I remember when I first started my desperate climb out of depression and anxiety, I felt terrified and overwhelmed, the way I am sure many children do in their first biblical lessons. All the things that we are suppose to do, all the things we aren’t supposed to do, and all the ways we will suffer and be punished if we don’t abide, are enough to make anyone crazy.
I learned how diet affected emotions, yoga practices, eco-psychology, healing techniques, specific visualization done with specific simultaneous breathing exercises. There is is the herb to use only under a particular moon and just so many freaking rules!
What makes it worse is when we get the benefit of being so well behaved. I hear it from nutrition junkies all the time, “I need to get back into (insert wacko diet of choice), I felt so good and then I started eating (gluten, dairy, spinach, whatever) again. Then comes the guilt. We are sick because we aren’t doing it right.
Its the same with religion. We experience grace, oneness, a quiet mind and we think that we earned it with righteousness and the right mantra. In actuality, goodness comes to you as a part of the natural design through whatever means you allow it to.
I am not saying that the diet and the mantra aren’t working. If they are, right on, keep it up! but grace, healing, peace doesn’t come because you earned it, through doing the right thing. It is always present and we receive it into our hearts anytime we are willing or not paying enough attention to be unwilling. And bless our little hearts, sometimes we do need complicated practices and strenuous spiritual work, in order to be willing.
That being said we do have a basic design, and when you work with it, you tend to be healthier in mind body and spirit. Here is my personal dogma:
Veggie eating and drinking.
Hanging out outside.
Moving your body.
Nice things for people (yourself included)
Staring at screens.
Consuming things that have wrapping.
About a year ago I was reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s, May Cause Miracles, and one of her exercises that she offers is to watch your judgments without doing anything about them. Just notice the judgments that you have about the people that you interact with. How you make people greater or lesser than you. This exercise was pretty horrific for me because when I really watched my thoughts I realized I had a lot of racist, bigoted shit running through my mind. When I would see an older Mexican man, before I had any real human awareness of him, I would have a thought “dirty Mexican”. It was really painful to see the side of myself and it’s really uncomfortable to admit it now. But I think that this is how racism lives and breathes and as spiritual aspirants it is our responsibility to clean up our harmful untrue thoughts.
Some of these thoughts came from personal experience. I was molested on the streets when I was traveling in Mexico by an old man. When I was living in Brooklyn I was escorted home regularly by Jamaican men asking me if my boyfriend sexually satisfied me. But I also grew up watching Cops, where the good white guys arrested a handful of bad black guys every week. I went to a mostly white school, in a mostly white neighborhood so my experiences were really limited. It is because of this that I understand why people get offended by the slogan Black Lives Matter. Fortunately, I have questioned my own judgements against a larger belief. I truly do believe that all people regardless of race have the same goodness within them. I truly believe that all lives matter.
Of course all lives matter and if all lives were treated as if they mattered there would be no need for any slogan. To me it’s understandable that most white people can’t see that black people’s lives are systematically disregarded and attacked.
We can’t see our privilege because we’re so rarely outside of it. When I’m driving in my car I can’t see that the bus has a higher percentage of people of color and handicap able people. When I’m shopping at my grocery store in my white upper-middle-class neighborhood I can’t see that the neighborhood grocery store across town that doesn’t have any produce. I can’t see the difference between how a cop speaks to me when they pull me over and how he speaks to a young black man. These are minute examples of an entire world of imbalance. Part of privilege is not being able to see what other people are enduring and the slogan Black Lives Matter is not negating that all lives matter but to bring attention to the fact that not all lives are being treated as if they matter. Hopefully when we see those words it inspires us to look at the reality outside of our privilege and to face the unrighteous division of quality of life.
Another aspect of this blind privilege is the privilege not see how our thoughts and actions play a role in the continuation of racism. It’s easy to say that racism is institutionalized and so we don’t have an active role in improving the lives of black people. But when you don’t know your own thoughts about it, you don’t know how you’re choices are infused with those programmed lies. For example you don’t notice how you prefer the white salesperson the over the black or how you interpret and discount your students perspective because of their skin color.
These fears and prejudices show up in a million ways. And while the prejudice is built into every economic, social and governmental system that we have all of those systems are designed and maintained by us individuals. Whether we like it or not the institutions are not some man in the sky pulling strings it is our collective choices it is our collective beliefs.
This is not just a in the political conversation and it’s not even just a social justice conversation it is really a conversation about personal development and self-awareness. As we are trying to become more in tune people more compassionate more loving human beings, we can’t step over the impact that we’re having on other people’s lives.
In the same way that we practice thinking kindly about ourselves and positively about our lives. We should practice shining that same light on everyone we meet. Especially where we are predisposed to fear and misinformation. This is responsibility is two-fold. It is internal, being brave enough to face our own ugly racist thought habits. It is also external, being compassionate enough to look with care and a desire to help at the problems that black people face as if they are our own.
A spiritual path is nothing if not to become a more loving human being.
If everything is transient, how do I commit?
And if I commit, how can I remain flexible?
Commit fully, all in, like “this is what my life is about,” and yet when the storm comes and knocks the whole thing down to still have a sense of self. Still feel love for yourself and for life. To let something swallow you up and still not identify with it. Or to identify with everything.
I can slip into a state of equanimity that paints the world all in the same Divine light. The chair is the same as the tree is the same as the woman same as the salad as the ocean as the thought.
And yet, if my soul’s true calling was to live without contrast of pleasure and pain and preference I would never have come to human life.
I also didn’t come here be tossed around by my emotions and ruled by my losses and gains.
This maybe sounds so obscure and theoretical, but it pertains to every choice we make, how deeply we let ourselves care and how we recover when it feels like the rug is pulled out from under us.
I think the secret is in the enjoyment. If you can find a way to appreciate everything you can commit. You can invest everything into the transient stream, if you can love the investing, love the triumph, love the failures.
Hold the wild contrast in the compassionate arms of all is well.
This new age culture with life coaches and yoga classes is mostly recycled material from ancient religions both in ideology and in practice. We say, “Source,” or “Universe,” instead of, “God,” and instead of “Guru,” or “Christ,” we say, “Higher Self.” We left the old religions because so many teachers would weave in fear for their own gain.
One thing I love about the New Age religion is the emphasis on the individual’s relationship with God. While many religious traditions say you need to surrender to a master to liberate yourself, the stories of these paths are riddled with people who left all teachers to go sit in a cave and work it out with the Creator without a mediator.
I know so many people, particularly Christians, who have grown up with God used as a weapon against them. It was used as a tool to make them afraid of doing something wrong rather than a source of life, inspiration, and love, presenting God as nothing but wrathful misguided parent rather than an infinite world of Love.
Ahhh…but, in the ditching of the guides we lost too much of the guidance.
Every major religion teaches to us serve those less fortunate than ourselves. Where in this conversation about the loving universe do we talk about service? How can we be a part of an infinitely generous world if we do not live by that same law? Why is it that when we learn about the laws of the universe we learn how to hit 6 figures in 6 months?
It seems like the new path is teaching people to be as corrupt as the leaders of the old paths. Teaching greed and while the fear may be masked in pretty positive language it is there. Insecurity is simultaneously being fed and painted over with lines like “Create the life you want.”
I am not talking about martyrdom, and hurting yourself to “help” others. Nor do I think its bad to want things or go for things. I like money and beautiful things and luxurious experiences very much. I also think that if we are after happiness, truth and real spiritual living then our orientation must change.
If we are oriented towards the things it only reinforces that something is lacking. If we are oriented towards services it reinforces that we are whole.
Instead of thinking, “I am so powerful I can have whatever I want,” (which is a statement that opposes itself) we can think, “I have everything to give.” This is understanding oneness.
Yesterday I woke up with pit in my stomach. It was a familiar feeling of shame and inadequacy.
My business is going through a growth spurt, Praise God, and with it there is a new level of transparency that I both long for and feel shy of. Choices I make intuitively; that alone in my home I feel very comfortable with, pop up in my mind as convicts awaiting a jury. Was that really an aligned, right on, guided choice or was it reckless? Maybe I just couldn’t do better. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I did it for the money or I was copying someone.
The more people who come to my website, the more people will see archives of spelling mistakes before I hired an editor.
Am I a false prophet because I completely, emotionally wigged out as I was thinking about an old flame? Maybe I am.
These thoughts were stagnating in me. I didn’t want to talk to clients. I didn’t want to write. Ugh, who do I think I am?
The truth is, I have always been brave. I have always been ready and willing to go for the life that is as close to what I really want as I can get. Ready and willing, even if it means doing things drastically different and making some fatal (to my ego) mistakes.
This is how we innovate.
Most of your complaints, you have them because you are too scared to try something new or try something that hasn’t been endorsed by a friend or Dr. Oz. Or you trust in what you see, so much so that you have lost the ability to imagine a vision.
Let’s work towards a vision; rather than barely managing the sticks, and stones, permitted to teach. I would still be an apprentice working under a master shaman, but things are happening quickly now. The planet has been plundered and we are having to change quickly. We are changing quickly. All hands on deck! Everyone is needed as a visionary. Everyone is needed as a teacher, as a healer, as an innovator.
You and me together, lets vision, let’s go for what we really want. Let’s try new ways, and old forgotten ways; AND lets not shy away from our people and hide, because we are not perfect. Let’s offer everything we have with the best intentions, even as we continue to seek guidance and refine.
If you get deep enough into most religions, there is a point where you have to choose between a life of devotion and a material life (family, career, etc).
These teachings, this way of thinking, is heartbreaking and damaging. It results in people raising children, driving an economy, and making technological breakthroughs disconnected from their own spiritual guidance.
AND spiritual people who can barely function in the world.
It’s true that it would be easier to keep my head clear and heart open if I only had to make my bed and pray. My children and my work give me lots to do and think about that could become a distraction.
I have to laugh as I write it… my children and my work. A distraction from God. A distraction from my spiritual path. As if my spirit isn’t in my children and my work.
What’s actually true is that I am entering Olympic level sports as a rookie. It is a high level opportunity to be in prayer as my kid shits his pants in the park and then refuses to take them off. It is peak performance stuff to put in the effort, focus, and heart of a good day’s work and remember your infinitely expanding self.
The work is not what makes it hard to connect with ourselves.
What takes us away is the devotion to the work. Devote to your spirit and do your work as prayer. Devote to your work (this includes family work) and you come back feeling empty and looking for cheap ways to numb out or feel pleasure. Devote to spirit and anything you do is sweet.
Perception and creation are kind of the same thing. What you highlight with your awareness becomes the prominent platform for what else you think is possible.
If you look around and you notice all the good things, you say, “Things are good.” If things are good, it’s not too much of a leap to think things can be great. If you focus on how things are improving and you say, “Things are getting better,” it’s easy to imagine that they will get much better.
Then with that imagination, you plan. You take actions, and have conversations to support the things getting much better. This isn’t even factoring in the energetic element, which is actually where it all happens.
You also feel more relaxed, happy, stronger, etc. Your perception helps you generate feelings or vibrations and vibrations generate things and circumstances. You could try and just change how you feel but that takes a lot of effort.
Instead, I focus on perception because sometimes I have very little control over how I feel about what I see. There are lots of things I can do to work through my feelings and change them, but it takes time. I can however instantly change what I am looking at.
I remember walking barefoot in Spring as a child and feeling the electricity of the Earth rush through my feet.
I had open channels and an eager heart. I was ready and willing to meet the sweetness of the world with my own soul’s sweetness.
There are some backwards systems and fearful ways ingrained in our movements. From painful parenting practices to blinding distribution of currency, we as a culture have forgotten how to be nice to ourselves, and it is very difficult to be better to anyone else.
When we look around, it could be so easy to believe that we are fucked up. There must be something wrong with them… us… me.
How could we have the social and environmental problems we have if we are good?
Mmmm, but we are good! They… we… I am good.
Today, I think that the best path is to ignore everything else. Maybe we can ignore every problem that there is for long enough to feel whole and loved, to find and feel our goodness.
Then, with the electric joy of connecting our good feet to the good Earth, we face the mess with faith and strength.