Signifying Nothing

I am grateful when friends tell me their stories. As I listen, I notice two things: a feeling of compassion for the person as they work out their relationship to the story, and an awareness that it is all story, signifying nothing. This is true of my own stories. And I am so grateful for that.

“When you read a novel, and you read about various characters, you may like some and not like others. Or when you watch a movie, think about your relationship with the characters. You might like them; you might not like them—but you’re not finding your sense of self in them. You’re not referencing your self-worth by the characters in a novel or when you turn on the TV. You just have your thoughts about them.

But imagine if you turned on your TV or you read a novel and you actually completely derived your sense of being and your sense of self from one of the characters. Immediately your perspective is very different, isn’t it? Now your perspective has gone from something that’s very vast to something that’s very limited, seen only through the eyes of the character. Sadly, that’s how most human beings spend their lives. They have this little character in their mind called “me,” and they’re actually viewing that “me” as personal when it’s not.”-Adyashanti

One realization that has been significant for me is that nothing is personal. It all just is. The sunny day is not personal. The drive to work is not personal. My job is not personal. The bills aren’t personal.

Where I still struggle is in how I relate to people and those I have deeper relationship with like my daughter. My love for her seems very personal. Yet I understand in some way that I am experiencing a state of love in relation to her. Or drop the pronouns: there is just love.

Or, how do I relate to people when it is very personal for them? Their broken heart, their work, their stress and anxiety? So far, all I have is compassion. I get irritated sometimes, either because I wish more peace for them, or because they are speaking to a place that still upsets me too. It’s hard to remember sometimes that the story signifies nothing.

To some, the phrase “signifies nothing” is depressing. It might bear the bleakness of the full Shakespearean quotation. For me, when things are not personal, when we don’t project meaning over them, the whole world changes.

“You don’t lose the character; you just gain the whole novel of life. It’s not like you lose anything. You just gain the whole book. You gain the whole universe.”- Adyashanti

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When I Was Crazy

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“I am finally at a point where I am grateful and honored to have been part of his growth and healing,” I shared with my spiritual partner one day. We were discussing relationship endings, ego, and how we view relationship changes.

“What gave you that clarity?”, she asked.

“No thing. Just realized I finally have it,” I answered.  Like what happens with most incomplete truths, I felt in my whole self that I was not being fully aware or honest about this part of my process.

You see, I used to be insane…

“In no way can I deny the insanity of the human condition. And yet, because there’s so much insanity, so much unconsciousness, it’s possible that there’s also the other side of it. Life is always balancing itself out. So, while all of this is happening, there’s also this undercurrent of people all over the place who have a deep and profound interest in the ultimate nature of reality in themselves—and they are realizing it! …I do think that in our deepest heart we don’t actually want to contribute to the insanity around us. Our nature is, if anything, to be a contributor to sanity and wholeness, to bringing that into manifestation.

Now from that place, we can have a very active response to the world rather than a reaction against it. A response is inherently positive; a reaction is inherently negative and divisive. A great thing about coming to our own wholeness is that it’s not as though we just sit on our couch and see that everything is perfect. We do see that everything is perfect—but from that sense of perfection arise great love, great compassion, and a great response to the life around us. It’s a response that is undivided. As a whole, as a world culture, if there is going to be a salvation, it’s going to have to come from the human heart being undivided. And to get there, we all have to wake up.”~ Adyashanti

“Actually, this is what changed: I realized that nothing has meaning unless I give it meaning.  I thought about all the relationships that had ended in my life, and how little I think about that. I have had people I care about return to my life. Others are no where to be found.  And I just accept that as what is. I can look at it and be happy for what was, but not dwell there.  What I had been doing is looking backwards at how the story did not play out as the story I would have told. When I look at what was, with no story, no meaning, I saw something totally different.  I saw what is true of every relationship: two people on their paths, who served each other as sources of growth and healing.  That is all,” I earnestly replied, feeling the wholeness in that insight.

When I was crazy, I tried to make things fit a story.  Some of the stories are things like “Marriage or commitment is forever”, “Love is enough (to keep a relationship strong)”, or “I need to be in a relationship with someone who is my equal”.  These are stories, that may reflect values at a point in time.  While values are one of the most enduring beliefs that the ego tells us to pay attention to, they are still stories and will ultimately crumble in the face of reality.  Because nothing is as real as what IS.

 

 

 

Truth and Beauty: How Stories Point Us to Divinity

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Ode on a Grecian Urn, J. Keats

Like many other people, I love to talk about the most recent developments on Game of Thrones.  I have a little “fan club” among my circle of friends. We text about what happened.  We discuss it over tea.  We predict what might be happening and what patterns are being woven. We search the net for more ideas to share with each other.  And we do it all over again each week.

It is fun.  It is exciting to let the mind play.  It provides energetic experiences as we replay what we saw, what it meant, what it could mean.  But, of course, we know it is a story.  We are discussing a story and enjoying the energetic experience that goes along with this. Drama is fun.  It is beautiful.

I heard Adyashanti tell a story of a monk who agreed to raise a child born out of wedlock that was not his.  The mother told the community it was his, to diffuse the social consequences.  In time, she claimed the child and told the community she had lied.  The community started to gossip and rile up.  The monk told them that at this moment, she was doing the right thing.  The time to be mad was over – in the now, she was being noble.  But, the community wanted the ego drama. They wanted to focus on beliefs like “She lied” and “She whored” and “She defamed a noble man and let us do it too”. They didn’t think about things like the needs of the child, or the growth of the woman, or the gift the monk had made in his kindness.  That would not fuel the ego drama – it would be more Truth, and that does not make for good ego drama.

To me, there are two types of stories: ego drama, and stories that point us to underlying truth by connecting us to beauty.  When we are enamored with the pull on our soul from a piece of art, or a beautiful play or movie, what we experience is moving past the Egoic Self, in to the Truth. We are connected to Divinity, and may even be experiencing Unity.  I have read books that took me out of this world, and made me cry, or laugh.  I could not stop reading them, and dreaded seeing the ending approaching – because my experience would be over.

Why do we love great stories? It is not a coincidence that spiritual teachers have used stories to teach.  Whether it is the Bible, or koans, they exist to take us out of egoic mind and move us past self.

In life, when we connect with another person’s story from the heart, I believe we are moving past ego drama to allow the beauty of the story to lead us to truth.  Even stories that are about struggle can have beauty to them.  And in that beauty, we begin to glimpse the essential truth of being.

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How Deeply Can We Meet?

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Early in my non dualistic Tantrik study, I asked a friend, “But what’s the purpose of relationship?  There is no separation.  It’s all one.” His answer had something to do with learning from each other, which I rejected. We can learn from everything.

Jeff Foster speaks to this experience too. “Yes, nonduality so easily becomes a war against duality. “You’re stuck in your individuality! That’s just a story! That’s so dualistic!” So deeply ironic, once again.

I speak from experience. I have been there myself. I spent a long time stuck in that nihilstic place where nothing matters, where there is no world and no relationship and everything is disconnected. I have written about this ‘Advaita Trap’ extensively. At the time, I thought it was freedom. I see now, it was another identification. It was totally lacking in love and compassion. In the end, it wasn’t nonduality that saved me and ended seeking. It was the discovery of this love beyond form, beyond words.”

I find myself disconnecting from people I love when they talk about their Story. I am very engaged in their soul journey yet I feel like pulling back when their story is filled with what is not True.

My spiritual partner approaches it like a curious spirit having a human experience and witness what humans do, feel, and say. In that way, she can be empathic when she is curious because  she can see how it is affecting them as they tell their story. That is a beautiful perspective.

“Life is a constant invitation, to recognise yourself as the vast ocean of consciousness in which every single wave – every thought, sensation, feeling, sound – is deeply welcome. What you are may be a non-dual ocean of consciousness, but as that ocean, you welcome – apready welcome – every wave without conditions. This is not an acheivement, but your very nature, the way you are actually built. Awakening is not an acheivement, it is a real-time remembering of how you are ‘built!’…

Life gently whispers, always, “How deeply can we meet?” – Jeff Foster

Some part of me denies experience when I tune out of the story because it does not comply with my desire to be immersed in Spirit. It is the ego wanting a spiritual experience on egoic terms.

“Are you able to meet the one in front of you, and for a moment, not try to fix them, or heal them, or spout nondual cliches at them, or try to win some argument, proving your identity? How deeply can we meet?” – Jeff Foster

How deeply am I willing to meet life? Can I let go of even this happening on my terms?

It’s just a story

Some stories stick with you. For me, there is a great Star Trek TNG  called Darmok. In this episode Picard is captured, then trapped on a planet with an alien captain who speaks a metaphorical language incompatible with the universal translator. They must learn to communicate with each other before a deadly planetary beast overwhelms them.
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Picard realizes that the Tamarians communicate by citing examples and metaphors derived from mythology and folklore, but without knowing the context with which to ground these metaphors, the chance for successful communication is slim.

This weekend, I went on a retreat focusing on tools for eliminating our beliefs as a lens through which we view reality. It is the lens of our beliefs that keeps us separate from each other and from experiencing reality as it is.

I have leaned on Byron Katie’s The Work for a few years now. I was pretty sure I knew how to use it. And then I did this workshop.

For a full day, I tore apart my stories. First, the easy ones – the ones I have incorporated into my day to day views of life. Then we hit a cherished belief. I believe in responsibility. I believe in responsibility as a foundational spiritual value. I had to challenge it. I held tightly and could not find space to let go of this value, even though it was causing me suffering when I believed it.

My facilitator said “OK here’s what arises for me. I suffer when I believe my own thoughts. If we are responsible, we have control. If we have control, wouldn’t we chose to always be present and kind and loving? Are we really responsible?”
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My ego broke open. Suddenly I saw how this belief kept me unhappy with myself, able to judge others, and apart from experiencing reality as it is. I can say control is an illusion but it became so apparent to me in that moment how beliefs completely create our experience. It is just like speaking in metaphors in the Star Trek episode.

And like that episode, we communicate best with others who share our metaphors and stories. We feel connected when a friend agrees and supports our story. We feel betrayed when someone we love moves into a different story than the one we shared.

I am not done processing the window into reality that opened when I saw that we do not control anything. We are not responsible. Things happen and we experience them. We move in directions based on what we value. Circumstances may make a certain experience more likely.

I can hardly wait to open the window into reality a bit wider.

Mountains and Molehills

Poof! All gone. All changed.

For 15 years,  when I have gone to the mountains, I have gone from the initial calm and happiness of travel, to a subtley expanding anxiety and irritability as the trip proceeded. By the time I would leave,  I would swear not to return.

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The stories I told myself were things like “I am mildly claustrophobic…the mountains  oppress  me…” or “I am sensitive to energy and aggression. Mountains emerged as a form of violence…”

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I was in bad relationships – relationships that were in effect stories too. That’s it. That’s all. As the vacations with the men extended,  my tolerance of the BS relationships began to wear against the equal peace within me striving to take me over.

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It was a story. Like any story.

This week, I went to the mountains. No anxiety. No anger. So much peace and happiness that I tried to extend my stay. I wanted to be there longer.

I kayaked. I went horse back riding. I bathed in hot springs under a mountain Vista. I ate gourmet meals. I loved. I laughed. I meditated. I star gazed. I was glorious!

What has changed is my ability to be with and accept what is. To be my true self and align with that.

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Unpleasant things happened. Things went wrong. There were moments where problems needed to be solved. Inner triggers asked for attention.

But I embrace those just as much. I learned as much about myself the second painful hour in my saddle as I did the first hour, where nothing hurt in my body.

And I have stopped creating stories about me. My ego doesn’t get to drive the bus anymore.

Illusions: Assigning Meaning to Your Story

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Often, we believe in that narrative in our head. To keep our story going, we will go to great lengths to assign meaning to things. We assign meaning to things as a way of making our story true.

The best examples of the illusion of meaning are our favorite stories: The One, Falling in Love, and Meant to Be.

The One
The biggest illusion going right now is the one that says there is The One for us out there. This One will light us up and bring us to life. This One possesses unique gifts that will enrich my life and give it meaning. The One is you, your deepest truest you. There is no One necessary for that. It is you. You are your One.

Falling in Love
I am not sure why we talk about falling in love. It is more true for me to say I am in a state of love in relation to you. The object of my love is irrelevant. If I feel love, that is a pointer to me as a spiritual awareness. It reveals more of that. It is not triggered by another. There may be conditions that resonate with the needs and conditioning of the ego that make it easier to access. But that is still about me and my love. It is about my willingness to be open.

Meant to Be
Ah my favorite. This is the backwards illusion we tell ourselves when we struggle to accept what is. Everything is meant to be. There is no unique path we need to hand pick or interpret by the stars. What presents itself to us is what is meant to be. Our vibrations will align or not with what we see. We will let the energy of something flow or we will grasp and hold on. All that is presents itself so we can have peace and freedom – we get to experience peace and freedom no matter what life seems to look like.

For the sake of these illusions, I have held on to things that needed to be gone for a very long time. I make decisions by alligning with my true self now, and leaning where that takes me. If I move based on that inner alignment, what follows seems so obvious. So real. So true.