How Deep Can We Surrender?

Surrender to our DivinityHow deep can we surrender beyond fear, beyond doubt, beyond the constant insanity of our minds; into the Beauty and depth of Peace that we are? This is our constant invitation, and our life gives us numerous opportunities throughout our day to live in our habitual mentality and suffer; or to step into the huge Reality of our Divinity.
Tonight at Satsang, I invited all of us to look directly into a mirror and notice the incredible Beauty and Aliveness pouring out of our eyes. Our mind may comment that we look this way or that way, but if we look directly into our own eyes, and let go of the commenting of our egoic nature, what we will find is this incredible Beauty and Mystery that we are. And this Beauty has been with us our entire life, yet we mistakenly align with the judgmental and divisive thoughts of our minds, and miss this Divinity that we are, that we have always been.

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Ineffable Beauty

ImageWhat a terribly amazing, unbelievable world we live in. We never know what will happen in this crazy and unpredictable world. One minute we are in love the next, we are acting like an idiot and fighting over what means nothing to us. We sabotage, and lie and cheat, all because we are afraid of giving ourselves totally. We constantly look for other options and miss the Ineffable Beauty that is right here within in and in front of us. We forget that we are staring at the Beauty of Heaven right in front of us, in our partner, in ourselves. We compare and contrast the world and each other, into little bits, and belittle the Divinity that pours out of every form. We tear apart those who are close to us; those who are also afraid of Love and of being Love. We beat each other up and yell and scream and shout, we do this because we think we somehow need to defend ourselves from each other. We are only keeping ourselves from Ourselves, by this nonsense that we participate in. Again and again we fail to trust in Love, we fail to realize that what we are is Ineffable and cannot be destroyed.

When will we just love and be Love, without all the nonsense of dividing and separating ourselves from the overwhelming Beauty that is everywhere?

It is no wonder why we don’t do this. None of us know how to live in this crazy impermanent world. A world that we are shown is safe and unsafe, full of love and stability, and chaos and unpredictability. It is no wonder we have no idea what to do, or which way to go. It is no wonder we make such a mess of things. And yet, somehow we are expected to trust even though nothing in Life seems trustworthy. We never know when our final breath will come, when our last kiss will be, we never know who will be with us tomorrow. Our closest partners love us deeply; and harm and hurt us, and in turn we do the same. What madness we create, through our hopes and fears, through our humanity. And what Beauty we create and share through our hearts, through our Divinity. What an unimaginable paradox it is to be Human.

The very machinery we use to decide how to live, is at its best a practical instrument for guessing which way to go; how to proceed, based on what we might guess will happen or assume has happened. At its worst, our minds are a psychological mess, deeply wounded, impaired, cracked, divided, broken and have so many voices within them, that we have no way of telling which direction we should go. Being a human is a total mess, and yet there is something here that inhabits our human form. There is a wonderful aliveness, a mysterious Divinity, an Ineffable Beauty; that despite our humanity, shines through. This Divinity is that which outlasts the totality of our life.

 No matter how far off the cliff, we fall into the chaos of our minds, this Divinity is here; silent, radiant and clear, waiting for us to come back home to ourselves. Waiting for us to come back to our innate Beauty and Love.  The only question is when will be open again and come Home?

If we are lucky this Divinity Guides us. If we are lucky, we listen to it. If we are unlucky we listen to the hopes and fears of our minds, which will undoubtedly cause unbelievable chaos in our lives. When we do listen to this part of ourselves, we miss the unfathomable Beauty which is right before our eyes.

For those close to me and all around me, I apologize for my humanity, for fearing Love, for mistrusting the Beauty of Life, for mistrusting my Self, for seeing you as my enemy, when you are my very Love, my very Self. I apologize for looking at God in the eyes and running and turning my back on you. My prayer for all of us is to know ourselves as Divine, to see and act as Divinity, to stop defending, fighting and withdrawing ourselves from each other and to forgive each other when we fail, and to forgive each other for again getting confused by our insanity and mistaking it for the truth. My Prayer is that we know our Divinity and the Ineffable Beauty that is right in front of us, in the form of You.  My prayer is that we again open to each other and Love the Ineffable Beauty that we are.

Working with Difficult Emotions through Compassion

 

It is common for individuals to protect themselves against mental, emotional and physical pain by armoring ourselves, in a psychosomatic way in our physical and emotional bodies.  This tends to happen at a moment of a real or perceived crisis, when our bodies instinctively go tense in an effort to brace oneself from being overwhelmed by feelings. As therapist and teacher, I have worked with many individuals throughout the years that hold heavy layers of protection around themselves; sometimes decades after an experience of pain or trauma took place.  I learned how to work with others, from years of working with and healing my own armoring. To this day, I continue to work with liberating myself from years of holding my body tight from trying to shield myself from being hurt, by often imagined fears. Of course there are times when these fears are real and in the present moment. If this is the case, it is wise to take action, such as leaving the situation or getting whatever help we need.

 But what I find amazing is that often, for years, we hold ourselves tense to protect ourselves from a person who is no longer in our lives or who we might only see 1% of the time.  Maybe we will never see the person who originally hurt us again, and yet unconsciously we still armor ourselves against a one day chance encounter.  We may continue to hold this protection simply out of habit, even though there is no longer a threat. It may even be that be that our body was once shocked by a sudden accident and that it habitually holds itself tight for years. Whatever the case, this unconscious psychosomatic phenomena can hold us back from fully experiencing the wonder of Life in the affected parts of our being. To be awake, means that we open and include all of our being in our experience of life. But if there are parts of ourselves that are unconsciously resisting life, it will be difficult to experience beauty in these parts of ourselves. After we discover this in ourselves, we can invite our body to open and relax.  But for our body to relax, we must first be in a safe environment and feel emotionally and mentally safe.  This might mean a change of relationship, or environment, or simply realize that we are perfectly safe right here, right now; that this moment is not the past.    

After we have established a feeling of safety in ourselves, we can talk to our bodies or the various parts of ourselves that are in pain; and let them know that it is safe to relax.  It is safe to put the shield down.    We no longer have to hold tension in our bodies.  If we speak in a way that our body can hear, then it will hear us and begin to relax. Although, if we speak to ourselves in harsh or judgmental ways, we will not feel safe and we might become more scared and become more tense.   I like to think of talking to the places within us that are still hurting, like a good parent would talk to a child.  This might be a soft reassuring voice or a voice that is calm and clear; when we talk in this way, it becomes easy for our pain to hear us.  And our body may start to relax in a very gentle and natural way. Although if we have been through deep trauma and pain, much more work will be necessary.  

After my divorce, I can remember the intense pain that I experienced and held in my body.  I sat intentionally with this pain for over a year, and I did this each day.  I used a very specific mediation practice for helping to release this pain.  I sat down and relaxed my body.  I became open and spacious inside.  From this quiet, open and spacious place, I would locate the pain in my body, often this was quite easy to find. The wonderful thing about pain is that it is loud and undeniable.  The practice was to fully sit with the pain and fully allow it to be in my body. The key words here are to fully allow it to be.    When we first do this, our minds habitually, turn and run in the opposite direction.  They do this by thinking of something very important that needs to be done right now. Or it fantasizes about some other place or person.  Or it starts planning the day.  The mind will try to do anything but sit with pain.    It can be humorous to watch how quickly our minds go somewhere else when pain is in the room.  It can find something else to do in a fraction of a second.  Our minds will avoid pain at all costs, so it is quite a task to just get ourselves to sit with pain and allow it to be.    

After we have opened and allowed the pain to be here fully, we might imagine that the pain is a child and it is sitting in our lap.  As a father, I love this image.  I can think of any time my daughter even got hurt, the first thing I wanted to do was to pick up her and hold her.  We must cultivate this type of love for ourselves and the pain that lives within us.  We have to want to hold it. Although most of us, want to get rid of this pain as soon as we feel it. But if we want to get rid of it, we miss our chance to be free.  We miss our chance to know love. We miss our chance to transform pain into peace.     

For this process to be truly healing, we have to totally be open and to want to sit with it. Another image that I like comes from the ancient Zen teachings on the angry bull.  If we have an angry bull, and want it to calm down, then we let it run around in a big open field.  We work with pain in the same way; as we open to the pain and allow it to fully be within us, it may even become louder, it may need to run around for awhile. What is helpful is for us to notice all the space in our mind and our bodies, in our awareness and to notice that this space has no end. From this spacious openeness we can allow the pain to spread out and unravel in our spacious awareness. This also, helps our ego to relax, once it knows that there is so much space for all this pain, and that we no longer have to contain it. As we open to our already spacious nature, which is always here, we may notice that our pain might make a fuss; it might send awful memories through our minds.  To fully let go and heal, these memories must be seen, heard and acknowledged; but not believed.  By this I mean, that we see in the present moment that it (the experience that is feared) is not actually happening any longer, it happened in the past and now that it is the present and we are safe, we do not need these thoughts and stories anymore.  

If we continue to believe in the stories and thoughts, then we get stuck in the past and the mind is again successful in distracting us from sitting fully with the pain. And we don’t heal. Sometimes, we need to allow for these thoughts to go on and on until they wear themselves out.  But it is very dangerous, if we believe in our stories and add to them in the present. We will continue the story and never free the pain from ourselves until, we go back and fully allow it to release. 

If we can be this open, this willing, the pain will release, in a very powerful way, when it’s ready.  And this is up to it, not us; the only thing we can do is fully accept what’s here and surrender.  This is a very important point. The pain must feel safe and fully accepted and not denied in any way and then it will release.   And as it releases we may experience a wonderful power or energy running through our body, or a terrify energy or emotions.  Most people when they experience this terror or overwhelming sensations, get scared and quit this work. It is as if a wonderful dam broke inside and began to release and it was too much for the individual, so a person closes the gates, and stopped the whole process of letting go. 

If this happens, and it almost always does in the beginning, we don’t have to be discouraged, there will be another chance. When we are willing to again open to the pain, sit with it fully and allow for its release, there will be this wonderful and terrible feeling of being out of control.  And our invitation is to allow ourselves to experience this fully; to fully embrace feeling out of control. This is what it feels like to let go of deeply held emotions; it will feel as if uncontrollable sensations are moving through our body. Any time we are deeply emotional it feels uncontrollable, this is very much normal and ok. It might be the scariest experience of our life; we may turn red or pale, and feel sick to our stomachs. This is all a part of the process of conscious letting go.  Can we allow ourselves to turn pale, and to be terrified; in the end we probably will not die from this experience of letting go, although our minds may think that. As we fully allow the emotions and overwhelming sensations to fully be here, these very emotions will most often turn to pure energy and a rush of energy will run out of our body.  And this movement, may last for a second, a minute and hour a day or longer. But when we open to the movement of emotions and see that it is just energy; and do not believe the thoughts that say we are going to die; we become free.  This is what it viscerally feels like to consciously let go. We see that it is just energy running through our body and we allow for it to move in whatever way it needs.    And depending on the depth of the pain, it may take just one meditation on pain or a hundred to heal.  If we become comfortable with working with ourselves in this way, this fearlessness will become a way of life and we will come to love going into the unconscious parts of ourselves that are hurting.  And we will find that the majority of the pain we experience, is nothing more than energy stuck in our body from the past.  

Freedom takes everything.

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When most of us think of freedom we think of being able to do what ever it is that we want. This is the kind of freedom that the ego wants. If left unchecked, the ego wants to be able to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants to. But spiritual freedom is vastly different. Spiritual freedom is about giving up ego, (our wants, desires, opinions, beliefs) and being in total alignment with who and what we are, which in our deepest sense, means being in alignment with the will of the Divine. Spiritual Freedom ironically, is the giving up of all our egoic wants, desires and agendas. Our ego actually gets nothing out of the deal, except its own disillusionment; and when we allow ourselves to be disillusioned, we begin to see clearly for the first time. We begin to see the True nature of Reality, and we wake up and see that we are one with all of Life. We experience this Beautiful oneness, when we stop believing in the dividing nature of ego. Because when we allow the walls of ego to drop or put a different way, when we stop believing in any thought or feeling as the truth of our direct experience, and simply begin to directly experience life outside the lens of egoic division; we discover that we are one with all of life.

But to allow for the great disillusionment of our self created reality of our minds, we must be willing to let go of everything we hold onto and believe in. We must be willing to let go of our cherished ideas and opinions, our likes and dislikes, and our self image. Most of us though, are unwilling to give up all of this. For most of us our thoughts and ideas and self image are what we think we are. But this is not the Truth of what we are. And when we hold on to these things, what we get in return is a limited self created by the mind and a limited experience.  This is what our mind does; it creates itself again and again through building a world—a self—out of thoughts and ideas.  When we believe this image or movement of thoughts to be ourselves, we suffer.  We suffer because we go from being big, open spaciousness to being a conditioned movement of mind, a limited image; a me who doesn’t like this person or that person.  We go from silent and free awareness to “Look at me. Look how successful I am. Don’t I look good in this new car?”   And when the new car doesn’t drive in the snow, or rusts, we suffer.

As long as we identify with the contents of our minds as reality we will experience pain. But if we are willing to live and be more than the contents of our minds, we can be free. We become free when we identify with the hugeness of Reality instead of the coming and goings of our mind. When we identify with our sky like perspective, it is much more difficult to identify with having a problem or with wanting this or that. The sky is open to everything and does not complain if this comes or that goes. Our mind, on the other hand is made up of dualistic right and wrong, good and bad thinking. As we step into our true nature, we step into an all embracing unity. As we step into our minds, we step into divisiveness and as a result we suffer. In a sense the more meness we have or the more self we have, the more we suffer; because there is more self present to argue with what is. We have all seen individuals with big egos, they tend to suffer more. And the opposite is true; the less ego or self or meness we have, the less we suffer. Ironically the less self we have, the vaster we become. It is actually that we are already vast, yet our vast or sky like nature is covered up, by our egoic sense of self. The good news is that we are already this, and as we let go of ego, our hugeness is what is already here, and has always been here. Our freedom comes from stepping out of our self created illusion of mind and into who and what we are.

 

Humility is the Doorway to Freedom

ImageEgo is about being someone or something. The more we give ourselves over to this movement, the more egotistical we become. But if we want to be free then our doorway is through humility. Humility keeps us in check; it actually allows the floor to fall out from under us. When we are truly humble there is no room for ego. Humility allows us to be who we truly are, because with humility we give up believing in our greatness, and in doing so, realize our innate Divinity.

The ego is the opposite movement of this. The ego moves toward more identity, and identification; it usually fixates as the best or the worst. To awaken out of this, we invite humility. And this humility is our doorway to awakening. And the sustainer of awakening. If we are not humble, we will again find ourselves in the world of duality. Duality is the result of a false identity.; of identifying with division, and righteousness. But to be Free, we have no identity, no righteousness; we don’t give ourselves permission to hold onto anything. And then we become everything.

 

Freedom Beyond the Past

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What if we woke up one day and had no memory of the past, but we were still able to function in a quite natural way.This is, in a sense,what it is like to truly be awake.

Imagine that every one you come into contact with today, you are meeting them for the first time. What if everything appeared new and fresh? To awaken in this way, we must be willing give up thoughts and concepts from the past and be open to seeing life as it truly is, beautiful, alive Oneness. To be free means we are not putting life in a box, or seeing life through the lens of projection.

I was speaking to a client today who was deeply entrenched in victim consciousness.

To maintain this entrenchment, to keep the victim alive; we have to continue to choose to see life from the perspective of the past.  We have to continue to believe in concepts that the world is an inherently unsafe place. So as he sat before me, he continued to see the world through this lens of self created concepts, that the world is unsafe. Usually this concept comes from some experience of trauma. When we experience trauma, whether it is real or imagined; a deep sense of fear and tension gets imprinted in the body. Often this tension and defensiveness becomes our way of meeting the world. In a sense, if a trauma happened 23 years ago, many individuals are still seeing life from this perspective that the world is an unsafe place. It could be from something that only lasted a few minutes, and we spend the rest of our life, reacting as if life is dangerous. Often to release this fear, it takes a focused intention on healing, so that we can begin to fully see clearly again.

As I was working with this individual, with an intention to begin to release this trauma, and the accompanying concepts that life is not safe; we looked clearly at the present. We imagined what life would be like if we had no memory of the past. We imagined meeting life fresh and new in this moment. As we did this, I asked him, how he felt? To which he responded, “spacious.” Next, I asked him to tell me about his week. Right away, he went into victim consciousness, blaming others and acting as if the world were a dangerous place.  I asked him, how he felt? To which he replied, “terrible.” So here, I pointed out, is the choice; we can choose how we feel and how we respond to life. We can choose to not engage in the past. We can choose to not see the present through the lens of the past. Or we can choose to take the easy way, the habitual and unconscious old way of egoic consciousness and suffer.

Sometimes it is simply this easy. We just choose and then we experience the freshness and openness of freedom. But for the deeper more persistent pain and trauma in us, especially if it is at a cellular level; we need to do deeper work. This work often, requires us to be both open and courageous. And the invitation here is often, to grieve the past with an open heart. It takes courage to grieve this deeply. As we grieve we also, again, actively choose to not pick up the past; but instead to actively let it go. This does not mean pushing it away, it means grieving with the doors of the heart and mind open, which allows the pain to naturally release. Here we renew our intention to not pick it up again and allow it to go. We do this again and again until it no longer arises.  We do this so we no longer suffer or cause suffering in the present, due to our projection of the past. And by uprooting projection, we step into the freedom that comes from seeing Life as it is.

What do you really want?

What do you want?

I have always seen this as one of the most important questions to ask ourselves on the spiritual path. When we ask this question, it solidifies our intention and direction on the spiritual path. And often, if we are not clear in our intention, we find ourselves in the  confusing landscape of modern spirituality. It is helpful to inquiry into what this path or this life is really about for us. If we don’t deeply ask and reflect upon this question, we will be left to the hopes and fears of our habitual and conditioned egoic consciousness.

Today I was at a yoga workshop; a very advanced training with arm balances and inversions.  I had no business being there, I am not so good at yoga.  I normally sit for hours on Sunday mornings; meditation has always been my path. But this morning, I cut my meditation short and ran off to an advanced anusara yoga workshop.  My inner voice told me it was the wrong thing to do; yet today I decided to not listen. It is not that there was anything wrong with the workshop or the teacher; I was the one who was not listening to my inner voice and was headed into a confusing landscape.

When I approach any class or meditation retreat or teacher for the first time, I ask, “What does this have to do with Freedom, with Awakening?” I ask this because, ever since I heard the word freedom, this is what the path has been about for me.  As I sat there in this class, I began to wonder “what am I doing here?”   I love yoga as a path to awakening; I have a great respect for the Yogic path. But the yoga that I am speaking about is union with and surrender to the Divine; which I often find is quite different than what most folks call yoga. It is not that there is anything wrong with different paths or versions of yoga. But yoga is only meaningful to me, if it is about waking up from egoic consciousness.  I know that different people are attracted to different things and have different focuses in life. But as we go through life; an important question to ask is what do I really want, what is this life about for me? And if the highest answer that comes from our heart is to have a good healthy yoga body, then go for it. Likewise if the the highest movement in us is for freedom, then align your life and choices with freedom.

So as I struggled in this yoga class, I began to reflect on what brought me here. I had this idea that yoga would be good for my stiff body. But as the class went on, I began to wonder what all this yogic acrobatics was all about.  We ended up spending a few hours trying to do some very difficult inversions.  I looked around the room and wondered if I was in a circus camp.  Yet none of the people looked like they belonged in the circus. It was mostly middle aged women, who probably were therapist and who had come thinking, that this was going to be a day of spiritual practice.   What I wondered was, what does an arm balance inversion with a twist have to do with awakening or freedom?  I have often asked myself the same question when on Tibetan Buddhist retreats; what does all this imaginary and visualization and moving energy have to do with the Divine?  And for me this day, I could not make much of a connection between falling on my face and freedom. So I decided to just to be myself, and as I relaxed in my own being, and gave up any expectation of landing these complicated arm balance inversions. As I let go,I felt an expanse and a unity; Life came alive before my eyes.  I began to see God all around me. I saw God in the eyes of the circus performers.  But as I tried to do my circus trick, I fell on my face and laughed and cried, and it was God laughing and crying through me….