You Were Meant

All of This:
it is preparation for walking in the world
as Light.
You have been found now,
and the running of many lifetimes
is over.
So as each layer of dust
is wiped clean from the surface,
the You
you have known
must disperse.

Let this Light become
your Speech & your Silence.

Let the grief
that has lived you
pass away.

Let the people
who love You
Love Themselves.

Let the Earth shake,
the Stars burn,
the Skies break
when You do:

as painful as this part is,
You were meant to know your Light.

—Em Claire, poet

Trust and Transformation

OuttaYrCmfrtZoneTrust is a huge issue for most of us, and some of us have an easier time of it than others, according to our life experiences and the attitudes we nurture. Many of us test things over and over, and any other way seems too-great a great risk. We trust our mistrust because we think it keeps us safe.

This strategy doesn’t actually keep us safe at all… it just makes our world small enough that the mind can continue to try to control it — and “protects” us instead from more and more of our aliveness.

To unfold spiritually, or just to live life with integrity, we have to embrace uncertainty — and we have to trust love more than we trust our fear. As long as we are enmeshed in the identities of the past, we may hang onto our reasons for not trusting — or we may trust provisionally until trust is broken; it doesn’t matter, because we will still be impaled on the horns of the polarities of trust/not-trusting. Like being on a see-saw, there is no forward progress, only up-and-down movement.

There is just no resolution of this at that level, regardless of the affirmations pasted to our bathroom mirror, how often we are validated by others, or by a psychological or spiritual teaching. As long as we are working at this level, we remain in the decades-long “getting better” and not really claiming our divine inheritance.

There is that of us in our depth which is pure and joyful by its very nature, completely untouched by the traumas and insults of the past. It is covered-over by our identity with the past, and by its continual recycling in the present by our attempts to protect ourselves from further pain.

The only resolution to its issues is a seeing-through the trance of our accustomed identity. The real spiritual teaching is that which brings us to the portal of that shift. Anything else may be interesting to the mind and inspiring to the emotions, but if it does not uproot our felt-sense of “myself,” real transformation is not possible.

This seeing-through is not something we can will to happen. It is an act of Grace, and Grace is by nature gratuitous. However, we can increase the likelihood of Grace striking by being diligent with our spiritual practice, by hanging with people who already have this trust, by practicing forgiveness and compassion (for ourselves at least as much as for others), and by being willing to enter into the ambiguity and lack of control that a real shift in spiritual progress always entails.

Learning Love

From a Facebook page:

Dear Human: You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering.

I totally love this piece, in the way it embraces and celebrates Divine Limitation as a real and beautiful part of Spirit Embodied.

AND I am living into how the tension between unconditional love and messy human love, and the gradual in-forming of unconditional love to the limited human love, is evolving me/us.

Crucifying the False Self

The real meaning of crucifixion is to crucify the false self, that the true self may rise. As long as the false self is not crucified, the true self is not realized.
—Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Bowl of Saaqi, January 9th

The problem I have with the formulation “crucify the false self” (even though Inayat Khan is My Man) is the implication that this crucifixion is an intentional (and violent) act directed at something concrete, and that we can cause this to happen.

Any action we take /against/ our false self will be interpreted by it as an attack upon our existence, and will be resisted FIERCELY, resulting in a deeper internal split, and tying-up enormous amounts of life force that properly should be available for living life.

Furthermore, the false self is not a “thing” but a perspective, an identity through which the soul tries to perceive itself, and it is called “false” because of its particular limitation of separation from the Divine Ground of Being. We transcend the limitation of this identity by the grace of the experience of ourselves as larger and more multi-dimensional than a time-apace object.

When this experience is real, it uproots the identity. For the most part, these experiences are what are called “spiritual states” and they are not permanent. This must happen many times and in different sectors of the personality for the larger perspective to be integrated and permanent as a spiritual station, a permanent feature of one’s consciousness.

Spiritual crucifixion is not something we can arrange to happen. It can only happen, and is only of value, when we surrender to the cosmic set-up when Ecstatic Grace or Fierce Grace are visited upon us.

Understanding

I am passionate about what is possible for a human being, and I am totally committed to acting as an agent for human transformation and the transfiguration of the world. I have a facile mind and can be very articulate when speaking about the spiritual path; I strive for precision in what can be spoken, and I try for poetry to point to what cannot.

But there is a fundamental problem with being articulate… it can give the illusion that there is something to understand.

Dear Friends: There is nothing to understand.

“Understanding” is the booby prize of life. At the end of your life, you will have lived it fully, passionately, fearlessly — as only a spiritually-free being can live — or you will have a list of totally plausible reasons why you did not. The only worthwhile thing is awakening from the trance of the personal ego.

That is the core teaching of all the paths. This is not “understanding” but a change of perspective, a “seeing-through” the identifications with what is fundamentally false about us and the view of our personal history that supports those identifications. If you really understand spiritual teachings but your life and being do not transform you unrecognizably from your former self, you have won a very credible booby prize.

The portal to this change-of-perspective opens when we have the support and courage to first become really empty, to give up our arguments with the universe about how it is, AND give up our finely-honed strategies for getting what we think we want. This portal opens into a great ambiguity, not one of anxiety but one in which there is enormous freedom and possibility.

The spiritual path — and our life itself — totally restarts when that happens.

The “Engaged Mystic”

The mystics of the world wisdom traditions have often been hidden, or if visible, lived apart from the world to cultivate their own realization and teach the worthy (and even the unworthy) who come to drink at their well.

They are also the ones to hold the invisible fabric of the world’s transformational energies together in a coherent field that supports the upliftment of those of lesser attainment and of the whole of humanity. In some ways, this is even more important than the visible spiritual teaching.

But it’s now time that the mystics step out of the shadows into active engagement with the social and political, because the adepts are the ones who have the power to harmonize the increasingly-polarized social and political spheres. They are the ones who can truly and deeply perceive the nature of the polarities, their ideals, and the distortions of those ideals as they are practiced — and they are the ones who can perceive what is behind the polarizations to the evolutionary movements originating in the Unseen — and through this understanding do more than find commonalities, but actually uplift the consciousness of the stakeholders into the larger possibilities where the polarities just have less meaning and power.

Spirit is primary — not because it’s hip, but because the worlds of form (including the archetypal realms) are precipitated/concretized out of something much more fundamental, which is pure impulse beyond mind and form and even “energy.” The real mystics perceive this directly and can navigate its movements.

The engaged mystic is also the exemplar for the full integration of the spiritual with the material, the unfolding/evolving of the soul with the bodymind in its socio-politcal-ecological context. We don’t have ready models or many exemplars for this, so it is part of humanity’s growing edge and we are working-out how it works as we go along.

What do you think?

Life in “Break-Down Mode”

Kwan Yin

A “status” from a Facebook Friend caught my attention this afternoon:

All break-downs lead to breakthroughs. No matter how rocky the terrain or how stormy the seas, it is an opportunity to become a master of your own perceptions, which helps one handle others’ perceptions that make you feel unstable or uprooted.

My commentary:

Break-downs lead to break-throughs IF we are willing to become a different kind of person: one who is no longer defined by what we think we have lost, be it a relationship, a job, or a place. A break-down can be a break-through — IF we allow the movement that has begun to continue unfolding itself in us/as us — and we don’t reflexively try to retrieve the familiar sense of “myself” that has, after all, just put us on notice that it’s giving us up.

Most of us respond to a break-down with fear and/or rage. These are basically responses of the ego to change and to the lack of control with which we are confronted when life happens in spite of our plans. Anger or rage, especially, are egoic avoidances of the feeling of helplessness that arises attendant to our loss of control; they are a form of false strength. Depending on our obstinacy (and not necessarily on the event itself), “life happening” can be an inconvenience or it can be a crisis.

In “crisis” or “break-down” (and beneath the anger, if present) the feeling is often one of panic, and of being on the edge of a bottomless nothingness, or even free-fall in the nothingness. Or it may be a feeling of a vast, flat, gray deadness and desolation.

Our ego reacts to those sensations with “O. My. God. I’m. Going. To. Die. Get. Me. Out. Of. Here — NOW!” And we’ll do anything to get out of it. If our lover has left us, we’ll jump right into another relationship. If we’ve been laid-off, maybe we buy something to stave-off the feeling of emptiness in a fit of “retail therapy,” mumbling a little story about “affirming prosperity.” We will rerun our familiar coping strategies with increased effort and struggle, sometimes even while being aware of their futility. From the perspective of the ego, a life full of strategies that don’t work is preferable to having no strategies at all — and we have just been confronted with the fact that “the best-laid plans of mice and men” are pretty-much the same. Reality has made her move and it’s check-mate.

But… that feeling of nothingness or flatness is actually the revelation to our perception of just how deeply futile our egoic identifications and their strategies really are. What a blessing! It feels horrid, but it’s actually a nugget of wakefulness breaking-through the trance of the personal ego. What’s dying is not ourselves but just a view of ourselves — albeit one that we fervently believe, never having beheld the boundless grandeur of the real self within.

Utility pole in Hyderabad, India

Typical utility pole in Hyderabad, India (photo by Hafizullah)

When life is running in break-down mode, all the affirmations on the fridge and the well-meaning support from friends do not really solve anything, though they may appear to for a time. From the perspective of the soul, the self you are trying to affirm and support IS the problem — and it is really the ONLY problem…

There’s a monkey trap used in Africa… a gourd is hollowed-out and tied to a tree. Something sweet is put inside, and the opening into the gourd is just large enough for a monkey’s open hand to go in but too large for a clenched monkey-fist to come out. The monkey reaches into the gourd and grabs the sweet, then can’t get his hand out of the trap because he won’t let go of the sweet, even when the hunter comes to collect him. The hunter whacks the monkey on the funnybone and his hand is paralyzed for an instant, releasing the sweet and releasing his hand from the trap — and into the hunter’s sack he goes.

When in break-down, let go — before the hunter comes for you.

If we can just hang out in the nothingness, in spite of the panic, the panic will subside and we will find ourselves in a state of boundless, luminous spaciousness. No panic. Nothing to “do” except just abide, with everything needed in the moment just given and present, at every breath. A glimpse of Pure Being! We have to remain fluid and learn to tolerate, and even enjoy, the ambiguity of this state of undetermined possibility. The more we can hang with this, the more unnecessary egoic baggage will just drop from us, taking with it all of its efforting and the absurd, life-limiting things we had to do to support its falseness.

Our real friends, and most particularly, our spiritual teacher, won’t collude with us to escape the anger and panic attendant to breakdown, but will help us “hold” the whole mess, in a container of compassion and allowing, so that the movement that has started can continue, and more and more we can live a real life instead of one determined by our fears, wounds, history, roles and social expectations. This, in fact, is one of the functions of an awakened teacher, and having one is most helpful at these times. S/he will may not help us solve the outside problem we face, but s/he will help us solve the fundamental problem of who we take ourselves to be.

We need not worry about “what to do next.“ The part of us that wants to know may get control of the microphone, but it is not the one driving the tour bus, and in a very real sense, it can’t know. There is an inherent wisdom in the unfolding of each breath, and each breath is a fresh revelation of our spirit that is wholly unlike the mechanical predictability of the egoic state, comfortable though it may be from inside its flat, stale sameness.

take someone who doesn’t keep score,
who’s not looking to be richer
or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest
even in his own personality… he’s free.

—Rumi, version by Barks

Reflections on the film “Avatar”

In sharing impressions with my friends about the film Avatar, a number of them have expressed sentiments such as, “Oh, if only WE could live in such an attuned, loving, harmonious society as the Na’vi!” And in doing a little research for this blog, I find listed #2 in Google (with the search words “avatar movie”) the headline “The Avatar effect: Movie-goers feel depressed and even suicidal at not being able to visit utopian alien planet.”

This film actually touches something very real in us, and consequently exposes some of our deep longings — and wounds. Sometimes my response to the — call it what it really is, nostalgia — for the Na’vi’s state of harmony and indwelling sense of the sacred is to say, “Well, what is keeping YOU from moving towards living more that way?”

There is a chestnut from the Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan: “It is useless to discuss the peace of the world. What is necessary just now is to create peace in ourselves that we, ourselves, become examples of love, harmony and peace. That is the only way of saving the world and ourselves.” Gandhi says in the same vein, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The heart of the matter is that we are always looking outside of ourselves for the answers to perceived problems, and the real nature of many “problems” is thereby veiled from us by the viewpoint of our assessment. We seldom find fulfillment because we are “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Someone now wants to create a society modeled on the Na’vi, expecting that to have the qualities of the Na’vi we must first create an ideal society. It will fail, not because our human potentials are themselves lacking, but we think we need things outside our skins to be a certain way for us to experience certain things — with the inevitable corollary: If it doesn’t work, someone else is to blame. Those who create or join a community to get the family they never had pretty-much get the family they did have.

Let me suggest something: Our planet has been evolving for 5+ billion years, and in 1969 evolved to the point where it could launch a piece of itself into space, and look back and take pictures of itself and think about what it saw. Each of is an evolving node, not only of the planet but of Consciousness Itself. And each of us is invited into the next step of our personal evolution by primarily two things: Our need, and our longing.

Our need is a clue to what qualities and capacities we must develop to handle life situations with ease, fluidity, and a touch of style.

So if, for example, we are dealing with a bullying workplace supervisor who verbally trashes employees behind closed doors, we need strength (to set appropriate boundaries on what behavior we will accept) and clarity (to not accept a demeaning image of ourselves offered by the bullying supervisor). We may need to say, for example, “I will be happy to meet with you, but the door stays open.” If the supervisor says, “This could be contentious,” your response might be, “I am going to have a polite and professional meeting with you, not a contentious one.” Implicit or explicit in this supervisor’s communication is a demeaning message about your worth that is used manipulatively toward the supervisor’s purposes — but only if you accept it first. If your sense of worth is solidly in your own possession, no one can define you otherwise.

Every life situation in which we feel less-than, deficient, needy, or overwhelmed by the magnitude of what we’re faced with is our soul’s deep wisdom beckoning us into a greater unfoldment of our potentials. There is an inherent, divine guidance and wisdom that is inherent in the soul and which is in a sense choreographing our trajectory through manifestation. Your life’s problems are telling you about the next steps in your unfoldment toward the fulfillment of your life’s purpose. Your next step is to become the kind of person who does not have that particular kind of problem, and your task is to develop the qualities that will enable you to engage the situation with fluidity and integrity.

If you are repeatedly confronted in life with a certain kind of problem, be sure that you can engage it or you can avoid it, but you can not opt out. To attempt the latter is to lose more and more life force. On the other hand, the embodiment of the qualities and capacities being asked of you will rejuvenate and transform you and those around you in ways that are simply unbelievable from the standpoint of your current felt-sense and image of yourself.

Our longing, on the other hand, is a ladder to the inherent vision — the vision of our soul — that we have of our further possibilities. This is not just the qualities/capacities we need to engage life’s challenges. Our longing can help us find the “navigational fix” — the pole-star of our real being — which we need to live life creatively instead of crisis-to-crisis or as a series of problems to be solved. It is the soul itself drawing us forward to a vision of fulfillment that each of us brought with us and which was catalyzed by our first breath. It is the aliveness of life, not the repairing of life. It is not solving problems or healing wounds, it is our inherent wholeness unfolding our inner, spiritual inheritance more and more perfectly.

Fulfillment can indeed be realized — and at a level that reveals society’s quicksilver rewards and tinsel trappings to be completely devoid of value and substance — but the horizon of the vision recedes as we journey onward, drawing us with it.

I said above that we are invited into the next step of our personal unfoldment by primarily two things, need and longing. There is a third, and that is love. Not romantic love, or the love of and for our friends or children, but the love-without-an-object/love-beyond-form that is not “about” relationships but is the essence of all relationship, the very matrix in which we live and move and have our being. This is the love of which the mystics write. “Sultan, saint, pickpocket, love has everyone by the ear, dragging us to God by secret ways.” (Rumi) This love is mystery itself, but that does not mean that we cannot enter into it, surrender to it the way we lay ourselves down in the arms of our earthly beloved, and let it empty us of that which does not properly belong to us. Therein lies all the fulfillment the soul longs for, and out of which grows beauty, harmony, and a life that is both an expression of and a support for our continued unfoldment, both personally and collectively.

The harmony, sacredness, respectfulness, courage, and vibrancy of the Na’vi are already within us, or these qualities would not call to us so compellingly. If they were not already potentials within our own being, we simply would not perceive them, just as the soldiers and corporate management in the film are asleep to them. It’s not that we don’t have the qualities of the Na’vi, it’s that we DO have them, and our nostalgia for their world is our own heart/soul/spirit calling them forth from our depth.

Some Thoughts on “Purpose”

Each of us comes into life with an inborn, inherent felt-sense of the purpose for which we are “here.” Whether we bring this purpose to life or not is up to us. As Thoreau said, “Most… lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Many of us live an existence of artifice, and die without knowing our purpose and without fulfilling our potential.

Our purpose may not be something we can put into language and talk about over coffee. It may remain as a “felt sense,” a kind of “navigational fix” that nevertheless orients our attitude and actions towards deeper integrity, greater authenticity, increasing aliveness, and increasing power of will in alignment with the dynamic unfolding of the whole universe. This is NOT about “the Law of Attraction,” which is really just a sop for the egos of those whose lives are not in this alignment, and which does not really work the way the pop-spirituality books say it does.

Each soul’s purpose is unique, even though the outward expression of yours may look like someone else’s. Our purpose is not a concept we subscribe to, it is a self-discovery, an (often gradual) unveiling.

The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.
― Mark Twain

 

Sometimes — often — our real purpose is at odds with our personality… but it’s in orienting life towards fulfilling our purpose that our best qualities, our power and our clarity are drawn into life from our nascent potentials. The personality is rebuilt in alignment with a new experience of ourselves and life. Fulfilling our purpose is less a destination than it is an attitude, one of fluid responsiveness to what life is drawing from us, from our depth. In a well-lived life, the mid-course corrections are constant and the rebuilding of the personality and self-representation is also constant.

This is not some onerous task of fixing what we think is broken in ourselves, but a life lived in authenticity, real aliveness, and fluidity. This is a totally different process from working on oneself for pain reduction or “self-improvement.” One clue that you might be doing the latter is if you hear yourself saying, “Well, I’m ‘getting better’ at… [whatever personal problem is chewing your behind at the moment].”

The price of NOT fulfilling our purpose is nagging issues of self-worth, unsatisfying relationships, working at “a job” instead of having a vocation, and all kinds of ultimately-frustrating effort spent in looking outside ourselves for the source and relief of our malaise.