “me,” “my,” “you,” and yet very few people have, since the time they (unconsciously) formed their egos in toddlerhood, sat down to examine what exactly this thing is. It is all an assumption. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to risk my entire life experience on such an assumption.

Obviously there’s a lot more to unpack here, but of course there’s the paradox that there really isn’t anything else to unpack. My recommendation is, as always, to go sit quietly with your mind for awhile and see what you uncover. Resist the urge to defend where you’re at on the path; why what you’re already doing is totally compatible with [insert spiritual teaching here]. I also see that all the the time.

Many people do not have such a practice, and yet they insist on discussing Truth and spirituality anyway. This would be like going to a quantum physics course and arguing with the professor when you haven’t even gone through Physics 101. Start a practice, commit to finding your true self, and things will start becoming clear on their own.

Anyway, next time I write, I’ll probably be in Los Angeles.

Love to you all,

lish

Location: Flagstaff, AZ