last week

A Return to Magic

I am made of magic.

As are you.

We are magical beings.

The dominant story in the mainstream culture is a story of deadness.

“Things are inert. They are made of smaller inert things. And inside those smaller inert things there’s nothing. And it’s all dead. And when you die, that’s that. And we’ve very nearly understood everything there is to know. We’ve written it all down.”

No room for magic.

I was taught that magic is for weak-minded idiots. Fools. People who don’t have the strength and intelligence to calculate everything and know it all.

But I was wrong.

There is something in me that has remained magical. No amount of cynicism can harm it.

Magic is love. And love is magic.

And magic says “You can’t think away what is real, what is here.”

My intention is to celebrate magic. My intention is to celebrate the life that we are gifted.

Fully. We are made of and surrounded by mystery. Let us be joyful even though we are afraid.

I have fallen short in that intention. But today I am renewing my commitment.

In my estimation, there exists a force that I’m calling the mainstream death cult. And it is like a hungry ghost that will try to consume everything.

It co-opts everything that is true, and it is insidious. We don’t see what is happening most of the time, but the next thing we know, we’re marching in lock step in the death cult.

So my invitation to us all is that we wake up now. Shake off the hypnosis. And choose life. Choose love. Choose magic.

Choose the collective. Choose us. Choose together. Choose inclusivity.

For me, part of waking up is waking up from narcissism.

The mainstream death cult is narcissistic. It says, “You’re going to become enlightened. You’re going to transcend misery. You’re going to get all the stuff you want.”

Or, conversely, it says, “You’re a piece of shit. You’re a loser. You’r a fraud. You’re going to be found out. You’re going to suffer.”

It’s all about you, you, you. Me, me, me.

Which is a big clue: it’s time to wake up.

My life is not all about me. My “enlightenment” is not all about me. Spirituality has become highly narcissistic.

My life is part of the whole life. I exist in a long, unbroken ancestral field. My life is that life. That life is my life. And my life is in service to this life.

It is reciprocal. We do not exist alone. We truly are all connected.

My “enlightenment” is meaningless, empty, and worthless – not to mention deluded – if I believe it protects me from the pain and responsibility of connection and love.

I am enlightened to the extent that I welcome all that is in shadow as well as that which is in light and to the extent that I am willing to say yes to it all. Yes to love. In all its forms. Including the “ugliest”, most base, most primitive, most human, most selfish-seeming forms.

Because sometimes what I’ve deemed selfish is actually what is for the collective good. It is how what is true and right and good is manifest.

I am here for love. Isn’t that what every bit of our being is shouting? What else drives us like love does? What else can stop us in our tracks, cause us to completely change course, to see the error of our ways? What else is real?

You cannot understand it or pin it down. You cannot contain it. It is magical.

Be magical. Celebrate it.

Throw off the shackles of the death cult.

Let’s be joyous even though we are afraid.


last month

Grasping the Infinite

I look out into the night sky.

It is vast. Apparently infinite.

I can find no end. No boundary.

~~~ * ——- * ~~~

I look “inward”.

When I look inwardly with honesty, all I find is ignorance.

Or, put another way, a lack of knowledge of the truth of things.

Meaning, that star that I think I know about because I have a word for it, a concept for it…I have no fucking clue what that is. What is it? What is its source? Where is it?

*** ^^^^^^^^^^^ ***

All I have are words. Concepts. But even those words and concepts are empty of solidity. I don’t even know what those are. What is a word? What is a concept? What are their natures? What are their sources? Where are they?

Vast, infinite ignorance. Vast, infinite lack of knowledge.

No findable boundary to the ignorance.

No findable boundary between the inward vastness and the outward vastness.

And that’s not reassuring. That’s not comforting. That’s not something to aspire to. It’s not the bliss you think you’ve been told about.

Where did I think I could rest?

What would be resting?



Yes, I’m shouting.

Stop looking for the winner.

The winners are lying to you.

What did they win? They are the same vast ignorance.

They don’t know anything worth knowing. Especially if they are claiming that they know something.

Stop believing.

Just for a second.

Look at the stars.

If you can’t look at the stars, look “inward”.

Same thing.

Same infinite ignorance. Same infinite vastness. Same infinite terror. Same infinite indifference.

Where’s the finish line? Where is here? And how do you measure the distance between these two imaginary locations to determine how far you have to travel to win?

You can’t win.

Life isn’t a contest.

But if it were, you’d be losing.

What a relief.

That relief can’t be had. It’s not mine. I don’t possess it. And neither can you.

It’s totally ungraspable.

If you think you can have it, you’ll lose.

If you think you can understand this, you’ll lose.

And you can’t help but think you can have it and understand this. You are destined to lose.

It’s worth repeating: we can’t win.

It’s worth repeating – for myself because of my thickheadedness: the relief is ungraspable.

But I will keep grasping. We will keep grasping.

The relief is already the case. Untouched by the grasping.

The grasping does not harm this vast, infinite, unbounded terror/ignorance/indifference.

And, by the way: I’m almost certain to be utterly wrong about all of this.

Goodnight. Sweet dreams.

last month

Perfect Behavior, Perfect Being

I am imperfect.

I am conditioned to believe that I must be perfect.

That my behavior must be perfect.

I must get it right.

Do right.

Be right.

And so I am at odds with myself as I am. Me versus the reality of myself.

But wait! There’s good news!

My imperfect, hopeless, helpless, wretched, miserable, vindictive, spiteful, impatient self AND my conditioning to be at odds with my imperfect self AND the whole ball of wax…

…is not a problem.

It is the opportunity.

Don’t try to solve the problem of yourself.


Just see. Open your eyes for a moment, and see.

That you see is miracle enough.

a couple of months ago

Existence, Source, and Syphilis

It’s cold in Vermont. And we’ve got snow on the ground.

I’m normally cold-averse. But today as I stood in the cold, I caught a glimpse of something…uh…transcendent.

No, transcendent is the wrong word.

Something inclusive.

That inclusive glimpse goes something like this:

me (it’s so cold), me (cold is uncomfortable), me (I don’t like cold), me (why me?), me, me, me…


me, me, me, me…

The glimpse is not a thought, of course. But the thought follows. And it is a radical shift from the status quo (me).

It is like being slapped sober for a second. “Holy shit! This is happening!”

And the “this” in “this is happening” isn’t some thing that I have suddenly cognized. I can’t tell you what “this” is.

It is perfectly evident. Before cognizing. Before thought. Before awe. Before anything.

“This” is ordinary. Nothing apart from. Not some other experience. Just this, exactly as it is.

If “miracle” is too sensational of a word, then we could just say that “this is happening” is outside of the usual story. And I guess, in that sense, it is transcendent. Not transcending what is. Not transcending the ordinary. But transcending the story.

Hours later I was struck by how odd it is to assume that I am the source of my experience.

I do assume that I am the source of my experience. That is the status quo. That is very normal.

But it is odd.

One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, wrote in the introduction to one of the editions of Breakfast of Champions about growing up in Indianapolis during the height of the syphilis outbreak.

He wrote about seeing syphilitics crossing the street, walking bolt upright, not under their own command. Under the command of syphilis.

My friend Luis recently mentioned (during an episode of Completely Ordinary) that when he’s painting and more broadly in life, there’s a clear sense that he’s not the source of the painting, the life. He said something, half-jokingly, about “just being the guy that cleans the brushes”.

It is scary to fully acknowledge that I’m not the source of my experience.

Not being the source of painting is scary. After all, if my livelihood seems to depend upon my performance as an artist, I want to have a story that I can do art. I can make it happen. I’m the source.

And being controlled by syphilis is scary. Like being a zombie.

Here’s a funny thing, though: everything that I think of as me is actually an effect as far as there is such a thing as effect. I think of myself as my experience.

If you had no experience, who would you be? Isn’t your definition of yourself dependent upon your experience? Isn’t your experience what you take yourself to be?

There’s experience. And sometimes that experience is fear. And fear has this aspect to it that conjures a sense of being the source of one’s experience.

Then we try to fix it.

We can spend a lifetime trying to fix it.

But it doesn’t need to be fixed.

All that is happening is experience.

And that is already a miracle.

Or if “miracle” is still a bad word…at least it’s mind blowing.


a couple of months ago

On Unnecessary Effort

We are trained to do more. But take a look around. How’s that working out?


But we keep working overtime to keep the whole mess moving forward.

Then, somebody like me says, “See what effort you make that is unnecessary, and just stop that unnecessary effort. Just for a moment. Just experience directly that it is unnecessary.”

And it’s no surprise that, given our training, we twist that into “Oh, I better try harder to stop the unnecessary effort.”

No, no, no!

That’s not it.

Less. Less. Less.

There is a certain baseline of effort that is necessary to be.

Effort is required to breathe, for the heart to beat, for nerve impulses. Effort is required to defecate and urinate. Effort is required to eat.

But how much more effort do we make on a daily basis? On a moment-to-moment basis?

Take a look. Really look. Don’t think about looking. Don’t judge whether you are looking.

Just look.

And by look, I mean feel.

I mean feel what it is to be you right now. And feel how much effort you are making that is above and beyond the baseline.

Not because the goal is to always be at baseline. Not because “unnecessary effort” is bad.

But just to see what is what. To be able to discriminate.


Well, here’s a good reason.

Because you’re going to have a disagreement with somebody. Your spouse. Your mother. Your son. Your neighbor. Your boss. Your employee.


And that is hard.

And it often generates “hard feelings”

And “hard feelings” are unbearable.

So we do all kinds of stupid things.

But if you can discriminate, then you start to become aware of the hard feelings. And you also become aware of the soft feelings underneath.

The soft feelings aren’t always nice either.

They are often scary.

Fear is a soft feeling, for example.

But we spend so much time wrestling with these hard feelings, trying to get rid of hard feelings by trying to rearrange circumstances – making others behave as the “should”, buying stuff, getting drunk, whatever – we overlook the soft feelings.

If you just can discriminate – which is possible through paying attention to what is unnecessary effort – something happens. You can’t fool yourself so much any longer. Then you realize that these soft feelings are here all the time.

And that all the unnecessary effort is not doing you much good.

You’ll still make the unnecessary effort. But it will be half-hearted.

Because you’ll know that this other dimension – what feels like a bottomless sea of unsettled soft feelings, of terror, of emptiness, of longing, of uncertainty – is always here. You can’t escape it.

So maybe it’s not worth trying so hard to escape what you can’t escape.

You’ll still try out of habit. And because the fear of doing nothing is sometimes too much.

But that’s okay.

The goal isn’t to reach baseline and cling to it forever.

The goal is what is already the case. Life happening.

You can’t fuck it up.

Stop trying.

a couple of months ago

Shit Happens

No matter what, it seems that I want an escape.

No, scratch that. I think I want an escape.

But I don’t really want an escape. And that is the great joke that I appear to be eternally laughing at/with/as.

Every time I see the absurdity of thinking that I want an escape, I find myself in/as this eternal laughter.

Because it’s funny. Not because it does anything for me. Not because it alleviates the horrors that happen.

Because shit happens. And the shit hits the fan. Frequently. Daily. Hourly. A lot.

The lie is that the shit shouldn’t hit the fan.

The lie goes on to suggest – very compellingly – that the shit hitting the fan is proof that I need to work on this mess. I need to do something. I need to fix it, fix myself, get it all under control.

Which leads me to think that I want an escape.

Because deep down, I always know that I cannot get it all under control. I mean, come on! It’s absurd! I’m going to get it all under control? Really?

Including hurricanes? And tornadoes? And earthquakes?

Hell, I can’t even get my own kids under control. I can’t even get my own feelings under control! And I think I stand a chance of getting it all under control?

I’m not fooling anybody. Least of all myself. Which is why this knowledge of reality generates this ongoing anxiety. It’s jabbing its elbows into my ribs, whispering, “you’re a failure.”

Which I think I need to escape. Because that seems scary and unpleasant.

Nightmarish, to tell the truth.

But here’s the miracle: I’ve got it all upside down and inside out.

And in an instant. Right now.



Not understanding. Not the meaning of the universe. Not God speaking to me in English sentences.

Just clarity. Clarity of the situation. Which is a mess. Which is nightmarish. Which is the shit hitting the fan.

So this clarity doesn’t negate that.

It is not an escape.

But it reveals that I had it all wrong. The nightmare may still be a nightmare. But it’s a nightmare. That’s all.

That doesn’t change the nightmare. At least not necessarily.

And if I think it needs to change the nightmare, I’ve got it all upside down and inside out once again.

I haven’t achieved the state I thought I needed to achieve.

I haven’t transcended the mess I thought I needed to transcend.

I haven’t become what I thought I needed to become.

That is really good news.

It is available right now.

Why wait?

Stop for just a moment. Stop believing your foolish insistence that this shouldn’t be just as it is.

a few months ago

No Problem

You will keep trying to solve the problem.

You will keep being fooled – deluded that there is a problem.

There is no problem.

Not that problem, at least.

Being fooled is not a problem.

Being deluded is not a problem.

Trying to solve non-existent problems is not a problem.

See how easily you just tried to turn a non-problem into a problem?

But that’s not a problem either.

We’re all in this together.

None of us are immune to delusion and seeking to solve non-problems.

It’s not a problem. We don’t need to be immune.

Let it all be.

It’s already being anyway.

There’s nothing anybody can do about it.

Nothing that needs to be done about it.

You can’t screw this up.

No matter how hard you try.

a few months ago

You Won’t Get Out of This.

There are so many scary, sad, and upsetting things that happen.

At least if you’re paying attention.

And I’m not talking only about terrorist attacks, mass shootings, hurricanes, tsunamis, and so forth.

I’m talking about the stuff that is inevitable. The stuff that is lurking in the shadows of our minds, reminding us in whispers that we too will die, we too will endure pain, we too will lose people we love.

But the news events – the terrorist attacks, mass shootings, etc. – are like salt in the wound. It reminds us of the things we’ve tried to shove under the rug, so to speak. We try to cover them over with achievements and vacations and objects…

…and with spirituality.

Spirituality is what we hope will help us…on OUR terms.

I sure did, at least.

“If only I meditate enough or inquire enough or pray enough or chant enough or think enough positive thoughts…then I’ll transcend the fear and pain.”

This kind of attitude is rooted in the same kind of perception that generates the “problem” in the first place, though. It is not the solution. It is more of the same.

This is trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

It’s doomed. And it’s a rejection of what is. It’s insane.

What about this instead: Pause. Take a time out. Release the tension in the head. The tension in the gut. Not perfectly. Not according to how you think you need to.

Just do it. Just let it go, including letting go of the insistence that letting go must look and feel like something other than this experience right now.

Just try it out. Instead of using spirituality as a way to grip ever more tightly, let go of being spiritual.

Recognize the ugliness, the aloneness, the terror, the discomfort that you are. Stop trying to get rid of it or distance yourself from it.

Just for a moment.

You’ll tense up again momentarily. That’s fine. This isn’t about trying to achieve a state.

Just see. See what you do. See the innocence of it. See the purity of it.

It’s already pure. Even the tensing. Even the rejection. Even the horror.


a few months ago

You Are a Trained Elephant

Earlier this week I saw something clearer than I remember having ever seen it.

Think about this for a moment. We do we do things that are not in our best interests?

For example, why do some people gamble themselves to death? Why do some people pair up with abuser after abuser?

Or, in my case, why would I have starved myself day after day for years?

My answer: because we’re trained elephants.

There’s a story about training an elephant. I don’t know if it is it true. But it is a useful story in this case.

The story states that if one tethers a baby elephant to post using a heavy chain, the baby elephant soon learns that it cannot escape.

The story goes on that as the elephant grows, one can use rope, then twine, then eventually nothing. The elephant will remain close to the post. The elephant doesn’t try to escape.

What on earth do I mean by all of this?

Here’s what I saw: I work hard most of the time to generate and maintain habitual states.

These states are rarely actually desirable in any meaningful sense. They are often unpleasant, in fact.

But I am trained to stay in these states.

I will go to great lengths to stay in these states. Even if it requires starving myself.

Even if it means believing a great big lie: the lie that such a state even exists in the first place.

It was all a lie.

We all got so mixed up. Confused. Disoriented.

We don’t even know what we’re doing.

But take a look. Pay attention. You’ll see.

You’re working hard to create and maintain states.

And that requires so much effort and strain all the time.

Worst of all, it doesn’t produce the benefits we hoped it would.

Like safety. Or okayness.

You can try to use this insight for self-help if you want.

But there’s a problem. That problem is that the big side effect of being a trained elephant is that you view everything that is not your “safe zone” as a threat. Anything more than a few feet away from the (non-existent) post your mind is tethered to – to you that is the danger zone.

You work hard to maintain states because you think you want to avoid the danger zone.

You’re completely blind to what is in the danger zone. And self-help requires that you can see where you’re headed and know whether that is correct or not.

There’s another option that is not self-help, though.

That option is this: LET GO.

Letting go means you’ll drift into the danger zone.

Don’t grasp.

Allow the states to come and go. Allow the fear to ebb and flow.

a few months ago

I’m Spaced Out

First, two things:

  1. Luis and I are recording at Completely Ordinary episodes again. And Luis posted a request for submissions from audience members about the purpose of life here: Unfortunately, my email server was down when that happened, and nobody got notified (I don’t think). So please go check it out. And send us your submission.
  2. Also because of my email server outage, nobody got notified when I posted here a few days ago. If you’re interested, check out the previous post as well. It’s about Who Am I?

Okay, .Now for the topic of today’s post.

I was lying in bed this morning. And I noticed something in a way I hadn’t noticed before.

I’m sharing this with you, but not so you can live vicariously through me. Rather, so you can look for yourself.

Seriously: if you don’t look for yourself, what are you doing? Otherwise, you’re just reading a menu. No matter how many times you read a menu, it won’t give you the actual experience of eating the food.

Eat the food. Taste life. Go all in.

Okay. So I was lying in bed. And my kids were bouncing around. This was not a classically relaxing time – not a time conducive to what most of us think of as the opportunity for self reflection, etc.

Point being, you can do this now. Whatever is happening. You can look for yourself. Don’t put it off.

I noticed all this emptiness. All this space. The sense of it “within”.

And then I noticed how full this space is.

It’s completely full of space. Filled with emptiness.

Look for yourself.

Don’t analyze it. Don’t think about it. Just look for yourself.

Don’t be bothered looking for an answer here, either. Don’t waste your time trying to get it right.

Just feel. Just experience. Notice. Pay attention.

Maybe you don’t call it space. Or emptiness. Maybe you have a different sense of it.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Point is, the experience is full.

This, whatever is happening right now, this actual experience – regardless of how I conceive of it or you conceive of it…

It is full.

I don’t need to fill it. And I cannot hope to get rid of it.

This is full and alive.

But please don’t waste your time trying to file that away for a rainy day.  It won’t work.

This is full and alive and it is only accessible right now.

Why wait?

It’s full and alive with confusion, doubt, fear, regret, sorrow, grief, pain.

It eats all.

Despite its fullness, it can devour all. And there is just totality.

This is not ecstatic, either.

It can be, of course.

But it is not guaranteed to be ecstatic.

It is ordinary. Mundane. Miserable as well.

The emptiness or space or ordinariness or unpleasantness or discomfort or whatever we normally overlook or dismiss…

That is it.

We tune it out because of conditioning.

Too boring. Too painful. Too mundane. Too uncomfortable. Too disgusting. Too scary.

Whatever justification we have, we’re overlooking what is staring us in the face:

This is it. Whatever we are hoping to find somewhere or sometime else…we’re fooling ourselves.

Because this right now is already totally full.

Then will be full too, of course.

That’s the comfort we can always turn too. We can’t escape it.

We are like the Prodigal Son in that way.

But why wait?

Look now.

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