Humility

There are two ways of learning humility.

One is opening in total awe and joy to the speechless beauty, aliveness, and perfection of it all.

The other: Our knees hit the floor in abject surrender, our world having collapsed and we realize that we control absolutely nothing.

That is “I am nothing.”  The other is “I am everything.”

The Universe doesn’t care which one it takes to awaken you from the trance of yourself.  If you won’t do the work of learning to trust and let go of your illusory control and steer by the Boundless, you will go under the cosmic abalone-hammer to soften you up, as a natural consequence of your obstinacy.

Most of us choose that because we actually fear to truly surrender to awe and beauty unless it’s in manageable amounts. We want to have choice and that is precisely how we limit ourselves to the stale banality of our comfort zone.

Fearlessness

By cultivating fearlessness, we can truly understand darkness and its necessary place in our unfoldment, and not give it power that it does not truly have.

What is wounded and unhealed in us is projected into the Unknown, and so we relegate the unknown to the realm of darkness instead of the realm of light and of possibility. We then may attempt to use the practices of light and radiance to try to escape the darkness instead of illuminating it, un-patterning and claiming the potentials therein — especially the potentials we all have to inflict hurt.

All of us have experiences and memories of being wounded by the exercise of arbitrary force (counterfeit power) to suppress and control, and the unconscious belief is that in incubating guilt and fear of misusing our own power, we will not therefore be like those who wounded us. Perhaps that is what led many of us to a path of “love, harmony, and beauty.”

But actually, the opposite is true: By harboring guilt and fear, we empower the darkness instead of containing and finally mastering it, and thereby increase the likelihood that we will misuse it — against ourselves, if nothing else.

Our practices with light and radiance have to be integrated in a very physical and sensate way, with the very flesh itself. Work with the aura or an awareness of the planes of light is not enough, because this integration requires working with energy as well as attunement, and energy work exposes the contractions that are the somato-psychic “countenances” of our fear of darkness.

Related to fearlessness is a basic trust of the larger process, a relationship of a certain essential ease in the world, a friendliness and at-home-ness with our human incarnation — a sense that, regardless of how tough things get, they are workable and we are not irrevocably alienated from our soul’s purpose.

Many, perhaps most, of us do not arrive at adult-hood with this intact, but it is nevertheless our divine inheritance and can be reclaimed through spiritual practice and the movement of grace. This is less a psychological problem than a spiritual quality that manifests in the psyche, and without that breakthrough to that of our own being that transcends time, space, and our history, we can chip away at this for decades.

Psychology and Spirituality

Psychology understands the person as being the product of biology and the forces that shape the personality, with “spirituality” taking place inside the body and mind.

Mysticism understand the person as being a concretization of a movement of a Beingness transcending time, space, and form (including the “Archetypes”). This formless/boundless Beingness is actually the creative matrix of all time/space/form and can be communed-with in direct experience. This movement isn’t just “alive,” it is the very life itself, and is continually existentiating and acting-upon the person to carry-out a purpose that is mostly beyond comprehension but is totally trustworthy.

The spiritual adepts are consciously surrendered to this movement, letting it have its way with them. Most people unconsciously resist it until they are checkmate by a life crisis or the rare gratuitous breakthrough of Spirit that perforates their egoic compensatory structure.

sultan, saint, pickpocket —
love has everyone by the ear, dragging us to God by secret ways.
(Rumi)

Spiritual practice is often treated as a kind of “psychotherapy renamed,” a self-improvement add-on to an existing identity. This impression is partly from psychotherapists appropriating and technique-ifying traditional practices, deforming them into the “Procrustes’ bed” of a psychodynamic view. Just as often, unready and self-appointed teachers who cannot draw upon pure Presence in a transmissible way find that psychodynamic techniques are more accessible both for themselves and their audience. This has led to a commoditizing and dumbing-down of “mindfulness,” traditional teaching stories, and the poetry of historical masters such as Rumi.

The actual overlap between spiritual practice and psychotherapy is really only about 15% — with the bulk of spiritual practice inexpressible to those who have not had certain supra-egoic or supra-conscious experience. Psychodynamic insight is not the same as spiritual realization — though it is most desirable & necessary, especially in our time — nor is spiritual perception reached through psychodynamic processes, because the identification with our psychological processes is one of the things standing in the way of authentic inner freedom.

And when that breakthrough comes, it changes literally everything.

“Needs”

It has taken me many years to disentangle:
My body’s need for affirming touch (& skin-to-skin contact)
from
my body’s need for sexual release
from
my nervous-system’s & subtle-bodies’ need for energetic polarization/charge-and-discharge
from
my ego’s need for validation
from
my mind’s need for a certain kind of stimulation
from
my heart’s need for authentic connection
from
my soul’s need to be Truly Seen

— and sex is the only socially-prescribed channel for males to get all these things. No wonder so many men have bad boundaries and hit on women who are just showing them some basic human friendliness. We’re starved, and it makes us crazy.

My body’s need for affirming touch (& skin-to-skin contact)

This is a basic need and it’s hardwired into our nervous system. For those who would like an extremely cogent and well-written discussion of this, I recommend Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin by Ashley Montagu.

My body’s need for sexual release

We differ in this as individuals, and it may vary throughout our lives. What’s needed is to know thyself, and do appropriate self-care.

My nervous-system’s & subtle-bodies’ need for energetic polarization, charge-and-discharge

Related to the above, but not the same — or perhaps the same at a non-physical level. Wilhelm Reich et al. have done some useful work in this regard, as well as the Taoist sages and the Indian tantrikas.

 My ego’s need for validation

This has been one of the toughest nuts to crack for me, and it contaminates all the others. Nevertheless, it’s a need — until it’s not.  The task is to train the ego, not to try to suppress or kill it, as if you could suppress or kill it anyway.

And part of what makes it so difficult is that it’s a counterfeit of something fundamental in the fabric of awareness itself, the longing of the universe to know itself and which is indelibly imprinted in the substance of the soul.

The actuality is that the ego (the “constructed,” defended, compensatory self) has no authentic experience of its own; it can only appropriate and counterfeit the body’s, heart’s, and soul’s experience, so it is always unfulfilled despite the successful meeting of its needs, and most of us are trying to live through a very wounded and even traumatized ego, one cut off from essential nourishment by the myriad ways we try to protect ourselves from further wounding and the desolation of a false identity.

As we clear-away the trauma and expose the raw wounding beneath the defenses, the possibility is there for the “holes” to fill from the boundlessness of our deep essential substance and for the counterfeits to become transmuted to their authentic countenances. The ego thereby begins to relax and become a devoted servant instead of a capricious master.

My mind’s need for a certain kind of stimulation

I’ve been in sexually-satisfying relationships with partners with whom I did not share a mental/intellectual fit, but we still had fun outside the bedroom… but in retrospect, these were more in the nature of sexual friendships and not partnerships because the mental “fit” wasn’t there.  Perhaps that’s the reason we’re no longer together.

My heart’s need for authentic connection

Again, a basic need. Humans are social animals from before birth, and even the sannyasins, rishis, & monks have friends and confidants.  This may just be a different level of the body’s need for touch.

My soul’s need to be Truly Seen

This is the hardest for any human being to engage, the need to be seen in a real way, the need for our inherent worth to be mirrored to us and recognized so that we, ourselves, can recognize it.

This is the reality behind the ego’s counterfeit of needing a validation that it can never truly receive, from a universe that does not exist in the way the ego perceives it to exist — and which we cannot truly receive except from those rare beings who are spiritually awake and who See from the perspective of that Reality.  We try in vain to get it from our politics, from our beliefs, from our contrived public image, from our circle of friends, and we do get it in dribs & drabs from very small children — and the occasional lover when both are completely unveiled and transparent for a few instants in lovemaking, which only makes the whole conundrum more convoluted and ultimately frustrating because we know that fulfillment “is there somewhere” and we look for it in all the wrong places.

The “Authentic Self”

There is an authentic self.

But it’s not in your mind, your personality, or your body.

Your dreams might point at it, but you can’t meet it through images; it is beyond all images and forms, emotions and willful seeking.

It existed before you took human incarnation. It is informed by but not originated by or dependent upon your temporary human earthsuit.

And it is continually probing for even a little bit of Yes — those undefended, unguarded, usually-unconscious moments — to show up as your real being and quicken the dead places in your human life.

You don’t “reach” it as much as you become permeable to it; you stop doing all the stuff that keeps It from reaching “you.” All that stuff is what you believe are “yourself.” Get very quiet inside.

Become empty — really empty — so that It will fill you properly, according to Its inherent wisdom.

When the Secret of God enters, all the petty secrets leave.

How To be A Dervish

How To be A Dervish

You can never try to be Sufi.
You must know how to say this name
so that it cracks open the heart
while your lips are sealed.

It is a journey for strangers
that are too strange to be
anything but always alone,
and so they never are.

The dervish walks his life
as if he had a Love-knife
piercing each eye.

He is a thought on the breath
until he is the breath of Love only.

Sufis are not crazy to be seen,
and so are visible only to lovers.

They know how to disappear
in front of the merely curious.

They work silently
pulling their belief-mountains down
stone by stone,
to feed hungry ghosts with that dust,
until they eat themselves to be new earth
in which to grow fresh flowers.

A Sufi gives away his very breath
to be Love’s pick-ax,
and makes a ruin of his house,
until only a roof remains,
a canopy of sky
where his love songs can be heard
by the wind of this worlds soul.

He has a hundred names for God,
but listens, to be a silent conversation
that is Love’s language of remembrance.

He seems to woo God in every form,
but secretly destroys every shape
in the fire of his passion.

He prays to be the kindling of longing,
so that the slow smolder of his self,
can be a light for his own pyre.

Yet he denies not his body’s desire,
but takes the hand of duality
and dances at his own wedding.

His death is always imminent
for he dies each moment to live,
and so he is the light of life itself.
A life he does not claim,
and so he is free to be the gleam
of the eye of God.

He is change,
he cannot be pinned down by any hat.
He is a hare twitching for the trace
of the hawk of transition.

His nature is to be a lion also,
yet he will only hunt that self
that is fearful of being consumed.

His work is to be empty
in order to be occupied
with a wild Beauty.

He swims his soul
as if that craft were real
but he knows how to drown
when the ocean finds him.

Oh yes, he is the very paradox of his love.
The Beloved is his mystery,
and he lives to be Her love bed.

There is no complication in him,
he is his own simple birthing
and accepts without question
that God is continually making love
to be the answer of this ecstasy.

He begs at his own court,
that he may never wear any crown,
but the one forged in his own alchemy,
and he throws that away to be Love’s slave again
at the slightest scent of the Beloved’s presence.

There are no robes noble enough to clothe him,
and so he travels incognito
covering his naked flame with any garments
to conceal the ash of his burning self.

But do not think he is a religion or any gender,
or saint, or sinner,
or any form of being that you know.

He is neither good nor bad,
nor compassed by any morality but Love.
He is the fulcrum of polarity,
and abides as the pole star of any direction,
and so he is always the perfect balance.

He is his own way yet utterly pathless.
An expression arriving as an original song
that holds within it a singer born from the unseen.

He has become the dance and the dancer,
and he lives a life
as if he had never been.

—author unknown

Lineage

I’d like to comment on the topic of “Lineage.” There are certain things about it that are not perceptible from outside, especially in our current ethos of DIY spirituality and Western hyper-individuation.

In the East, it is considered a mark of authenticity that a teacher is connected-to or represents one or more initiatic lineages. This is true in Sufism, Taoism, Buddhism, Yoga — and many shamanic paths. Among the Sufis, when a student is elevated to the rank of “lineage holder” (a Buddhist term, but the concept exists in all the paths), s/he is presented with a scroll iterating the names of the masters in the line, with one’s own name added to the bottom.

he “Initiatic Lineage” is a real thing. It’s not a human contrivance, but a particularized stream of Divine Guidance having a certain integrity and reality that originates beyond the “mind realms.”

The masters who form the historical embodiment of the Lineage were living human beings who had human problems and attained awakening in their human life. They are, in a sense, more alive than we here in 3-D reality, and because the Lineage is beyond time & space, they are as alive “now” as they were in historical life — AND they are free of the constraints of their human bodies & personalities, though the felt-sense of their natures and predilections still comes through at times.

So it’s not just history; it’s more like a pedigree carrying the genetic traces and natures of the masters in the line. It’s not just the blessing-power but the aggregate practical wisdom of what’s needed to catalyze human transformation.

“Initiation” is the connecting of a living person’s incarnation with this stream of spiritual power. In theory, it can happen without the agency of a living initiator, but the actuality is more rare than the claims of it. Let’s say that the external, living Initiator is a living part of the stream. You need wheels for the car to move.

The capacity to act as an Initiator, a living agent of the Lineage, depends on a certain level of *developed capacity*. The empowerment is in a sense “grafted on” by one who has the authority to act as an Empowerer-of-Initiators (e.g., the head of an Order), and it confers the authority/permission-under-guidance to act in certain ways as a catalyst to the spiritual unfoldment of other human beings. (The wheels need properly-inflated tires properly bolted to the axles…)

What’s transmitted through the Lineage can be spiritual power, it can be overall guidance to a particular tack in life, it can be insights into what’s happening “under the hood” of perceptible reality, and it can even be practices & techniques, new or old.

And to be very clear: This is quite different from “channeling.” I have difficulty explaining just how, but it’s got to do with how the mind-realms are constructed and what lives there, and how individuated consciousness can abide in “the stack” of the planes of reality.

AND it is accountability. As an Initiator, I am VERY aware of the living presence of my Lineage acting upon me in the “relative world.”  As a lineage-holder, I am accountable to the living Lineage itself, which I feel as a powerful presence enveloping and interpenetrating me when I teach, and to my own living mentors, peer-advisers, dharma-family.

Of course all this can be misused, as anything real can be misused. There are false claims of lineage. And a lineage-teacher is not immune to fucking up, GOK. Sometimes we receive the empowerment as an Initiator because we need it, not because we deserve it, and in that case we have to trust that our own Initiators know what they’re doing…

Spiritual Teaching

The purpose of a spiritual teaching is not to give you more bullshit for your head.

If you just take on a teaching as another belief, it has failed and you have failed to benefit from it — regardless of how inspired you are by the lofty ideals and by the person who spoke them.

What happens to many people is attachment to a belief, which then becomes a pivot for more beliefs until they are living inside an elaborate, internally-consistent simulation of spiritual knowledge but which leaves their ego structure and felt-identity basically untouched — regardless of their access to and facility with “altered states.”

The purpose of a teaching and an authentic spiritual practice is to change how your perception itself functions at a fundamental level … for a totally new mode-of-knowing to open in you… and you can’t get it from a book or a lecture, or a music or dance event.

Psychedelics will give you look through the window, but won’t take you through the door.

It’s like the first time you find balance on a bicycle: you are forever changed and you can’t-not know what that is, even though you may still wobble and occasionally even fall.

If your spiritual practice isn’t regularly forcing you to change your life through what you can’t now un-see… go deeper.

“The mouse is a nibbler.
God gave him brain in accordance with his needs.
God gives nothing without need.
So if you would Attain,
increase your need, O Human.”

—Rumi

Identifications, Life & Death

Life lives on life. That’s one of the basic laws of 3-D embodiment.
AND: If you *really understand*, you know, sensately, that there is just One life moving from box to box like water cycling between rain, plants & animals, water vapor, and clouds. At the most profound level, there is only life and there is no death.

A major component of all the authentic spiritual traditions is the human confrontation with mortality, removing the fear of death, and training in dying well.

Yes, there is suffering involved in animals being raised and slaughtered for human food. It is a breach of moral law and I am not defending agribiz.

But at the same time, what I see in many vegans is that their moral outrage is really a “cover” for their own deep identification with physicality — a very contracted, dense egoic state actually — and their own personal fear of death.

Relieving that fear changes *everything*; otherwise, deep assimilation of authentic teachings is impossible and we remain living on the surface of our experience and whipsawed by phenomena.

Ego Training

There’s this thing in embodied spiritual practice that the sufis call “ego training.” It has parallels in other traditions and there’s probably a term for it in each one. The Sufis see it as seven stages, but it doesn’t matter whether you see seven or three. Stages there are, and they are linked with the permanent expansions of awareness that arise as one traverses a path of spiritual development.

Here’s the essence:
It’s like our being is a three-legged stool. One leg is our spiritual realization, the breadth/depth of our direct awareness of how Reality works on all the planes. Another leg is how that realization is used to reshape our janky personality to align with the soul’s purpose in existence, and the third leg is how we express all that in our human life of vocation, relationship, and the ‘external” stuff.

The legs on the stool are ideally about the same length, so that it doesn’t wobble. The ego is not destroyed or even transcended. It’s trained the way one trains a horse or a dog, according to its potentials and according to its limitations. Then it becomes a vehicle in the world for your spiritual realization, instead of being a source of unnecessary pain to yourself and others.

A lot of us entered the spiritual path because we’re trying to get off the planet before we’re fully incarnate ON it. So we try to skip the ego training and many of us just end up limiting our realization because there isn’t the proper support from the other two legs, and we wobble.

Ego training is difficult. It’s slow. It’s painful. Nobody really wants to do it. It rubs our noses in the same contractions, limitations, incongruities and ignobilities that we’re trying to escape through practice.

But it’s also where the rubber meets the road, where we make our realization real. It’s the real test but it’s also the tempering of our steel.

And it’s the difficult stuff you are faced with in your life that is a precious — and no doubt cosmically-choreographed — opportunity to become more authentic and to go deeper.

Psychotherapy, especially body-centric approaches, and disciplines like Non-Violent Communication (or even Landmark Education, though I have a low opinion of it), are invaluable supports in ego training. If your therapist has some understanding of how the soul’s deep impulses surface in distorted form as neurosis, so much the better, but we can make those connections ourselves if we truly engage the Path in the way it asks of us.