Here is an opportunity to receive a free e-book “Wisdom Without Dogma” that includes an excerpt from my upcoming book “When Spirit Leaps: Navigating the Process of Spiritual Awakening”, to be released in April My publisher, New Harbinger and Nonduality Press, is offering this collection of selected excerpts from several of their authors.
As New Harbinger writes “With these essential teachings, insights, reflections, practices, and real-life examples—written by renowned spiritual teachers and authors who speak from direct experience—you’re sure to find the guidance and support you seek on your own spiritual journey.”
I am honored and excited to be part of this wonderful collection and encourage you to go to www.newharbinger.com where you can download for free this remarkable collection, and join their email list to get the first announcements when my book is released. The sampling includes selections from:
We invite you to explore all of these books, and wish you true well-being, peace, and joy.
Awakened living happens when we have the courage to live in the present moment, and give up our attraction to the divisive thoughts of our minds. It is the freedom to try something new here and now – look at our lives from a fresh perspective, unburdened by our history or old habits. It is greeting the unknown without the weight of anxiety.
All of us have baggage from our past – it is carried in our emotional and thought patterns and spills out whenever we have to face a problem or a challenge in our life. Whenever we fall into a rage, or a depressive perspective about our future, or self-criticism or judgment about the actions of someone else it is as if this baggage has tumbled down at our feet and is slowing us down, blocking us from clarity about our next obvious move.
Neuroscientists are now telling us that when anything negative happens to us it stays entangled in the neuronal pathways much more readily than a positive event. Then when something similar happens we respond with all the intensity of the backed-up emotion from earlier events. This is why you can feel overwhelmed when a colleague yells at you the way your dad once did, or you feel crushed by losingan argument, or fall into fear and depression when you hear negative political news.
How do we find a way to enjoy the vitality of living despite the negative energies so easy to encounter in our world? We cannot live an awakened life if we are dragged down by conflict, depression, anger or confusion. Awakeness requires holding a fidelity to the awakening we have glimpsed, remembering that underneath the surface of human contradiction is an innate happiness and pleasure that the incarnated spirit knows, even when the mind is doing its characteristic division and worry. These self-defeating tendencies are the reason that thought is disparaged in non-dual teachings – we must get liberated from the fear and catastrophic patterns of thinking humans are so prone to. We must learn our thoughts are rarely true.
Imagine for a moment you could erase all thought – all influences of the outside world, and all doubts in your inner world. Take a deep breath and look up at the sky. What if mind was as vast and clear and open as this? What if mind has the depth and expansive potential of the boundless skies above us?
Living awakened is not about transcending or pretending there is no darkness in our world; it is acknowledging the world is not only darkness, but is also infused with great light, great potential and great love. It is bringing balance into the overly negative mind, and recognizing that we personally each can bring in some light, some new consciousness, some love even if only to our small corner of the world. We can refuse to indulge in watching programs or hanging out in systems (external or internal) that promote anger, conflict , suffering and isolation. We can seek time in nature where the ions bathe us in a calming presence. We can be present and take note of our immediate surroundings, recognize that we are likely ok here and now. We know if we move into the middle of an emergency we can simply respond and do what is obvious. It is not the rare physical emergencies that get us down so much as the thoughts about past and future. Rarely are we, in this moment, in a crisis. When we are, then courage and action arises. It is the psychological and imaginative crisis that most debilitate us. These are promoted by thoughts that stir our emotions and cloud our capacitiy for clarity and freedom. Like smoke hovering over us after a fire, they must be cleared away if we are to know our true nature.
Being awake is standing free of limiting thoughts and being present in the moment, doing what is obvious in the moment, listening to the intuition of heart or gut or spirit, and taking care of ourselves and others in a loving way. It is the natural state of Being, bringing us the potential to redesign the way we live based on our authentic moment-to-moment understanding of what is needed now.
When energy moves in your body it is a sign you are on the verge of a shift of perspective. All of your beliefs and points of view are simply perspectives, and they are conditioned by culture, family and experiences. If you have been in an awakening process and are experiencing energetic shifts you are having birthing pains, moving into a new experience of the world.
Our religion, politics and other belief systems, even beliefs about ourselves, are not real – they are all happening in the mind, as bleeps of random thought. They are transient and sometimes repetitive thought forms. The impact of what we believe is programmed into our energy field, and we often suffer because of the limitations of our beliefs about ourselves and others. As new or better things happen in our lives these thoughts change, and with disappointments and discouragement they may also change. If I believe I am inadequate or you are dangerous or life is unfair I will live accordingly, until my perspective shifts. If you have suddenly experienced energy vibrating or releasing in your body and you believe it is dangerous you will feel afraid; if you understand it is your own vital energy trying to release old and difficult patterns so you can feel free, then you can feel relaxed and curious and you may find bliss as releasing happens. If consciousness shifts out-of-body and you think you are mentally ill you will be alarmed; if you are surprised and curious to find you are not your body but this awareness that transcends it, you may feel joy.
Spiritual awakening is all about shifting perspective. It is opening yourself to seeing the wholeness, the unity of all things, and the underlying consciousness that permeates our lives.This undermines the ego, and a new point of view arises in its place. Energy shifts happen because we are molecular structures and the ability to live from a new perspective calls for the reorganization of this structure away from division and toward wholeness and balance. It is disarming because many of us fear change and feel we are losing our world when we change our ego’s perspective of it. But the ego is only a movement of identification with the experiences of a separate “Me”. It is not real..
Because each of us has accumulated our perspectives from differing sources we sometimes have clashing perspectives, and we tend to choose friends who share the perspective we are most comfortable with. Thus we bond with various religious, political, national or social groups and the ego tendency is to avoid, distrust or even hate those with different values and beliefs. Many people who have shifts because of spiritual or energy practices feel they no longer fit in or enjoy the groups that used to be compatible for them. They find it harder to project evil on the other side. They might feel they have become an entirely different person inside. The mind may at times be alarmed about this, but it is an important evolutionary step for our planet. It brings us closer to recognizing our alignment with nature and our connection with all forms of life.
I attended yesterday the 3rd conference held by a group called Architects of the New Paradigm. They had a large attendance of people concerned that our culture and our world needs new paradigms if it is to survive the environmental, economic and social issues that trouble us. A paradigm is a way of seeing things, the way we construct our interpretation of the world. They questioned whether it is a revolution or an evolution that is needed in the current paradigm, where corporations focused on making profits rule the economics of our government, and our freedom as individuals is compromised by regulations and laws. I would define revolution as an external movement and evolution as internal. From my perspective the internal needs to move first, and freedom from our old patterns needs first to be claimed within. Without these internal changes any new movements will lack appreciation for the wholeness the planet needs to come into balance.
The speakers at ANP offered a diverse exploration of new ways to view the human condition as it impacts government, economics, health and science. They offered inspiring perspectives of revolutionary change based on the impact of our recent discovery through space probes that millions of exo-planets exist in our galaxy that likely contain some varieties of more advanced life-forms, radical new potentials in technology and environmentally friendly inventions, and examples of ways to change how government and health care function through taking personal responsibility. There were no definitive answers, but questions asked with an openness to discovering new and compassionate solutions.
Ego and the thoughts generated in mind are not real (although some are useful), but what is real is the experience you have before your mind makes a decision or creates a story. Holding a flower in your hand is real. Labeling it a flower is not. Your heart opening with love is real. Labeling it love and expecting a response is only perspective. The environment is real; your relationship to it depends on how you think and feel about it and this can be changeable and varied. Ultimately form is not “real” either, as everything, including you, is made of cells that are 99.99% space. It is a miracle of nature that we have forms that appear in relationship with one another, and can see, touch, smell, hear and taste all the beautiful aspects of our planet. These forms of ours contain what is real – a consciousness within that is connected with everything and indestructible.
Some physicists are beginning to recognize that each of us is a microcosm of the macrocosm of our universe. The space we are is not empty but is full of all possibilities, just as the vastness of space. At AFT one of the speakers called our bodies receiving stations for consciousness.
What does this have to do with non-duality or with spiritual awakening? Why should we care about the world around us if it is all illusion, as some Advaita masters like Ramana Maharshi or Papaji have indicated? As near as I can tell we are the world! If this is illusion we are all it together! It is a dance of molecules and particles and color and explosion and it is never-ending no matter how the forms change. Awakening is not an escape into blissful detached alternate realities. It is a simple realization of what you are. If you are to live from this realization then you will live with a new paradigm, expressing wholeness and gratitude, aligning with an authentic deep intuitution that may be unique to each situation (instead of conditioned) and available to meeting life as it is and making choices from love rather than fear.
This is the evolution our species needs. It is not easy to accomplish in ourselves, and each day can bring a new challenge. But your willingness to allow your energy and your consciousness to shift and to be part of the movement of humans toward living in wholeness, is what will make you free.
When I look out the window of my bedroom at night at the lights of my town below, if I am not wearing my glasses it appears that all of them are shaped like Christmas trees — the green and red traffic lights, the yellow of house lights, the white in the street lamps — all are triangular, pointing up like lighted Douglas fir trees. Then I put on my glasses and they reduce to their natural size and shape and I realize that however beautiful the view, my perception is distorted.
The shift in how awareness perceives the world after consciousness awakens itself is very similar. Many teachers compare it to awakening out of a dream. It is a shifted perception of how the world functions. In those moments when our deepest sense of presence arises — and we feel ourselves being alive as open and awake consciousness — we are unencumbered by thought and judgment. Suddenly the world problems appear to be due to misperception of our true nature and blindness regarding our interwoven connectedness to one another.
The shared illusion that we are nothing but physical forms driven by thoughts, opinions and emotions, keeps us confused about the nature of reality and our natural role within it. This illusion locks each of us into conditioned thought and behavior until it is shattered by the explosive recognition called awakening or Self-realization.
Human thought has a tendency to doubt, blame, rage, attack, hide and fear. These emotions are universal and we often project them on others as well as turn them against ourselves. From an awakened perspective it is as painful to watch a person hate and reduce herself or himself as it is to watch her or him hate and reduce another. It is painful because it is seen clearly how these patterns and beliefs are deluded, false and destructive to life.
Every spirit or presence enters the world as a spark of potential, a package of talents, an openness to love and be loved. If this is lost it is because of a distorted perception caused by rejection, grief, trauma, verbal or physical abuse, or violence. When love is not encouraged and nourished it recedes deep into the heart which then armors itself against feeling, often at a very early age. The distortion can be severe — a belief arises either that “I am bad” or “Others are bad,” or “All humans are bad and my genuine expression in life is unsafe”. We can see streaks of hatred, rage, and prejudice in people who compensate through power and manipulation. We can see the same qualities turned inward in those who feel powerless, believing their lives do not matter. Both are blind to the incredible power and beauty of expressing their human potential.
Non-duality is a teaching — a spiritual perspective originating from the ancient eastern perspective of Advaita Vedanta, which sees all existence as the production of appearances coming out of One vast stillness or potential. God is seen as All– the One consciousness in multitudes of forms. Some non-dual teachers have pointed students toward the realization of being Nothing — No Thing, Emptiness. Others emphasize Oneness or the Vast endless universal Self or Non-Self. These are efforts to describe a realization that is beyond language, which cannot be contained in words.
When consciousness shifts an initial perception is often that Nothing exists — it is appearance only. All is an illusionary dance in the vastness, and therefore not to be concerned about. This is nihilistic from the point of view of mind, and in some folks there is a return to self-identity and this brings up depression, despair and a deep passivity. Because the egoic drive deserted them they collapse. This is an interpretation of mind and a great loss. It has been called the Dark Night of the Soul, the chasm, the pit one can stumble into on the path to liberation. Sometimes one is stuck here for a long, long time. It is like an endless long winter when all seems dead.
Paradoxicaly, awakening may reveal that out of the ethers and boundless nothingness everything arises and there is One infinite consciousness exploding in a myriad of forms and dances, and every piece has its potential to express and bring new forms into the world. There can be a new perception through which the smallest flower expresses glory and love. There can be a time when it seems there is a natural flowing of all that is needed in each moment. There can be spontaneous and irrational compassion and joy, even in the most trying of circumstances. When the awakened can lean into the possibilities that arise from the heart and the deeper intuition of the gut, then a new birthing can happen. The natural impulse toward life as an expression of love or wisdom or creativity can emerge without the barriers of conditioning and contraction.
No matter if you believe you are nothing or you are everything there is a need in the human form to live, to move, and to express. One needs to be willing to do their unique dance and live their unique mark on the world because all of us are part of the expression of the One, and in this sense each facet of this universal jewel is relevant. We are the aspects of god that move forward the consciousness of the planet. Whether you as a separate being are real or simply a dream you are still a participant in the flow of humanity. Even if you have seen you have no control, you still have a role that no one else can play — the god/source/light in you gets to grace this moment through your form so you may as well lean in and live it out all the way. You find it by abandoning conditioned beliefs, and following your authentic Truth.
To wake up is to see through the burden of conditioning, shed negativity and self-limitation, and be willing to go with the flow of circumstances with which you are presented. Living is not nothing. It is what spirit gets to have through you. Whatever happens to you is happening to god. Whatever your response it is god’s response.
When you pull the psychic energy out of the ego where will it go? It was wrapped up in illusion. Shift to the lens that will correct your perception. Let your energy be infused with Truth and love and become a positive force within our species. Why else would awakening be possible at all?
Perhaps it is time to write a few words about Christmas, and whatever meaning arises from this date for someone who is fairly enmeshed in the non-dual perspective. Could we be unconsciously celebrating our True Nature at Christmas?
As I was raised a Catholic, Christmas had a sacred and magical feeling for me as a young child. I remember staring at the reflections in the globes on the Christmas tree and feeling entranced by the reflections of light. I remember setting up the crèche and feeling very fond of the story it portrayed. I remember sitting in the living room opening gifts, and my grandmother being with us, and excitedly giving her a stocking with little gifts I had chosen for her. I remember a few gifts I received. So many of the memories that stick to us after childhood are heavy and burdensome, but for most of us there are some Christmas treasures in our memory box that are brought to the surface when we repeat the rituals as adults. And yet for many this is also a time of sadness, remembering difficult pieces of our history or missing those who are no longer here to share with us. It can also be stressful as we try to recreate the magic for ourselves and our loved ones.
Some personality types become joyful during the seasons, and others become depressed. Like everything that is part of the human experience there are multiple variations in how it is perceived and interpreted. It may bring out the child within, or the shadows we might wish to keep hidden. However, even if we have outgrown the Christmas magic, perhaps we can find a deeper meaning to brighten and enliven us during this season, a Truth that is about our own true nature.
I have come in recent years to think of the word Christ as a symbol, not a man. This symbol is a recognition of that within each of us that is unconditionally connected to what is primal, sacred and eternal. It represents our consciousness which is a reflection of the One universal awareness shining through all of life. Christ is awareness sparkling through a myriad of expressions, creating forms and moments of experience within the vastness of space. Jesus was called Christ because he demonstrated this Oneness, this connection to the source of all that is sacred. Whether he too was a symbol I cannot say, but the story of his birth and life seems to be a story of bringing together the high and the low, the kings and the shepherds, the blessed and the so-called sinners, even raising those who are dead into life. Perhaps his healing miracles represent the power of trust and love to remove the blindness and deadness within so many humans who need to be revived into a full life.
This simple life of Jesus bringing together the disparate parts of humanity, and offering them messages about returning to life through faith, or trusting that the kingdom of god is within, is a story of unconditional love entering the world. As far as I know images of gods and goddesses before this time never represented love of all, loving one another, loving our neighbor as our self. But if Jesus was Christ – then he was awake to the knowledge that there is only One, and if this is so then the only solution to suffering is love. It is true he demonstrated anger as well, particular to the Pharisees and the moneychangers in the temple (paradoxically, not toward the soldiers or to Caesar who allowed his crucifixion). What are we to think of this?
From a non-dual perspective each being has a role in this dream, but those who misrepresent the nature of Truth, of Love, of our essential connection with one another, are “missing the mark” – a phrase that represents the original meaning of sin. Hypocrisy and exploitation of others misses the mark, particularly in those who engage in a spiritual role.
What this story represents to me is the entering into the species the possibility of loving impersonally – loving just because one can love or one is love, and not for the purpose of gaining anything . (What did Jesus gain from love? He just couldn’t stop himself from helping others.) This unconditional acceptance and love was a radical concept at that time and place – and in fact, few in our modern societies are even open to it today. It was so radical that he was crucified by those who felt threatened by it. He was not offering a Truth that most people were ready to understand.
But because it was Truth the story has endured for over 2000 years, and become a story about remembering those we love, about giving, about drawing family and friends around to praise a birth that happened centuries past (if at all).
This story tells of a life entering the world with a new message about what we are and how we can be. We can be “saved” by remembering who and what we are, and letting go of the suffering caused by limiting beliefs. We are One with Christ, the dynamic presence/love/Truth deep with us. We can use this day to remember Him, but also to remember our profound connection with the One source, to see it in our children, our elders, our families and friends. Men both wise and simple recognized this birth (in the story), people who came to follow these teachings transformed their lives. Along whatever else it represents, it is about being awake in the human world and living aligned with that Truth. It is about seeing through the foibles and limitations of conditioned life and recognizing, on one day a year, that underneath it all is One life beating, One love expressing.