Personal

I Know Nothing

So it’s been awhile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– lish

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

I generally don’t like to restrict my behaviors harshly, and believe that a free life has no absolute “I’ll never do this” attitude, even though that can be helpful for a time (a long time, even) when it comes to breaking habits. But my travels have brought me a more comprehensive vision for my life (not that I have the details worked out or anything), and it just seems like the wisest thing to do is remain on my own, write, enjoy my friends and family, and accept any and all additional blessings.

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Culture, Personal, The Mind, Transformation

With Love from Santa Fe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– lish

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Personal, Spirituality, The Soul, Truth

Less Mind, More Heart

In Austin, I responded to a craigslist ad seeking vegetarian housemates who were interested in self-awareness. The price was good, the location looked awesome, and I loved the idea of forming a small community of individuals who’d live together consciously. The man who owned the house was incredibly kind and offered to pick me up and show me the space. But when I stepped out of my friend’s apartment to go check it out, I got a very clear and obvious “no, don’t,” from inside. The signal was strong: Getting a place, no matter how beautiful, meant dropping several hundred dollars. It probably meant locking down a job. It meant “building a life,” to some extent.

I don’t really know how to explain my need to not do this, but that’s how I feel. Never has it felt so right to have nothing and be nothing. The soul compels me to stay open, to not move into a routine of predictability and consistency—not yet anyway. I respond to the soul and do not question it, because I’ve learned that obeying the soul is the only way to freedom and deep peace. The mind, of course, does not like this. It watches my bank account get a little lower and says “you need to get a job now,” “you need to know for sure where you’re sleeping tomorrow,” and all kinds of other totally practical concerns. My heart-based response is “I hear you, mind, but you take a backseat to my heart now.”

Even so, I do not advocate a head-in-the-clouds kind of attitude towards spirituality wherein we assume that “God will just take care of us.” Sometimes everything can feel so magical on the path that you’ve got stars in your eyes and it seems as if nothing can go wrong. On the level of Ultimate Reality, this is true. Everything is perfect. Nothing can go wrong. I hear these kinds of sentiments often, and yet when something actually happens in the world (death, loss of money, theft), very few people retain their equanimity. I’m not sure I would either, and I’m not trying to make the claim that any reaction is “wrong” or “unspiritual.” If anything, though, this fact does highlight the rarity and beauty of one who is grounded in the Self at all times. No outer situation troubles their peace. All events, including emotions and thoughts, are accepted immediately and then released. They do not allow others to determine their state of being. For them, the illusion of control in this world has fallen entirely, and surrender is the permanent state.

It also bears noting that if we get too confident in the magic of living spiritually, often something humbling occurs just so we’re reminded of how not special we are. We ought to never think of ourselves as more important or worthy of care than any other person in the world. The divine plays no favorites and takes no sides. It is true that consciousness and trust in the universe can carry us very far and lead to beautiful experiences, but remember: On the path, the ultimate goal is the dissolution of the ego-identity. And in Reality, no experience gets you closer to this goal than any other. Experiences and life situations happen on the level of the mind, but on the soul-level, none of these things feel particularly different. The status of the soul remains unchanging and yet always new, even as the outward configurations change rapidly and unpredictably. Soul is boundlessly complete and shining; mind fluctuates and chases the things that mimic the light of the soul.

Even as much as I’m in love with this nomadic way of living for now, I know that travel isn’t necessary for self-awareness. I have ended up in this conversation with many people who are convinced that travel is a prerequisite for developing a universal perspective. This is simply untrue. One whose sole possession is a cardboard box in a small village who traverses their consciousness easily understands more about the human condition than someone who has traveled the world collecting experiences. Once you know the root and the source of your own being, there is nothing that “exploring other cultures” can really teach you. Everything we need to know about ourselves and the state of humanity is right inside of us and requires no physical relocation.

As my heart said “don’t settle in Austin,” it simultaneously said, “go to New Mexico.”

It’s kind of jarring how abrupt and obvious my intuition can be. One minute I was thinking “Oh, I’m going to check out this nice house near Barton Springs,” and in the next it was like “Nope; I’m done here.” My intuition has, on its own, become more developed the longer I stay sober, meditate, and otherwise listen to it. I know well the risks of denying my intuition. Suppressing the heart’s movements and wanton passions is a recipe for misery every time. The heart wants what it wants and points directly to those things and people you need to become self-aware. Listen to it. Your mind will protest, but maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll just lose your mind someday.

In order to responsibly follow the heart, some maturity is needed. For example: If I went wayfaring like this five years ago, I would’ve been drunk all the time and could’ve easily ended up in some less-than-ideal situations. Fortunately, I’m older and grounded now, and was in the awesome situation of having musician friends in town to play South by Southwest. I ended up watching music with them all day long, and the next day they graciously let me get come along with them to Albuquerque. Unceremoniously I grabbed my things (two bags and two boxes) and got into the car. We hung out at a house show for a while, the guys drove through Texas until 4 in the morning, and then we crashed at a Days Inn. I dropped off the boxes at a local post office in order to jettison more stuff. Now it’s just me and two stuffed bags. Driving around with the band was really amazing and hilarious; I basically laughed for 24 hours straight and felt great even while totally sleep-deprived.

Today I sit at a coffee shop in Albuquerque, waiting for the train to Santa Fe to arrive.

When I went to the ashram I did not know I’d go to Austin or how; when I got to Austin I did not know I’d go to Albuquerque or how. I have the delightful sensation of leap-frogging through the unknown and being pleasantly surprised at every turn.

One day I feel I may need to write a series of posts about developing intuition and staying grounded, but for now I’ll just say that heartfulness is the most needed quality in this world. We need more people grounded in heart, people who are willing to let their presence and energy do the talking for them. An untrained mind will always try to convince you otherwise. It thinks people need to be “told” about what is right, what needs to be done, how to be spiritual, and on and on. It’s obvious that this is ultimately ineffective and a tactic of the “spiritual” ego-identity. One who silently radiates Truth teaches more powerfully than the most verbose intellectual does.

The harsh news is that unless we’re capable of sitting in one place with ourselves and knowing peace, we can’t spread peace throughout the world. Miraculously, once we’re straightened out, we find that the rest of the world starts to follow suit, and all of life becomes infinitely more beautiful. Even a world that is as unconscious as ours can be viewed through calm, divine eyes; these eyes do not judge or hold anything against the world for not being what the mind might call “perfect.” These are the eyes that know perfection is already here. They are the eyes of the heart.

– lish

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