Be Where You Are

We tend to spend the whole day chasing our brains. The brain has a to-do list that’s a mile long. Every time you scratch off a completed item – or give up on an item when you realize you’ll never get it done – a new items appear at the bottom of the list.

Then we have to go to the trouble of prioritizing. Item number 14 needs to move up to item one by Tuesday. Suddenly item five has become an crisis. So you do number five at the same time you’re doing item one. Now you’re multi-tasking. And the horror of multi-tasking is that there’s no such thing. You can alternate back and forth between two tasks, but even the most buzzing brain can’t focus on two things simultaneously.

This is how we live our lives. The brain just loves this busyness. And when it’s time to take a break from tasks, we put our brain on the treadmill of media where our thoughts spin endlessly on the hamster wheel of psychic energy. Even sleep doesn’t bring rest as our dreams spin wild.

OK, time to go back to Paul Simon’s lyric: “Slow down you move to fast. You gotta make the moment last.”

There is a moment, and it lasts forever. It’s where your true life takes place. You don’t have to go on vacation or off to the mountains to find peace. Peace exists within you. You are peace. The brain is not you, no matter how much it insists it is.

Let the brain rage on. You can’t stop it. But you can slow down your breathing and realize You Are Here Now. And the You Here Now is peace itself. Nothing fancy. The You Hear Now is everything, and no noisy brain can disturb its eternal peace.

Coo Coo Ca Choo

We talk about spiritual experiences, we talk about spiritual awakening, and we talk about the differences between spiritual experiences and a spiritual awakening. We talk about different forms of meditation, and we talk about non-duality and oneness and how it’s impossible to talk about non-duality and oneness without revealing hidden tells of separateness and duality.

We all have our little takes on all the different terms of spirituality.

We think we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. Or, we think we don’t know, but we actually know and just don’t know we know.

There’s nothing like spiritual confusion over the cornucopia spiritual terms.

In the end, it’s all spiritual. While it seems we can’t help but stumble, in reality we can’t help but find oneness – because oneness is all we have. Oneness is all there is.

Let the battles rage over New Age versus New Thought, Lao Tzu versus Confucius, Hindu versus Zen, The Grateful Dead versus the Moody Blues, Alan Ginsberg versus Ram Das, Richard Alpert versus Timothy Leary.

In the end, John Lennon said it best: I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Coo coo ca choo.

Who’s Speaking through Me?

Most creative people have experienced the sensation that they were being used as a tool by something outside themselves. So many times I’ve heard the exclamation, “Whoa, where did that come from?” Whether it’s a piece of writing, music or visual art, some of the effort seems to comes from another place.

As a writer I’ve experienced the sensation countless times. In prose, it can come in the form of seeing insights on the paper that I didn’t know I had. In poetry, whole portions, sometimes the entire poem will show up seemingly out of nowhere. The phenomenon is often called inspiration.

I went through a year-long period where I tried to conjure that flow daily. I would lie in bed with a pencil and a pad of paper and try writing with no idea what might show up. Sometimes something showed up, sometimes nothing showed up, but the meditative process was very satisfying.

As I moved forward in spirituality, I began to gain a different understanding of the phenomenon that is so common in creativity. Maybe the work wasn’t coming from somewhere else. Maybe it was coming from the true self, the connected self. Maybe the “other” was the self holding the pencil in hopes of something showing up.

The uninspired thinker – the me, the ego – is the really the strange part of the equation, not the inspiration. The inspiration is what’s natural, what’s true, what’s real, and what lasts. The thinking me, the ego me, will go away at some point, leaving only the connected self, the inspired self that knows exactly what needs to be said and exactly how to say it.

A Vacation from the Self

A vacation is a time of respite, recharging, and reflection – a time to shift from the laptop to the whitewater rapids. For my daughter and me, last week was a time to leave the gold-brown hills of New Mexico for the dripping green ponderosa pine and white-barked aspens of Colorado’s western slope. A road trip for dad and daughter.

Most of all, it was a vacation from the self.

The self owns the working week and the self runs the weekend. Needs, obligations, and commitments. Chores, connections, and meetings. This is how we live, this is how we serve, this is how we grow. This is our life as we take care of each other, serve the needs of those who need, and practice the reaching out again and again.

The self is the thread that runs through it all even when we’re unselfish. The energy is not mine, the energy flows through me. I’m the one who must put myself to the work, to call on the powers that I don’t possess, and direct them to the good at hand. Not my good, but the good at hand.

I’m the one who must caution all that is yearning to go haywire. As I put my shoulder to the work – with energy I’m able to muster from some place not me – I’m the one who wonders if it’s me that yearns for chaos and collapse even while I work to keep things steady.

And so, a vacation from the self. I’m with my daughter, but this week, I’m not dad. We’re equal beings in this astonishing world. We’re in the green, skin glistening with the morning mist of the high mountains, amazed we’re here at all, tossing stones into a glassy lake and listening to the crisp splash thunder across these granite hills.

Who Is the One Who Suffers?

A friend of mine was suffering – old wounds from childhood violence were opening. The pain she said was unbearable.

I told her I understand. I do understand. She was absorbed in the details, and in those details, what she experienced has never happened to anyone before. Nothing has happened to anyone before.

I understand that. I stayed in her presence and she stayed in her pain, not understanding how there can be so much pain.

I wanted to tell her, “You are not who you think you are.”

I wanted to say, “You are something else.”

I wanted to say, “You are the one who sees the one who suffers.”

I wanted to say, “You are not the one who suffers.”

I decided to not want.

I stayed in her presence, and her pain began to subside. The pain will return, perhaps less strong if she is willing to stay in the pain and feel it again. But who knows, maybe stronger.

I wanted to tell her, “The pain is not yours. It’s just pain.”

I decided to not want.

I am not the one who wants. I am not the one who decides.

The pain is hers, and the pain is mine, and the pain is alive in the one who suffers.

She is not the one who suffers, and I am not the one who wants or decides.

The pain is an instant, the pain is an endless road, the pain is a memory of a person who once lived but lives no longer. The pain is the entire world, and the world is nothing.

 

 

Nothing Exists But the Now

What time is it? It’s now. What times is it now? It’s still now. How about now?

Everything is now. Life seems linear. We’re young and then we’re older, and then we’re older yet. Or so it seems. That’s the story we live by. But in reality, the past doesn’t exist and the future doesn’t exist.

I’ve often thought our lives may be like the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. In the tale, Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. He continually shifts from one moment in his life to another with no apparent reason. One day he’s a boy, then he finds himself in mid-life, and then he’s a child.

Vonnegut may have been on to something about how we actually live our lives – in a scattershot of time rather than a linear progression. Yesterday, I may have been five. Today I’m in mid-life. The only continuity is now. Right here, now.

When I was a teenager – which may have been yesterday – a friend challenged the notion that we die. He was unconvinced. I said, “Of course we die.”

He shook his head and asked, “Have you died?”

I replied, “Not yet.”

He said, “Then how do you know you’re going to die? You think you’re going to die because people told you you’re going to die, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“How do they know you’re going to die?”

“Everybody dies,” I replied.

He laughed. “That’s just what you’ve been told, but you haven’t died. So you don’t know?”

At the time I thought it was a crazy conversation. Yet it haunted me. Now it doesn’t haunt me because I’ve come to see what he meant. All I’ve known is a constant now. I believe in the now, and what’s there to believe in anything else?

 

The Movement You Need Is on Your Shoulder

Paul McCartney tells an interesting story about the writing of “Hey Jude,” one of the Twentieth Century’s great love songs. Shortly after he wrote it, he played the tune for his songwriting partner, John Lennon. When he came to the line, “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” he said, “I’ll fix that bit.” Lennon asked why, and McCartney answered “It’s a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot.”

At the time, McCartney thought the line was filler that needed refining. Ever the great song craftsman, McCartney knew awkward when he heard it.

Per McCartney’s telling, Lennon’s response was, “You won’t be changing that, you know. That’s the best line in the song.” So McCartney left the line in the song, and to this day, he says he thinks of Lennon when he sings that line.

Many years later, McCartney was asked what he believes the line means. He responded that it means we have the wherewithal to face and overcome life’s challenges. Bingo. And maybe the most awkward line ever in a great song is also its most meaningful line.

The line could be translated to: what we need is within us. “Hey Jude” is my favorite love song. It’s also the favorite song of my 18-year-old daughter, and she loves all of the contemporary music. “Hey Jude” is a song of immense hope and encouragement that transcends time and place.

The final answer to the song’s insistence on turning to love and away from fear is that we have what we need to “take a sad song and make it better.” It’s on our shoulder.

Great song, great line, awkward though it may be.

They Just Can’t Kill the Beast

If you quit feeding your beast, it will die. What’s the beast in your life? Fear, anger, sorrow, jealousy, anxiety, grief, depression. I could go on, but it comes down to fear in one form or another. It’s not only in your thoughts, it’s in your blood, it’s in your nervous system. We’re wired with fear, and if it’s fed, it kills us.

It’s a curse, passed on from generation to generation. We try to calm its ragged edges with alcohol, drugs, food, or relationships, but in the words of the Eagles’ song, “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.”

This beast ruins the lives of those who feed it – the raging parent, the withdrawn and brooding child, the jealous lover, the resentful spouse, the conquering army. All of this is the beast of fear feeding on wounds that won’t heal.

The only antidote to the fear that surrounds us is not-fear. Some call it love. I’m not sure what love is, but I know what not-fear is. It’s well-being, it’s deep breath, it’s a wide open sky, it’s a bright and refreshed world each day we wake.

Courage isn’t the antidote. Courage is the ability, usually brief, to behave in a healthy, caring manner even while surrounded by and encompassed in fear. The antidote is not-fear, and we find this when we quit feeding the beast, for it feeds on us. We believe we will die if we’re separated from the beast, when it reality, it’s killing us.

We learn to quit feeding the beast by going within. When we go within, we go outside ourselves and find a world free from the beast, larger than the beast, a world in which the beast has never existed and never can exist. It’s not an escape, it’s a coming home.

How Does a Spiritual Awakening Help You?

How does a spiritual awakening change your life? You have the same personality, the same body, the same family and friends. At first, everything is the same. Yet when your spiritual awakening comes, everything changes.

You see that you are one with everything around you. You are not separate. That understanding takes away your fear. Maybe not all at once, but bit by bit, your fear begins to stop running your life. You come to realize you have nothing to fear. It’s not that you gain courage. It’s simply that fear has become irrelevant.

You come to see that you have been afraid most of your life. Your reactions, your responses, your decisions have all been based on fear, based on the belief that you are threatened, that you can lose everything that matters, and that you will die.

Lift that fear and you see that nothing that matters can be taken away. You see there is no such thing as death. You are free now. It doesn’t matter who loves you or who doesn’t love you. You suddenly have no argument with anyone – you have no argument with life.

Everything slows down. For perhaps the first time, you can catch your breath. The cloud of cares and worry begins to dissipate. You are lighter now, free of resentments and free of anger.

Your decisions are no longer based on what you need – they are based on kindness and how you can serve. This detachment doesn’t mean you don’t care. You care more for this world than you ever have. Never before have you really seen its beauty. In this caring, you become a caretaker.

You don’t renounce the world; you embrace the world, for the world and you are one.

You Are the Guru You Need

Your spirituality is within. You already have all need to know and everything you need to learn. Your spiritual journey is to the inside. Right this very moment, you are where you need to be. You just have to realize it.

Who is your guide on this journey to yourself? You are. Who shows you where to turn when you’re lost in the dark woods? You will show yourself the way.

How far must you travel? You are already at your destination.

That’s easy to say, but how do teach yourself the way? It’s simple and difficult. You have to be willing and open. Plus, you have to be diligent in exposing yourself to teachings that prompt the recollection of oneness.

The key to willingness is nonresistance. We become resistant when we feel threatened, and without spiritual bearings, we feel threatened most of the time. That’s an illusion that closes down our ability to stay open and willing.

A truck barreling down the freeway is a threat if you cross its path. But a perceived slight in a social situation is not. Yet even a minor slight may close you down with reaction and offense. Then you lose connection with the source within. These soul cut-offs happen all day long, and they can keep us perpetually locked up. Willingness and acceptance are the tools to stay openm open.

Exposing yourself to spiritual teachings, readings, workshops, and more importantly, discussions with friends, will open you up to the source of the oneness within. Seek this exposure. The teachers and the people you meet in spiritual context don’t have something you don’t have, but they will prompt you to yourself.

That’s all you need for a grand spiritual journey. Willingness and spiritual exposure. They will lead you to the oneness within, and that’s everything.