All Paths Lead to the Mountain Top

A few weeks ago I sat with Nissim Amon, who is one of 40 Zen Masters in the world today. There were many moments of opening at the event. For me, my mind needs to relax to allow me to trust and surrender. The master did that by telling us about “the paths to the top of the mountain”.

In his studies of world spiritual paths, he believes there are six categogries of paths. These are not religions or practices, but characteristics of what is encountered on the paths.

1. The path of the Fakir

A fakir renounces all worldly things and forms of comfort. The purpose is to come to a place of acceptance of what is. It is easy to accept pleasure so learning acceptance through deprivation is a fast track. This was originally the path of the Buddha but did not satisfy him and he gave it up after 5 or 6 years.

2. The path of Bhakti

Bhakti is the path of love, devotion, faith and worship. In the past, this was often the love of the guru. The guru would teach and be your object of love. It teaches you to open your heart.

3. The path of Knowledge

This path is characterized by pursuing deeply hidden esoteric knowledge. It may look like the hidden meaning of numbers, working with chakras, and other hidden knowledge. Often this path has a hierarchy and initiations. There can be a commitment to be a secret keeper.

4. The path of Danger

This path is characterized by practices through which you sacrifice or risk everything. Examples can be hallucinogens, practices that challenge taboos (e.g. sex, death, total ego annihilation) and shamanic drugs. It is often the shortest path but needs a guide. Practitioners without a guide lose what they gain or don’t have a way to integrate it without strong guides.

5. The path of the Zen koan

Koans are questions or anecdotes offered to the student to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. One learns that the answers are within us. The practitioner values the experience of the truth within the question not the explanation.

6. The way of the Tao

The tao focuses on the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way that is in harmony with the natural order. One sees how nature is a flow and reflects acceptance, even of death.

There is something to be learned from all the paths. It is not necessary to pursue all the paths.

What is so helpful to me is that I have been on a few paths, and rejected them after a time. In that rejection , I have deemed the path as lacking. In Tantra, we take about letting go of a lesson or a path once it has lost its rasa or juiciness. It isn’t bad – it’s just over.

It realized that while I accept other cultures and religions, I have a type of judgement for people on paths I have moved away from or rejected. Seeing these paths in this way helped me to release that.

My Sister Pleiades

My spiritual partner has a powerful way of connecting with me when I am in my process of awakening. After listening intently, with her whole being, she says, “I see you.”

When I was in counseling, I found words to describe my childhood. It was a childhood cut short by assuming the adult and parental role at 13. I was responsible for the care of 4 people while holding some twisted privilege for this. It was a cycle of codependency I replicated in my significant romantic relationships. So for most of my life, I felt invisible.

I was drawn to men who were equally invisible, who needed me in some way. Generally, I saw and supported who they could be and they showed me gratitude. I confused this for love and connection.

The end of those relationships marks the most significant turning point in my path of consciousness. With fierce Grace, I embarked on deep retreat and committed to my path of awakening. Everything in my life dissolved and then realigned behind this intention.

Before that, a desperate part of myself once said I would stand before My Then Love once I was fully healed and ask him to see me, to love me. What I didn’t know is that as I deepened in healing and awakening, I would not want to stand in front of him or ask anything of him.

So why is it so powerful when my spiritual partner tells me she sees me? Possibly because I am not asking her to. Possibly because she sees my awakened self and my egoic self equally and with love for both. Possibly because seeing each other is the foundation of our partnership.

In my deepest core, I believe we could go for decades without talking, and with a single moment of connection we would see each other. It reflects what is true on our path. It reflects our lack of attachment.

There is no greater gift.

(I have a few Sisters who have grown in spiritual partnership with me. This piece is not a diminishing of my love for them. What I have in essence in partnership with them is such as this too. The title references the 7 sisters who were with Artemis, and honors all my Sisters).

An Open Letter To My Friends

Dear Friend,

I want to say both thank you and I am sorry. 

Many of you have not seen me for a while. This year, it may be 6 months. For others, it may be years now. I may stay in touch by text or Facebook. But we don’t visit like we used to do. 

I don’t host dinners or (as many) parties. I cancel our plans alot…alot. i know this and I am sorry. 

Once, I used to try to do everything and be everything. I hid my issues under layers of making things look effortless. I did everything I was asked to and attended everything I was invited to do. 

But it was slowly killing me. It was feeding my Fear of Missing Out. It was leaving no room for me. I indulged in that because I did not want room for me. If I took a look, I would see how incredibly unhappy I was. 

As my friend, you probably saw that. You probably knew things had to change. 

They have changed. I spend as much time alone as I can. It’s not because I don’t want to be with you. It’s because I have not been with me for about 30 years and I have some catching up to do. 

True, circumstances have also come into it. Changing jobs takes some adapting. My child being incredibly ill since October has been a huge part of my need to retreat. 

I also know that throughout our friendship, I have disappointed you. At times, I did not treat you as if you mattered. I am sorry. You do matter to me. 

I have had to find new boundaries because I have had a history of putting others before me. I have needed this space to find what I am committed to, and what I should say no to. 

So, my friend, I thank you for being my friend and showing up the way you do. I see that, I feel that, and I am grateful. 

Better Than You

jokeDeep down, I believe I am better than you.

Please don’t get angry – I am not proud of this.  Until recently, I was not even conscious of it as a belief I hold.

Lately, I have been irritated by people who are part of the spiritual/new age/consciousness community who show up in my life as pseudo-holy seekers on an amazing quest to prove that life is one big Joy Orgasm. What I see, or what gets triggered for me by this is that it is their ego continuing to try to replace itself with a much more desirable and illusory image than it had before.

But of course, then I have to ask what is alive in me that is rubbed by all this.  The answer is because I believe I am better than them for not being that way. Honestly, what is wrong with people just being who they are on their journey? Nothing, except I have a belief that when they interact with me, they should see that their illusion is just an illusion and be in awe of where I am at on my path. Trust me, I am cringing as I write this.

Yes, I see that as my own ego illusion.  Yes, I hear the judgement in it.

And after a lot of sitting with it, I have decided I am ok.  The ego is all about desire and repulsion.  We either put energy into wanting something, or not wanting something.  My ego does not want this belief to be true – it damages my self illusion.  And thank goodness for that! Who wants a self illusion anyway? One teacher said that disbelieving something undesirable in you is not holy, it is more ego. 

Instead, I am not putting energy into this belief.  I recognize it has surfaced.  I recognise it as untrue.  And now I let it go.  It might pop up again, and I will look at it, then let it go.  As many times as I need to do so.  I simply won’t identify with this belief, or any of my beliefs. 

That won’t make me a better person.  Hopefully, it will be one more aspect of self that I not longer hold on to.  It is a tremendous movement back to my still point, to conscious awareness.  And maybe it is one step towards Oneness with you.

The Facebook Fast

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I signed in to Facebook 10 years ago. It was the newest thing and the best way to share my baby’s pictures with family and friends. Over time, I connected and reconnected with people I had known. With one of my jobs, it was desirable for us to spend time on social media. So now I am on it six to ten times a day. 

My spiritual practice promotes different forms of fasting so this year I decided to do a Facebook Fast. One of my areas of spiritual growth is facing my Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). So letting Facebook go is big. 

What have I experienced? More time for me. More time connecting in real life. More projects getting done. A new recipe every night. More satisfaction in my day. More time to meditate. More research on interesting things. More time to do art. More of pretty much everything. 

And no FOMO. Not a bit. 

While I value people in my life, Facebook is a false economy of relationship. What I value is my Facebook interactions with people I really like. I value growth and support. Sharing. Deepening. Facebook doesn’t do that. 

The fast will evolve into new choices when my 2 week fast is over. I intend to stay connected to connecting. 

My beautiful eyes, my innocent eyes

“You are quite naive,” said the Face reader. “You are easily taken advantage of.”  Face reading is a pseudoscience that predicts personality from physical characteristics. It can be insightful; it is at least interesting.  In this case, the reader believes my eyes are shaped and sized in a way that reflects being naive. 

I walked away, incensed. I am a talented negotiator and always leave the table with my goals met. I assess people for a living. How could I be naive?

Mental flash: despite my confidence in life, I have had a history of intimate relationships where I was easily deceived of the nature of my partner. In fact, in all cases of major relationships, my family warned me off each of them. I dismissed my siblings, believing I could see something they could not. In fact, the opposite equally was true. And how many times have I hired staff that were good performers but challenging personalities?  I even have at least two roles where I was not a fit with an organization but I accepted the job anyway. 

So I looked up the word. Naive means innocent, natural and unaffected. As an empathic and a highly sensitive person, I feel pain when I lie or act untruthfully. A line from Tolkien always stuck with me: “the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived.” 

When it comes to people, I believe I tend to see the most beautiful perfect parts of them – I see the Divine in people. Even when a person is mean or selfish, I see the parts of them that are kind and generous. The difficulty with that in a long term relationship comes when the balance between selfishness and generosity is not there. Or when the balance is tipped away from what is best for me. 

I am naive. I have big, beautiful and innocent eyes. I have a big, beautiful and innocent heart. My spiritual path is not about finding ways to protect myself from others. That would mean my goal is to control circumstances and people – folly. My path is to experience without attachment. My path is to be open to all that is, without Self protection or fear. 

My eyes, my beautiful innocent eyes truly are a window to my soul. 

Kaboom! Mercury in Retrograde

It comes in threes right? But maybe when Mercury is in retrograde, it just comes. 

“As the planet of communication, Mercury retrograde tends to breed a certain level of confusion. Mercury rules our “lower” mind–how we perceive and interpret information that we receive from our environment, and how we relay that information to others. Mercury has rulership over such things as speaking, negotiating, buying and selling, listening, formal contracts, documents, travel, the mail and shipping, and so forth. All of these areas of life are affected when Mercury is functioning in a sluggish state. Decision-making is challenged during Mercury retrograde. Needless to say, it is not advised to sign contracts, engage in important decision-making, or launch a new business. Delays and challenges are more probable with Mercury retrograde. It’s a time when being careless with money, our personal information, or paperwork can be costly.” This Week in Astrology

A blizzard hit Christmas Day. My SUV got stuck in a snowdrift. The dogs are peeing in my hosts’ home. The dogs’ cage was broken accidentally. The movie tickets I pre-purchase wouldn’t print so I had a long line to solve this with 5 kids in tow. I was charged for a hotel room I forgot to cancel. Today my car battery is dead and will need to be replaced before we begin our next trek. 

A part of me wanted to  figure out all the ways I could have prevented any of these things or avoid them in the future. Good old ego, trying to control circumstances. 

In comes awareness. Breathe and accept what is. Cry. Cocoon. Surrender. 

Then, keep moving. The retrograde is a time to reflect and reorganize. I have bought a planner. I am sketching. I am meditating. It will be ok. 

My brother commented that nothing is easy for me. I suppose that’s true but I don’t see it that way. I can’t control circumstances yet with every occurrence, I keep moving. Surrendering becomes easier. Awareness comes in faster.

As the saying goes, in the end everything will be ok. And if it’s not ok, it’s not the end yet.