There’s a little Trump in each of us

“Fanaticism consists of redoublng your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” – George Santayana

In the book Opening the Heart of Compassion, we explore different levels that the ego sustains, which in turn creates our suffering. The six realms described include:

1. the Animal realm – territory, danger and the desire for laziness 

2. the Hell realm – righteousness and anger and victimization

3. the Hungry Ghost realm – what is lacking, comparing to the past or others

4. the Titan realm – envy  for others, frustrated entitlement 

5. the God realm – self infatuation and indifference for others

6. the Human realm – efforts  to possess experience, to find certainty in meaning  and to control the future 

In my practice recently I’ve been focusing on how I embody the Titan realm and sometimes the God realm. “When we live in the Titan realm we want to prove that we deserve to be respected, to be honored, to be loved, to be secure, and to be treated justly.” – Opening the Heart of Compassion 

One of my habits that creates separation is to mentally (and sometimes verbally) judge my child’s father for how he does not show me respect or honor. It is the fastest button pusher I have in his presence. I can mentally tear apart some of his cherished beliefs and fantasize about what it would be like if people could see how unjustly he treats me. 

When I noticed that in myself,  next I went into what are considered the conceits of this particular realm . There is a superiority conceit, in which you view another person as worse than yourself. Or an inferiority conceit, whereby  you see yourself as worse than the other. Sometimes we use an equality conceit, which says I am just as bad as you are. I tend to move between all three of those when I notice my ego doing its thing.

Othe times, I like to judge my child’s father for any discomfort he causes me. I complain about how he does not recognize my value, or how he becomes a burden when I interact with him. 

“In the God Realm, we admire ourselves and we are seduced by the comfort and joy that results from this admiration. We want to surround ourselves with only those people and things that support our well-being, our self-esteem, or enjoyment, and our happiness. We are able to achieve and manifest our unlimited potential through our unlimited personal power. We are concerned with acquiring things not to prove anything, but to experience the joy of what they bring. We are preoccupied with the feelings that are produced as we fixate on our emotional states of well-being.” – Opening the Heart of Compassion 

So why do I say there is a little Donald Trump in each of us? The Buddhist tradition says that we move through and experience the emotions of the six Realms every day. We may find ourselves in a particular pattern that is consistent with the spiritual work that we’ve been doing but we sometimes will move back and forth. When I study all of the realms,  I see actions  from Donald Trump that look like each of them. But more importantly, I see myself in all six realms as well.

Well I certainly do not want Trump to be a world leader, I think it is interesting that he has emerged at a  time where our  conscious awareness is moving  to higher levels of compassion. We have global views and connections to other people in other countries and begin to see them as more like ourselves. The discomfort that Trump has elicited in our society may actually be just what is necessary to continue us forward on our spiritual path as a planet.


Friends or a Caseload?

Let me ask you if this sounds familiar:  you work a full day, and during that day co-workers wander in and out to ask for your advice or to share personal stories about their lives.  You get home, and before you can finish dinner, a friend has texted you about a big issue they need to talk through.  Another friend drops by to see how you are doing, and you end up having a deep conversation about how unhappy they are at work.

What differentiates friendship from a co-dependent caseload, where you are the one that every one turns to for help, or to fix things?

For years, I was exhausted by my role as helper.  I helped co-parent.  I helped friends at school.  I ran a suicide prevention center, and helped callers.  I helped my family, I helped my partner, I helped…and helped…and helped.  Everyone except me.  I sat waiting for someone to help me, to take care of me.

Of course, this is the hallmark of co-dependency. “Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.” – Mental Health America

It is normal to rely on your friends for emotional support. Sometimes nothing feels better than crying your eyes out on your best friend’s shoulders and knowing they accept you and understand you no matter what. But it is important to have a variety of support systems and not rely entirely on one person for all your emotional needs. No matter how much someone cares about you, they simply can’t be available all of the time, and they can’t meet your every single need.

“Friendship is based on an interchange that is somewhat balanced. You will rarely feel comfortable for long with a friend who talks non-stop or who gives you advice when you’re not ready to hear it. You might even feel quite the opposite of friendship if that person curses the boyfriend who just left you but you still dearly love.

A therapist is someone you pay to fully attend to you, to actively listen with compassion to your troubles. Usually he or she doesn’t share his or her opinions about your recent boyfriend or give you advice, but help and support for you to find out what you need and want to do next.” – Difference between friend and counselor

Thankfully, I awakened to this, and ended all my relationships that were unhealthy.  The spiritual partnerships I longed for replaced the co-dependent dynamics that had characterized my life. “Spiritual partnerships are the most fulfilling, substantive, and deep relationships possible. They are relationships between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth. Growing spiritually means creating a life of more joy and less pain, more meaning and less emptiness, and more love and less fear. As we become aware of ourselves as more than we once thought that we were—and this is happening to millions of people—we long for relationships that are the most meaningful and rewarding possible, that support us in becoming healthy, vibrant, creative, and loving. These are spiritual partnerships.” – Seat of the Soul

If your friendships feel more like you are an unpaid counselor, if you feel drained by the relationships on your life, or as if you are invisible, it is time to look in the mirror and explore what you can do to have healthy relationships. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Aging: Loss or Change?

The frame we use to interpret experience is the best predictor of what we do experience. So for example, if you believe teens are irresponsible, you will pay attention to events that confirm that and dismiss data that proves the opposite. 

So it is with getting older. What you believe makes a difference. Many people talk to me about aging as a form of loss. 

What if it was viewed as more of the ongoing changes we have experienced our whole lives?

From a loss viewpoint, I could say that by the age of 10 I lost my ability to fall and have minimal injury the way I did when I was 2. I lost my ability to perceive the world as it is, without imposed meaning and language. 

By the age of 13, I lost my experience of a non-sexualized world. By 18, I lost my ability to not worry about the future. 

But we don’t do that, do we? We frame the losses of childhood as developmental successes.  

So, as I have lived, I have gained evidence all over my body that I have laughed, cried and grown. I have evidence of lessons I would only learn the hard way. My body moves with more confidence. My  mouth inspires others with words from my heart and soul. 

I have lost the ability to tolerate superficiality.  I have lost my desire to buy into bull$h!t repackaged as neo-tantric ideals. I see through new ways of society living patterns that have been around for a long time. 

If these are the losses of aging, I celebrate each moment I have lived as steps towards freedom and love. Bring it on. 

When It Isn’t Really “All God”

There is a popular phrase in some spiritual circles: “It’s all God.”
This is meant to align with nondualistic philosophy.  Nonduality has its roots in Hindu and yogic philosophy, and is increasingly popular in the West. The foundational phrase is “Brahma satyam jagat mithyā, jīvo brahmaiva nāparah — Brahman is the only truth, the world is illusion, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self.”  Very roughly translated, Brahman is God.  And so, we find the idea of It is all God.

But, like many ideas that are adopted in the West, the meaning behind this text has become used to defend the spiritual ego. Spiritual ego is when the conditioned ego takes on the trappings of spirituality. So, It Is All God becomes:

It is all God…so I don’t have to let go of this bad habit.

It is all God…so I can’t really be hurting you.

It is all God…so nothing has to change.

It is all God…so I am off the hook.

One of the essential elements of  It Is All God is that it is non-personal.  It reflects realization of the true self.  It is sourced in the realization of both non-separation and the fact there is an individualized expression of consciousness.

Claims like “It Is All God…so…” followed by justification of a personal reality is kinda not it at all!

Jeff Foster is one of the most responsible Western teachers of non-dualism.  He captures this idea really well:

“I am officially no longer an ‘Advaita teacher’ or ‘Nonduality teacher’ – if, indeed, I ever was one. Life cannot be put into words, and however beautiful the words of Advaita/Nonduality are, they must be discarded in the end. I could never claim to be any sort of authority on this stuff. I will continue to speak, to sing my song to those who are open to listening, but gone is the need to adhere to any tradition, to use ‘Advaita-speak’ to avoid real, authentic human engagement, to pretend that I am in any way more or less special than you, to kid you that I know more than you, to play the ‘teacher’ by refusing to meet you in the play, to stop listening to you because I see you as ‘still stuck in the dream’ or ‘still a person’. This message is about love, in the true sense of the word – otherwise it is simply nihilism masquerading as freedom. The ‘Advaita Police’ reply ‘Who cares?’ I say I do. I do.” (emphasis is mine).

The idea of It Is All God points to something beautiful, when it is used with awareness.

“And so what is seen these days is this: nonduality is not a rejection of duality, but a celebration of it – such a total celebration, that one cannot even use the words ‘nonduality’ and ‘duality’ as separate from each other. No-one and someone are actually one – they were never two.”

It Is All God. It is all love.  And love will explore that bad habit, be concerned about hurting another, change to be in alignment with love, and take responsibility for authentic human engagement.

Halloween or Sex Predators Night?

My 9 year old daughter  and I went shopping for Halloween costumes.  We wandered through the kids and adults sections.

“Mom, why are the big girl costumes like that?”

“Like what?” I said.

“You know. Sexy”, she whispered. “Kids shouldn’t see that.”

At first I thought she meant thie adult costumes. Then I noticed that the costumes for tweens were subtley moving into being about fashion more than dress up and make believe. And yes, there was a sexiness – short skirts, high heels, makeup not for a cat or a cheetah but for a made up girl.

This week, Amazon was forced to remove sexy Halloween costumes for 4 year olds. “Child protection charity, Kidscape CEO, Claude Knight said: “Every year there are a growing number of manufacturers of Halloween costumes who believe, for inexplicable reasons, that outfits should become increasingly sexualised.”

“I don’t like it, ” my daughter said. “It takes the fun away. I want to dress up like a cat. I don’t want a dress with cat ears on a headband.”

I was so proud of my aware little one. She recognized the societal value system and she said no way.

“I don’t like some things about society,” she added.  “Some things are awesome.  But some things just make me feel bad.”

Did you know:

  • 60% of all reported sexual assaults are against children. (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2001). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2001. Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Government of Canada)
  • 54% of girls under 21 have experienced sexual abuse; (22% of these female victims reported two or more sexual offences.)
  • In 2005, the rate of sexual assault against children and youth was over five times higher than for adults – 206 children and youth victims compared to 39 adult victims for every 100,000 people.(Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007.)

This year, take a stand against the sexualization of Halloween.

For A Thought: Justifying Fear

I am not really that political. I don’t volunteer for candidates at election time. I don’t vote for one party consistently.  I am more of a social leader. I challenge values like sexism, ageism (young and old), and support environmental issues, albeit inconsistently and not ascribing to any one movement.. Mostly I define myself as a humanist. 

Yet, as I watch the American election, one I cannot vote in as I am Canadian, I can easily get riled up. I feel compelled to challenge people to examine their beliefs and mental models. I feel compelled to do something to combat the insanity I see. 

How easy it is for us to begin to feel threatened and fearful over someone who doesn’t think as we do. How often do we see violence or murder, just for a thought that is different than our own? 

Consider Malala Yousafzai. As a young girl, Malala Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She was shot in the head by Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. (Wikipedia) Despite political violence, her stance is to promote non-violent dialogue and greater education.

“I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’

But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’

Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”  – Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliba

Just as relevant for all countries is this view:

“He believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan’s problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected.”  – Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

More clearly than ever, this is an opportunity for awakening. Politics are a siren call for our highest collective consciousess to shine. Politics triggers our fears and unexplored ego issues.

When is it more clear than in politics for us to ask if what we believe is really true? When else are we more clearly called to live our values? When else do we as individuals show as clear an image of how easily we become fundamentalists?

And we do it all for a thought.

A thought.

Thoughts change. Thoughts are ego chatter. Thoughts are lenses that obscure reality.

And for a thought, we allow violence in our words and actions. We allow violence in our energy field.

Today, ask yourself what happens when you believe your thoughts. Who would you be without those thoughts? What would change in the world?