The Story Gets In The Way

I am done with the stories in my mind.  I have spent months trying to figure out how to be friends with people I love, but with whom I am unable to find a fulfilling relationship.  And I have beat myself up for not being able to align myself with that love.  My teacher told me “Boundaries do not have to be places that we defend from; they define the places where we can connect.”  But when it feels like connecting is always leading to being hurt, that is a perpetual feedback loop of “I love you, let’s connect. That hurts, go away. But I love you, let’s connect. But it still hurts, go away”, and I want off that particular merry go round.

Let me be clear: this pattern exists for me with lovers, family members, friends, and occasionally my pets. With my family, I was able to justify myself by referencing patterns of violence, abandonment, and narcissism.  With my friends, I could point to what I value and whether that is true of our dynamic or not.  With my pets, I could even justify why I was not taking the dog for a walk today, or why I pushed the cat away based on if they were affectionate and obedient.  And with lovers, I could go through a whole script of how they hurt me, how our vibrations were not aligned, and what needed to change in each of them to be able to relate to me.

Now, I truly do understand that my relationships with others are a projection of my inner story.  I really do. If I needed any evidence of it, I can see it in how I project on a good friend of mine – I am working through issues from lovers and spouses with him, and I can see my projections on him because he is so clearly NOT these people.  And that is where alot of the sustained pain has been: as an awakening soul, I know this should not be enough to stop me from being free, and until I can resolve this thorny knot, I will not be free. I want off. This is ridiculous.

So two things intersected: I began doing The Work from Byron Katie, and I began a course called Speaking the Language of the Heart with Alejandra Siroka.  The two programs are related, although I didn’t know that when I was drawn to them.  Byron Katie looks closely at the stories we tell, that we suffer from.  The language of the heart has been instrumental in connecting my heart chakra and throat chakra, in that I have been conditioned to not recognize my own needs and not speak to them.  For example, I recently realized that much of my extreme anger reactions come when I do not feel that my need for respect is recognized.  Normally, that would trigger me running and pushing the person away because I did not want to feel the lack of respect, nor the anger, and I could not find a way out of that.  I just felt like a failure because my needs weren’t being met AND I was acting in a way I didn’t value – escalated anger bordering on viciousness.

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First, the Language of the Heart has been giving me a tool kit to 1) identify that which I value, 2) recognize when it is not being met, and 3) to speak it in a way that aligns with my values of peace, respect for others, and loving compassion.  If this wasn’t quite huge enough, Byron Katie’s work has helped me then challenge the story of suffering I create when my need isn’t being met, and to move into fulfillment from a non-dual space; in other words, recognizing that only I create the state of suffering, and that my True Essence can help me recognize and challenge that story so it doesn’t have power any more.  She tells the story like this: “Imagine that you are walking on a street at dusk and see a snake on the road in front of you. You go into a state of fear and anxiety.  Suddenly, a light shines on it and you see it is not a snake, but a rope.  You are not longer afraid.  And no matter how many other people are afraid because they think it is a snake, nor how many times you try to see it as a snake, you will never be afraid of it again.”
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I cannot tell you how deeply I am experiencing freedom.  So many of my fears were triggered over the last week: I am managing more responsibility as I return to a traditional work schedule, I am parking next door to an old lover’s home, I walk through the park we picniced in or went to see Christmas lights in every day, and I have new exciting things happening every moment that I want to tell to someone to share my journey.  And I have been angry, sad, fearful, withdrawn…all the same old stuff that was happening before I was deeply into my spiritual practice.  With the exception that I AM more awake, I AM more aware, and I have moved farther away from conditioning.

So, the story has been getting in the way.  And using the tools from Alejandra Siroka and Byron Katie, I have been moving them away by shining light on the snakes.  I don’t feel the rage anymore.  I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore.  The snake is a rope.  Ok, sometimes I have to look back to be really sure I was right that it is just a rope, but inevitably it is a rope.

How cool is that?

Stuck In Emptiness

Many spiritual seekers get “stuck in emptiness,” in the absolute, in transcendence. They cling to bliss, or peace, or indifference. When the self-centered motivation for living disappears, many seekers become indifferent. They see the perfection of all existence and find no reason for doing anything, including caring for themselves or others. I call this “taking a false refuge.” It is a very subtle egoic trap; it’s a fixation in the absolute and all unconscious form of attachment that masquerades as liberation. It can be very difficult to wake someone up from this deceptive fixation because they literally have no motivation to let go of it. Stuck in a form of divine indifference, such people believe they have reached the top of the mountain when actually they are hiding out halfway up its slope.

Enlightenment does not mean one should disappear into the realm of transcendence. To be fixated in the absolute is simply the polar opposite of being fixated in the relative. With the dawning of true enlightenment, there is a tremendous birthing of impersonal Love and wisdom that never fixates in any realm of experience. To awaken to the absolute view is profound and transformative, but to awaken from all fixed points of view is the birth of true nonduality. If emptiness cannot dance, it is not true emptiness. If moonlight does not flood the empty night sky and reflect in every drop of water, on every blade of grass, then you are only looking at your own empty dream. I say, “Wake up!” Then your heart will be flooded with a Love that you cannot contain.

-Adyashanti

Old Souls & Ayahuasca: Check points on the path to enlightenment

I believe in old souls.  Heck, I might be one. To me, an old soul has emotional and spiritual maturity. That maturity is less about exposure to spiritual teaching or even to spiritual practice. They seem to have self awareness and intuition. They reflect deeply on the nature of reality.  Sometimes all that shows up in someone under 30. I’ve known a few.

Interacting with an old soul feels intense. An old soul often feels the yearning of consciousness wishing to express and experience itself. That electricity of consciousness greeting consciousness is powerful. Intense. Desireable. Attractive.

So how does this relate to ayahuasca? I suggest we are drawn to old souls for the same reason we are drawn to altered states: our desire for awakening, to know true moments of consciousness.

Ayahuasca is the newest big thing in an ongoing Westernization of spirituality and cultural tradition. We take on yoga as exercise. We take on Aboriginal shamanism to fill the void left by traditional religion. We pursue spiritual highs. Chemical shortcuts to higher consciousness? Or a fundamental issue in how we approach spiritual awakening?

How does this relate to age? To me, being an old soul may accelerate your spiritual growth, but you need the corresponding emotional maturity to embody that. Awakening and enlightenment are about the truth of who you/we are. But age matters to be able to be fully express and relate from this place of awakening.

Similarly, our society pursues short cuts to spiritual growth. We confuse the activity of practice with the fruits of it.

Research supports the idea that psychedelic spiritual experience may be valid, but is not sustained without a deeper practice to connect it with.

“A single spiritual experience is no guarantee of a spiritual life or an ethical lifestyle (Barnard & Kripal, 2002;Novak, 1989; Smith & Novak, 2003). However, practice and multiple experiences appear to have
a cumulative impact (Vaughan, 2000; Walsh, 1999). With the occasional exception of “quantum change”
(Miller & C’de Baca, 2001), no matter what the method used, major enduring transformation usually requires long-term practice (Leonard & Murphy,1995; Mahoney, 1991; Murphy, 1992). The universal challenge is to transform peak experiences into plateau experiences, epiphanies into personality, states into stages, and altered states into altered traits, or, as I
believe Huston Smith once eloquently put it, “to transform flashes of illumination into abiding light.” – Entheogens: True or False? By Roger Walsh

The research on the value of ayahuasca for therapy is compelling. Its success with addiction, for example, is convincing. Did this healing occur from spirituality? Usually there is minimal spiritual guidance in the documented research. Energy is energy though, whether we can scientifically attribute the results to a shaman or neurotransmitters.

Ultimately, altered states are not required for spiritual growth:

“And yet in spirituality somehow, spirituality got associated with altered states of consciousness. You can alter your state of consciousness. Lots of the types of spirituality the people practice, they’ll alter your state of consciousness. You can chant God’s name for four or five hours, you’ll notice your consciousness starts to alter, change. You’ll feel different, things will look different. All sorts of things you can do to alter your state of consciousness.

But the funny thing is, enlightenment has nothing to do with any of that. Enlightenment is the unaltered state of consciousness. Consciousness needs no alteration to see that everything is One. Since everything IS One you don’t need the altered state of consciousness to perceive that everything is One. You need the altered state of consciousness to perceive that everything is actually more than One, like two or three or four or five or ten or a thousand.” -Adyashanti

Possibly the thing that transcends age and Ayahuasca is the knowledge that both are transitory. Conditions that change. They are not right. Not wrong. Just part of the play. As long as we don’t confuse the play with the truth.

In Love With My Best Friend

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Lucky I’m in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again
I’m lucky we’re in love in every way
Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed
Lucky to be coming home someday
-Jason Mraz

I have probably dated over 50 men in my life. Some of them were first dates that never grew into a second date. Many were second and third dates that really couldn’t go somewhere. 

I think I married both my husbands because they were great husband material, and hoped from the love we had I could deepen into something more. Bad strategy, it turns out, because I fall in love with my best friends.

Over tea one night, in utter frustration,  I asked him, “Then what is the purpose of relationship?  Isn’t that where we partner to grow in consciousness, to heal, to share? ”

He smiled at me and put his hand over mine. “No, dear. We realize we really like someone and that we have been growing with them,  sharing. He will probably be your best friend.”

That made so much sense. I dated like someone screening job applicants. That’s not to say I didn’t love – I was in love with both husbands. But we couldn’t deepen.  Then I found someone who could relate to me spiritually but who couldn’t deepen with me into an actual relationship. Along the way, I realized I don’t value “in love”. I value deepening. 

I value deepening.  I value creating sacred space – emotionally and spiritually – and prizing that above all else. From this place, I can be in sacred physical union. 

But first, we need to laugh together.  We need to share world views over tea. We need to see plays and movies. We need to cook together,  and work on projects that allow co-creation.  We need to share stories at the end of the day. 

And then, my best friend, we need to be able to deepen. Only then will I fall in love with you.

Doing The Work

I love doing self inquiry. Its also a useful tool on the spiritual path. One of the dilemmas of self inquiry can be self blame, or trying to find what’s wrong with you.  Tantra starts from the assumption that there is no right or wrong, and that what we are experiencing is perfect. That can be hard to reconcile with many self help approaches or the self development industry that characterizes alot of spirituality. 

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Recently I read some of Byron Katie’s work.  It is appropriately called The Work.

“In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and turnarounds. For example, your statement might be “[Name] doesn’t listen to me.” Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought. Then take that statement and put it up against the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

Step 1 Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)

Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)

Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

Who would you be without the thought?

Turn the thought around. Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.”

I often got trapped in how what I was experiencing was a reflection of me.  It began to feel like a version of how I was to blame, how I had failed the universe. If thought creates, if I am a powerful creator,  then why did I create painful endings with men I loved? Why didn’t either of them work it out with me? What was so wrong with me?

But, with the tantric view, I realize I’ve missed a few core elements.  There is a difference between creating from the egoic mind and creating from essence. The egoic mind looks over the menu of life and says, “yes, I will take wealth,  travel and marriage, with a side order of art and music.” The awakening soul considers what it values,  what it is grateful for, what the whole of experience is. The awakening soul knows suffering is from story, and that’s  where The Work is helpful.

My deepest suffering has come from ordering off of life’s menu. When I sit in silence and surrender, very little of what has been part of my life is really true of me. I have preferences,  like what music I enjoy, or types of movies I see. I have a desire for travel. But, my truest nature is very quiet, very still. It does not Do or Strive, or even create. It loves, but does so indiscriminately, without requiring an object to love. My relationship is with the whole of reality.  I don’t know if I will ever have a relationship with a partner again – I don’t know why or how I would embody that.  But even that,  I surrender. 

And that is no longer Work.

Self reclamation project

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We sat at dinner, varying between teasing each other and having deep conversation about the nature of life. We don’t really understand each other, but that’s ok because there is great love there. 

From a place of love, he asks, “When do you feel most like yourself?”

A number of memories flash through my mind, from my university days, to peak moments,  memories with lovers, and quiet aha moments alone. But my answer is “Right now.” I don’t mean this experience is causing it. I mean I’m aware of the I Am in that moment as each of the memories only feel like memories.  Not Self. 

As I deepen in consciousness,  my answer to “Who am I?”, is as much a falling away of paper masks as it is a reclamation of my essence. That reclamation is reflected in what my days look like,  my activities and priorities.  This article captures it well:

“And in the midst of it all, thought cries out ‘so how can I live now?’. Life is so mysterious and chaotic, that you no longer know how to navigate in it all. But the answer does not come in thought. Thought is no longer believed to be reliable in any answer it offers anyway. Thought is no longer in charge of the game. It sits at the feet of the real master, patiently (or not so patiently) waiting to see what will unfold. Thought offers it’s services when necessary, but Life itself lives itself, as it has always, even when it was believed that this person was real. You don’t know how to live or function now. Things can get messy. Your worst fears could come true. It is so risky and out of control. But you put one foot in front of the other, and then next thing happens. More and more you start to trust that Life itself takes care of it all, whether or not it fits your ideas of how it should look like or should feel. Thought can relax it’s stressful effort to try do it all.

This is not a new thought attitude of trusting in Life, but the real trust and free-fall in not having anything left to trust in. When you admit that really you don’t know how to live this human life, then the burden of covering it all up and pretending you know or need to know, doesn’t need to be carried anymore. This is very liberating in itself. Thought no longer needs to play the role of being in control of it all. It is freed up to be used as a tool, to offer logical, rational suggestions, or to remember or imagine. But is no longer believed to actually be the master of this Life. Thought is finally allowed to be the servant that is it’s nature to be. It is this liberation of thought that brings great relief, lightness and freedom. But no longer believing that thought has all the answers, is also a total devastation that leaves no position to stand in. Without relying on thought to run the show, there is only the wide open space that is filled with whatever is here now. This is the endless transformation that can never fit into your ideas of how that should be. Devastation is only negative or depressing when thought is still believed to mean something about ‘me’. Otherwise it is seen to be nothing less than a mysterious gift. Nothing is excluded, whether it is considered to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘dark’ or ‘light’. It is all included in this open free-fall. There is no rule book or model to follow. You step into the unknown, moment to moment, and feel it all as it is.” -Science and Non duality

And so it is.

Pint sized polemics

“I’m sad, mommy,” said the pint sized polemist.

“Why is that? ” I asked.

“I’m sad that we are never going to see him again,” she replied, in reference to a family friend.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I offered.

“No. That’s only giving it more energy and that’s worse. Let’s talk about the people we love,” she proposed.

The psychologist in me would have pushed her to talk, to work through her grief. But the awakened part of me saw her consciousness refusing to energize and identify with the story. That is living Truth.