What is “spiritual?”

Many years ago, I had an experience of the fundamental quantum of Consciousness as the matrix and basis of everything. Boundless, formless, outside of time & space altogether, precipitating all mind and matter from itself in spirallic gradients of increasing density, mixing itself up and evolving itself in the worlds of form, AND continually, unreservedly cherishing the whole mess back into Itself….

I recognize That is both my source & goal, not just as past & future history but really at every breath, every instant as the fundamental identity behind who-I-appear-as at the surface of my experience.

From inside that perspective, there is no meaningful distinction between “spirit” and “matter” or “self” and “other.” I don’t see saints or sinners, but just the One Being in different conditions of wakefulness or sleep.

At one end of the continuum is pure Perfection, with no distinction whatever… not even a unity-of-pieces but a total unity of undifferentiated Essence. At the other end, a roiling stew of Life scorched to the bottom of itself or merging and separating in astounding magical deliciousness.

What I’ve come to over the years of repeatedly losing-and-regaining that awareness is that “the spiritual path” isn’t some “self-improvement” add-on to life but it’s as necessary as breathing. It’s food for the soul. “Spirit/Consciousness” is the living source of our very existence, and if we’re not consciously connected in felt-identity with it, we don’t *have* a real self or a real life from which to make the most of these few breaths we are granted in human embodiment.

“Depression”?

So there’s this FB meme that purports to quote Someone Famous: “Before diagnosing yourself with depression, make sure that you’re not just surrounded by assholes.”

I’ll say it a little differently: Before diagnosing yourself with “depression,” find out what your emotional state is telling you at a deeper level.

Rumi says,

“From the moment of your birth a ladder
Was placed before you to help you escape.”

Escape what? “Life?” No. From identification with limitation. In the larger context of Rumi’s teachings, he’s constantly reminding us of our fundamental Oneness and wholeness, and our purpose in human incarnation being to reach beyond limitation to claim our Divine Inheritance.

All of us have an innate longing for completion, wholeness, belonging, and purpose. It’s the fundamental driver for both the great nobility and also the great destructiveness in human nature.That’s the ladder Rumi speaks of, and in some of us — in proportion to our spiritual potential — the longing can be intense and sometimes unremitting.

One of the great difficulties of our time is that, in the face of society’s obsessive materialism — the consideration that only materiality is real and only material things are worth pursuing — is that our longing is misdiagnosed. We are judged, often most harshly by ourselves, as deficient, broken, lacking in gumption, and indulgent. And “depressed” — when what we really need is simply not to be found in what’s transitory in life.

Making matters worse is that what is often offered as “spirituality” or “spiritual study” is just s slicker form of materialism: the “Abundance” tropes, “spiritual experiences” (e.g., Ayahuasca Tourism), or certifications in “spiritual healing” given and received by those who are really just as enmeshed in illusion as the muggles lampooned in “Humans of Walmart.”

So you might actually not be “depressed” so much as just not acting effectively to support your inner being and purpose.

Inside your longing is a pure love of Truth, the truth of your deepest self, that in/of you which has never been corrupted by your life’s experiences, wounds, and defeats. It’s the voice of God/your soul and it constantly calls to you from and AS that of you which is most real and authentic.

When you “see through” the surface appearance of things and its “story” — when you truly *see yourself* from inside yourself, the story collapses and you stand at the portal of true freedom and a fulfillment that truly belongs to you, inherent in you and which nothing can take from you.

The task then, is to set the story aside, honoring the poignancy in it and that it’s brought you this far but can take you no further, and trust in the process as you put your feet on each next rung of the ladder. But you have to start, and once starting, continue.

Our Challenge…

The temptation, when feeling powerless, is to move to anger and to join others in their anger… Makes us feel ten feet tall & covered with hair, right? But it’s a brittle, false strength that clouds our vision and erodes our capacity to act effectively — and damn, we need EVERYONE fully on-line right now to get us through this period of the latent American fascism now surfacing.
And it’s not just the hatefulness of those in power we need to deal with; it’s also our brothers & sisters who are acting-out their own Shadow stuff in the political sphere.

So get the therapy, and do the spiritual practices, that will expose and dismantle your feelings of helplessness and sand-pounding rage. You’ll know that it’s working when you can read of some new outrage (and there will be plenty of opportunities) feeling centered, calm, and trusting in the larger process — not as a pollyanna but as an authentic light-worker who really carries more light than darkness.

We re being tested severely in the authentic depth of our inner work… but it’s also an opportunity to further de-squam ourselves of the inessential egoic contrivances and empty ourselves of our “stories” and history and be really, really *present* with what’s possible.

And the spiritual powers we need to further-develop are not mushy, accepting pseudo-Love — that’s just a dodge to avoid facing our own Shadow, and believe-you-me, Trump and his minions is all of our Shadow, incarnate.

What’s needed is the kind of spiritual sovereignty that confers inner mastery over our own process. This isn’t the kind of “man-up,” macho-it-through” control that is really an ego that is out-of-control. It’s standing in the clear light of what is most authentic and real about ourselves, irrespective of what’s happening outside our skins. This mastery is just like being on skis or sailing a watercraft; the “givens” are the wind and waves of the world and of our own emotions, but we have a firm and practiced hand on the tiller and can use the wind & currents to go where we will.

This is what real spiritual practice is about, not “manifesting” things or manipulating phenomena or adding to arcane intellectual knowledge of historical metaphysical descriptions.

Living in Fear

The vast bulk, if you will, of whatever freedom that we have comes from within. It comes from our inner sense, our felt-experience, of our divine sovereignty and personal integrity and wholeness.

If we react to this election, or any unwelcome event, as though the SWAT team is already at the door, then we are already in prison.

This situation is surreal, to be sure, and it may become truly bizarre and even tragic, but let it not propel us into decorticate panic, or we have already surrendered our capacity to be truly effective in creating the world we went to live in.
Living without fear has to start NOW instead of waiting for life to be peaceful.

What the Teacher Does

Much is made, in our hyper-individuated Western culture, of “being one’s own teacher,” incognizant of the fact that we fundamentally can’t know what we don’t know; we don’t know where the path is really taking us at the level of direct experience, and we can’t perceive the deeper blocks in our own being.

Seekers are afraid of becoming limited by a “system,” or of falling under the influence of a false teacher — incognizant of the fact that if your intuition and good sense can’t steer you away from a false teacher, you absolutely cannot rely upon your intuition to guide you into the unknown territory of your own unconsciousness.

People misunderstand the real work of a spiritual teacher. It’s not to give you information about metaphysics or read your aura or help you fix your goofy relationships or realize “abundance.” All of that is superficial and basically irrelevant to your authentic awakening.

A teacher does three things:

  • S/he prescribes and customizes the right spiritual practice to support each next step you take in your spiritual unfoldment. This s/he does through training in that art, and the expertise gained from having traveled the path ahead of you. S/he supports your practices on the “inner planes” in a way that you cannot do for yourself.
  • Through the effect of the teacher’s elevated consciousness on your being, s/he directly catalyzes your spiritual unfoldment. This is real and it’s very powerful, and it’s beyond mind and language.
  • But the most important thing a teacher does is to perceive and mirror to you the magnificence and unique gifts of your real being and potential — and to hold that steadfast in spite of your best and most sincere attempts to prove to both of you that you are something else. Your teacher can do this in a way that can only be authentic to someone who wants nothing from you except your absolute freedom.

In this, s/he navigates between the edges of what you want to know, from inside the narrowness of who believe yourself to be, and what s/he knows that you need to know in order to break free from the prison of that belief.

 

Money and Spiritual Teaching…

The issue of a teacher asking remuneration for teaching is a hot-button issue in the spiritual community. There are many who feel that an authentic teaching is debased by any intersection with money, and there are teachers who charge many hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a teaching or a training program, effectively rendering it an elitist pursuit and shutting-out many who could benefit greatly from it.

Speaking as an authorized spiritual teacher in a very ancient lineage and tradition…

I broke my heart and busted my ass to get the chops necessary to do what I do. I gave my life for it, and continue to do so, and my life has been transformed beyond recognition by the process. The author­ization to teach as a representative of a consecrated Order and the fancy-ass title to go with it are a token of recognition by my own elders — to whom I remain accountable — that I have something real to offer.

Along the way, I paid tuitions — money that I had prioritized just for this purpose — to my elders for the privilege of being present when an authentic teaching was given. I also paid my own travel and room-and-board expenses to participate. This in no way debased the value of what was given; it was neither not-enough nor too-much. The money I put out was just what it cost, just as it cost me dearly in surrendering the contrivances and rigidities of my own ego to undertake the transformation that was asked of me. It’s part of the “return flow,” giving something-of-value/receiving something-of-value, that is part of the law-of-reciprocity that underlies the structure of 3-D/4-D reality.

For me to continue to live in this society, to pay travel expenses to other locales to teach, to rent teaching space, and to continue my own inner work, my “continuing education” in the form of retreats and further training, I must be remuneratively compensated somehow, and the easiest and most-appropriate way is through asking money in exchange for my time. My love and my skill are free, and sometimes the teachings themselves — but when giving a teaching in a public setting, I ask a reasonable tuition (and give generous scholarships to those who cannot pay, but they have to ask).

**Here’s The Thing**:
From a purely spiritual perspective, the *value* of the soul is absolute and it is intrinsic. We can not “deserve” it nor can this intrinsic, absolute Value be taken from us. There is no “original sin,” there only “original blessing.”

But we have deep, deep, often-agonizing wounds around this particular relationship to the Divine Ground of Being by how we socialize children in this society, and these wounds distort our relationship to Intrinsic Value in all kinds of ways. One of the ways this shows up is the insistence by some that a spiritual teaching is debased by asking an exchange of money.

But what I’ve found, over and over, is that the same people who complain the loudest that it should be free are the ones who, when given a free admission, arrive late, don’t pay attention, and make small disruptions in the atmosphere of the teaching. Trite but true: they basically don’t value what I offer because they have paid so much less for it than I did…. heedless of the fact that in the East, where so much of this teaching originated, one N E V E R goes before a teacher without an offering. But as a culture, we’re so new at this spiritual stuff and basically so spiritually-ignorant that we don’t know how to properly hold the process in its true alignment.

I do give certain teachings for free in accordance with my obligation to my Order. In my public seminars, I offer tuition breaks to those who need them, but everyone pays SOMETHING, and we negotiate that so that there’s contact and exchange from the start, because a teaching is first-of-all *relational*.

I don’t see that art is any different, really…. but we’ve become so materially-oriented — and “art” itself has become so egoic and lacking in essential substance — that we don’t appreciate how beauty supports the soul.

And just as the traditional teacher-student/guru-chela model is undergoing evolution, I think the traditional model of the teacher or adept as living a socially-detached life in material poverty is also undergoing an evolution. This is implicit in my views in The “Engaged Mystic”, because an Engaged Mystic must have resources to enter the social and political spheres.

And the bottom line is that my teachers have told me directly, in public, to charge for my time.

What do you think?

What the Path Puts Us Through

Overheard: “I could never handle what your path puts you through.”

It’s not “what this path puts me through.” Any authentic path will put us through exactly what we need for our authentic self to awaken.

What it puts us through is exactly what’s needed to develop the qualities and capacities we need to become the being that we took human incarnation to become.

An authentic path will also give us the *support* we need to accomplish this, including mentors, practices, and community of practitioners all going through the same thing. If you’re walking alone, you are making it all *much* harder than it needs to be.

Then the time comes when it’s less “what it’s putting us through” than it is kisses from the Universe beckoning us forward…

One of the most difficult things about the path is that we will revisit and revisit our “shticks” and “rackets” over and over and over, in different guises. This is inevitable, because they form the foundation of our personality and it’s where we go under stress.

And just when we’re certain that we’ve broken-through, it comes in another form, but perhaps subtler because we have, in fact, progressed.

Often the “stress” IS that we’ve changed and our old patterns are no longer working.

That’s where a living teacher and a coherent body of teaching can help us see our cycles, because the teacher will mirror ourselves to us where we will eventually see our pattern for what it is.

We all “walk alone” in the sense that we all must do the work ourselves that is before us, just as your doctor cannot “heal” you — your body must heal itself.

And just as a doctor can be enormously helpful, not to say necessary, when we are ill, a spiritual teacher is a physician of the heart….

But we in America have a huge egoic shtick around autonomy and independence, an unexamined and largely unconscious cultural conditioning towards hyper-individuation that we take totally for granted as Reality.

It often shows up when the topic of spiritual guides arises. This is partly an artifact of the antics of crappy teachers, but more because we don’t understand what real spiritual teachers actually do or how they function.

The teacher is there to provide the support that we have too little means to provide ourselves.

This support comes in many forms and at many levels, some of which — perhaps most of which — are not psychological. But we can spin our wheels for years, chipping away at issues and blocks that we could overcome in a few months if we were given the right “prescription” by someone with the insight to give it — someone who has overcome that issue him/her-self and knows the way.

In other words: We are NOT condemned to revisiting those patterns. They are not inherent to our real substance, and we are much, much more than our history and our psychology. When we begin, in a real way, to source our felt-identity from that “more,” actual transformation becomes possible.

“Self-Defeating” Patterns

We work from where we are strong. Always.

So our egoic “defensive structure” is built on our strengths, in accordance with how we experienced things as small children — often under enormous pressure from those who had power over us to “give ourselves up” and lose our integrity.

So don’t look at your “self-defeating patterns” as something perverse. You created them from your genius, and you survived. Stop fighting those patterns and explore them for the talents they contain. You may very-well find that what seems to be your worst pattern turns out to contain your greatest assets when the task of “purification” has progressed. So don’t despair.

Look less at the outward behavior and more at the underlying qualities and capacities in the pattern.

There might be a hypervigilance for a certain thing in the environment, or perhaps an unwillingness to compromise something in yourself, or perhaps you’re guarding something very tender for which there historically wasn’t acceptance in the people around you.

All of what you find, when consciously engaged, can be tremendous assets in your life now.

In other words, turn it on its head; look at how it was *right* at one time, and what need it was answering — and how that may still be the case in some way.

The most difficult patterns we face were actually solutions to earlier problems. Our egos aren’t going to give them up until there’s something better to put in their place.

That “something better” can come from several directions. One direction is consciously engaging the pattern instead of judging/fighting it, and keenly observing how it works: what triggers it, what your psychodynamic process is, and deliberately acting it out so that it will disclose its intention & mechanics. In this, you’ll also regain control of the pattern and can choose or not-choose it.

Another is to do the work of expanding your felt-identity — and that’s a key phrase — so that the sensation of “you” becomes larger and larger, encompassing not only that of you which is body & mind, but which is transcendent and self-subsisting outside of time & space and which is actually existentiating the local-spacetime ‘you’ at every moment. This is the task and purpose of authentic spiritual practice, and your so-called “self-defeating pattern” will just collapse when your felt-sense of identity makes it irrelevant.

The Reality of the Path

As a lived life is messy, so the spiritual path is messy. It’s not a straight line of beautiful harmonious unfoldment… it’s a mud-wrestle with our inner demons and a shedding-and-grieving of everything in our life that doesn’t support naked, undefended authenticity.

You might — or might NOT — become a higher-functioning person. You might — or might NOT — become more materially prosperous.
You might — or might NOT — find your soul-mate.

The spiritual path is not about any of these things, and the lure of them is not signposts to your further progress but billboards for spiritual tourist-traps that will waste precious time and resources if you follow them.

But what you WILL find, if your intention is to uncover/unfold the truth of your real being, is a self-knowledge that is a direct link to God and a happiness that can never be taken from you, because it is not contingent on anything except itself. Its very nature is Love.

The Next Step

From a friend’s Facebook post:

How can you be ready for the next level of growth? You simply cannot….because like any growth it’s new & you cannot be fully ready for whats new!

We can’t know what we don’t know — and the real knowledge does not come from books or stuff we hear at workshops, but from the kind of direct experience that changes our felt-sense of identity and reality.

Like you can’t “not see” the vase between the profiles or the profiles framing the vase once you see them, the real knowledge is something you can’t not-know about yourself after it finally graces you — and grace is gratuitous, so you can’t engineer or cause this awakening, no matter how profound the affirmations on your fridge door.

So we absolutely must learn to sail the boat of our awakening by doing the practices and practicing the attitudes of the awakened ones… we have to hoist the sail or nothing happens, but the currents are what they are and the wind is going to be what it’s going to be, and we can’t control those things, we can only surrender to them.