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Recently somebody wrote a comment on one of my blog posts stating:
It’s good to have a bit of a break from the tyranny of thought, but be honest, all activity in life triggers thought as a function so the depressing rumination will always win in the end – the best remedy is money as any non dual teacher will admit, because then you have more time to sit around ‘ being what you are’ or whatever
When I read this, I felt sad. Here’s why: I was incredibly desperate for a long, long time. I felt increasingly hopeless as nothing I did seemed to help. I was experiencing panic attacks that would frequently last for hours every day. I was terrified to go anywhere or do anything.
I searched so hard for answers. I attended satsang after satsang. I read book after book. I meditated like nobody’s business.
It is so easy for us to believe that we alone suffer – that nobody else can truly understand. That was how I felt at the time. Because truly, it is hard to imagine that anybody could suffer that much.
But many of us do. The human capacity for suffering is unbelievable. It is heartbreaking.
I know that many people suffer tremendously. Some people who read this blog suffer just as much as I once did.
If you can open your heart and mind to realize this, and to also realize that I also suffered as much as you, you can also hear that there is another possibility available. It is something you can choose. And I can point you in the right direction to choose it.
I know something now that I did not know then when I suffered in that way. What I now know is that suffering is not caused by circumstances. Nor is it caused by feelings. Nor is it caused by thoughts.
Suffering is caused by one thing. It is caused by one’s attempts to escape from one’s feelings, thoughts, and other inner experience.
That attempt to escape (or protect yourself) is a physical tension. You hold physical tension chronically. And that chronic physical tension is the only thing that maintains suffering. Suffering cannot continue when you stop maintaining the chronic physical tension.
The main point of tension is in the head. In the forehead. In the eyes.
And that is something that we have a choice in.
We have a choice. You have a choice. I promise you this is true.
Release that tension, you will see that what I am telling you is true.
When you release that tension, you see that you are free. Thought doesn’t control you. Thought cannot harm you. It never could. It never did.
Your can know this directly. Let go of the tension in your head now.
Will you tense up again? Almost certainly.
Does this glimpse of your freedom mean that you’ll forever cease to believe that you are imprisoned? No.
But it does prove through direct experience that you are already free.
Take me up on this offer. See for yourself.
Now here’s the beauty of this. Contrary to the commenter’s suggestion, you do not need to sit around to be what you are. You don’t need to retreat from a normal life.
Instead, your normal life becomes the opportunity for discovering your freedom regardless of circumstances.
I homeschool my three children. I work full time on a home-based business. I socialize with members of my community. And in addition to that I blog, make videos, and meet one-on-one with people interested in discovering their inherent freedom.
In the context of my normal life with normal stresses – bills, health, disagreements, etc. – I have a rich playground for endless discovery of my inherent freedom.
You do too.
I don’t get lots of time out “to sit around and be what I am”. Instead, I get endless opportunity to be what I am – inherently free – in the midst of a full and engaged life.
You have the same opportunity.
No money is required for this. It is completely free. I am giving you the answer right here. I’ll state it again: release the tension you use to armor yourself. Particularly in the forehead and eyes. Continue to release that tension. Allow your every experience without that tension, and you discover directly that you are already free.
That is the beginning and end of it.
Most people won’t believe me. Most people believe it cannot be that simple.
It really is.
Most people will argue that it won’t work for them.
It does work.
Most people will overlook it even after they have a direct taste of it.
I did that. I sat with a self-inquiry teacher in Santa Monica, California. He guided me to discover this truth for myself, directly. And I overlooked it for another decade as I continued to suffer.
But this really is the answer.
Even if you and I never meet. Even if we never exchange an email. Even if I never know of your existence…I want you to recognize your inherent freedom. I want this for you more than you can know.
It’s not because I’m some kind of saint. Far from it. I’m not a great person.
The reason I want that for you is entirely selfish. It is because I remain connected to that young man who I was – the one who suffered, who was lost, isolated, and terrified. And he won’t let me forget. He keeps me honest. He reminds me that we’re all connected. He reminds me that anybody who is suffering like that now is him.
So take a look. Let go of that armoring – the tension in the head. And while you’re at it, let go of your expectations of what that should look like – what the experience should be.
Just be willing to continue to let go of the tension. And I promise you, sooner or later you will see for yourself.
Here’s the recording of the public meeting from April 13. I published it on YouTube, so for those who have trouble understanding spoken English, you can turn on the closed captioning and you’ll get the auto-generated transcript, which will allow you to read it rather than listen.
Humans are capable of a tremendous range of experience.
But when I say “experience”, what am I really talking about?
It’s a lot of sensation, isn’t it? And the sensations can have a huge range of qualities and intensities and so forth.
Calm, energetic, big, small, contracted, expansive, stable, unstable, etc.
If you just feel into your experience, isn’t it true that what we’re talking about is just a lot of sensation, and that sensation has a vast potential for variation?
Hopefully we can agree on that.
We experience sensation. And at any given moment, sensation has some different make up – the qualities, intensities, etc.
I’ve been struck by how interesting it is that most of my life, most of my energy and focus has been consumed by trying to manage my experience so that the sensation remains within an extremely tiny range of qualities and intensities.
Calm and stable? Yes, please. Contracted, but not too much! Just enough to feel safe.
If the experience gets out of control, out of that tiny range of what is acceptable, out of habit, I’ve doubled down on my efforts to control.
Which is curious, isn’t it?
I’m willing to bet that you can relate. Because I believe this is the human condition.
We squander our lives trying desperately and futilely to manage our experience – to keep it dialed in to the range of what we deem acceptable.
From my perspective, this is very useful to recognize. Because otherwise, what happens is, I’m going to keep going round and round for a long time, doing this painful dance of trying to keep my experience constrained to the acceptable range.
It is a painful dance because on the one hand, it is exhausting and isolating and horrible to work so hard all the time to constrain experience. Plus, it is depressing because I cannot be fully successful. So I am frequently suffering anxiety because I can’t hold things together well enough. I don’t have enough power, enough control.
By on the other hand, whenever I relinquish control, while I may experience some relief, sooner or later, I freak out! Because, of course, my experience is unconstrained. I may suddenly find that I am experiencing a sense of big, open, energetic, buzziness, whereas, what I have deemed acceptable is small, contracted, calm, silence.
So that freaks me out. I try to re-gain control. And once again, I am stuck with the exhaustion, isolation, depression, etc. of trying to control.
Round and round.
The merry-go-round of misery.
But that’s why this is so useful to see. Because what happens is, I let go, I notice how I hold on, and I let go…then there is this freeing up of experience, which suddenly may include all kinds of sensation that isn’t “acceptable”.
Yet if I expect this and am willing to continue to allow it, I may get to rest from the painful dance. Just for now. I’m not saying forever. I’m just saying that if I expect that letting go will very likely yield discomfort and fear – sensation outside of my acceptable range – and if I am willing to continue to let go anyway…then right now, in this moment of letting go, in the moment of discomfort and fear, there is something new possible.
That something new is to rest.
If I’ve oriented myself all my life based on my idea about what sensation is acceptable, then when I let go, it may seem like I am failing. Failing because my experience is outside of what is acceptable.
But if I continue to let go any way…in this moment I am free of the artificial constraints.
During the winter of 2008-2009, I was waiting. Desperately waiting.
I sat in my unfurnished apartment in southern Vermont – literally sat on the bare wooden floorboards – waiting for enlightenment to strike me.
I read Tony Parsons books and Bob Adamson books and Nisargadatta transcripts.
And I tried to make my mind blank. I tried so conjure what I imagined I had understood all these people to be talking about.
I was desperate because I didn’t feel that I could stand the suffocating misery of me and my life any longer.
I was between waiting for enlightenment and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Truth is, I had been waiting in much the same way for most of my life. With slightly less desperation, but the same basic waiting.
Waiting for whatever I imagined was going to save me from right now and from the future – from all the unwanted thoughts and sensations and so forth.
From all the fear and discomfort.
Are you waiting?
As an experiment, do this: notice how you wait. And when I say “notice”, I mean simply observe, feel into, inhabit the experience directly. You don’t need to think about it. Just inhabit the experience.
Notice that waiting requires effort. It requires strain. It is a posture that you have to work to maintain.
Now, see what happens if you simply stop waiting for a moment.
Just be really curious to find out what it is like right now if you stop waiting for a moment.
If you’re not waiting…if you’re not straining…what is happening?
Don’t look to thought for the answer, by the way. That would require more waiting, more straining.
To find out, you have to release the attempt to get an answer.
The next thought may say, “But this isn’t the answer! This is blankness! This is boredom! This is uncomfortable! This is stupid! This is a waste of time!”
And if you grasp at that thought, you’ll likely grasp at the next. And the next.
And then you’re just straining again. Waiting.
Without straining to grasp the next thought. Without trying to get an answer. Without attempting to secure your future safety or okayness or enlightenment…
…what is the problem?
There’s no waiting. No problem. Just open, unbounded aliveness.
Thought will say “So what? What does that do for me? It doesn’t help me.”
Are you sure you need help? Just a half second ago wasn’t it obvious that there was no problem?
Only when you grasp at the next thought is there an apparent problem.
Only then are you waiting. Waiting for life. Waiting for okayness. Waiting for permission to be fully. Waiting to know the answers. Waiting for relief.
It’s a joke, by the way. And here’s the punchline: you’re waiting, but in truth, there is no outcome other than the inevitable cessation of waiting. That’s it. You can wait and wait and wait. But you don’t get a greater prize because you waited longer.
The prize is already the case. The prize is the ungraspable.
So don’t grasp. Seriously. Don’t grasp. To grasp is to strain. To grasp is to wait.
Don’t grasp. Not the next thought. Not anything.
Let life be.
And don’t grasp at non-grasping. Don’t wait. If you grasp at non-grasping – if you create some imaginary future perfected state of non-grasping – you are grasping, and you are straining. You are waiting.
The next thought…let it be.
Chances are, you’re grasping again at thought – trying to figure out if you’ve understood this correctly, if you’ve arrived at the desired destination.
That’s waiting. Waiting for life. Mistakenly believing that you cannot fully be, fully breathe, fully inhabit this experience until some future conditions are met.
But when we do that, we just wait. Life is this right now. It’s fully here. We don’t have to make any effort for it.
Ironically, the effort we make – the striving to attain something, fix something, figure something out, hide from, or whatever else – the effort we intend to bring us closer to life, to give us life, to help us be more alive – that effort only serves to produce this state of waiting. Purgatory.
There something that I’ve learned, though. And I don’t proclaim to live in a perfect state of remembrance of this. But I’ve learned it and experienced it over and over and over, and as far as I know anything to be true, I can give you my word that this is true.
You cannot force yourself to be effortless. Though that is almost always the first thought that comes to mind – the impulse to do something to fix the perceived problem. But you can become aware of how you make effort. And that awareness instantly reveals that you are not defined by that.
That is a discovery of freedom. A discovery, not a creation of. The freedom is already here. We only discover it to be already the case.
Don’t put off the discovery. And don’t dismiss the discovery too quickly.
Just pause for a second.
Pause all the effort.
Don’t make even the effort to grasp at the next thought. The thought that tells you what the problem is. What the solution is. What you are. Where you are. Who you are. Why you are. What you need to do. Why this isn’t enough.
Don’t make that effort. Just for a second.
Don’t move to grasp at anything.
The point is not that grasping needs to be the new problem – one that you need to solve by forceably not grasping.
The point is just that if you are still for a moment…and particularly if you observe how you grasp so that you can voluntarily cease grasping for a few more moments…you see clearly that all that you’d mistaken yourself to be – all the stories, the problems, etc. – is stuff happening in the space/aliveness that you are.
Put another way, I’m talking about the direct, felt, realization that you are not dependent upon thoughts, stories, problems, sensations, or any of the things that you had previously mistaken yourself to be defined by.
This is not a negation of those things. It is not a denial. It is not to say they are not real or that they do not exist. It is not to say that you should ignore them. It is not a commentary on them.
It is more like zooming out infinitely, and noticing that you are unbounded aliveness.
I’m not talking about another thought that says that you are unbounded aliveness. I am talking about the direct realization. And it’s not a complicated thing. It’s very simple. It is very mundane. It is not some psychedelic experience.
It is just what remains perfectly obvious when you are still for a moment. Don’t grasp.
Of course, almost inevitably, at some point, there will be a thought that identifies grasping as the problem. And a thought that identifies stillness as the solution. And a thought that will propose a strategy of restraint and vigilance as a means to reach stillness.
But that’s off the mark. Don’t fall for it.
That’s actually more waiting. That’s putting off life. Putting off freedom.
Whereas, what I’m suggesting is an open, curious, alive inquiry into present, unbounded aliveness.
See how quickly and subtly thought attempts to twist direct realization into a strategy that is actually just more waiting?
And when you see that, don’t make that into a problem either. Because that’s what happens.
And the point is not to remain forever still. Nor is it to sustain a feeling state that you now identify as unbounded aliveness.
That’s more waiting. Don’t fall for it.
The point is just the recognition. And if you can merely remain still and not grasp in this open, curious manner for just long enough, you must recognize.
I believe the trick is the “open, curious” part. If you are staring it down…that seems to have the opposite effect.
Staring it down…like you’re going to get something, like a cat waiting to pounce…that’s not open and curious. That’s actually more waiting.
Open and curious is that you don’t need anything to resolve. You’re not waiting to pounce. Pouncing would be a resolution…striking to kill.
Open and curious is not for a goal or particular outcome. It is ongoing. It is just open and curious.
You will re-contract. You will forget. You will become hypnotized again. That’s fine. Expect it. It’s not a problem.
So don’t turn any of this into waiting.
Right now. Seriously, right now. Be still in an open and curious manner for just a moment right now.
Don’t grasp for a moment. Right now.
And that’s it. Just be curious. Inhabit this experience for this moment without trying to get to the next. Without looking for a resolution.
Feel what it’s like to be fully. No waiting. The space to be right now. No grasping.
Just for this moment.
Let’s say – for the sake of argument – that what you want is spiritual enlightenment.
It sounds promising. The answer to all your problems. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that?
Great. So we’ve established that you’re sane. You want the answer to all your problems.
Now, at first, you’re all gung ho. You’re going to get this enlightenment thing. You’re going to give it your all. You read lots of books. You start meditating. You go to a teacher who gives you a mantra. You chant “Hare Krishna”. You count with your mala beads. The whole nine yards. Whether the Hindu version, the Buddhist version, the New Age version, whatever.
After a while, you encounter so-called radical non-duality. And you hear “there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, yada yada”. Something about this rings true. You really have been trying too hard. And you realize it.
Like all things, this will be co-opted by the mind as yet another understanding – another thing to protect yourself.
It turns into, “There is no truth. There’s only [my ideas about] what is. And anyway, even if there was truth, there’s nothing I can do to know it.”
This is the postmodern trap. Life is meaningless. There is no truth.
That is wrong.
There is truth. There is more than just my ideas about what is. And there is something I can do to know truth.
The trouble is that we look in the wrong way. We keep looking to thought to define truth. We keep thinking that understanding is the way.
Truth is immediate and absolutely intimate.
Grasping it with thought is like grasping the ocean with your hands.
You don’t need to grasp it. And grasping it only makes it seem impossible to know.
It is not impossible to know. You can know it when you stop grasping. Right now. The knowing is complete and instantaneous.
That is what you can do to know truth: stop grasping.
Of course, the next thought will attempt to give you or find a technique for stopping grasping. Which is just more of the same. More grasping.
But don’t believe the next thought. Don’t grasp it. Just remain still.
This is what you can do: stop doing. All doing is grasping. All movement is movement away from.
The doing you can do is not the usual kind of doing. Don’t consult thought. Don’t try to understand. Just look. Feel.
Notice that you are looking, feeling. You are aware. Don’t overlook that.
Remain still. An open stillness. It doesn’t matter what agitation arises. Just remain still.
Don’t believe the next thought. Believing a thought requires movement. It requires effort, grasping.
If you make the effort and move, you are grasping at the ocean. You will be disappointed.
Remain as the ocean. Remain still. Prior to thought.
This isn’t difficult. It is not special. It is absolutely mundane. It is the very basis of existence. It is plainly ordinary. Do not look for something special. If it is something that is not absolutely obvious and something so simple that you habitually overlook it, it’s not what I am talking about.
I really am talking about something that is always the case. You are aware. That is it. Don’t overlook it. Don’t complicate it. Don’t dismiss it.
And don’t be so enamored of thought that you overlook the source and substance of all thought and the space in which thought arises, exists, and disappears.
Seriously, don’t grasp the next thought. It cannot give you what you seek.
You want the answer to all your problems.
Here it is. It answers all your problems.
Look from here. Not from thought. From what is prior to thought. What contains thought. What you are before you grasp a thought.
And this is instantaneous. Do not put it off. Don’t wait for it to happen in the future. It is right now.
Don’t look to thought to give you the answer. The answer is before thought. It is right now.
Let thought be. Don’t get involved with it for now. Don’t make it your enemy. Don’t give it another thought.
Fall in love with what is prior. What is obvious. And what is always here.
If you look for experiences that come and go, you will be disappointed. Don’t do that.
What is prior is always here. Simple. Simple. Simple. Don’t over-complicate it. Don’t consult thought.
Simply remain here.
But be gentle. Open. Relaxed about it. This isn’t about rigidity. It’s about recognition. You already are here. You cannot go anywhere else. Do you don’t need to force anything. You don’t need to scrunch up your face or grit your teeth.
In fact, don’t make any effort. See how much effort you make, and make less effort. See what is here. What is prior to effort.
Again, this is instantaneous. And it is complete. This “enlightenment” is 100%.
But…remain here. If you try to claim this “enlightenment” for yourself, you are grasping the ocean with your hands again. It is futile. And frustrating.
Remain still. Don’t grasp.
This “enlightenment” doesn’t solve problems at the level of the problem. It meets the problems prior to their existence. It welcomes all problems home to the source of existence.
If you want enlightenment to make you perfect and to make you feel good all the time, you’re grasping thought yet again. Don’t grasp.
Just remain here. Don’t claim this for yourself. All your life to come home to this. Allow your life to be welcomed by its source.
I’ve been struggling with finding the right words to express something that is in my heart and on my mind. I’ve written and re-written and thrown away many drafts of blog posts in an attempt to communicate this something.
And finally, I realized, I need to simply write it plain and simple. As plain and simple as possible.
Life is not easy. It’s painful. It’s tragic. And if you’re even the least bit willing – hell, even if you’re not willing – it will break your heart.
Rather than try to escape that, I propose to you that it is better to dive in.
Our path is the path of radical non-duality. I mean really radical non-duality.
Non-duality has become (in my mind) a bad word. It’s been abused. It has come to stand for intellectualization without heart. It is a bunch of soundbites: “no one”, “nothing”, “never happened”
Ironically, that’s not non-duality. That’s duality to the extreme.
I propose full contact, full immersion love instead. That’s radical non-duality.
That’s what it is to see the false as the false in the truest sense. Don’t stop short. Don’t settle for answers. Go all the way. Don’t stop. Life is freefall. Life is this right now.
You won’t escape it. Don’t waste your time trying. Don’t waste another moment giving attention to hopes of escape.
Turn and face the fullness of life with the spirit of love. Love so fully that you won’t turn away no matter what.
Whatever life presents, face it, welcome it, love it. The feelings you fear will destroy you, face them. See the face of the beloved even there.
There is nowhere you will not find the face of the beloved. But you have to see this for yourself. You cannot merely take my word for it. You have to experience it for yourself. So open your eyes. Open your heart. Open your mind.
Open means let all happen without grasping. Even allow the grasping without grasping.
Don’t waste this chance right now. Don’t pass this over. Don’t skip to the next thing.
Don’t waste your time giving attention to the next thought that promises salvation. Don’t give attention to the thought that says you can do something to make yourself special. Don’t move from the fullness of life that is embracing you and flowing through you and consuming you.
Let it consume you now. Right now. I mean it. Right now. Don’t skip this.
If you feel the impulse to write a comment or read something else or call somebody or whatever else… pause. Don’t move on to the next thing yet. Let this consume you. Let it have everything. It is the beloved, and it is infinitely beautiful and infinitely terrible. Let it have everything. Be totally exposed. Right now.
Wherever you are guarding, hiding, holding back, give it to the beloved. Fall hopelessly in love. With reckless abandon.
This is reckless. It is the most reckless thing.
There’s no way to control this. There’s no way to grasp this. There’s no way to capture it in thought.
So stop trying.
This life, which is all that you are, demands all of you and it demands full engagement.
Picture this: It was 2012. Sarah and I had one baby and another on the way.
I was eating no more than a cup of dried, toasted oats per day because I couldn’t seem to eat anything else or any more than that.
I drank almost no water because drinking water made me feel worse. And I still had to get up to pee eight times each night.
I was exhausted. I wanted to do some chi gung standing meditation, but I didn’t have the strength to stand for more than a few minutes.
I didn’t have the strength to work for income. We were tearing through our savings and had almost nothing left.
I felt so weak, so depleted, so sick that each time I fell asleep, I felt as though I might not wake up. That I might leave my children fatherless.
I was desperate.
I began a messy, desperate process of healing.
I did it because my back was against the wall and there was something in me that was alive – that screamed with all its aliveness – “LIVE! LOVE!”
“LIVE! LOVE!” is the commandment. The commandment of our hearts and souls.
To live/love is a messy business.
I’m convinced that there’s no truly graceful way to do it. Not that grace does not happen. It does. That I am here is evidence of that grace.
But I do not have the ability to manufacture or produce grace. Grace acts of its own accord.
Perhaps I can make a suitable environment for grace by being inviting and welcoming and grateful. But I don’t do grace.
And if I try to do grace, I’m faking it. I’m lying. I’m hiding.
Because the real me, the truth of my life/love is messy.
I started by tapping. EFT. I tapped and tapped and tapped. Hours every day. No joke.
I made lists of everything I could think of from this lifetime and past lifetimes and my parents and their parents and on and on.
And I tapped on it all.
I’m not suggesting that you should start tapping. (Really, I’m not.)
But I did. And what it did for me was offered me a way to open up to feeling.
All the uncomfortable, scary, hidden, dark, unpleasant, unwanted, traumatic stuff in my body.
Eventually, I stopped tapping because I was feeling. And feeling was primary. Tapping had been the vehicle – the ritual.
Internal arts are primary. Feeling is primary.
But eternal arts are sometimes useful. Ritual is useful.
That’s one thing: internal art/feeling is primary. But ritual is useful.
Next. I had an intention. “LIVE! LOVE!”
That is not passive. That is active.
The way to manifest that intention had passive elements to it. But the intention itself was not passive.
Feel the aliveness in you. Feel the commandment in your heart. It is active. It has power.
The work I needed to do was to soften and release the unnecessary efforts and resistance that I was in the habit of producing.
So I needed to be more yielding to the aliveness.
But that does not mean that I was becoming deadened. To the contrary: I was commanded to “LIVE! LOVE!”
That is not to merely sit on the sidelines of life, watching with dispassion.
That is to be engaged in the messiness of being human.
“Feeling is healing”. This is a cliché for a reason. Because it’s true.
And healing is not for the dead. Healing is for the living.
Feeling/healing is for the living who are commanded to LIVE! LOVE!, which is active, which is to be moved and to be engaged in the messiness of being human.
My life is messier than ever. It is not neat and orderly and controlled.
To live/love is to be the fool.
The fool is sacred because the fool is the willingness to venture forth into the unknown, into danger – to risk everything in the name of the commandment to live/love.
This is the second thing: be the fool. Risk feeling. Risk the journey. Risk being fully human.
To be human is the vehicle for divine revelation.
If you catch a glimpse of the divine revelation – which you may right now if you are quiet enough for just a half second – that is possible because you are human.
Many traditions recognize the value of being human – that if we were not in form, we could not have a taste of the divine revelation.
But in the arrogance of this culture, many of us have forgotten to be grateful for the gift of being alive in human form.
Let us give thanks for the gift of life and the gift of being alive in the bodies that we inhabit.
And let us give thanks by more fully inhabiting these bodies. By feeling more fully and more consciously and with gratitude that we feel at all.
That is the third thing: let us give thanks by welcoming and giving thanks to the feelings in our bodies.
We are not alone. And neither are we separate.
We are here together. And we are commanded “LIVE! LOVE!”
If any among us are suffering, none of us can experience the fullness of the pleasure of being.
Therefore, your “bad” feelings are not a burden to the rest of us so long as they are given as offerings. Because in offering them, you are restoring them to the flow of life rather than secreting them away in your darkness.
Offer them to the light – the seen.
Don’t hide. We need you.
That is the fourth thing: There is one body. Coherence, resonance, and flow are necessary for the health of the one body. And that requires that we offer up our experience to the whole so that it may flow.
May you LIVE! LOVE!
I’ve been working on a new blog post, but it wasn’t quite right.
I’ve got so much I want to communicate right now, and it is sort of the inverse of trying to drink from the fire hose: so much wants to come out, but translating it into digestible word forms can be challenging.
Then I wrote an email to my friend, Luis, and it all became clear what I want to write in this post.
My grandma – my dad’s mom – recently died. She was a powerful person. Her spirit dominated the room.
I saw her last Spring. I hadn’t seen her in 20 years. But as it would happen, I was traveling through Arkansas (where she lived) with my family as we were moving from New Mexico to Vermont. And just as we were an hour away from where my grandma lived, I realized that we’d be going right past her.
I hadn’t even consider it until then. But a quiet voice spoke to me and whispered, “Stop and see your grandparents.”
I didn’t want to. I felt uncomfortable.
Because, as I said, my grandma was a powerful person. She truly dominated.
But this voice persisted. “Stop by. See them.”
So I called directory assistance and got her phone number. I called. My grandpa answered. He gave me directions. I told him we’d be there in an hour.
Maybe 15 years ago doctors told my grandpa that my grandma was going to die. They told him to have the family come to say their goodbyes. My mom and dad drove the 6 hour trip to visit with the belief it would be their last time seeing her.
She had gone in for a colonoscopy, and they’d perforated her colon. As a result, they performed an emergency surgery to remove her colon. And she wasn’t expected to survive.
She did survive.
Somehow, I don’t think this surprised most people who knew her. Like I said, she was a powerful person.
My grandma had a powerful faith in Jesus and the Christian God.
She was raised in a pentecostal church culture. And she was a devoted Church of God member for as long as I knew her.
When I would visit during the summers, we’ve attend church on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you’ve never experienced a Church of God service, let me assure you, it is a lively experience.
In 2012 when I was really sick with Lyme disease and I thought I was about to die, I called her and asked her to pray for me.
Not a second elapsed from the time I asked and when she began. She prayed in Jesus name. And it was exactly what I needed.
Significantly – in light of this post – she told me to read the book of Job. Or, perhaps, she just told me that it was one of her favorite.
I read it. I think I’m going to re-read it. It is very apropos.
At some point – I don’t know exactly when – my grandma experienced complications from the colon surgery that resulted in her needing to get dialysis for the rest of her life. The schedule changed depending on her need, but I think that at a minimum, she had to go once per week.
When I saw her last year, she was probably 100 pounds lighter than when I had last seen her 20 years prior. Her health was poor, to put it mildly. But her spirit still dominated.
It was good to see her. Even if uncomfortable for me.
I didn’t have a strong relationship with my grandma. Part of that was distance – when I was two years old she moved back to Arkansas while my family remained in Illinois.
But her death has had a surprising effect on me. I grieve for my grandpa, who has lost his wife and partner of 70 years. I grieve for her children who were close to her and surely miss her dearly.
But I also feel happy. Not because she died. But because I feel that she is with me now in ways that I didn’t know while she was alive. I feel close to her and I feel her love and her power and faith in ways that I never did before.
I may write more about that in another post. But for now – again, because of the “drinking from the firehose” effect – I’ll attempt to keep this post focused – or, at least, as focused as possible.
There’s a song that I think of when I think of my grandma. Not necessarily because I have memories of her singing it or because I think that she had a particular affinity with this song. But intuitively, I associate this song with her.
You may know it.
This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
That’s not all of the verses. But those are the ones that I think of when I think of my grandma.
I’ve come to see that my life is not just for me. Your life is not just for you.
We are here for the whole.
I believe I mentioned this in the previous post.
It’s easy to get lost in nihilism. And I’ve done a lot to push people in the direction of nihilism in the past. But I had lost sight of something important, and this is important to keep in mind as the context for everything that comes from me.
I too am a person of strong faith. I have a strong faith in the goodness of life.
Despite the fact that I do believe that it has been essential for me and my sanity and peace of mind to see that the meanings that I projected were essentially empty and had no basis in the essence of of experience…I do not believe that means that life is totally devoid of meaning.
There is meaning. And that meaning is inherent in life.
It is a mystery. It is the magic that I wrote about in the previous post.
And the very fact that we exist at all – that anything is happening (which is most certainly is) – is a testament to the magic, mystery, and meaning inherent in life.
Because it means something that we exist versus not.
I can’t tell you in words what that meaning is.
But our lives are that meaning.
That bears repeating: our lives are that meaning. It is a living meaning. It is not something we can capture and put into words. But it is lived and totally obvious if only we open our hearts, minds, and eyes.
And that meaning is not just for us individually. It is for all.
Which is why my life is not just for me. It is for you. It is for all of us.
And your life is not just for you. It is for me. It is for all of us.
This little light of mine.
It’s not my light. I am that light. That light is what I am.
It is not to glorify me.
I am to glorify it.
And I glorify it by shining it.
This is an exercise in trust. And faith. And sacrifice.
Not popular notions in our present culture.
But feel into it. You’ll see the truth of it. Your heart says yes.
It’s the reason we cry when we hear stories of people making sacrifices for others – people risking everything to smuggle people out of Nazi concentration camp, for example.
Because we recognize that our lives are for something bigger than us.
There’s a lot of stuff that is wanting to come through me right now. And it is scary because it asks nothing less than everything.
Most of it I cannot understand. And sharing it runs the risk of looking like fool.
But I must. And I will be doing so as it happens. So stay tuned.
Expect some weird shit.
And let your light shine. Because it’s not just for you. We all need it.
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.