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.

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Can Facebook Be A Spiritual Practice?

Facebook-createLike many people, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.  I joined it 9 years ago, first as a place to share pictures of my new baby with my family, and over time my use of it has evolved into a forum for social interaction and sharing of ideas or events.

Many people can tell you how social media is a time waster, a sucking hole that takes away from the richness of our real lives and relationships.  It can be used to promote some of the worst qualities of our society.

My question is: can Facebook be a spiritual practice?

In a satsang I recently heard, Adyashanti spoke about personal identity and how we create separateness in a way that resonated for me.  The question of study was “Who are you if you do not reference any thoughts?”. When I contemplated that, my experience was briefly one of Being-ness.  I felt what it means to say I Am. My mind took over too quickly, but I was left with a sense of what it would mean to let go of separateness.  I feel a desire to return to that feeling, nurture it, expand it and never be in a space of separateness again.

Fast forward about 10 hours later while I am on Facebook: a former school mate posts a video that goes against many of my non-violent values and beliefs.  I delete the post.  I send out a Facebook question about how others handle it when someone posts something you are strongly against.  I engage in non-violent dialogue with others who think it is no big deal, or that there is nothing I can do about it.  I feel strongly that I have an ethical responsibility to do something and begin posting counter-stories all over my feed.  I begin posting memes with quotations like “The only thing evil needs to flourish is for good men to do nothing”. I contemplate deleting people from my Facebook account who do not share in my “vibration” and therefore are not attracted in to my current life.  I remind myself that there is a reason why we lose touch with people in life and feel satisfied that I have set up a strong boundary between me and everyone who is not me. Temporarily, I feel the happiness of the righteous.

Then I wondered what Adyashanti would say about what I had done.  I imagined he would note that I had created a great story to justify my differences with others. That story of differences was energized as far as possible for me to define a separation from others, justify it, and turn away from even being curious about if our differences were real. I could feel myself realizing that as much as I earnestly claim a desire for oneness and awakening, my energy and story had moved me in a different direction.

I do not beat myself up over that.  Doing so would be replacing one story with a new one.  I feel peace in the idea of releasing this pattern.  I feel peace in opening a new possibility for myself.  I celebrate that this whole thing has led me one step closer to letting go of an illusion keeping me from knowing awakening and oneness in me as a truth right now.

So, Facebook, I will contemplate how to incorporate you into my practice, and be a place of love every time I go on.

 

Getting Hurt and Authentic Personal Power

“I dont’ want to see you hurt,” said a good friend that I reunited with after several years.  She was referring to my current status in relationships.  She is not the first to say it either, although she is the only one to be very intimate with the situation for some time.  My immediate reaction was fear – that is some way she saw something or knew something I did not.  Did she see my path more clearly than me?

angel-of-grief-1-editIn fact, I have had a conversation like this around almost every romantic relationship I have had.  I have had family members try to dissuade me from marrying.  I have had friends do an intervention with me a week before my wedding.  And now that I am in a process of creating the type of partnership I want, the conversation is a familiar one: friends who love me wanting me to be careful about what I do next.  I get questions about if I am considering reconciliation with Bhikku.  I get questions about if The Magus is The One.  Every person who loves me has advice on how I could avoid getting hurt.

For a few days, I actually sink in to their advice. I feel fear.  I evaluate and re-evaluate my relationships.  Should I divorce now, to make things clear and clean? What if Bhikku finds someone? What if Bhikku takes my money? What if The Magus doesn’t want what I want? What if the Magus is incapable of the type of relationship I deserve? (That is actually the Magus himself asking that…).  Each question is well-meaning, comes from an intent to love and support me…and is a commitment to fear.

I proposed something remarkable in my dissertation on suicide: the idea that the person who commits suicide is responsible for their behaviour.  It required great arguments to show that two people can experience the same pain, and one will attempt suicide while the other does not.  It means that all our pain has to do with the individual, and only the individual.  We are each responsible for our own experience.

Gary Zukav argues “If others had the power to cause you emotional pain, you would spend your entire life – day after day – attempting to manipulate or control them in order to avoid it.  You would be ever observant, always on alert for possible pain, and you would develop sensitivities to your vulnerabilities and ways to protect yourself from exposing them.”  That line is meant to show how foolish it is to blame others for my pain, but I am also acutely aware that is describes my career, my relationships, and my co-dependency all too well.  Love__Beach__Sunset__by_danicafaye-721652

Zukav also says ” every frightened part of the personality is committed to fear (pursuing external power), every loving part is committed to love (creating authentic power), and you must choose between them.  What others choose is beside the point.  Your choice is the point.”

Let me say out loud that I know I will get hurt.  Whatever happens with The Magus will hurt as we work through it.  Bhikku has hurt me, and the end of the marriage has hurt me.  I am hurt by Bhikku’s patterns of repression, which he has needed to cope with one of the worst childhoods imaginable.  I am hurt by his inability to hear me or to connect with me – none of which are his intent.  I am hurt that The Magus does not experience attachment the way I do, and it triggers my sense of being not enough and therefore my feelings of needing control.  I am hurt that The Magus thinks in such a way that I find rigid and limiting of the possibilities that may be there for us – again, not his fault as he is biologically built differently when it comes to emotions.  If I am going to love someone in a human relationship, I am going to get hurt.

Marianne Williamson says,  “Relationships never end because they’re of the mind, not the body.”  If they are of the mind, then we can co-create whatever we wish – if we create together.  If our needs and our beliefs are such that we cannot create together, then that is the journey.  She also reminds us that the Course In Miracles says relationships never end until they are made holy, meaning that the sense of separateness is healed in the awareness of our Oneness in the Divine.

I have filled my life with Spiritual Partnerships, seeing these relationships as ways in which I learn about myself and my spiritual truths.  However, these partnerships are human relationships, and have the characteristics of them.  My deep friendships exist for the purposes of spiritual growth, and I often see these friends no more than once a month, or even once every few months.  In some cases, we don’t have a lot in common in our lives other than the soul connection.  I have very few relationships based on common interests.  I don’t hang out with the girls.  If I spend a lot of time with you, it is More lovebecause the spiritual connection and commonalities we have allow us to have the accelerated program of relationship.  When it comes to the human relationship of partnership, intimacy, and sharing a co-created life, the real challenges and life lessons can arise.  It is in these relationships that we get hurt.  And the hurt is just a signpost to something that needs to be explored and healed.

To my dear friends reading this, please know I am not criticizing you for your concern about me getting hurt.  I love you for that.  But know this: I will not avoid getting hurt.  I won’t.  I believe in my authentic personal power.  I believe I am creating possibilities, not limitations. I believe in my ability to hurt and heal.  I believe that all the things that show up in my life are for my insight and growth, and are sign posts of where I am still finding my way to the Light.  My goal in life is enlightenment.  I am happy to share that path, and co-create with another, in so far as there is growth.  And if the relationship ends because no more growth is possible, there is still love.

Suicide and The Search for Pesonal Responsibility

Today as I drove in to work, I listened to a radio station put out the question: who is responsible for the suicide of the nurse in the Middleton prank case?  I heard callers respond with a range of reactions.  Some people spoke about the fact that the pranksters had willfully put the nurse in a no-win situation, and that even if she had not killed herself, she would have been the one to bear the brunt of all the consequences of this prank.  Others said they had no sympathy for the nurse, and felt suicide was selfish and cowardly.angel-of-grief-1-edit

I have been involved in suicide prevention for over 20 years, and I have heard this range of emotions most times that I have delivered a presentation on suicide awareness.  Suicide is a very scary and emotionally traumatic event for survivors.  It is going to trigger our deepest fears.  And like any time we come face to face with a fear, we should look at it closely to understand it.

I personally believe that suicide is a choice. I am not suggesting it is a good choice or a bad one.  All behaviour is a choice.  Two people can experience the same circumstances, and one person may attempt suicide while the other does not.  Each person makes a choice.  I concede that the range of options a person believes they have while they are in crisis can be very narrow.  But, at the end of it all, a person chooses suicide as the best option they have in front of them.  They find themselves in a place of such hopelessness and helplessness, and need the pain to stop.

I think suicide awareness calls us to recognize our deepest spiritual truths.  A person who is hopeless has lost sight of their divinity, their innate ability to create changes.  They are suffering from all the most painful beliefs from their childhood, relationships, and self talk, all manifesting in ways that look like life is out of control and will never change.  One spiritual truth is that everything changes.  The things that are very good will not last.  The things that are very bad will not remain so.  Everything changes.

candle_light_wallpapers_11The Magus teased me last night about really enjoying meeting new people.  This is true.  It is true because I love seeing the individualized expressions of the Divine in each person.  I know that often that light of the Divine becomes buried under rocks of the human experience, and I feel part of my calling is holding the truth about the Divine nature of that individual so they too can see it.

With suicide, one of the most important things that happens when a person calls a suicide hotline is that they are talked down from the escalation of their emotions, and they are supported as they expand their range of options.  They are supported in recognizing their personal power, and that little changes today can lead somewhere new.  No credible hotline would call this a spiritual intervention, yet how different is it than having someone hold consciousness for you as you create something new? On that call, the worker knows you are capable of using your inner strength to choose to live, and live differently.  In spirituality, a prayer partner will hold consciousness of your divine nature and all your creative power manifesting what is best in your life.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

So for me, the question is not who is responsible when a person commits suicide.  The question for me is how do we create a world where people know their own light? Where we approach each other with love, and hold consciousness for each other all the time. How do we create an awareness of our divinity in each person, in each interaction we have?  How do we heal that sense of separation that makes it possible for one person to hurt another or to be so thoughtless about our impact on each other that we cause deep pain? With that awareness, we would heal the planet.  We would create a world that sees each other as one family, one community, one life!

And the answer to this is in the words of Mahatma Gandhi – Be the Change You Want to See in the World.

My daughter reminded me today that I tell her to use her words to express her frustration or anger or pain with me, and yet I allow myself to get to a boiling point and simmer over with words of frustration or anger or pain.  Does that really seem as significant as suicide prevention, or promoting human rights, or attempting to be ecologically sustainable? Absolutely yes. Because I will be the change I want to see in the world.