Sunday, December 27, 2015

We are Miracles

On Christmas Eve, I sat around the table with my parents and learned more about where I come from. Not just about their childhoods, but my grandparents' too. I heard about great-uncles I didn't know I had, twins I didn't know existed. The more I heard, the more my eyes started to bug out and a wave of immense gratitude washed over me.

One of the most important things I learned that night is addiction runs deep in my family. Generation after generation, relative after relative. Stories of an alcoholic relation dying after falling down the stairs drunk; a morbidly obese great-grandparent. I couldn't believe it when I heard about the common thread running through my family's past. Holy guacamole. It's a big deal that I'm in recovery for addiction. I'm turning the tide of addiction and dysfunction despite the weight of history pulling me in a different direction. I am a walking miracle.

There are so many miracles in this world.
I'm going to pretend these are sea anemones.

My friend and neighbor told me a few weeks ago there is often one person in the family who helps heal everyone else. I knew that was me, but didn’t understand how to fulfill that role. After hearing about my family's history, I understand I'm leading the family in a new direction just by being me. By having the willingness to do something new, to sail uncharted waters. Here I was thinking I got into recovery programs and therapy just so I could live happier and more sanely, and that's true, but recovery is also so much bigger than me. As soon as one person stops the cycle of addiction and dysfunction by working on themselves in a concerted way, addiction and dysfunction stops. I'm doing something for my family that others could not and that makes me a miracle.

I know this post is about me personally, and my family, but I want to emphasize I am not the only miracle. Everyone is a miracle.

My spiritual teacher says repeatedly that human life is rare and precious. I've never understood that. How can human life be rare and precious when there are 7 billion of us? How rare and precious can it be? When I discussed this with my dear friend, he reminded me when we take into account all the other lives -- the plants, the animals, the bacteria even -- human life really is rare and precious. I think of human life as being expendable much of the time, but when I contemplate there are probably 7 billion bacteria on my pinky finger alone, whoa, being a human really is a miracle.

I think of miracles as walking on water, turning water into wine, or somehow accomplishing the impossible, but really, miracles are so much smaller than that. It's a miracle that I'm in recovery. It's a miracle that we're alive today. It's a miracle that the impossible can became probable.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are miracles. A world where we practice gratitude for the changes we're undergoing. A world where we understand miracles aren't necessarily huge feats, they are also small triumphs.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Life as a Mystery

I would say the driving question of my life is, "Why?" I want to know the reason behind everything and in particular why things are the way they are, or why they happened. Part of it is because I'm a curious person (I am a journalist after all), but another part is because uncertainty and ambiguity freaks me out. I want to know so I can feel safe. The more information I have, the safer and more secure I feel. As you can imagine, this makes me a bit of a control freak. Control though is basically impossible and this week I received a huge lesson in letting go as well as a reminder that even if I think something is certain, it's not.

I spoke with a friend about all this and he reminded me that the essential nature of our relationship to Higher Power is one of mystery. He likened it to being on a train where only Higher Power knows the destination. I think I know where we're going as we crest hills and drop into valleys -- I formulate an idea, but then the train keeps moving, so no, I don't have a clue.

Life is like a mystery train with the destination unknown.
Life is like a mystery train with the destination unknown. 

What I also took away from our conversation is the more I try to understand, to know, and to control, the rougher my relationship with Higher Power is, and the rougher things are in the external world. The more I can let go and be OK with the mystery of life, the less I'm affected by curveballs and plans going awry. I'm sure you've heard the joke, "When we make plans, God laughs," because the point is we are very much not in control.

Parades get rained on, people trip down the stairs, jobs are eliminated. Instead of working so hard to be in control, to be certain of outcomes, it's better for me trust I'll be able to handle whatever comes my way. It's also better for me to be OK with the mystery of the universe because for some things I'll never get an answer and seeking one I only drive myself crazy.

My spiritual teacher says God has been "creating this unique, colorful world with His various powers. Why He is doing so is known to Him alone; no one else knows it. … It is a fact that human beings with their limited intellect can never understand the secrets of why and how [God] has been creating this universe; their wisdom can never fathom this mystery. … You should think, 'My little intellect cannot fathom all this – rather let me do one thing, let me establish a relation of sweet love with Him. When this relation of love is established, He will be my own, and I will know His inner secret; I will certainly find the answers to all the questions ‘why’.”

I don't know if I'll finally know the answers to all my questions, but it certainly beats what I've been doing, which is hypothesizing, ruminating, and just generally overthinking. I still want to know why about everything, but what I'm coming to accept is my limited intellect is just that: limited. What helps me with the limitation is realizing life is a mystery and will remain a mystery. People are mysteries. Certain occurrences are mysteries. I can't know everything the moment I want to, I just can't, so the best I can do is let go and keep developing a loving relationship with myself and with my Higher Power. And maybe one day I'll eventually get the answers I seek.

I dream of a world where we realize life is mysterious and we allow it to be so. A world where we're open to possibilities and uncertainty because we realize we can still be safe in the face of ambiguity. A world where we work on loving ourselves and the universe because that's all we can do.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Why We Matter

Sometimes I get in a nihilistic mood and think it doesn't really matter that I'm alive, that I exist. In the grand scheme of things, I'm a speck, a peon, a flash in the pan of life. Furthermore, I think of myself as expendable and exchangeable in the sense that if I wasn't here, someone else would accomplish what is required of me; that the universe would work through someone else.

The other day though, I read something in Richard Tarnas' book Cosmos and Psyche that had me rethink my perspective. He posits two ways of grappling with the universe and uses the analogy of two suitors to explain them. In the first approach, the suitor treats the universe as if it has no intelligence and is something to be exploited for his own gain. In the second, the suitor seeks to know you (the universe):

"[N]ot that he might better exploit you, but rather to unite with you and thereby bring forth something new, a creative synthesis emerging from both of your depths. He desires to liberate that which has been hidden by the separation between knower and known. His ultimate goal of knowledge is not increased mastery, prediction, and control, but rather a more richly responsive and empowered participation in a co-creative unfolding of new realities. He seeks an intellectual fulfillment that is intimately linked with imaginative vision, moral transformation, empathic understanding, aesthetic delight. His act of knowledge is essentially an act of love and intelligence combined, of wonder as well as discernment, of opening to a process of mutual discovery."

I think the Mother Teresa quote sums this up: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
I think the Mother Teresa quote sums this up: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Wow. That paragraph. Reading it I came to the realization it does matter that I'm here, that I'm alive at this moment in time. Not because I exist and therefore I matter -- I can't get behind that just yet -- but rather because me being here now I am able to co-create something with the universe that otherwise would not have been birthed. Posted on my bathroom mirror is the question, "What does higher power want to work through me? And what part of self needs to step aside in order for that to happen?" God, higher power, the universe is working through me in a mutually fulfilling way whereby we both benefit. I, you, we, have special gifts and talents that are not expendable, not exchangeable, and not unimportant.

My spiritual teacher says, "If one ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. Therefore, nothing here is unimportant, not even an ant." Later on, my spiritual teacher affirms that, "Nobody is unimportant, nobody is insignificant. Each and every existence is valuable."

I'm not sure I'm conveying what I'd like here, but what I'm getting at is I matter, you matter, we matter. We are here for a reason. If I remain stuck in an inferiority complex of sorts, I miss the opportunity for higher power to work through me and I miss out on the creative synthesis Tarnas mentions. Part of that synthesis means valuing my part and not giving more significance to higher power's because we are in a co-creative dance with the divine and as they say, it takes two to tango.

I dream of a world where we feel into the truth that we matter. A world where we understand our existence is important because through us, new things are being birthed that otherwise wouldn't exist. A world where we realize our lives are more than a flash in the pan.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Differentiation between Intuition and Delusion

One of the things I'm working on in therapy is self-trust. It's particularly hard because I point to all the times I acted on my intuition and things didn't work out the way I thought they would, as evidence why I shouldn't trust myself. All of this is made more complicated by the fact I have a predilection toward delusion. How am I supposed to trust myself when what I think is intuition could be delusion?

Just so we're clear, I looked up delusion in the dictionary and it says, “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument.” I know this state well. I think of it as my fear place. When I'm tired, I am especially delusional. Just the other day, I was convinced someone broke into my neighbor’s apartment because I heard noise next door but her car wasn't in her parking space. Nevermind that she could have lent her car to a friend. It took all of my powers of rationality to remind myself thieves don't have a tendency to stick around, nor do they turn on the television or radio. It turns out of course she was there.

Intuition and delusion can both be murky, kind of like walking through fog.
Intuition and delusion can both be murky, kind of like walking through fog.

Delusion is not always related to my fears, although usually it is. There was also the time I became certain this guy and I would end up together, corroborated by signs from the universe, and then we didn't. How am I supposed to trust myself after that? How am I supposed to keep following my intuition when it could be wrong?

In one of my favorite posts, “Logic versus Intuition,” I quote my spiritual teacher who defines intuition as a reflection of Consciousness, or Spirit. He also says that meditation leads to a clearer reflection of Consciousness. He plainly states one of human beings' highest treasures is their intellectuality. I take that to mean anytime I have an intuitive thought, I need to measure it with my intellect. Sometimes intuition doesn't make sense though, like when a person is guided to take a different route home and it turns out they missed an explosion or something. If I'm being honest, I know when those thoughts are intuitive because for one, they come out of the blue. When something is out of left field, it's quite likely Spirit communicating with us. For two, those messages feel different to me. They are strong and warm and feel like receiving a telephone call from my beloved.

The other thing I have to remind myself is life is tailor-made for us. That means all the lessons we learn, all the things we experience, are specifically for us. My higher power is the best sort of teacher, one who knows exactly how I learn. That means learning things the hard way sometimes. Like falling in love with a guy only to have to it end disastrously, which makes me realize I had a love addiction. I thought the point of the relationship was for us to be together forever. The real point of the relationship was to put me into recovery. I'm constantly looking toward the end goal but higher power is looking toward the lesson. That means my intuition will guide me toward some crappy things sometimes so that I may learn.

I'd also like to mention sometimes I'll read more into an intuitive thought than what is there. I may think my intuition is saying, “This is the person you'll marry,” when in fact all my intuition is saying is, “This is the person for you to be with right now.”

I dream of a world where we understand even when intuition leads us to a place we don't enjoy, it's still intuition. A world where we trust ourselves even if things don't turn out how we thought they would. A world where we continue to apply our rational brains instead of getting swept away by what could be a delusion.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Coming Out of the Shame Closet

Recently, I had an interaction with a man online who professed his love for me before we'd even spoken on the telephone, skyped, or met in person. I recognized in him similar qualities in myself, which is to say “falling in love,” before getting to know a person, and making that person my everything. Reading some of his messages to me, my cheeks burned in shame remembering the way I behaved when in the midst of my love addiction.

I've been deeply embarrassed of my past self, wanting to sweep all my history under the rug, and furthermore, pretend I never wrote a book, which addresses love addiction among other things. For those of you haven't read it, Just a Girl from Kansas, is a memoir from when I moved to San Francisco and everything that happened in that first year. It's also a story about obsession and fantasy. Since it's been published, I've wanted to burn it, take it all back, pretend I never wrote it, and hurry past that period of my life like a person crossing a sewage drain.

There's nothing about us that makes us unlovable.
There's nothing about us that makes us unlovable.

Interacting with this man recently made me realize how important my book is because it's not only a book about addiction, obsession, and fantasy, it's also a book about coming out of those things. A book about realizing how no man is ever going to fulfill me in the way I wanted to be fulfilled because the fulfillment I seek is an inside job. That is anything but shameful. Seeking a new way to live is courageous and commendable.

Also, my spiritual teacher says, “[T]he arena of spirituality is based on divine love. You may or may not be a learned person. You may or may not have a good history. Your only qualification is that you are the affectionate progeny of the Supreme Progenitor. You are His object of affection … The Father's love is for all. [O]ne must not forget this fact – that the Supreme Entity is with you, and loves you like anything.”

It's like that post I wrote the other week, “We are the Beloved.” I am loved unconditionally, which means no matter what I do, I am loved. Now what I'm learning is to love myself in the same way. To love all the “shameful” parts of myself, all the parts that I don't want others to see, because it is only by loving them that I may absorb them and let them go. Also, as my recovery mentor reminds me, we often undergo hardship so we may help others. After all, according to Ram Dass, we're all just walking each other home.

I dream of a world where we love ourselves unconditionally. A world where we know there is nothing shameful about us. A world where we realize our deepest, darkest secrets may just help someone else. A world where we come out of the shame closet.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Is Goodness Enough?

The other day, my brother told me he boils down his spiritual practice to two tenets: meditate, and be a good person. That got me thinking, what does it mean to be a good person? Some people say being a good person means following the 10 commandments: don't steal, kill anybody, or commit adultery, to name a few. The yogic version is follow the yamas and the niyamas, which also have some crossover with the 10 commandments but include things like cleanliness and contentment as well. Is that enough though?

As our national dialogue is focused on the Syrian refugee crisis, I can't help but think, no, it's not. It's not enough to be nice. How does that solve the problem of tons of people who no longer have anywhere to live?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to be kind to others, but that kindness has to translate into action, such as offering a room to a refugee or pressuring the government to accept more of them. There are terrible things that go on in the world, but we are the ones who have to do something about it. Robert Swan says, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Isn't this picture adorable? Goodness!
Isn't this picture adorable? Goodness!

If we, the good people, don’t band together, don’t rise up and do something, terrible things will continue to happen. My desire to serve others, my passion for the environment, everything I hold dear, stems from my spiritual practice. I want to help others because I don't see other people as “other,” I see them as my brothers and sisters. I see them as a part of my larger family so of course I want to help them. Just as I couldn't stand to see my blood sister go hungry, nor can I stand to see my spiritual sister go hungry. That is a direct result of spirituality opening my heart more.

I would say, no, it's not enough to be a good person if being a good person doesn't translate into action. My spiritual teacher says the same thing and in fact, declares following yama and niyama is the prerequisite to learning meditation. Be a good person first, and then build on that.

I love superhero movies (they’re my favorite genre actually), but as much as I kind of wish Thor would descend to Earth and save us from ourselves, I don’t see any evidence of that happening soon. Batman is more of a possibility because he’s human, but why should all the work fall on his shoulders? My spiritual teacher also says, and this is paraphrasing, that the strength of five good people is more than the united strength of a hundred immoral people. I take that to mean if we all unite together we can overpower the dark forces in the world. We can stop the terrors and tortures, but it requires more than being honest.

I dream of a world where we recognize being a good person isn't good enough. A world where our goodness translates into action. A world where the good people unite to keep the immoral people in check. A world where we help each other out and refuse to sit idly by as we watch atrocities continue to happen because the love in our hearts is too great to allow it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

We are the Beloved

The other day I had a conversation with my friend and neighbor about how I'm constantly seeking love from the “other.” And what I'm still learning is how to give love to myself and be OK with my own company. She reminded me while it's true it's important to love ourselves, it's also important to remember we are the beloved. That we are the divine in physical form and we are already loved and cherished more than we can imagine.

My spiritual teacher says pretty much the same thing, but he adds in a twist and mentions the notion of subject and object. He says when we are meditating, we are thinking of God, we think of ourselves as the subject because we are the ones doing, we are the ones meditating. In actuality, God is meditating on us and we are the object. I think I've heard that a bajillion times and I just. don't. get. it. Maybe it's because I never learned grammar in elementary and middle school, but I don't connect with the subject and object analogy.

We are the beloved. The beloved is us.
We are the beloved. The beloved is us.

I started thinking about this more, puzzling over how to feel into the notion I am the beloved, the beloved is me. I started thinking about the people I love unconditionally, the people I would do anything for, and don't require anything in return because loving them is enough. One such person is my niece (not by blood), nicknamed Buddha. This is a girl I fell in love with at first sight. I've sung her to sleep, I've wiped her butt happily while she was potty training, I've kissed her, held her, and loved her even while she threw her worst temper tantrums.

It occurred to me God loves me, and us, the way I love my niece. All the love I feel for Buddha, that's exactly how God feels about me, plus more. I am loved, cherished, and adored beyond measure. Just now I looked up from my computer to the sky outside and saw a heart in the clouds as if to remind me, “Yes, Rebekah, love is everywhere and you are loved that much.”

Take a moment with me and feel into that. Think of some entity, whether it's a person or a pet, who you love unconditionally and now imagine all the love you feel for them directed at yourself. Feel the depth and breadth of love for you, for us.

I dream of a world where we feel how loved we are. A world where even at our most alone, we don't feel lonely because we sense the love of something greater than ourselves. A world where we recognize we are the beloved.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Place for Anger in Spirituality

The Thursday before Halloween I pinched a nerve. A friend massaged my neck and shoulders on Saturday and Sunday, which helped, but what really gave me full range of motion was rage. On Monday, I started thinking about that quote I posted last week, about how nothing in this universe happens unless God desires it, and it pissed me off. More than pissed me off, it infuriated me. I started blaming God for every crappy thing in my life.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, “I hate you!” shook my fists, and destroyed a book. It was the most angry I've ever been and certainly the most angry I've ever been at the universe. As soon as I calmed down, the pain in my back and neck almost completely diminished.

I bring this up because so often I hear people say, “Don't get angry,” or proclaim that anger is not very spiritual. There's an expectation that we meet every situation with peace and contentment, that nothing ruffle our feathers. I'm sorry, but I'm not evolved enough for that. The best I can do is suppress or repress my feelings and that's not a solution because suppressed and repressed feelings have a tendency to act as ticking time bombs or come out in other, non-healthy ways. In my case, repressed anger manifested in my physical body as a pinched nerve.

There's a place for everything in this world -- even angry lightning storms.
There's a place for everything in this world -- even angry lightning storms.

My spiritual teacher says we should not be misguided, swayed away, or unduly influenced by anger. That we should not allow the instinct of anger to take control of us. That anger should be regulated. He very much advocates non-anger, but I don't know how to cultivate non-anger, so the best I can do right now is work on regulating it. And how am I supposed to regulate anger if I constantly keep it locked away in a drawer? In order for me to control something, I have to understand it's full range so I know what's appropriate in any given situation. That means allowing myself to get angry, and yes, even get angry at God.

What I find interesting is even anger brings me to my goal of union with the Supreme. My teacher says, “Even when you think of God as an enemy, you are involved in Him. Really, our mind is more activated [to think about somebody] by anger and hatred [than by positive propensities]. When we have a quarrel with somebody, we keep on thinking that the next time we meet that person, we will say this or that. Therefore, God will be attained whether you love Him or hate Him.”

That to me means it's OK for me to hate God right now. It's OK for me to be angry at God right now. All of my feelings are allowed and acceptable. I don't have to hold anything back for fear of being punished or unloved. Do I enjoy feeling so angry? No, of course not, but until I get to such a state where anger no longer exists for me, I'm learning to control it and that means feeling angry in whatever capacity I do. Who knows? I might improve my posture in the process.

I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to feel all our feelings. A world where we understand to control an instinct, first we must express it. A world where we know it's OK to be angry at God and even to express hatred because it all leads to the same place.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How and Why Dreams Come True

Earlier this week I cried after watching this clip of Marianne Williamson. I want to do what she's doing, which is traveling around the world and inspiring people, but it's clear to me that now is not the time. My health will not allow me to travel all over creation and speak to large crowds. Because I'm not inspirational speaking now, and I can't foresee when I will, in my mind it means it won't happen.

I've realized I plan my life two months in advance. I buy plane tickets approximately two months before the trip, I make holiday plans two months before – two months is about as far into the future as I can see. If something is set to take place more than two months in advance, like a wedding, my attendance is a possibility, not a reality.

Last night I rewatched one of my favorite movies, Amelie, and was struck by a memory. I saw Amelie in the theater when it came out in 2001. I remember at the time yearning to visit Paris, where the movie takes place. I wanted to travel abroad so badly but didn't know if I would ever get the chance. In 2005, I studied abroad in London and visited one of my dearest friends in, you guessed it, Paris.

The Two Windmills, otherwise known as the cafe where Amelie worked.
The Two Windmills, otherwise known as the cafe where Amelie worked.

Rewatching Amelie, I felt a surge of awe and wonder because some of the places in the movie, I, too, stepped foot on. I reminded myself, “I've been there.” It's amazing to reflect back and realize a dream I had came true. The frustration comes in when I think a dream is impossible or it's not happening fast enough.

My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful, otherwise it is a sure failure.”

Sometimes when I see that quote I want to scream because I want what I want now, like a petulant 2 year old. But when I really think about it, I know when I align my desire and God's desire, that's when things work out the best. In the case of visiting Paris, it happened when I was already abroad and could take the Eurostar over. It happened when I could stay with my friend, who is nearly fluent in French. It happened when someone else could play tour guide. It happened when my friend “coincidentally” needed extra emotional support. As my recovery mentor says, “Nothing happens in God's world by mistake.”

All of this is to say one day I could do a version of what Marianne Williamson does. My higher power knows better than me when things should happen. My higher power has a broader, longer perspective – beyond two months. Realizing a dream is not so much about visualizing, praying, practicing affirmations, etc. to make it come true faster, but rather preparing the soil and understanding a flower blooms when it's ready. Realizing a dream is about understanding it happens when my desire and God's desire sync up and there's nothing I can do to rush that process.

I dream of a world where we realize dreams do come true, just not in the way or the time we think they will. A world where we understand our desires bear fruit only when they coincide with the divine's. A world where we realize some things are out of our hands, but that doesn't mean they'll never happen.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Beauty in Everything

I spent my formative years in the mountains of North Carolina. A place so rural I couldn't see our closest neighbors and people burned their trash or buried it because trash pickup didn't exist and they couldn't be bothered to head to the dump. I used to take walks on the mountain behind our house and brush snow off the limbs of the tree saplings because I worried they would bow under the weight. It was a pretty existence, but also a lonely one.

Being in the country, I yearned for the hustle and bustle of the city. The people, the activity, the culture. Give me the complete opposite of what I experienced growing up. It's no surprise I've spent my adulthood in one city after another: Washington, D.C., London, San Francisco. I started to disparage the charms of nature, associating it with boredom and isolation. But then something funny happened. As I hit my Saturn return, a time when a person heals all of their childhood stuff and really comes into their own as an adult, I found myself wanting to be outside again. I wanted to walk among the trees and brush snow off the limbs of saplings. Cities started to become symbols for all that's wrong in the world. Places filled with destruction, selfishness, greed. Places that brought out the absolute worst in humanity.

This picture! How could I not use this? Beautiful.
This picture! How could I not use this? Beautiful.

I started to hate cities, even though I live in one. I started to look upon all that the city offers with disgust, viewing every piece of trash and graffiti as a personal affront. Give me nature and beauty and the great outdoors. My life though is all about integration and learning the middle way, so now I'm coming to love both nature and cities. To see the benefits of both. Last night I saw “Arcane,” a contemporary ballet in San Francisco. It was stunning. My inner child exclaimed with joy and wonder and I was reminded, there are great things about the city. There is art and music and connection. There are things in the city that I cannot find in nature.

Originally, this post was going to be about how nature is awesome. How it can improve your outlook, and your focus, plus strengthen your immunity. But really what this post is about is finding beauty in all things. Understanding no person, place, or thing is all good or all bad. That everything has its pluses and minuses.

One of the things I love about my spiritual path is how it emphasizes that everything is God and everything comes from God. That means nature is the divine and cities are the divine and emotions are the divine. We cannot escape God nor can we find God because that's like saying we found air – air was there all along, we just didn't realize it or weren't still enough to feel it.

What I'm coming to understand is the importance of embracing everything, of accepting everything, of allowing everything. The more I do that, the more I move past duality and start seeing everything as an expression of an infinite, loving consciousness. The more I do that, the more I'm also able to embrace all parts of myself and experience what unconditional self-love really means. And there's nothing more beautiful than that.

I dream of a world where we embrace all that is. A world where we understand everything has its pros and cons and no person, place, or thing is perfect. A world where instead of looking for perfection, we accept things as they are because we are able to see the beauty in everything.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How Disconnection Relates to Connection

I am sick today and having trouble writing the post I'd like to write, so instead I'm tweaking this one from 2013.

This week my lifecoach tasked me with contacting a handful of people everyday about my book, speaking engagements, etc. At first, I balked because I told him I didn't want to be "the weird girl." More than being afraid of rejection, I didn't want that familiar sensation of people staring at me blankly, or even worse, turning up their nose at me. He asked me, "What's that like? The sensation of being 'the weird girl?'"

I told him it was a bit like being adrift at sea in nothing but a rowboat and no ships or people around for miles. The underlying feeling or sensation is one of being disconnected. Disconnected from other people, disconnected from my surroundings. For someone who LOVES to connect — with other people, her environment, and even connect one person with another — disconnection is like the ultimate hell.

However, what came out of my conversation with my lifecoach is that when I'm adrift at sea, I'm given a chance to connect with myself and also my higher power. So really, even when I disconnect I'm connected! It's a bit like a Mobius strip in that one feeds into the other. There is no end and there is no edge. I'm connected at all times, even if it's not to what I thought it would be.

My friend crocheted mobius strip handwarmers for me. Aren't they the best?!?
My friend crocheted Mobius strip handwarmers for me. Aren't they the best?!?

When I articulated this to him, my fear went away. I realized yeah, I may disconnect from my audience, from the random person I contacted, or whoever, but that's OK because it gives me a chance to connect with someone or something else. I don't have to be afraid of disconnection because by acknowledging it, I'm allowing the space for a new connection to be formed. I'm allowing myself to drift about like a feather in the wind, blowing to its next destination.

I don't know if this blogpost is profound to anyone else, but to me, it's so indicative of how this world works, of its dualistic nature. That without dark there is no light. Without cold, there is no hot. And also how one feeds into the other. Out of darkness comes light and out of disconnection comes connection. It also shows me that sometimes it's within the depths of that which we fear, that we may find what we seek. That perhaps by venturing into what I'm avoiding at all costs, I'll find what I'm attracted to.

I dream of a world where we understand disconnection is how we connect to something else. That connection and disconnection are two sides of the same coin. A world where we don't fear anything because we understand good comes out of the bad, and even what we fear the most may not be as scary as it seems. A world where we face what troubles us and know we'll still be OK. Because in the end, it may very well serve as a vehicle to get us what we want.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Contradiction of Pleasure

Lately, I keep hearing the message, “Only do things that make you feel good.” Or, “center your life around feeling good.” That sounds great! Who doesn't want to feel good? I want to feel good all the time, but I see some real dangers from following that philosophy and giving into every desire that I have.

First of all, I'm an addict in recovery so for me, I'm the extreme example of doing whatever I could to feel good. I used to binge on food to the point of discomfort because once the pleasure switch got flipped, I couldn't stop. It didn't matter if I was hungry or not – I would keep eating the cookies because they tasted good. That's part of the problem with the philosophy, “Only do things that make you feel good,” – there is no foresight. If all I can think about in the moment is how good the cookies taste, I'm not thinking in the future I'll feel sick or have a stomachache. I'm only thinking about the present moment and enjoying it.

Mmmm. Looks good. But I'm allergic to almonds so eating this would be a bad idea no matter how pleasurable in the moment.
Mmmm. Looks good. But I'm allergic to almonds so eating this would be a bad idea no matter how pleasurable in the moment.

How often do we do this? Pursue something because it gives us pleasure and then suffer afterward? I still do this. There are so many foods I'm allergic to but I'll still eat them sometimes because they taste good. I'm starting to realize, eating them is not worth it. Suffering for hours afterward is not worth the momentary pleasure I derive from eating a piece of pizza.

That's the thing really about only doing what feels pleasurable, of chasing after desire. It's temporary and fleeting. There is no lasting and permanent peace or happiness. There is no lasting satiation. That's why I can't abide by the “do it if it feels good” philosophy. Not only because I'll only feel good for a second, but doing what feels good has consequences that more often than not leave me feeling crappy, especially if I haven't thought my decision through.

I also find the “do it if it feels good” philosophy is rather selfish. I think about the blogpost I wrote back in August, “You plus me equals we,” where I spoke about the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion. That to me is a classic example of “do it if it feels good.” The dentist didn't think about the consequences of killing Cecil, didn't think about anything really, except satisfying his own desires. As a result, he caused an international uproar and destroyed his own business in the process as people chose to boycott him due to his actions.

Chasing after one desire and then another all the time only causes temporary relief from pain. Guys, I don't want temporary relief, I want permanent relief. I want the ultimate good feeling, and I hate to say it, but it comes from practicing restraint and moderation. From using my brain, from thinking about the consequences of my actions, and also from attaching myself to the source of infinite happiness. Permanent happiness comes from meditating on the divine, to seeing everything as an expression of God, and keeping Source at the forefront of my mind. For an addict in recovery like me, it's the only way I'll achieve the fix I'm looking for.

I dream of a world where we remember there are consequences for our actions. A world where we don't chase one desire after another because we realize we'll never find the satisfaction that we seek. A world where we realize there's only one way to feel good all the time, and that's to ensconce ourselves in the divine.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Make a Claim for Your Life

Maybe this is obvious, but I am easily swayed by strong personalities. That may sound funny because I'm such a strong personality, but I fall under the influence of others and get confused about what I want and what I believe. And if the person is an authority figure? Forget it. I've probably already signed away my life savings because that person is an authority, they have a doctorate, and experience, and what do I know?

This week especially I've been receiving conflicting advice from seemingly every person I come across. Every person has an opinion, and I know this is partially self-inflicted because I'm telling people I'm confused, so of course they're weighing in. But then I started thinking about it and I realized it's all well and good for someone to tell me to do X, but they're not the person who will have to deal with the consequences – I am. I'm the person that will have to deal with the fallout of whatever choice I make, so it's my responsibility to make a claim for my life and myself.

Stake a claim.
Stake a claim for yourself.

It's my responsibility to do what's best for me, even if other people disagree with it. The questions I don't ask myself nearly enough are, “What do I want? What do I need?” So often I'm trying to do the “right” thing that I lose myself in the process. My life becomes a series of obligations and all the fun gets sucked out of it. Or even worse, what I want is so abstract that I don't know how to get there and am weighed down by others' opinions. For instance, I know I want and need to make more money, but I don't know how. This is where someone will chime in, “Edit research papers!” or “Write more articles!” and because I'm so desperate to reach my end goal of making more money, I'll say OK even if I'd rather poke out my eyes with rusty nails than do as suggested.

I wish I had a quote to throw out here but it's just my luck that today I can't find anything suitable, which is maybe for the best. Because what it really comes down to is knowing myself, making decisions that are best for me and my life. It's easy for me to follow rules, to walk along the path others have set for me. Much harder for me to make my own path, to figure out where I want to go, especially if other people disagree with my decisions. And especially if there are many options before me.

The tenets of my spiritual practice are self-realization and service to society. Self-realization means realizing the true Self, the divine, the blissful, the infinite, but I also have to believe part of that process is realizing my little self too. Not just the small things like what do I want to eat today, but what makes me come alive? What makes my soul sing? What is going to bring me closer to realizing that big Self? Both on and off the meditation cushion.

I dream of a world where we pay attention to ourselves, to what we want, to what works best for us. Not in a hedonistic free-for-all, but in a concerted, discerning way. In a way that brings us one step closer to realizing infinite bliss. A world where we make a claim for our own lives.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Living in Heaven and Hell

The other day I made a joke that one of Dante's circles of hell should be where a person repeatedly experiences minor annoyances like an ant invasion that doesn't respond to anything. The ants keep invading regardless of traps and deterrents. Maybe that circle would be for the “sin” of not returning a library book on time.

Shortly thereafter, completely unrelated, a facebook friend posted a quote from my spiritual guide who said, “There exists no such thing as heaven or hell. When a person does a virtuous act or enjoys the fruits thereof, the environment around him or her is then called heaven; and when he or she does an evil act and endures the consequences thereof, then the environment around that person becomes a hell for him or her.”

Is she in heaven? Is she in hell?
Is she in heaven? Is she in hell?

That quote struck me because I am experiencing a kind of hell. Not because I performed an evil act, but rather California is in a drought and the ants are thirsty so I really am experiencing an invasion that doesn't respond to anything. I finally relented and sprayed some Raid so the ants are not nearly as numerous as they were, but for a time, those ants made my life hell. When I think about that quote from my spiritual teacher some more, hell becomes whenever I experience something unpleasant, whenever life doesn't go my way. When I'm not having fun, when I'm not enjoying myself, life is hellish.

Conversely, when I experience something pleasant, when life goes along swimmingly and I'm having tons of fun, life is heaven. So really, what that means is heaven and hell are both of my own making. They are not a place to get to by dying – they are states of being.

I'm not sure I can convey why that excites me so much, but there's something about knowing heaven and hell are not only results of my actions, but they are within my perception, and within my current life, that I find thrilling. As I've been writing about before regarding my spiritual path, it's about the now. Experiencing bliss now. Experiencing enlightenment now, and also experiencing heaven now. It's a place we get to now, and not by forcing the world to conform to our whims, but rather changing our perception. Simple, but not easy.

Another point my spiritual teacher makes about hell is, “If one does noble deeds or sings spiritual songs in hell, it is the bounden duty of the Lord of hell to be there, too, and thus it automatically ceases to be a hell.”

I think his point is if we constantly remember God, any place becomes heaven because God is with us there too. And the more that I contemplate my Creator, the more blissed out I feel, the more heaven I experience.

I dream of a world where we don't wait to live in heaven. A world where we bring heaven to us in the here and now by remembering the source of infinite bliss. A world where we seek to transform even the most fiery hell into a sparkling heaven because we realize we live in both and it's up to us to decide which one we'd rather experience.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Creating a World We Wish to See

After writing my post last week, "The Role of the Artist (and Writer)," I was inspired to do something. Why not create a world where artists and writers are supported for the work they do? To that end, I started a Patreon campaign. I created a video to explain a little more:

If you're more of a reader, a Patreon campaign is kind of like kickstarter, but instead of raising money for one big project, it's support on a continuous level. By contributing, you are not only supporting me, you are supporting you. You are supporting yourself because I do not create art for art's sake -- I create art for service and blessedness. I create to inspire, to encourage, and to uplift. Not myself, but you.

By contributing to my Patreon campaign you are valuing your own spiritual growth and progress because my job as an artist and writer is to bridge the finite and infinite, the mundane and the transcendental. By contributing to my Patreon campaign you are saying, "Yes, I want more of that. Yes, that's important to me."

The money itself doesn't matter so much. I mean, of course I could use a few extra dollars in my pocket, but mostly what's important to me is creating a world we wish to see. A world we want to live in. So often we lament the state of the world today and long for a better future. By contributing to my Patreon campaign, in a small way we can create a society that values and supports its artists. A world where artists are allowed to continue to create because they have the backing of their community.

I realize not everyone is flush with cash, and that's fine; there's no minimum to contribute -- even $3 a month would make a difference. And perhaps you know someone else who would also support this message and what we're trying to accomplish here. It is only together that we will create a world we wish to see.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Role of the Artist (and Writer)

On Wednesday, I had a full-on meltdown. I'm talking lying on the floor while tears streamed down my cheeks. What precipitated the meltdown was feeling like I'm not fully utilizing my talents, and at the same time unclear what precisely that means. What am I doing with my life and how can I make money doing what I love? Add in a dose of doubt that my dreams are even possible, and you have a synthesis of my breakdown.

I think primarily I'm struggling against making art and making money. The age-old conundrum. My spiritual teacher says it's the duty of society to support its artists because artists are pioneers. “If those who are the pioneers of society ... if they are forced to starve or half-starve, this will certainly not be to the credit of human society. It is unthinkable that these creative geniuses should curse their own fate.”

Artists and writers have an important role to play.
Artists and writers have an important role to play.

What I love is that my spiritual teacher values artists. He calls us pioneers because, and this is important, he is against art for art's sake and rather sees artists as accomplishing something greater than that. I think there's a time and a place for art for art's sake. For instance, sometimes I draw pictures because I need a nonverbal way of expressing myself. But I also think there's a difference between creative expression and art for public consumption. The slogan my teacher advocates for instead is art for service and blessedness.

My spiritual guide is primarily concerned with spiritual growth and he sees art as one mechanism for aiding that growth. He says literature in particular is “that which moves together with the society, which leads society towards true fulfillment and welfare by providing the inspiration for service.” Art is not just about showcasing what's inside my own head, but a way to spur people forward, to inspire, to encourage, and to hopefully put people in touch with something greater than themselves.

In a sort of call to arms he writes, “People seek deliverance from the whirlpools of darkness; they aspire to illuminate their lives and minds with ever-new light. In all their actions, in all their feelings, there is an inherent tendency to move forward; therefore, if at all they are to be offered something, the creator of art cannot remain idle or inert.”

I could go on, indeed, there are 37 other pages I could quote, but I guess what I'm saying here is even if I never write a bestselling book, even if I never have 10,000 followers, I have an important role to play. I am here to link the finite and the infinite, the mundane and the transcendental because that is my role as an artist.

I dream of a world where artists are treasured. A world where they practice art for service and blessedness because they're not constantly concerned about how to keep the lights on. A world where artists are allowed to fulfill the role they are meant to, which is to link the finite and the infinite, the mundane and the transcendental.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Cosmic Magician

Lately I've been humbled and in awe of the magic, the mystery, and the surprise of life. So often I think I know how things will play out and I'm being shown, yet again, I have no idea. This has come up especially in regard to people.

I met someone in December 2013 who I liked right off the bat and had high hopes for his involvement with my yoga and meditation community. He seemed so keen and enthusiastic. He came to our newly formed group meditation a few times consecutively and then stopped. I wrote him off, never expecting to see him again except on facebook. Someone else in the group said, “Well, that's the last time we'll see that guy again.” But it wasn't. About a year later, “that guy” surprised us by coming around again. He's shown himself to be a dedicated member of my community, and much to my surprise, he's a dear friend and an important person in my life. Go figure.

We are all working with a cosmic magician.
We are all working with a comic magician.

Similarly, three years ago I connected with someone and felt affection for him right away. We hung out a few times and then I didn't hear much from him again. I assumed he would be a peripheral friend, someone I'd invite to a party, but nothing more. Color me shocked when he called me up last week to catch up and reconnect. That's not how I was expecting things to play out. And that's the point – I never know how things will play out. I throw myself into a tizzy thinking about the future because I'm absolutely sure I know what will happen. If I'm not friends with you now, I won't be friends with you later. If I'm single now, I'll be single forever. If I'm in debt now, I'll be in debt forever. It's a small thing, but these two men remind me I have no freaking clue what the future holds and also demonstrate to me someone else is in charge here.

Indian-American economist, author, and professor Ravi Batra wrote a book in the late 80s that became a number one New York Times bestseller. He attributed his success to the “cosmic magician.” I love that. It certainly seems that way when something unexpected and amazing happens like writing a runaway bestseller when all your previous books weren't as successful. Thinking of the cosmic magician reminds me amazing and magical things can happen and they're not up to me. I'm not the one responsible for outcomes, or the fruits of my labor, if you will. Not just with writing, but with everything.

My spiritual teacher says, “Behind this world's creation, there is a cosmic magician who has created the universe and also controls it. In fact, whatever has been or shall be created is He and He alone. Those who have realized this truth attain blessedness.”

When I can remember the cosmic magician, I can relax because it means I'm not responsible for everything in my life. Some things yes. But everything? No. There are greater forces at play in the world that have absolutely nothing to do with me. Furthermore, I remind myself of what the true essence of all things is: the divine. When I do that, the whole world sparkles and life becomes magical.

I dream of a world where we remember the cosmic magician. A world where we realize there are greater forces at work than we often credit. A world where we allow ourselves to be open to whatever comes our way because we have no idea what's ahead.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Grace is Given

On Thursday, I went to a focus group in the city. It was supposed to be an hour and 40 minutes in which my brain would be picked and my opinions offered. When I arrived at the destination, I was told the focus group over-recruited and I could leave. However, I was paid for my time all the same. Kaching! It was the best possible outcome I could have asked for. Walking out of the building I laughed to myself and called a friend to proclaim, “God really loves me.”

Now, God loves me all the time, unconditionally, but these extra special instances, these moments of grace, demonstrate that love in a tangible way. Some people might say those moments of grace are proof that I'm living in alignment with God's will for me, that I'm a powerful manifestor, or whatever, but I disagree. I had nothing to do with getting dismissed from the focus group – it didn't even enter into my mind as a possibility. I had absolutely zero part in orchestrating that situation.

Grace is really love from the divine.
Grace is really love from the divine.

A few years ago I wrote a post about grace and exclaimed in delight about all the wonderful and magical things that happened to me during a trip to Italy. One example is I showed up to the museum housing Michelangelo's David and was told admission was free as I'm a woman and it was International Women's Day. I didn't plan that, I didn't even know it was a thing. When I told a friend about it later I worried she would think I was bragging, and her response was something along the lines of, “How could I possibly think you were bragging? As if you had a hand in any of that!”

I bring this up because an issue I have with New Age spirituality, or at least my interpretation of it, is this idea that everything is down to us, for better or for worse. Having a good day? You manifested that! Having a bad day? You manifested that too! Sometimes it's true, and our attitudes make a huge difference in how we experience life, but also there are many things out of our control and grace is one of those things.

My spiritual teacher says, “You know that divine grace does not depend on any logic; it depends only on the whims of [God]. If [God] is satisfied with your intuitional practice, with your sincere zeal then He may bless you … Let human beings perform virtuous deeds, practice meditation, serve the suffering humanity, and in return they will attain His grace.”

I know that makes God sound very “old man in the sky,” which is not how my teacher defines God, but language has its limits you know? The point he's making, as I understand it, is we can't control when we're graced or not. All we can do is keep moving ahead on the spiritual path, performing good deeds for others, and then every now and again when the universe deems it so, we'll get to see Michelangelo's David for free or get dismissed from a focus group. But we don't decide when or if those things happen.

I dream of a world where we all experience grace. A world where we recognize grace is a gift and not a reward. A world where instead of saying, “Yes! I created this moment!” we say, “Thank you,” because we recognize the moments of grace for the expressions of love that they are.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Non-attachment for People Who Attach

I'm having a tough time with the impermanence of things. The good things in my life I want to lock in little glass jars and preserve them for all eternity. What's funny is I have a similar reaction to the bad things. Not that I want to preserve them for all eternity, but rather it feels like they'll be with me for all eternity. There is not a sense that this too shall pass.

I'm experiencing both of those sensations at the moment – wanting to preserve stuff and feeling like other stuff is interminable. A dear friend of mine is moving across the country in about 10 days and I'm really sad about it. I want him to stay here, I want things to keep going like they have been, and at the same time my sadness feels like a constant companion.

Buddhists would say my pain comes from attachment. I agree, I am very attached, but I don't know how not to be. The word people use most often to describe me is “intense.” I love deeply and commit fully. There is no halfway for me. I'm one of those extreme personalities, although I'm working on learning moderation and the middle ground. How am I supposed to learn non-attachment? Well, I'm not.

I'm constantly trying to catch bubbles but when I hold on too tight, they pop. A good metaphor I think,
I'm constantly trying to catch bubbles but when I hold on too tight, they pop. A good metaphor I think.

My spiritual teacher says, “[N]on-attachment does not mean to leave all pleasures and remain in a state of indifference to the world. It does not mean to leave everything and go to the seclusion of a mountain cave. Those who are truly non-attached do not deny the world (or worldly life); they embrace it, for they feel the touch of the eternal hidden within all the changing forms of their lives. They are with everything.”

That to me means non-attachment is seeing things in their true form: as an expression of the divine, which is eternal. Non-attachment means enjoying things while they're around and remembering they are not the source of my enjoyment. I may love a person but love doesn't die when they leave. Non-attachment means I love God in the form of this person, but ultimately I love God. Again, it comes back to ascribing God-hood to everything.

I'm not saying I'm no longer sad about my friend moving, because I am, but I do feel a little better because I'm reminded of what's constant, of what's eternal. I'm also reminded of my source for everything. My higher power will always bring me who and what I need. In fact, a few weeks ago I rode the bus home from a meeting when normally I hitch a ride, and I ran into someone I knew, who I just met a few days before. It felt like a message from my higher power saying, “Your friend may be leaving, but that doesn't mean you won't make new friends and that your community will disintegrate. I am your source for everything; remember this all comes from me.”

I dream of a world where we remember for better or for worse, everything is impermanent. A world where we take comfort in knowing what's eternal. A world where we enjoy what's in front of us but also practice non-attachment because we catch a glimpse of the true form underneath.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Life is Not an Illusion: Or is it?

I hear quite often that life is an illusion, or a dream. People say that only heaven is real and what we're experiencing is a very realistic movie.

I sort of understand this perspective, because as I've written about before, I have a practice whereby I ascribe God-hood to everything, even inanimate objects. I do that to remind myself the keys I'm typing on are not keys, they are God in the form of keys. So if people are saying life is an illusion because everything is really an expression of God, then I can get behind this “life is an illusion” business.

Some people say life is a dream. I'm not buying it.
Some people say life is a dream. I'm not buying it.

However, what I often see is people use the concept of life as an illusion to be apathetic and not do anything. If life is really an illusion, does it matter that there are wildfires raging in California? Does it matter that some people live in squalor while others live in opulence? If life is a realistic movie, then what's the point of intervening? Instead, all we're experiencing is a temporary projection, a way to pass the time until we get to the good stuff, until we get to heaven.

Friends, this is not an attitude I can abide by. I mean, I get it. It's very appealing to think life is an illusion because then all the horrible stuff that goes on in the world doesn't really matter and we don't have to get upset about it. We can soothe ourselves like kids waking from a nightmare by saying, “It was just a dream.” However, even if we are living in a dream or a realistic movie, we all have a part to play. We were assigned roles and those roles must be fulfilled, otherwise the movie would be very boring. All good stories have conflict and resolution. If we take the attitude life is an illusion and rest on our laurels, life is all conflict and no resolution.

I honestly don't see how saying, “life is an illusion” is helpful. However, I'm about to get all contradictory here because in yogic philosophy there is a concept called Máyá, who is the Supreme Creative Principle. Máyá is responsible for all of creation and is often translated as illusion precisely because the yogis are encouraging us to see the world as it really is: an expression of the divine.

My spiritual teacher says, “When people attain supremacy over Máyá through their ... [spiritual efforts or meditation], the veil of darkness moves aside from their minds and then there remains no difference between their own self-effulgence and the Brahmic effulgence – both are fused into one.”

I guess what I'm saying here is why wait for heaven? Why postpone happiness and the good stuff for a time that may never come? As someone who believes in reincarnation, I'm going to keep cycling through a human life over and over again. If I don't believe in heaven, does that mean I'll never experience reality? That I'll live in an endless illusion? That sounds pretty horrible to me. I'd rather bring enlightenment, bliss, and freedom to the present day by recognizing life is sort of an illusion. The illusion is not life itself, but rather that physical objects are all that exist, that material goods are all that matter. The illusion is believing we and everything around us are anything less than bright, shining lights of divinity.

I dream of a world where instead of viewing life as an illusion we view it as a projection of divinity. A world where we bring enlightenment, bliss, and freedom into the present moment. A world where we do what we can to uplift all of humanity and make heaven a real place that exists on Earth.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

How to Stay in the Flow

I've been hearing a lot about “being in the flow” or returning to the flow. The way being in the flow is presented is when you hit every green light and run into a friend unexpectedly on the street and everything is going your way. In other words, a really good day. Not being in the flow then, means hitting every red light, just missing the person you wanted to see, and nothing is going your way. In other words, a really bad day.

Maybe this is just my interpretation, but it seems to me people say when we're not in the flow, it's our fault. It's because I'm not thinking the right thoughts, I'm not aligning with the divine, I'm not grateful enough, or whatever. The reason though always has something to do with me.

Life is like a river and constantly flowing.
Life is like a river and we're all flowing back to the sea.

When I start to think about being in the flow from that perspective, it doesn't make sense. How can everything be my fault? I don't control the universe. For every action there is a reaction – that's a law of nature. How could I possibly be the cause of whether or not some guy gets drunk and runs a red light? Therefore, how could I possibly be the one to cause all of my good days and bad days? Even if we all were little islands, even islands are subjected to storms and wave currents. We aren't in control of everything and when I try to be, I only succeed in making myself crazy.

There seems to be this notion, again, maybe of my own perception, that when a person becomes really spiritual, when they're “thinking the right thoughts,” that all of sudden life is peachy keen and they never have another trouble again. And if they have any sort of troubles, it's because they attracted it to themselves. When I think about one of the most famous spiritual teachers, Jesus Christ, his life was not sunshine and roses. What's so amazing about Jesus was his ability to forgive, to continue preaching peace and love despite all the horrible things he went through. That to me is real spirituality, not living a trouble-free life.

My spiritual teacher says every human being willingly or unwillingly dances in harmony with the rise and fall of the cosmic waves. That there is a ceaseless and eternal cosmic flow. That to me means I stay in the flow by remembering I'm never out of the flow, even when I'm late for all my appointments, lose my luggage, and have a day I'd rather not experience again.

When people talk about getting back in the flow, it's a good reminder to touch base with the divine, to feel the love that's all around me, but it's also important to remember just because I'm letting the universal energy move through me, doesn't mean life will always be a pleasure cruise.

Almost exactly two years ago I wrote a post called, “Love is the Container,” about how even when I'm sad, angry, scared, etc. love is there, love is holding all of those emotions. In the same way, when nothing goes right, I'm still in the cosmic flow. But maybe instead of cresting the wave, I'm down in the trough. Life is a constant flow with ups and downs and I'll never be able to tell the waves to quit moving, so instead, it's better for me to enjoy the ride whether I'm surfing or crashing.

I dream of a world where we realize we are always in the flow, whether we're having a good day or a bad one. A world where instead of striving for ceaseless pleasure, we work on adjusting ourselves and our attitudes. A world where we realize to stay in the flow we don't have to do anything because we never left.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

You Plus Me Equals We

Last week, I watched an inspirational movie about kids who utilized their talents to win scholarships to college and pull themselves out of poverty. All of the kids were the first in their families to go to college, and by doing so they become teachers, writers, policemen, etc. They weren't forced to work in low-wage jobs like their parents were.

I teared up watching the flick – I love that they improved their lives – but then I got to thinking, “What about everyone else?” What about the kids who don't have an exceptional talent that wins them a scholarship? These kids escaped the cycle of poverty, but someone else is waiting in the wings to take their place. Just because one person no longer has to pick oranges for a living doesn't mean oranges stop getting picked. It doesn't mean all the other orange pickers no longer have to endure poor working conditions and low wages.

If you think about it, all society consists of is you and me. "You" being plural here.
If you think about it, all society consist of is you and me. "You" being plural here. . .

The cycle of exploitation continues and our capitalistic economy feeds off it. In the case of food production, almost literally. Why is this? Because we continue to emphasis the rights of individuals (or corporations, who are now considered people) over the collective.

I've seen the individual versus the collective show up in a big way this week with the killing of Cecil the Lion. Minnesotan dentist Walter Palmer paid $50,000 to hunt Cecil the Lion, who was a big tourist attraction in Zimbabwe. Did Palmer think about anyone other than himself when he set out to kill Cecil? No he did not. He was prioritizing his own selfish interests.

Another way that the individual versus the collective is prioritized is the public's reaction to the killing of Cecil. We're directing so much ire against Palmer, but not talking as much about poaching laws in general. Outrage has reached such a fever pitch that Zimbabwe is calling for Palmer's extradition and many people in the U.S. agree. I think part of the reason we're seeing so much outrage over Cecil is it's easy to excoriate an individual.

A few of my friends who are more focused on the collective have exclaimed they wish society would be as outraged over the killing of black people in our country as people are over the killing of Cecil. It's harder to evoke as much outrage against a system, which is also harder to dismantle, than it is to get pissed off an at individual. Racism is so rampant, it's seeped into many aspects of life, and how do you go about changing something like that?

I think it starts with prioritizing the collective. There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We are not going to go far if we keep focusing on ourselves alone. We are not going to solve any of our serious societal problems if we're thinking, “How can I benefit?” instead of “How can we benefit?” Life can be better for all of us but that starts with striking a balance between the individual and the collective.

My spiritual teacher says, “One must not forget that collective welfare lies in individuals and individual welfare lies in collectivity. Without ensuring individual comforts through the proper provision of food, light, air, accommodation, and medical treatment, the welfare of the collective body can never be achieved. One will have to promote individual welfare motivated by the spirit of promoting collective welfare.”

I dream of a world where we go far, together. A world where we prioritize taking care of each other. A world where we understand what's good for the collective is also good for the individual. A world where we work to raise each other up, and improve life for us all, because after all, you plus me equals we.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sound of the Universe

Last week I had a conversation with someone about sounds and mantras and why is “om” used in so many of them?

The short answer is “om,” also spelled “aum,” is the sound of the universe. By the way, this isn't limited to the beliefs of yogis – it also shows up in the bible. In the book of John, starting from the first verse it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

I interpret the “word” here to be synonymous with sound because words are sounds. When I read a word, I'm repeating it in my head, using my voice, so it's a sound, just not one others can hear, unless I'm muttering to myself.

I thought about using an "om" to illustrate this post but it's not as pretty.
I thought about using an "om" to illustrate this post, but it's not as pretty.

At first blush, the notion that there's a sound to the universe and that it's om seems kind of silly. There are many sounds in the world from refrigerators humming to birds chirping to cars honking, and that sure doesn't sound like a ceaseless om the likes of which you'd hear in a yoga class.

What's interesting to think about is how given distance, sounds blend together. From far away, a farmer's market sounds like a medley of chatter, but when I get closer, I hear kids crying and people asking for chard and couples laughing. Just as all of the sounds of the farmer's market are blended into one roaring soundwave, maybe all the sounds of the universe are blended into the unified form of all sounds: om. Perhaps what's going on here is my ears are not sensitive or powerful enough to hear the universal sound, and two, I can't adequately recreate the sound of om in this human form.

Here's something else that's neat about om. Om/aum consists of five symbols: a, the acoustic root of creation; u, the acoustic root of preservation; ma, the acoustic root of destruction; the dot, the symbol of the unmanifested universe; and the crescent, the symbol of the process of manifestation. More succinctly, om is the acoustic root of creation, preservation, and destruction, plus the principle of transmutation from the unmanifested to the manifested. In its very make up om is an encapsulation of the universe! How cool is that?

I find it fascinating that something as complex as the cycle of life and death can be boiled down to a symbol, and furthermore, that symbol is a sound our universe makes. There's something neat to me about how om is like a seed containing everything within it. That perhaps even things that are seemingly complex are actually quite simple but I don't have enough information to see them that way.

I dream of a world where the complex is made simple. A world where we use om as an example of how individual differences can be made to blend into something universal. A world where we can decipher om in all the sounds we can hear.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.