I AM, WE ARE . . .
This particular writing of mine was written to be an e-book with the intent of providing insight, perspective, and most importantly a reference for those I counsel as a life coach. Please feel free to print, read, underline, highlight, make notes in the margin, or whatever else you’d like to do to it. It is my sincere hope that it will provide you with answers and direction in your own life.
Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a good glass of wine, take your time with it, and enjoy.
In the spring of 1994, my time as a college student was coming to a close as I rather reluctantly had to leave the hallways of academia behind me. I was very reluctant because I really enjoyed my time in college, as it afforded me the opportunity to explore so many different avenues of thought. It was a bittersweet period in my life.
Though I never intended to enroll as a “career student” the fact that I went to college full-time for 7 straight years could easily be called a “career.” I was leaving Thomas More College with three degrees in hand and was on my way to pursuing a teaching career, venturing out into the world, and moving into the next chapter of my life.
Before graduating, my Education Professor guided each of us through the cumbersome process of putting together a booklet for job interviews that included a resume, letters of recommendation from teachers that had mentored us through our internships, our college transcripts, and our personal “Philosophy of Education.”
Meeting a few nights ago with a former student of mine, who I taught over seventeen years ago, I pulled a box out from an all but forgotten place under my steps, that contained all the teaching materials I used when I taught her, complete with Polaroid’s I took of all the illustrations I drew on my board so I could remember from one year to the next how I taught certain units. In doing so, I came across my Philosophy of Education that was typed up all those years ago as a 23-year-old, on a sheet of paper that had been placed in a manila folder and was now lying in this box. In revisiting it for the first time in forever, and reading it, its message still resonated with me all these years later and oddly sounded like something I would have written today. I’ve included it here, in its original format, because I’d like to illustrate a point.
Philosophy of Education
The role of education goes infinitely beyond the parameters of a field that many are misled to believe is designed to merely facilitate information. In today’s society full of globally pervasive problems, it is difficult to watch children in their struggle to find out who they are and what the world holds for them, especially when it appears that many of them are not even searching. This could be because they simply do not know what to search for. For most of us, it is to some degree, the “Meaning of Life.”
The Meaning of Life is felt through relationship. Relationship to one’s self, to others, to nature, to the universe, and to some a supreme entity. We as teachers are the ones who must cultivate students interests and guide individuals from a nebulous state of being into a state of becoming. This is the challenge of education. It should not find contentment in the mere retrieval of facts, but rather in the sparking of an imagination that synthesizes past learning to find solutions to the never-ending horizon of questions that could be asked throughout one’s life. A teacher should only feel successful if they have planted within a student the seeds of curiosity about life that continue to blossom long after the student has moved beyond the confines of the classroom. Discovery is the motivation behind an individual’s urgency to see that which has not yet been perceived.
Based on this, one might have guessed that I do not find the curriculum to be quite as important, as an individual’s curiosity and needs. I seek not to simply teach Biology or Science, but rather to teach students. Biology is the vehicle I use to reach them, so as to teach them, guide them, and help them discover as well as experience the environment and the dynamic circle of life that surrounds them.
Thirty years have gone by, and it was only in taking my trip down amnesia lane that I realized, that at my very core, I’m the same person, with the same intentions, and same perspective on teaching others but with a little more mileage on this body of mine. I was, and have remained to this day, a consummate student. That is of course just a fanciful way to say that I’ve always been driven by my intellect.
That aside, I have always enjoyed learning, and because I’ve developed a voracious reading habit over the years, that love of learning has remained uninterrupted even today. Always having possessed a very inquisitive and investigative nature, one thing that has remained consistent is my desire to truly seek an understanding of myself in relation to this universe I’m enmeshed with, as opposed to benign knowledge.
I sought to understand because “understanding” is more of an intuitive comprehension that employs the power of abstract thinking. In other words, understanding is “applied” knowledge. It supersedes merely acquired facts that may or may not have any utility in our lives in terms of providing direction, perspective, and insight. Little did I know that my intellect had limitations that I would eventually brush up against in term of truly developing the “understanding” I had long sought to give perspective to my life.
What created such a drive in me is that as far back as I can remember, I recall, that I always felt a very deep connection to life, nature, and even the universe. I wanted desperately to understand that connection. Though hard to explain, I didn’t feel any sense of separation from my surroundings. Instead, I remember feeling like everything was an extension of me. I somehow knew intuitively that my body and its corresponding senses was only a thin veil between everything surrounding me and myself.
I remember as a very young child, around the age of four or five years old, retreating on an almost daily basis, to my parent’s backyard, where I would climb into the large silver maple tree whose branches provided me with a sense of warmth, acceptance, and I can even say “relationship.”
I say that because, in my fledgling little mind with a very active and whimsical imagination, I had given the tree anthropomorphic qualities and developed an attachment to the tree as if it had an intelligence, a consciousness that I could interact with. I truly felt the tree’s energy as I interacted with it.
Apparently, I wasn’t just being imaginative. Thanks to the work of Peter Wohlleben and other researchers, science has recently revealed that trees do in fact possess a measurable consciousness. We’ve discovered that trees are not unlike humans. They parent together, communicate with their young and support their development, share nutrients with those that are infected with disease, and even warn one another of impending dangers, through an elaborate network of mycelium fungi in the soil that connects them to one another. To what degree we can interact with it is somewhat of a question, but with the intuition and perhaps imagination of a child, I could feel a palpable interaction between that beautiful tree and me.
I would sit in the tree’s branches for hours at times contemplating my limited understanding of the world around me. I would talk to the tree and ask it questions, really believing that the tree understood what I was communicating to it, and felt that on some level it was communicating back to me. As you can imagine the book, THE GIVING TREE was a book that really resonated with me. I saw myself in every page.
I was truly devastated, and angry with my father, when he cut the tree down to make room for a two-story detached garage he built. I was inconsolable the day he cut it down and grieved the loss of that tree for months.
That feeling of connection always prodded me along with an insatiable curiosity. I always wondered what role I played in this tangible symphony of life that surrounded me. I sought answers to every question that could be asked. Science seemed like a reliable and methodical approach to understanding the world around me, and after learning about weather in the 5th grade I was hooked. I was convinced science could provide me with a way to unveil life’s deepest secrets.
My obsession, in trying to make sense of this carousel we’re all riding on, was evident at a very young age, when my mother and father came home from the Parent-Teacher Conference/School Open House and were told by my 7th grade science teacher that I ask more questions than the entire classroom combined. As the years went by my curiosity only deepened and my desire to understand how I fit into the entire scheme of things really gathered steam when I chose to go to college, where I became, as mentioned, a bit of a career student.
Obsessed with the sciences, and by “sciences,” I mean all of them, I wanted to know the origin of everything, I wanted to understand everything there was to know about nature, astronomy, the origins of the universe, biology, chemistry, and physics. I wanted to understand how we wound up here, how everything fit together, and how everything was interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated. I wanted to understand how the universe interacted with itself. I think I believed that understanding the universe and the world around me, at both the macroscopic and microscopic level, would somehow provide insight into who I am and what I’m doing here.
I left college after seven years as a full-time student with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and an Associate Degree in Psychology. I left with a bunch of “knowledge,” but with no more of an understanding of myself than I had entering college; only more questions. So my search continued . . .
What’s interesting is that I had no idea that my rather academic approach to life would ultimately unfold into a spiritual journey of self-discovery. But that’s just it! I believe we tend to see science and spirituality as two completely dichotomous aspects of life on opposite ends of the spectrum. In reality, there’s no difference between the two. They’re indivisible because our spiritual pursuit to understand what allows this heart of ours to beat, our lungs to breathe, and our brain to house consciousness is every bit as much a scientific inquiry as any other. Just as there is a science for the external world and our physical, “outer” well-being, spirituality is a science for our inner well-being. Failing to explore and investigate what lies beyond the dogma of religion is to our own peril, because so much of what life is, will remain unexplored and continue to remain beyond our perception.
With so much that lies beyond our current understanding and beyond our 5 senses, there are so many more questions than there are answers. What I realized after decades of study was that science only looks at the circumference of everything; we observe it from the outside or at a distance. It’s a mechanistic approach that leads to knowledge but not to a deeper understanding of ourselves at the level of our essence and what lies behind our consciousness.
Though satisfying our sense of ignorance, which is replaced with a new “knowledge,” it does nothing to fulfill a much deeper aspect of ourselves that longs for “understanding,” meaning, and connection, not just to one another, but to existence itself. What I discovered through the years is that there is a knowledge available to us that science cannot access by merely investigating the physical world. I now know that what was merely conjecture for a 23-year-old, has been validated as a 50-year-old. The “Meaning of Life” is found through relationship, and the most important relationship is the one we are having with ourselves, which is in fact, the only relationship we are ever having.
It was the “process” of writing another book that allowed me to reflect upon the very process that led to such a dramatic shift in my perspective of not only myself but the world around me; a world I am profoundly connected to. It was an experience that allowed me to bridge the gap between two realities, one that lies within and one that lies without. It’s allowed me to restore an intimate connection to all creation and everything within it that I felt as a child and now feel in my veins every day.
Drawing upon the personal transformation that took place within me through a series of rather serendipitous and life changing events, I suddenly realized that what humanity is contending with isn’t politics, famine, inequality, bigotry, racism, declining resources, nature, or living on a disappearing planet, but rather our nature, or more specifically our nature as a product of “societal-conditioning.”
Our participation in society, driven at such a frenzied pace, slowly severs the innate relationship we have with ourselves and everything surrounding us because there’s little time to slow down and commit to connecting with ourselves. Restoring that connection first is the beginning of restoring our connection to everything. There’s a much larger aspect of ourselves that we lose sight of along the way.
So much of our inner journey of reconnecting with ourselves is derailed by the nature of society itself because so much of our lives don’t belong to us. Add the long list of obligations we have outside of our 40-hour workweek and there’s little time to focus on engineering our lives from the inside out. Our entire focus is external. We even look for the divine outside of ourselves.
There’s a price we each pay for living in today’s face paced society. We’ve been taught how to see the world and our place in it. Because we have not been encouraged to invest time and energy, nor given the tools and the resources to explore the inner, intangible aspects of a much deeper dimension of ourselves, I believe it’s harder today than at any time in history, but certainly not impossible, to shed the ideological and prescribed views we’ve been taught since childhood, and see reality for what it really is.
Humanity, especially in first world countries, lives in a commercialized reality that only spins illusions, and can meet our needs only on the most superficial level, preventing us from finding the answers to our deepest questions. We live in a state of extreme physical contentment and yet suffer from tremendous distress and discontentment within. This is because society works against the individual by keeping us centered around our careers and perpetually running from one obligation to the next.
In the 1960’s we Americans had a real shot at connecting with ourselves on a deeper level, evolving spiritually, and overcoming the deeply entrenched doctrinal beliefs that have created our picture of the world and our apparent inheritance in the life hereafter. I believe we were really stretching ourselves collectively to reinvent ourselves, in an attempt to ascend consciously and create something better than a life of endless competition in every facet of life.
With necessity being the mother of all invention, the events of the 60’s illuminated the need to change and question ourselves. We were dealing with the emancipation of suppressed black rights, women’s rights, race and sex inequality, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the British Music Invasion (which was very welcomed). Seeing all the injustices in the world and in our country, people began speaking out and protested in the streets by defying the establishment. In the latter half of that decade, The Beatles weighed in by encouraging all of us to embrace a higher calling, and reminding us that “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!!!”
Clearly beginning to make an impact, the movement was met with indignation from those in Washington who were not going to tolerate it. The “powers that be” pushed back, not wanting to give up the long held control they had exerted over the masses for so long by keeping people divided. After all, people gathering in groups can quickly gain momentum and bring about change, which is why society is kept divided by nationalism, religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, race, color, social status, and on and on. This design discourages change and keeps people focused on their own self-interest as opposed to creating a collective cohesiveness.
In the documentary, REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM, Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, political activist, and the man voted the “greatest intellect of the 20th Century” stated:
“Since the 1970s there has been an enormous backlash to the hippie movement from the 60s. There has been a concerted effort by both corporations and by the government to beat back egalitarian principles established in the 1960s.
On the RIGHT:
The Powell Memorandum sent to the Chamber of Commerce was a memorandum warning that companies were losing control of society. And taking a close look at it, it is essentially a call for corporations to use their power and their control of resources, to carry out a major offensive to beat back this democratizing wave of the 1960s.
On the LEFT:
We had the TriLateral Commission expressing the same concern in the “CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY” report. In this report, it was determined that there was “an excess of democracy” developing. Previously passive and obedient members of society, referred to as the “special interest” groups began organizing into very large groups, and tried entering the political arena and began imposing too many pressures on the State that couldn’t deal with all of these outside voices that were intervening on their agenda.
It was determined that the boldness, expressed by the younger generations that wanted to have a voice in the political arena, was a failure of the schools, the universities, and the religious institutions, that we’re supposed to “carry out the indoctrination of the young into the passive, obedient, way of life that America was built on.”
The backlash to the “hippie movement” was to redesign the economy and society with the singular focus on creating docile, obedient, scared, politically impotent, bored, and apathetic members of society. Several mechanisms were used to accomplish this: The church, the schools, the banking system, and a trillion-dollar entertainment complex.
The church was encouraged to keep doing what they had always done; diminish self-empowerment by convincing people to continue exporting their sense of well-being and security by placing it in the hands of an all knowing deity whose designs have a divine plan. Also, the church was to continue their age-old campaign of implementing guilt and fear to push an imaginative narrative involving eternal consequences for our choices. This, of course, requires a very human-centric view of life, and the idea that the universe and the whole of existence is for the sole purpose of appealing to and being seen as worthy in the eyes of a supreme being.
The schools were to focus on rote memory as opposed to critical thinking to stifle any evaluative process that may lead groups of people to demand change. And it’s worked. Our eroding educational system has consistently been falling in world rankings for 40 years.
The bank industry, which had always been very regulated and designed to provide safe credit and protect our money, became largely unregulated and redesigned to manipulate speculative spending forecasts allowing them to make risky investments through instruments on Wall Street. Banks loans were made to take advantage of customers lending money the banks didn’t possess allowing them to profiteer on both mortgages and conventional credit loans with completely restructured mechanisms of applying interest designed to keep borrowers underwater in debt. Being approved for credit became easy and we bought in. We enjoyed a whole new standard of living with borrowed money but have since paid the price by becoming buried alive and slaves to our own debt.
And lastly, there’s the technology/entertainment industry that keeps us hypnotized through constant stimulation and the indulging of our senses with technology, sports, and the television/film industry.
In other words, society was re-engineered to keep people trapped, working, exhausted, miserable, bored, and always looking outside themselves for emotional security, self-worth, joy, love, context, purpose, and something new to be enthralled with. It’s the “rule of the Caesars.” Keep people distracted, under-educated, intoxicated, entertained, and financially leveraged to the gills with credit and debt, and society becomes easily controlled by keeping the individual in a constant state of discontent. Simply put, society’s design disconnects us from ourselves.
Oblivious to all these controls, we live like slaves, adhering to fixed schedules. Slaves to the banks, slaves to a government that determines policies without our input, slaves to the churches that guilt us, slaves to gods of cruel design, slaves to a suggestive media that promotes a biased view of the world, slaves to companies who we depend on to meet our every need, slaves to the opinions of others, and slaves to the internal dialogue we’re always having with ourselves. And yet, we continue to look “out there” in the world for something to provide us with a hoped for state of bliss and purpose.
I believe it was Jimmy Buffet that once said: “there’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”
We have been passively taught how to see the world, by an established system designed to keep us imperceptive and unmindful of ourselves. It keeps us divided and alienated, not only from one another but sadly even from ourselves. The world will never change until we as individual change at our core.
“The only solution for all the ills that plague humanity is self-transformation” – Sadhguru
Virtually every problem we contend with as individuals, as a species, and as a society can be traced back to one fundamental problem, the relationship or lack thereof we are having with ourselves. As long as we look “outside” ourselves for happiness, love, and self-acceptance, these things will always elude us.
It is the lack of relationship we cultivate with ourselves that accounts for every other issue man wrestles with within himself and that which mankind faces collectively that is reflected in the world.
This book is the product of my own personal journey to what I can only call my own personal awakening. It is, in a way, an account of the evolution of my thinking that took shape over the course of roughly 8 years. Though everything I have learned through the sciences has dramatically enriched my life beyond measure, it’s what I learned academically, looking outward, combined with a pilgrimage I took inside, that has made all the difference.
So, ultimately this book is an invitation to explore the relationship we are each having with ourselves, which as we will discover, is in fact, the only relationship we are ever having.
It is my sincere hope that this book provides a practical guide to finding a deeper sense of fulfillment, joy, happiness, contentment, and peace within your own life.
These two words, the mere fragment of a statement, and yet an all-encompassing declaration in and of itself, are the most powerful and provocative utterance in the English language, because what ever adjective or noun follows is used to make a very definitive statement about how we see ourselves.
However misguided and grossly inaccurate reducing ourselves down to a single adjective may be, the statement “I Am . . . (whatever word follows),” is a global perspective that we each hold of ourselves and subsequently take into the world every day. Although on the surface seemingly benign, to define ourselves in any way by applying such labels or titles to ourselves is terribly restrictive because we are identifying ourselves with a banner or an ideology that places rigid boundaries around ourselves, holding no potentiality, only limits.
We live in a fiercely competitive society, where cooperation in almost every facet of life, has been replaced by personal ambition. Though keeping us all competitive may be a good thing for investors, to a large degree our lives have been reduced in a very diminutive sense, down to exploitation, where just keeping pace with inflation and the cost of living can have a devastating impact on our outlook on life.
We are living arguably, at the best time in human history, with a better “quality of life” and more opportunities than any generation before us. But, despite all the advancements in technology, along with the countless luxuries and conveniences we’ve been provided, that have allowed us to move further and further away from the arduous lives that our distant ancestors lived, for many, life in this rat race that we’ve grown so accustomed to, is a constant struggle emotionally. As a result, happiness can be very elusive because we’ve grown accustomed to looking for it “out in the world.”
Today we can purchase just about anything our hearts desire, and yet, even with so much abundance, so many still suffer, are bored with life, are lonely, scared, and feel disconnected. This is because society functions solely at the level of the “egoic” mind, that only knows two things; “competition and comparison.” Any time we are comparing ourselves we are living in ego and this is the lens we’ve been conditioned to view life through.
Our entire existence on this beautiful planet of ours is one of indoctrination. Who we think we are as adults, along with all of our cherished beliefs, is the result of nothing more than exposure or the lack thereof. If, while growing up, we are not afforded the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with a variety of different perspectives, cultures, religions, and societal views we can begin to pigeonhole our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us by becoming very close-minded and unaccepting of others in order to protect our very limited views. By contrast, the more diversity we’re exposed to, the more we see ourselves as part of a much bigger “whole.” We feel a sense of camaraderie with others, and we are typically more open-minded and accepting of other’s differences.
I personally believe it’s paramount to one’s well-being and in becoming well-adjusted in such a diverse world, to expose ourselves to other cultures and other beliefs so we can move beyond our own limited perceptions. This of course requires open mindedness as a prerequisite. Living in a world of such diversity, with so many cultures, it’s almost imperative that we get out and explore. Travelling is a great way to move beyond our egocentrism, open our minds, broaden our perspectives, and learn to appreciate other viewpoints and approaches to life. It almost goes without saying, but it’s true; we are so much more alike than we are different.
I’ve always loved a quote by Mark Twain in which he said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Unfortunately not all of us can travel the world and broaden our horizons. As a result, our thinking and subsequent beliefs can fail to rise above the level of our “conditioning.”
Few of us have the courage or perhaps the discipline to break through the rigid barriers around the beliefs we developed growing up as a result of familial bias and our formalized education, to develop our own beliefs or thoughts that may lie outside of what we’ve been taught to see or think. Even fewer are emboldened enough to actually discuss ideas that may be incongruent or unpopular with respect to mainstream thinking. I point this out because for most, reality is observed through a narrow lens of beliefs and parameters that we’ve been taught to project on it and deviating from these can be intimidating.
Understandably, we fear being alienated. We tend to prefer a sense of belonging to being ostracized for our unique beliefs. Seeking inclusion, we gravitate towards and adopt certain beliefs out of a need to belong to a group that shares our beliefs and can insulate us from the world “out there” that we’re all contending with. I believe this is why religion is such a predictable outlet for so many. But in doing so, we can tend to mistake consensus for wisdom figuring, “if every one else believes it, it must be true.”
How many unexamined beliefs do we each hold about ourselves, others, and the world we live in, or even perhaps what lies beyond the demise of physical aspect of ourself, simply because we’ve been taught them since childhood?
The purpose of this book is to challenge several assumptions we make by offering a different perspective and I say “different” because it’s a perspective that starts and stops with you, the reader. My hope is to take you on a journey that involves turning inward, as opposed to searching endlessly outside of your self for meaning, self-worth, love, happiness, and perhaps our place in this extraordinary universe we live in.
Because each and every one of us are an exceedingly unique and remarkable expression of the universe, I’ve always taught my son Alex to celebrate his distinctively individual traits and gifts, by thinking for himself, to sit with his thoughts and observe the world around him. I’ve taught him never to accept traditional or orthodox beliefs by submitting to a “group mentality” just because everyone else does; encouraging him to evaluate the beliefs of others without prejudice, to see if they stand up to the scrutiny of applying logic to them. I would often share with him, “It takes a strong fish to swim against the current. Any dead fish can float with it.”
Three years ago my son entered college with an almost singular focus on joining a fraternity. Like a lot of freshmen, classes were secondary. At 21 years of age, he’s a devoted member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at Ohio State University. So much for any perceived influence I have with my son.
All jokes aside, as an only child, I actually believe his participation with his fraternity has been nothing but beneficial. It’s taught him how to live with, share, and be considerate of others, something he never had to do growing up. It taught him how to respect others time and space, and how to work cooperatively with others. It has also really allowed him to blossom socially; things he may have never otherwise had the opportunity to learn.
Being a very social species, groups can be a wonderful outlet for us. So when I talk about group “mentality” it’s a reference to how we often lose our individual identity to a group and our ability to think for ourselves by espousing the beliefs of the group by abandoning our own thoughts and critical thinking. Religion and Politics can be two very good examples of this.
Because we live in a society, all of what my son has learned, just like the rest of us, is part of his “conditioning.” Because we’ve been born into a pre-existing system with a social framework that requires a certain degree of conformity to rules, regulations, and socially agreed upon expectations of one another, we run the risk of losing ourselves as we assimilate modeled behaviors, thoughts, opinions, perspectives, and beliefs that are considered to be the foundation upon which society itself is built.
Consider that each one of us come into the world a blank slate with no beliefs, prejudice, bias, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or need to identify ourselves with anything. We were born with nothing but love and the ecstasy of being alive. Along the way, we’ve been taught fear, guilt, separatism, religion, patriotism, racial bias, competition, social status, consumerism, consumption, and self-indulgence. None of these are intrinsic to being human. Each and every belief we’ve ever adopted was taught to us either intentionally or through osmosis by observing others.
Lost In “Labels” – The Egoic Mind
Because of our tendency to seek acceptance and to gather in groups, people with a set of shared beliefs tend to establish banners, representative of their beliefs. As we begin identifying with groups, we begin applying their labels to ourselves like stickers in order to create a picture of ourselves that distinguishes us in some fashion from others, as a collection of these labels. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all marketing ourselves by proxy or by identification with these groups, creating lines of distinction between us and others.
Most of us believe we live in the best country, we’ve chosen the right religion, the right political affiliation, and belong to the best ethnic group by default, but all these trademark identifications are only associations of the egoic mind.
One of my all time favorite quotes is from a man I have always had a very deep admiration for, who said:
“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, or by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned only with the total understanding of mankind.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti
Each of the innumerable labels we can “cherry pick” and choose to pin on ourselves, categorically define us by compartmentalizing aspects of ourselves into boxes of nationality, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or occupation. These labels only serve to alienate us from those who don’t “brand themselves” with the same labels we use to define ourselves, by putting those who share our beliefs on one side of the line we’ve drawn, and those that don’t on the other side of it.
It’s important to understand, that all of these labels represent a “fixed” set of conceptual beliefs. In choosing to apply a particular label to ourselves we limit ourselves because there’s a good chance we won’t remain open to other ideas or another set of beliefs that our contrary to our accepted dogma.
The “labels” we subscribe to make blanket statements about ourselves are very diminutive in nature, pigeonholing our beliefs into a narrow set of parameters defined by just “one” word having a broad context, such as American, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal, and on and on. How can such generalizations embody the totality of what and who we are? Worse yet, we generally tend to paint with a broad brush and stereotype others who affiliate themselves with a particular group.
Such identification with labels like these, more times than not, means we have a very rigid framework that makes up the structure of our beliefs, and typically limits the degree to which we are open to other points of view and other perspectives. For example, our political and religious disposition is developed in early childhood by adopting and assimilating the beliefs of our parents. Because we trust our parent’s perspective and how they teach us to see the world around us, these beliefs go unquestioned, because we are taught them before we can think for ourselves.
To free ourselves as adults from the grossly restrictive and entangling web created by all these confining labels we were inoculated with as children, requires a complete overhaul of our mental map, and abandoning the dogma that has been woven into the fabric of who we are. That’s not an easy undertaking. As a result, the “fixed,” overarching and separatist beliefs we hold often remain unchallenged and therefore unchanged over the course of an entire lifetime. How unfortunate that we could pass through this life and die espousing the same beliefs we were taught as a toddler?
Clinging to unchanging beliefs for a lifetime does little to advance us in the evolution of our thought and the elevation of our soul. The famous philosopher Socrates saw this as such a wasted opportunity that he said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
If life has any meaning at all, it is for exploring not only the landscapes of our wondrous planet, but for exploring the landscapes of our minds and the depths of our soul because it’s all connected.
Rather than remaining inquisitive and open-minded individuals, many of us can have a tendency to be rather static and set in our beliefs, which doesn’t lend itself to our adaptability. In accepting the adopted beliefs of our families or perhaps friends, that at least on the surface seem believable, we no longer have to devote time to learning anything else about them. In a very tidy way, it’s one less thing to worry about and devote any mental energy to. It frees up time for other things so we can get on with the business of life.
Having such influential and unexamined beliefs spoon fed to us, especially during the impressionable years of our childhood, is dangerous in our world of tremendously diverse cultures with such different histories and teachings. We all have so much we can learn from one another, but being so conditioned by media and overtly protective of our stoic religious, political and nationalistic beliefs, more times than not, we drive a wedge between ourselves as individuals, as ethnic groups, and even as entire countries. What a tragedy…
Who we think we are is relative at best because, at the level of our egoic mind, we see ourselves only through the lens of the “conditioned” self. We see ourselves as separate, detached, isolated, and limited to this physical body we reside in. But that is only an illusion. We don’t exist in isolation. We exist in relation to everything else we come in contact with or experience.
It’s unfortunate, but only a short period of our life is lived from our authentic self, that part of us that existed before we were taught what to think, what to believe, and how to see things.
From birth till around the age of eight years old we have no self-awareness, absolutely no concept of “I” as something separate from everything else, much less the ability to define ourselves as “I am . . . fill in the blank.” There is no “ego” yet.
Life during this period is completely experiential, like a dream, where concepts of time and separation don’t exist. There is no sense of fear, apprehension, expectation, or agenda. Children live immersed in the eternal “present” moment; an ability we seem to lose as adults, where we are never present but rather always thinking of the past, lost in our memories, or projecting ourselves into the future with our imagination.
Looking into the eyes of a young child, you’ll see that most often there is no self, only an empty yet expansive presence behind the eyes. “Essence” is ALL that is contained in the body of a child. For a child, nothing exists beyond the precious bubble of time or temporal experience they are involved in at any given moment. If only that could last forever!
By the age of 6, our indoctrination into society begins. We are placed in schools where we are taught vocabulary, colors, numbers, names of everything, and not only how to think, but what to think. And sadly, seeing all the other children ‘herded’ together we accept that this process we’re going through is obviously in our best interests. As a result, most of what we are taught goes unquestioned. We no longer learn through personal observation like we did just being outside playing, but instead through passive exposure to information in classrooms we are encouraged to learn through rote memory, rehearsing, and regurgitation of material for a test.
Ultimately, what we are being taught through our schooling process, though completely unbeknownst to us at such a young age, is how to prepare ourselves for entering the workforce, how to become an integral part of society, how to become “essential” and how to “compete” in the world. We mindlessly recite our allegiance to a country before we even know what the words mean. We’re taught to compete for good grades, compete for the best attendance, compete for prom court, compete in sports, compete for jobs, compete for advancement within a company or firm, compete in the market place, and to compete against one another for not only survival as countries, but an imaginary social status that we think somehow defines us. From this level of thinking the innocent child inside begins to disappear underneath an ego that begins to emerge. Life is no longer something we are connected to and having a symbiotic, mutual beneficial relationship with, but rather something to contend with and compete with. We become separated and detached from everything, dividing even ourselves into two opposing aspects of ourselves: our “essence” and our “persona or ego.”
Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona or personality that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness.
This external image we project to the world whether as a professional persona in the world of business or the personality we develop for our personal endeavors and social relationships, creates a focus that distorts the perception of our authentic self. To feel a sense of acceptance and security in the world we are encouraged to wear these masks so often that we forget the “essence” of the person that lies beneath them. As a result, living a life of casting shadows, we are provided with only a few brief glimpses of our “real self,” our “essence,” that lies beneath the veil of our ego; beyond that which we identify with as “self,” beyond name, beyond form, and beyond thinking.
Unfortunately, fragmenting of ourselves doesn’t stop with the ego splintering from our essence; but is further fragmented into a kaleidoscope of different personalities that emerge in different environments. Our ego is like shards of glass in a shattered mirror where each shard represents different roles we play in different environments with different people to secure something for ourselves. It might be for friendship, for sex, for entertainment, for a job, or a whole host of other reasons. We tend to place people in our lives in the way that is most self-serving for us and meets our own self-interests.
We only delude ourselves with our ego because it creates a false image of ourselves by fragmenting us into countless categories of comparison with everyone else. From the perspective of our ego, we never see ourselves as “whole” but instead, always see ourselves as lacking something that always makes us “less-than-whole” and inadequate. Operating from this perspective, we live with a constant underlying fear we will never measure up and easily slip into feeling like a victim when life doesn’t exactly bend to our will.
Forgetting Who We Are
Most of what we experience in our waking state is superficial at best because our view of the world, our perception of self, and our way of thinking has been prescribed to us by well-intentioned parents, teachers, church practitioners, and through the redundant and repetitious nature of marketing.
Our indoctrination into society and the corresponding view that most of us have developed of ourselves over time started at a very young age before our cognitive development, where the lessons and beliefs we’ve come to accept were taken in on an emotional level without the benefit of applying any rational thought to these beliefs. I believe that is why these beliefs are so hard to change as adults, because the labels we wear so proudly (religion, political affiliation, nationalism, and the corresponding political views, class distinction, titles, etc.) lie at the core of all our emotions, our sense of morality, and serve to create our view of the world.
So let’s pause for a minute and ask a question. Do you remember who you were before you were told what to be, what to believe, how to think, who to pray to, how to vote, and how to view the world around you? When you were a blank slate? When you were open to life with no judgment, no prejudice, no bias? For most of us to remember that person requires going back to life before our schooling and indoctrination to society began . . .
If I had to guess, what most of us would remember is a child who felt a boundless freedom and fascination with life by merely waking up each morning and being alive. Every day was a gift to be experienced. We lived moment to moment, because nothing existed outside of the moment we were in. We had no agenda for the day and a countless number of opportunities and things to explore and get into. Life was this mysterious, cornucopia of experiences that we were a part of and thrilled to be immersed in. We were always present and took no thought of the future or of what was coming next. We had no itinerary laid out, no urgency, and no anxiety, other than the occasional fear inducing thunderstorm that cropped up from time to time or spider that appeared out of nowhere.
We didn’t identify with any political affiliation, religious organization, or country. We had nothing to identify ourselves with other than just being here in this wonderful, magical place, and experiencing life. These emblematic ideologies, affiliations, and labels that we identify so strongly with and categorically define our lives with as adults, all had to be programmed into us by well-intentioned adults. Eventually, we grow up to have children of our own and in turn inoculate them with these often unquestioned and unexamined beliefs bestowed upon us in our childhood of what the world is and how it works.
And on, and on, and on the cycle goes . . .
Life is ever-changing, where, as I had mentioned in the preface of the book in sharing my “Philosophy of Education,” we are hopefully constantly evolving and moving from a nebulous state of “being” into a state of “becoming” a better version of ourselves (and by that, I don’t mean more “successful” by any measure of societal standards). Learning through a variety of different experiences each year with different people we meet, holds the potential to move into a much deeper understanding of ourselves.
But, arriving at a place where we “know” ourselves can be a difficult pursuit in a culture steeped in programming the individual out of the individual, where the standards governing the teaching of an educational syllabus vs. a student initiated learning model, spits out individuals that have been molded by institutionalized thinking, built upon rote memory versus critical thinking. We learn at a very young age that questioning authority and culturally accepted beliefs is discouraged. Initially teeming with thoughts and ideas of our own we enter school where our independent thinking is methodically replaced by a curriculum of foundational subject matter deemed necessary and agreed upon by a certain consensus. Critical thinking is not really encouraged until perhaps the level of graduate schooling.
With everyone being inculcated with the same curriculum and socially accepted beliefs, this creates a functional society fashioned by similar contextual ideologies taught in school, about how society works or should work, with just enough differences created by religion and politics to keep us cohesive and yet divided.
Combine the influence of education, with the rigid beliefs of religion, and political affiliation, and the ever pervasive, yet subtle and insidious nature of media, that is constantly cultivating and creating our perception of the world just below our level of cognition and the individual disappears beneath the ego by identifying with a series of labels we’ve been taught to attach to everything and unfortunately even to ourselves.
Only when we drop all labels are we able to see thing as they are.
Children for example, only believe what we tell them. The moment a child is told what something is, from that day forward that child will project on to whatever the object or thing may be, the label they were taught to give it. In other words, from that day forward, they’ll never see the object again; they only see their thoughts. That’s because by labeling something we’ll never see it for the infinite number of qualities it possesses, we only see it as the label we’ve placed upon it.
It took me years of what I could only call a “cultural detoxification,” to un-identify with all these labels and to deprogram myself from all the cultural programming that trained me to think in a certain way and see myself and the world through the fish eye lens of endless media, marketing, and news propaganda. Giving up television in 2007 was a big part of that. It was literally like waking up from a deep slumber. The view of have of myself, and the world around me, has never been the same.
So why is it important to really understand who we are?
How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world we navigate through day after day. It colors our interpretation of everything and therefore contributes to the world we collectively create together as we interact with one another and every living thing on this beautiful planet of ours. We either see ourselves as separate from the whole of existence or a beautiful expression of it and intimately woven into it. If we see ourselves as the latter then everything we do is viewed with a sense of inclusion, not exclusion. It’s what creates a sense of community. But, not just a community of people, a community of all living things. Why do I believe that latter statement is so important?
“Everything we do affects the whole of existence.” There is no such thing as a benign act. This is very important to understand, because the more we connect with and understand ourselves, the more we understand our connection to others and the world we live in. The world as it is is only a reflection of how we see ourselves as individuals and collectively as a community.
The delicate “web of life” that sustains all of us is such that there is an extraordinary “inter-connectedness” to everything. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so as a consequence of its flawless design, nothing in nature is “independent!” Instead, every thread in the fabric of nature is “interdependent” with each and every living and non-living thing relying on the other for its continued existence.
Something to keep in mind when one considers the world that we’ve divided up into countries, states, politics, social strata, class distinction, race, religion, ethnicity, and so on. All these distinctions leave us feeling disconnected and cut off at times.
So then, why can’t we feel this connection to EVERYTHING?
It’s our identification with everything material that leads us to believe there is nothing beyond what we can perceive with our five senses, and even if there is, we don’t have time to think about all that nonsense.
It’s fascinating, that we live in a world where we are surrounded by science and technology that can detect all kinds of things that lie beyond what can be perceived by our senses, and yet we still continue to hold the belief that we are our bodies and there is no deeper reality than what we experience on the most superficial level with our five senses. Everything we perceive as “real” is only perceived as “real” because it is vibrating at a frequency that is commensurate with our five senses. But our five senses deceive us, as they perceive less than one percent of all the vibratory frequencies that we know exist. So it beckons the question, what is real and what is reality?
Religion, in a very futile sense, tries to bridge the gap between the ethereal realms and the “here and now,” but I believe for most, religion is insufficient at soothing our fears of the unknown and what lies beyond. It’s ritualized, rehearsed, redundant, mental conjecture, which requires very little to no thought or self-discovery, nor does it require a peering into the abyss because the answers are all provided in advance. It doesn’t advocate an inward journey but rather an external projection to connect with a divine entity, “out there” beyond the physical realm.
Before the age of technology and all the countless diversions from one’s self that come with it, men had accessed a much deeper reality. The ancient wisdom of countless sages who penetrated the veil of this physical reality by going beyond “mind” and “thought” has been almost entirely forgotten and replaced by an epidemic of amnesia, an unknowing of who and what we truly are. We in the western world, as opposed to those in the eastern world, have chosen an institutionalized, somewhat spoon fed way of thinking and seeing ourselves and the world, over a much deeper and profound knowledge discovered by Buddha and other masters, that lies beyond the wellspring of thoughts that are constantly bubbling up inside us. We have divided ourselves into our essence and our persona by dissociating with our essence and replacing it with a surface personality, with an ego, and countless societal distractions and technology.
Buddha said, in the Kalama Sutra, “in order to ascertain the truth, one must doubt ALL traditions, scriptures, teachings, and all the content of one’s mind and senses.”
Truth and essence lie beyond our persona, beyond thinking, beyond the mind. In stillness, we find ourselves by discovering there is no “self.” That may be bothersome to some, but I for one take comfort in knowing I’m connected to everything, that I have no beginning and no end, that I’m part of a whole, that I’m limitless, eternal, and exist both within and without.
As Within, So Without
Most of us live immersed in our day-to-day activities, running on autopilot, in a very unnatural way, merely striving to keep up and continue addressing our responsibilities. Unlike the natural world that we were once an intimate part of in our recent history, and operating according to natural rhythms of sleeping and waking, we now awake to alarm clocks, kick start each day with a cup of coffee, and stumble through the comfort of routine, living in a very structured, schedule-oriented fashion, with very little thought of who we are, where we’re going, and why we are here. Most of us have never experienced our essence in a world that through mass marketing keeps us preoccupied and constantly focused on our bodies and the physical aspect of our existence.
Living in this rat race at such a hurried pace, we’ve become a society of people that are exhausted, fatigued, often aimless, and simply trying to get by with very little time to just decompress, slow down, and reflect on a much deeper facet of ourselves. As a result, it goes neglected, undiscovered. Most of us will die having only known the “illusion of self,” the “conditioned self,” the image in the mirror; believing we ARE these limited bodies.
In seeking our deeper “self,” that part of us that we may only occasionally recognize and identify with as the “observer” of our thoughts, or the awareness behind our thoughts; we engage ourselves in all sorts of external ritualistic techniques and practices, believing we’ll unveil deeper truths about ourselves and connect to the divine by devoting time to things like church, prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.
This too is social conditioning. It’s a form of pathological and institutionalized thinking that has been massaged into our psyche since childhood that claims to have paved the way for us. In a very pre-ordained way, institutions like church intercede and keep us focused on an imaginary path to the divine that simply doesn’t exist. This is because there is nothing available to us in the external world that can point us to the path. Truth cannot be known through any medium and certainly not through the gilded religions. If it is known through any medium it cannot be known with confidence, only vacillation and doubt if one dares to question it. Doubt is beautiful. Doubt builds trust. Without doubt, there can be no trust. Doubt and trust are not opposites. They are complementary and the relationship between the two is what allows trust to attain maturity. Doubt pierces the veil of uncertainty through inquiry. Trust is the fulfillment of our inquiry. Doubt is our questioning, trust is our compensation for having asked the questions. Trust leads to a deep knowing.
It’s important to question the source, the validity of the information presented to us in order to know the truth. To know the “truth” one must be certain, not almost or approximately certain. If there is no certainty how can one know the truth? Truth is sought after, not handed to us. The religious don’t search for God – they have already accepted orthodoxy, doctrine, credo, conventionalism, tradition. There is no searching in religion, only rituals, posturing, and long faces.
It’s good if one cannot believe because not believing inspires a search, a journey to abandon convention and venture into the unknown.
Our journey is an inward journey, the destination of which lies in the stillness beneath all of our thoughts, beyond mind. It’s in the stillness that a doorway opens to the infinite and the expansiveness of all that is.
So, finding our “true self” doesn’t involve “doing,” it involves “being.” It involves quieting ourselves, sitting with ourselves, and going inward.
The transition from constantly “doing” to simply “being” and “allowing” does not necessarily come easy. It’s unnatural at first, especially when one considers that always “doing” is what we’ve been conditioned to do. Learning how to “BE” takes patience, practice, and thought at first; but in time, practice and repetition lead to the absence of thought and effortlessness. “BEING” becomes our natural state.
“The Secret of the magic of life consists in using action in order to achieve non-action.”
– Master Lu Tsu
Connecting with our inner being is the only journey that matters and has any real relevance because that journey eventually arrives at an expansiveness of our being that we knew as a child and forgot as an adult. This is an awareness that allows us to feel connected to everything and everyone; an awareness that feels only oneness and unity instead of separation. It’s good to discover this before we die, because beyond the demise of our physical body lies a journey we will ultimately take alone, so connecting with our essence and being comfortable with ourselves is probably a pretty good idea. The goal is to die to the “illusion of self” before we die.
Grounded here in the physical plane, trapped in these soul cages that we temporarily reside in, how we “experience” LIFE, that is to say, our “outer environment,” is only a reflection of our “internal environment,” and based solely upon the relationship we’re having with our self in any given moment. Notice I did not say the relationship we’re having with others. For the most part, that’s superfluous to what we’re feeling or the appraisal we have of ourselves.
We typically don’t give any thought to it, our eyes possess a tremendous bias. The eyes are not only lenses that take in the world, but they are also projectors. Our minds relentlessly project our biases, beliefs, and values onto every experience we are having and on to every person we meet. Because of this, we are constantly weaving together fantastic stories about everything.
We’re all storytellers in our heads. We spend so much wasted energy creating novellas; short stories in the form of a prognostication to explain and give meaning to events going on around us. We constantly speculate about the motives, behaviors, actions, and choices of others and how other’s choices may stand in stark contrast to ours. We psychoanalyze why someone said what he or she said to us or about us. We ascribe relevance to things and people in our lives, which is the result of the desire we project on to them, and a story we create. In letting go and putting the mind aside, we’ll see that there is no need to understand.
Make no mistake, LIFE is lived out entirely in our heads. Every feeling we have ever had it’s coming from the reality that we have created within us. This can be a debilitating premise to some because prior to developing our awareness, the unfettered and unrestrained mind can make a mess of our lives by attaching meaning to all of our over-thinking. Trapped by our ego, we are always seeking validation.
In a society where we live our lives like machines, we have been hypnotized and programmed for misery. After all, living and making our way in the world is serious business! Places to be, obligations to keep, deals to close, quarterly reports to pour over and finish, and bills to pay. Who has time to be happy?
A very large percentage of the population at every tier of society is miserable, not because they live in dire circumstances, but because we have been hypnotized to live life as a series of scheduled events and a very acute focus on time. Our lives are compartmentalized into boxes of obligations and “To Do” lists. Consequently, we often seek to escape reality. We find ourselves often drifting back into the past, to “better days,” or projecting ourselves into the future with hopes and aspirations of a better life, but rarely if ever are we fully “present.”
Society doesn’t allow one to live fully present. There’s too little time for it, too many things to tend to, too much to get done, and too little time. As a result, always focused on the next thing to get done, the next place to be, the process of living one’s life can take place at an almost entirely sub-conscious level where we are neither alert nor fully aware of what is going on around us because we are never fully present. We’re always racing from one obligation to the next, one thought to the next.
Because I feel we often over simplify things with labels which can be interpreted in a plethora of ways, I feel the need to make a distinction between being “conscious,” and what many would consider being the opposite of sleep; a “sub-conscious” state. By “conscious” I’m referencing the idea of truly being “awakened.”
Simply getting out of bed and diving into our day does not mean that we are truly “awake” or “alert.” Yes, we exhibit a certain zombie-like, sub-cognitive, level of consciousness just above the sub-conscious experience of sleep, but I believe many of us would agree that before our first cup of coffee, we seem to be going through a series of routine motions that are so automatic that they barely require any thought. For example, how many of us have driven to work and barely have any memory of how we got from home to our place of employment? Somehow we just showed up. Even during our waking state, we exhibit various levels of consciousness or degrees of concentration as we go through our day, but none of which would register as truly “awakened.”
Operating just below the level of our cognition, below the level of our awareness or conscious thought, is where we get in trouble emotionally. Thoughts bubble up to the surface in a never-ending procession in response to our experiences. Research has shown that the pattern and types of thoughts that run in the background, like apps on a phone, are a product of rudimentary thinking that developed in response to our childhood experiences, and that those patterns of thinking become automatic thoughts and behaviors that unconsciously determine all of our conscious thoughts as adults.
Running on “auto-pilot” we tend to “react” to our experiences in a preconditioned fashion (developed in childhood), applying no reasoning to those reactions.
*It’s important to note that these “reactions” are triggered, automatic impulses learned in childhood that are so ingrained in us they never make it to the level of conscious thought. They’re automatic and therefore reactionary.
At this level of consciousness we fall victim to the automatic thinking that takes place within us, never realizing that we are in fact, separate from our thoughts and therefore always “at choice” in choosing how we engage others or respond to our experiences. As a result, we unconsciously “react” to all these thoughts that we are having with a myriad of corresponding emotional responses to them. But in “reacting” we have no control over how we feel. These patterns of thinking and behavior were programmed in our childhood and are compulsory.
Buddha discovered, that until we develop our “awareness” and become the observer of our thoughts, which believe me is an endeavor in and of itself, most of our beliefs and biases remain conditioned, automatic patterns of behavior. Our feelings will always lie beyond our control and we will remain powerless in “choosing” how we feel about things.
It’s unfortunate, but most of us will never ascend or awaken to a higher level of consciousness than the well-rehearsed, well-learned, automatic, programmed, self-activated patterns of behaviors we learned in our childhood that govern most of our behaviors and decisions throughout each day. This is why so often many of us can feel like victims when our expectations are not met and life fails to bend to our will because we believe that life is simply happening to us and we have very little “choice” in the way we feel about it.
Let me assure you, we have far more control over our experiences than we believe we do. The first step is developing “awareness.”
The GHOST in the Machine
Awareness is simply a “shifting” of our perspective from unconscious, automatic behaviors and “reactions,” to conscious “responses” to life’s events. Once we develop awareness, we are often shocked at how unconsciously we’ve spent most of our lives. That’s why many refer to it as an “Awakening.”
When this “awakening” occurs the individual feels a sense of calm that they have never experienced before because they have developed an empowering state of mind and a sense of self-control in their ability to exert influence over the way they feel by becoming the awareness behind their thoughts. They feel an acceptance and love for themselves that they’ve never felt before. There’s often a sense of seeing the brevity and transient nature of life. There’s a sense of oneness and a feeling of being connected to everything, so as a result, a feeling of ambivalence towards society tends to develop and the individual sees beyond the veil of illusion for the first time in their lives. We begin to see Society and all of its mechanisms in a way that almost appears silly. One truly feels awakened, as if they have just snapped out of a very deep slumber.
It’s unfortunate, but by contrast to this, we live in a society where people feel profoundly lonely, isolated, alienated, and alone. But these feelings are simply the product of an under-developed perspective and an inability to see ourselves in a much broader context, one in which we are connected to everyone and everything else. Whether we realize it or not, we’re never separate or alone, because we truly are connected to everything. As mentioned earlier, nothing in nature is independent but rather interdependent. Everything is connected. I for one, find that very comforting.
Though it may seem paradoxical, we are literally woven into this physical reality out of the very fabric of the universe itself. We are not living “in” the universe; “we are the living universe.” We are not living “on” earth; “we are the living earth.”
That statement, of course, implies that we have always been a part of this universe because we are made of the same source material that gave rise to the universe. Numerous ancient texts use the quote “so as above, as below.” This is a statement of unity, integration, inter-relatedness, harmony, solidarity, and oneness. The fountain of energy that gave rise to the universe gave rise to us.
We have always existed, as a conscious, albeit “formless” entity. We existed before we incarnated, crossing from the “formless,” non-physical into the physical realm of “form.” We will exist after.
Thanks to Einstein, we now know that energy and matter are interchangeable. You know, that whole E = mc2 thing? They’re just different aspects, different states of the same thing. What both Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein discovered independently of one another through all their exhaustive work, is that all matter, all physical form is merely consolidated, congealed, temporarily “focused” energy taking on “form.” But form, is an illusion. What we perceive as being real with our five senses is in fact made up almost entirely of empty space. To provide perspective, consider for a moment that if we were to remove all the space between the center of the atoms in our body and their surrounding electrons, the entire human race would fit into a space smaller than a cube of sugar. We are not what we appeared to be. The body is nothing more than a very temporary state of being that we occupy.
If that’s true, then where did “YOU” or the consciousness that is perceived as emanating from within “YOU” come from?
I would argue that our “current” physical state is just one aspect of ourselves. There is a much deeper and expansive part of ourselves that exists beyond the boundaries of time and space and beyond form. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, I know . . . but bear with me.
Modern physics has discovered basic Laws governing Thermodynamics, the flow of energy even as it changes form, that appear to indicate that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. What that means is that all the energy in the universe that exists is all the energy that has ever existed and ever will exist. More recent discoveries in physics now seem to point to the idea that the entire universe is consciousness. Everything is alive and interacting with itself.
We don’t possess life! Life possesses us! Hard to conceptualize perhaps . . . but with a little effort, I believe one can begin to see that everything is connected.
For example, none of us would be inclined to think of our cells, tissues, or organs as living in the “ecosystem” of our body, as if they’re separate from our body or separate from what we identify with as ourselves. We tend to think of our body and all of the corresponding tissues and organs as a unit, as one animated entity. Why then do we see ourselves as separate from the universe? As we will see later, the human body is a universe in and of itself.
It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, we emerged from and are enmeshed in the universe. We are vessels made from and housing the universe itself. We “ARE” the universe!
Just as a dew drop on a leaf or a blade of grass is formed by the coalescence or aggregation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean . . . for a span of time, it’s separate from the ocean, but it is the ocean, and will someday return to the ocean.
As observers looking out from behind these eyes, we delude ourselves by clinging to the belief that we are separate from the universe, that we are “here” in these bodies, and life is “out there,” external to ourselves. “THERE” is a devious trick of the mind. The mind always makes us interested in things far away, over “there” so we can be lead from here to there. Our attention is always wandering to another place, another person, another thing. As a result, we are never “HERE” and almost always elsewhere, lost in the capricious nature of our thoughts.
We in western culture have to a large degree lost the ability to just “BE” and remain “present.” Instead, we’re always looking for the next thing to do. Our minds are always focused on the next external future event to provide us with some form of stimulation. This constant need leaves a lot of room for boredom, loneliness, sadness, and pain, which leads to a detachment from ourselves. We no longer know ourselves.
In India, there is an ancient proverb – diya tale andhera – which means “there is darkness under the lamp.” A lamp provides light that can fill an entire room and yet right underneath of it lies darkness. As is the case with man. We are capable of seeing all that surrounds us but incapable of seeing ourselves, who and what we really are. We delude ourselves thinking life is “out there” and worse yet, that we are separate from it.
Consider for a moment that you have never “experienced” anything outside of yourself.
Sadhguru, an eastern guru (teacher) says,
“Whatever you look at, you see from within yourself (from inside yourself looking out). Whatever you hear, you hear from within yourself. Where have you seen the whole world? Within yourself. Have you EVER experienced anything from outside of yourself?
EVERYTHING that has ever happened to you: Darkness and Light happens within you. Pain and pleasure happen within you. Joy and misery happen within you. Have you ever experienced anything from outside of yourself? No.”
“So the question is, what happens within you and who should determine how it happens? Someone else? “WE” determine what happens within us. We alone determine how we experience life. To believe otherwise is the ultimate form of slavery and means how we feel will always be determined by other’s choices.” – Isha Foundation Goalcast
Though many reading this may feel lonely and all alone, we are never alone. This is merely a story our ego has created. It’s a failure to see our connection to everything we are a part of. Seeing this connection brings an unceasing joy. It helps to see that we exist, we always have, and we always will.
“Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” – Eckart Tolle.
We, like everything else, are a unique manifestation of the universe, much like waves on the surface of the ocean are an extension of the ocean itself. The ocean can be used to provide perspective. Each individual wave on the ocean’s surface represents a discrete and uniquely individual event that is separate from every other wave on the surface of the ocean. Like us, a wave has a brief and distinctly separate life cycle from every other wave, but at the same time is connected to every other wave because every wave emerges from the same source, the ocean, just as each wave “IS” the ocean.
So it is with each individual’s life in this “physical” plane. Though appearing on the surface to be separate from all other waves of expression (people, animals, plants, stars, etc.) from the source field that gave rise to the universe, on a deeper level, woven out of the fabric of the universe itself, we are all ONE, with each one of us intimately tied into the universe, because we ARE the universe, just as each wave on the ocean is the ocean. We have all emerged from the same source, the same sea of energy, as we all came forth from something “formless” into something taking on or congealing into a well defined “form.”
It may be a bit of a mental catapult, but if you can think of the universe as a vast sea of invisible, formless energy, where non-physical fields of energy coalesce and condense into physical matter, may help. This occurs much the way water vapor, though imperceptible to the eye, condenses to form clouds and ultimately rain and various other forms of precipitation. Likewise, everything with “form” in the physical universe, including our bodies, is merely an extension of the same “formless,” imperceptible ocean of energy that gave rise to the physical universe itself and everything in it.
Everything that exists is just variations on a theme; a different wave of consolidated energy in the form of a human, a different physical expression of the original “source energy” or “source field,” but nonetheless all emerging from the same source, the same sea of energy as it emerged from something formless, nebulous, intangible, into something with form.
We as humans are just one of a whole myriad of different sentient beings and species that make up the part of the universe that has become conscious and is interacting with itself. Let that sink in for a moment.
John Lennon glimpsed this idea when in the song, I AM THE WALRUS by the Beatles, he wrote, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together…”
He understood that we’re all connected and we are all one.
The Paradox of Being Human . . . It’s ALL Perspective
Everything and everyone else is merely an extension of YOU, just as you are an extension of them. Each being a separate wave so to speak in a cosmic sea of interacting fields of energy and consciousness. You experience “YOUR REALITY” with you as the observer and you as the center of your own universe. But that entire universe lies within you and without. It flows from you and through you, just as it flows from and through everyone else. This is why, though our reality overlaps with others, we all see things differently. Though we are all ONE, we all see our overlapping realities through our own eyes. This is how the universe interacts with and experiences itself through the medium of consciousness.
One of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing in reality, was in a book called THE SECRET OF SECRETS by OSHO, which is a collection of talks given by OSHO, filled with detailed explanations of what Master Lao Tzu referred to as the “Golden Flower;” an allegory for the blossoming of one’s wisdom.
Once the Empress Wu asked the Master Fa-tsang if he could possibly give her a practical and simple demonstration of the principle of cosmic interrelatedness, of the relationship of the one and the many, of God and his creatures, and of the creatures one to another.
Fa-tsang went to work and appointed one of the Palace rooms so that eight large mirrors stood at the eight points of the compass. Then he placed two more mirrors, one on the ceiling and one on the floor. A candle was suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room.
When the Empress entered, Fa-tsang lit the candle. The Empress cried, “How marvelous! How beautiful!”
Fa-tsang pointed at the reflection of the flame in each one of the 10 mirrors and said, “See, your Majesty, this demonstrates the relationship of the one and the many, of God to each one of his creatures.”
The Empress said, “Yes, indeed, Master. And what is the relationship of each creature to the other?”
Fa-tsang answered, “just watch, Your Majesty, how each mirror not only reflects the one flame in the center, each mirror also reflects the reflections of the flame in all the other mirrors until an infinite number of flames fill them all. All these reflections are mutually identical; in a sense they are interchangeable, and in another sense, each one exists individually. This shows the true relationship of each being to its neighbor, to all that is. Of course, I must point out Your Majesty,” Fa-tsang went on, “that this is only a rough approximate and static parable of the real state of affairs in the universe, for the universe is limitless, and in it, all is in perpetual multidimensional motion.” Then the Master covered one of the infinite number of reflections of the flame and showed how each apparently insignificant interference affects the whole organism of our world. Keagan expresses this relationship by the following simple formula: One in all, all-in-one, one in one, all in all.
Then Fa-tsang, in order to conclude his command performance, held up a small crystal ball and said, “Now watch, Your Majesty, how are all these large mirrors and all the myriad forms they reflect our mirrored in this little sphere. How the ultimate reality, the infinitely small contains the infinitely large, and the infinitely large, the infinitely small, without obstruction. Oh, if only I could demonstrate to you the unimpeded Mutual interpenetration of time and eternity, of the past, present and future. But alas, this is a dynamic process that must be grasped on an entirely different level . . .”
As I had expressed previously, nothing exists independent of the whole. Everything is interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent. We as individuals are part of the whole, not separate from it.
What we each see is slightly different because we live in different realities colored by our past experiences, what we’ve been exposed to, survived, endured, been taught, accepted as truth, and so on. As a result, we never see things as “THEY” are, but as “WE” are. Therefore “reality” is subjective at best because no one else sees the universe through “our” eyes, which as was explained earlier, have a bias.
Though we all come from the same source no two people are living in the same reality. Our realities merely overlap. This is why relationships can be such a difficult undertaking. How arduous of a task it is to get someone to see the world through our eyes, share our experiences, and view life through the lens of our thoughts, perspectives, feelings, and opinions all of which were formed through countless experiences they’ve never had.
Ah, the human experience and the paradox of being human!
Because we identify so strongly with only that which can be perceived through our 5 senses, we delude ourselves into believing that “THIS” is the “only reality.” Since this perspective for the most part goes unquestioned and unexplored perspective we are convinced this body we reside in is what’s “real.” I would like to propose it isn’t “real” in the sense we think it is, and that we are not this body we temporarily reside in and animate. Sound crazy?
Consider for a moment that the body we so affectionately and intimately identify with as being “US” is a universe unto itself, housing countless life-forms. Most, have absolutely no idea what percentage of their body can be claimed as their own.
For every cell in the human body, we have nine microbes that are not human? That’s a 9:1 ratio of microbes to your own cells. Put more concretely, that’s roughly 27 trillion microbes living inside us versus the roughly 3 trillion cells that comprise the human body. These microbes are just as important to our survival as our own human cells. We literally could not survive without them. If that’s true, then our entire body is not uniquely human. You are an animated ecosystem, only 12% of which is composed of “you” and your cells. How’s that for a mind-bending contemplation?
Thanks to the Genome Project, which successfully mapped out the entire sequencing of our DNA, we now know that our DNA contains segments genetic material from of over 145 different species of bacteria, fungi, molds, viruses, and other animal species. Ponder that for a moment… and then ask yourself, “What truly makes us human and arrogant enough to think of ourselves as separate from nature, when we are in fact an entire ecosystem unto ourselves for microscopic life and the culmination of building blocks borrowed from 145 different species that pre-dated us?”
If we contain the building blocks of 145 different species, then what makes us, “US?” The fact that we have a body that we identify with as “ME?” Hmmmm….. Maybe.
EGO, always wanting attention and groping for a sense of self-importance, will cling to that belief, but I believe what makes us, “US,” isn’t our body at all. I believe what we are is not the body we borrow while visiting this 3-dimensional classroom here in the physical plane, something we identify with as having “form,” but rather something altogether “formless.”
I believe the deepest form of spirituality is to truly awaken and “see” beyond the veil of form, to realize our “essence” is something that lies beyond form.
Clearly, we are something without form, boundless, limitless, immortal, eternal; something that has always existed and always will, a consciousness that temporarily incarnates and takes on form so as to interact, learn, experience duality, struggles, pressure, conflict, contrast, and difficulties, in order to further the growth, expansion, development, and evolution of a universal consciousness that we all sprung forth from and are always connected to.
How banal and mundane would our existence become if we had everything and had absolutely no needs? With no struggles, no problems to solve, no pressure, no goals, no desires, and with every need met, what urgency would there be to ever learn anything from that point forward? I truly believe this is why we take on physical form. This reality, or dimension of reality, is simply a classroom where we can experience contrast, struggles, and problems to solve. We are each at a different point along the wisdom chain. Each one of us is on the leading edge of the expansion of the collective consciousness. Therefore, EVERYTHING is our teacher.
As a result, we are all in this thing called “LIFE” together. And by “WE,” I mean you, me, every person, every animal, every plant, every insect, mold, fungi, bacteria, protist, rock, plot of soil, planet, alien race, whatever.
Hearing that for the first time may sound silly, but it is a profound truth that every Mystic, Sufi, Guru, and quantum physicist understands. It’s a law that governs all life on this planet that we’re doing a “not-so-good-job” of sharing.
Native Americans have always had a very deep, spiritual understanding of this without the benefit of applying science. It was a wisdom they acquired purely through observation, as did Buddha and the ancient mystics from the Orient.
So anytime we say, “I am this!” or “I am that!” we are fragmenting and marginalizing ourselves, disconnecting from the “whole” that we’re all a part of and reducing ourselves down to the most minuscule aspect of what we “think” we are as opposed to what we “truly” are. We are NOT the avatars we temporarily reside in.
To see ourselves from this perspective, we see ourselves as if we are in a bubble, insulated from the whole of existence that surrounds us, isolated, detached, and separated from everyone and everything. We see the world as external to us; we see our choices as separate and our actions as separate as if we live in a vacuum.
But even the most seemingly benign choices we make as individuals affect not only the whole of humanity, but like ripples in a pond, affect every other person, species, ecosystem, biome, the entire ecological viability of Earth, and though few may understand this, even the collective consciousness of the planet itself.
Competition, Consumerism, and Sleep Walkers
Because of our cultural programming, the decisions we make are almost always those that are an extension of the egoistic beliefs, biases, and prejudices we hold, which always see us as separate and in competition with all others, and for most, even life itself. Life is perceived as something to be overcome, beat, conquered, controlled, and subdued. As a result, our choices are almost always predicated on survival, self-preservation, self-interests, self-indulgence, constant distraction, and most of all, fear. These are very low vibrational energies that disempower us and do very little to allow us to have a positive impact on others in our lives and the world around us, as we are primarily consumed with fulfilling our own needs.
There is perhaps no greater fear in western culture than the fear of not being “relevant.” And how do we become “relevant” in a consumer/consumption-based society? By making “money,” and acquiring “things.” By “getting ahead” and “Winning!”
We proudly wear corporate logos on everything we buy with the belief that it projects a certain level of attainment in our social structure. There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but what could the “things” we purchase ever possibly say about us as individuals? And yet we live in a culture predicated on the belief that how we dress, what we drive, where we live, the size of our house, and the size of our bank account, somehow defines us. We buy things, not necessarily for their utility, but for their symbology. In other words, we often buy things with the belief it projects an ideology we espouse or embrace. Fashion is no longer confined to just clothing. Now, everything has a sense of fashionability to it. Our toaster, our coffee maker, our bed sheets, furniture, shower curtain, dishwasher . . . It all somehow says something about you. Our society is now predicated on keeping consumers dissatisfied by always offering something a little bit better than what we already have, so that things lose their luster very quickly, leaving us with always wanting more.
Built on this ideology, happiness is always just one more purchase away, a moving target that we are “oh-so-close” to achieving. Consumerism has become the opiate of the modern era. The world keeps us focused on the superficial, the superfluous, and on our body. That’s because the world has no use for the non-physical, soul-level part of ourselves. The world wants us preoccupied and focused only on the body, what’s on the surface, the here and now, because the world can use our bodies, but our souls offer nothing to the competitive world of commerce and business.
So reduced to competition, our world gets shrunk down to self-interests, and often a very self-aggrandizing mindset of habitually striving for more and more. It’s a very odd thing, this detachment we have with one another, other species, the planet, and sadly even ourselves. Few people truly “know” who and what they are. Casting shadows to fit in with all this madness, we’ve become detached from our inner essence, what we really are. We develop more of a relationship with our outer facade, and keeping up a false image than we do with our “real self.” We live in a world where we’ve been taught to externalize our self-worth, where media inculcates an unthinking populace with a barrage of programming that promotes fear and insecurity.
The term “unthinking populace,” is not meant to be derogatory or denigrating to those who choose to watch television. Rather, it is a literal truth. Watching television is a passive endeavor where media propaganda and advertising messages are “dumped” into our heads without scrutiny or the benefit of cognition, because television bypasses any reasoning. To say we are “absent minded” while watching television would be an understatement.
As early as the late 60’s, psychologists, behavioral research scientists, and even neurologists, became concerned with the effects viewing television can have on brain development. That’s because studies revealed that within 60 seconds of viewing a television screen, the human brain slips into producing alpha rhythms (the early stages of sleep or hypnosis). This is because televisions operate on an alternating current operating at 720 Hz, which means your television is turning on and off at 720 times per second. In other words, it creates a strobe effect that, although imperceptible on a conscious level, is perceived at the subconscious level. Television quite literally hypnotizes the viewer, by shutting down the frontal cortex of the brain where thinking and discernment take place. As a result, business, news, and media corporations capitalize upon this fact, bypassing our conscious reasoning, unquestionably programming the unsuspecting populace, by painting for the viewer, a prescribed view of the world that surrounds them.
As a result, television advertising can be very insidious in nature, and anything but benign, in that, the business of marketing to a dismally conscious/hypnotized viewer extends beyond simply selling solutions to our needs. Advertising, through repetition and redundancy, is in the business of artificially creating our needs or what we think we need to have in order to have a more fulfilling life.
One need look no further than the launch of each new iPhone and the hoards of people that turn out to purchase it as soon as it becomes available, as evidence of our “conditioning,” and the need to have the “latest-greatest.” It is without question a Pavlovian response, an automatic behavior, displayed as a result of being exposed to a repetitious stimulus.
Television’s sole purpose is to create consumers and prop up the economy and Wall Street; and sadly, it works. Retail therapy (otherwise known as “shopping”) is a conditioned response to social programming and today, social media, entertainment, and sports have become the primary form of social interaction in a culture that wants to die amused to death.
Everyone Else Appears So Happy, Why Am I Not?
It’s unfortunate, but there is a lot of suffering in the world. The suffering that takes place in third world countries is something incomprehensible to most of us, but it should probably serve as the benchmark for what real suffering looks like. And yet, because we each suffer from the limited perspective of our own reality, despite living in a first world society with so many freedoms and conveniences, countless numbers of people at all tiers and levels of income in society are miserable. Drowning in our possessions, we still feel an emptiness; a void.
No one would ever argue that there are certainly benefits to living in a first world country, but as with everything in life there are both pros and cons. Without a doubt, we are the beneficiaries of countless advances in technology, transportation, medicine, municipalities, access to clean water and electricity, climate controlled homes that protect us from the elements, a myriad of choices in entertainment, the ability to be creative and both pursue a learning of the arts and a celebrating of the arts if we choose to, and certainly the availability of information. Conversely, all these luxuries and conveniences have unanticipated repercussions that come with them.
Driven by the pressures of the marketplace, that always seeks growth, companies are forced to compete in an unforgiving marketplace built on constant innovation and planned obsolescence, and profits. More and more profits. To maximize profits, companies pay less and less as salaries do not keep pace with inflation, benefits shrink year after year, and employees are forced to work more and more hours. We trade our lives for companies that now see us as expendable. No doubt, keeping up with our fast paced lives is daunting to say the least, where we have less and less time to invest in ourselves and explore our passions.
Though on a conscious level we may not really take time to contemplate it, we live in a culture steeped and predicated almost entirely on defining our value and importance through the acquisition of money and distracted by constant entertainment, self-indulgence, and consumption vs. sustainability. For most, our sense of self worth is based on our ability to integrate ourselves into our current system of commerce, accumulate capital, monetary wealth, status symbols, and material possessions. Unlike our grandparents and more distant ancestors, who had considerably more responsibilities, today our responsibility has been reduced down to nearly one thing only . . . making money. If we make money, we get to participate in the game of life. If we don’t, we stand at the end of an off ramp or a busy intersection and plead for others to help us by providing us with money as a handout.
Consider for a moment the significance of that. We’ve created a society where adults are a vanishing species. We’ve traded autonomy for convenience. When we grow up and leave home we move seamlessly from a codependent relationship with our parents into a codependent relationship with companies and corporations, that not only employ us and provide us with a means to derive income in exchange for hours of our life each day, but have become utterly dependent on to meet our every need for survival in this economic model we’re all participating in.
We are powerless without money and few know how to take care of themselves apart from the system that we’ve become entirely dependent upon to take care of us. We’re so much a part of it we don’t even question it. Being so dependent, we are easily manipulated by a Government that acts unmonitored by the citizens who are all too busy to care and have to look on, often in shock, as politicians make decisions completely independent of any popular vote or input. Subsequently, we have virtually no voice or influence in the very politics and political decisions that profoundly affect us and must suffer the consequences of having given so much power away.
So what are our choices? How do we begin to feel secure or safe in this system we’re all participating in? By continuing to do the only thing that we know to do. Work!
Without a doubt, just about everyone’s primary center of interest and most prevalent intent day-to-day, is our hyper-fixation on the acquisition of money. How could it be anything else? Money buys things and creates spending power. Money provides security. It creates an artificial sense of importance for those that have plenty of it and, for those that don’t have enough of it to make ends meet, it creates tremendous suffering, desperation, despair, and despondency.
How many of us choose a career, not because it’s fulfilling and in line with our passions, but rather because we can make a lot of money at it? So dependent and desperate are we to make money that we’re just happy to have a job. Because of this dependency, we’re afraid to ask for raises, ask for better benefits, or demand greater compensation for our labor. Many in society, feel not only undervalued in their jobs and unappreciated, but downright abused and taken advantage of by the companies they work for, but it beats the alternative; unemployment, which is most people’s worst nightmare. This singular fear tends to make us very subservient to a system that we’re taught is here for us to exploit and capitalize on.
In today’s society, money is purported as being the sole source of happiness. The more we have, the happier we’ll be, or so we’re lead to believe.
A dear friend of mine, that I have known for years, suffers from chronic insomnia, anxiety, stress, frustration with her clients, and has a preoccupation with thoughts that she’s eventually going to lose her job if she doesn’t produce more, hit her goals for the company, or loses a client. In her own words, she has shared with me on numerous occasions that she’s absolutely miserable.
As one might imagine, I’ve repeatedly expressed my concern for her well-being, sharing with her that emotional “dis-ease” always leads to “disease.” No sooner did I say this and my friend chose to share with me that she was just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, two days prior. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an auto-immune inflammation of the thyroid gland which causes a leak resulting in excess thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Over time, the inflammation prevents the thyroid from producing enough hormones (hypothyroidism). This ultimately progresses to other auto-immune diseases that develop within the body.
I suggested that perhaps she consider getting a different career that pays less with less stress and more freedom. After explaining to me all the reasons why she can’t, she said, “I guess I’m just selfish. I love making money.”
Most of us have to have a good portion of our life in the rear view mirror before we discover that there is virtually no correlation between money and happiness.
Looking at the sheer number of drug overdoses and alcohol related deaths each year, and the overwhelming number of people in society on prescription psychoactive, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, points to one conclusion. For a large segment of the population, life is scary, lonely, and depressing; and a good portion of us are merely hoping to escape it, even if just temporarily, by pharmaceutically manipulating the biochemistry of the body to have alternative experiences, or by simply using pharmaceuticals to manage our moods and emotions.
This notion of just surviving life and all its challenges, by getting ahead, or better yet, “winning” at life, leaves a lot of room for us to be robbed of joy. But to be robbed of joy, we first have to be convinced that there’s no reason to be joyful. This is done through social conditioning. With inequality indexes showing the greatest margin between the “haves and the have-nots” in human history, life in most first world countries has become tantamount to an amusement park, where unfortunately less and less have access to the rides and less and less money to purchase something in the gift shop. But, for those that can afford it, there is so much to stimulate and indulge in. Sadly, most of these indulgences are designed to appeal to and inflate our ego.
As a result of this “conditioning,” through messages relentlessly massaged into our psyche, and an ego that lives at the level of comparison, we create a negative view of ourselves and of life by focusing on the superficial as opposed to anything of substance. Is it any wonder why we can end up feeling like a failure, with each of us carrying inside what I see as the most prevalent societal attribute of individuals swept up in American culture . . . the belief that we don’t measure up, or more specifically, “we simply aren’t good enough?”
Society, along with decades of cultural programming, has disconnected us from the natural world that we are so intimately tied to, and worse yet, made us invisible to ourselves. Compared to every other species, we live in a very artificial reality. To feel relevant, we spend our lives trying to maintain and defend a fictional identity, an idealized version of ourselves, an ego that is always comparing ourselves to others. Rather than just “being,” and being present, being grounded, being centered, and being patient with ourselves; we are forced to enter the fiercely competitive arena of the marketplace chasing this idealized version we’ve created of ourselves to prove to ourselves and others that we’re “relevant” and “successful,” or at least could be, if given the chance. Comparing ourselves to magazine covers that are all computer enhanced, we see little beauty in ourselves. We live in our heads constantly defending ourselves against the negative messages sent to us by our egos.
As mentioned earlier, we find that we’re rarely “present” and find ourselves constantly striving to “become” someone of higher ranking, with more titles to add to our resume, subscribing to the idea that we are actually defined by our jobs, our income, and the material wealth or possessions we accumulate along the way. So we set goals, to have more, earn more, travel more, buy more logos and things; thinking that if we can just get “THERE” we’ll be happy.
The problem is “once we get there, there is no THERE, there” – Buddhist Proverb
We never arrive, because we simply keep making new imaginary mile markers for ourselves. That’s not to say one shouldn’t have goals, but the danger is attaching our sense of “happiness” to the attainment of those goals. This is the danger in externalizing our happiness and our concept of “success.” When we do, it’s a destination that we never arrive at. It’s tantamount to being lost and then setting off in the direction of a mirage of a desert oasis. We believe we see it with such clarity and chase after it only to realize it wasn’t real, and that neither happiness nor success is a place.
But society needs to weave this fantasy because it is this fantasy that keeps people productive, keeps Wall Street increasing profit shares, and keeps society going. Society requires man to live like a machine and die like a machine. Is it any wonder why so many are so unhappy?
Man has embedded within him the seed of a great blossoming of consciousness, but from birth, we are being hypnotized by society, by the state, by an educational system based, not on thinking, but on rote memory, by organized religion, by media, and by well-intentioned people who have already been indoctrinated into the system. They all prepare us for our participation in the system.
On some level everyone feels this sense of limitation built into the system but feels powerless in changing it. We feel the weight of the invisible chains placed upon us, in the form of mortgages, car loans, college debt, credit card debt, medical insurance, life insurance, umbrella insurance policies, and in the form of the salaries we are provided, which never seem to be enough to cover everything or provide us with the ability to dramatically move beyond our manageable living arrangements. Few decide to live with less. Instead, their solution is to work more!
We are sold a myth. We believe that society exists in our favor, for our good, that the system works for those who work hard, believe in themselves and reach for their dreams. But therein lies the illusion. Again, we are attaching happiness to the acquisition of things.
If someone makes a million dollars, they’re not twice as happy if they make two million dollars, but this is the merely a spectacle that companies, media outlets, Hollywood, and Magazine Covers continue to constantly push. The idea that happiness is something we find through the externalizing of our needs and sense of self-worth, and the idea that the cumulative sum of our acquired possessions will inch us closer and closer to a state of perpetual bliss.
The awakened person is no longer of use to society, because the awakened person is a free agent who is no longer hypnotized by society and cannot be reduced to slavery. They have a deeper commitment to existence, both theirs and others, to learning, loving, growing and preparing for their next journey beyond this life. They no longer care about the man-made structures of society and culture but rather feel intimately connected to the Earth and all things living. To the awakened; society is dead, inanimate, inorganic, and holds no virtue, no sense of wonder to the enlightened soul.
The awakened soul no longer belongs to a crowd, nor do they try to “fit in.” Our soul knows only freedom, and it is dangerous to society because society needs only our body. In awakening, our interests change from being extroverted to becoming introverted; we begin moving inward. Society is outside; it want its members to remain oblivious; society wants you to remain an extrovert, interested in power, superficiality, and prestige so that your energy goes on moving outward, attaching your ego to things. It’s a dead end and a very frivolous pursuit. At the end of one’s life one sees the utter futility of it all.
It’s become all too clique’ but it is true, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” If I had it to do all over I would have traveled much lighter. It’s absolutely true. The more we own, the more our things own us.
“We’re Always At Choice”
Making better decisions for ourselves, and really to the benefit of others by creating healthier more harmonious relationships, involves developing a heightened sense of awarenes and elevating ourselves above our parental and cultural programming, so we can begin “choosing” to consciously “respond” to life instead of unconsciously “reacting” to it.
To understand what I mean, consider the fact that studies in behavioral research have shown that an estimated 94% of the population does not continue to develop emotionally much beyond the age of an eight-year-old child.
This is because our behavioral patterns are developed in our early childhood through observation, by modeling our parent’s behaviors. Because of something called neural-plasticity, repetition creates very strong neural pathways in the brain that make most of our behavioral responses, automatic, reflexive behaviors that occur with virtually no underlying conscious thought. These patterns of behavior are solidified by the age of eight and express themselves in the form of very predictable “reactive” behaviors that we can be plagued with for the rest of our lives. How easily we’re triggered into reacting to people and things we see.
In other words, our core patterns of behavior are developed before we can apply any logical reasoning to them, and are created by either emulating the behavioral patterns of our parents or by rejecting them. These behavioral patterns are unconscious, automatic “reactions” to life’s events, and occur below the level of cognition or conscious thought. What’s important to understand is that they’re NOT based on a “choice” we make. Instead they are “automatic, involuntary reactions deeply rooted in the egoic mind!”
How many times in life do we react to things and later regret the way we acted out? This occurs because we react before we even have time to think about what we are doing or saying. Again, the behavioral pattern is unconscious and automatic. As I am sure we have all experienced, these reactions often lead to regretful behaviors, when later, we think about what we did.
Most people will live out an entire lifetime unconsciously “reacting” to life and others, from a series of rudimentary emotional patterns that they developed as a child, by mimicking their parent’s behaviors. Only when we can become the observer, the awareness behind our thoughts, are we empowered to pause and create a space from which we can make better decisions by consciously “responding” to life’s events and circumstances, instead of being triggered into unconsciously “reacting” to everything.
While developing this awareness, the key is to be gentle with ourselves. During this transition it’s important that we suspend all judgment of ourselves, lest we fall into the pattern of bullying ourselves with a self-deprecating dialogue we tend to have with ourselves. That is the voice of our ego, damaged, wounded, embarrassed, and angry condemning the sensitive, beautiful, authentic, emotional part of our being.
It is very important to give yourself permission during times like these, to “feel” any emotions that come to the surface with no resistance. Dive into them! Feel them! Do not deny or try to resist them. Only in allowing ourselves to “feel” our feelings, can we process our feelings and develop awareness.
When we are feeling bad our tendency is to beat up on ourselves. Our intellect, which is the egoic mind, and operates at the level of our cognitive understanding at our current age, tends to become very judgmental and abusive of our sensitive emotional self (which you may remember, for most is easily wounded and beat up on by our ego, because we don’t, without intervention, work, and developing awareness, develop emotionally beyond the emotional mindset of an 8 year old). Simply put, the ego is our inner adult and the emotional self is our inner child. The ego is our cultural programming. The obedient part of our mind that is restrictive, obedient, draws within the lines, reminds us of the rules and regulations that “should” be governing our socially accepted and preordained behaviors, and applies pressure to our emotional self in the form of judgement. It is never present, but rather combing through the past to reveal to us all the ways we failed ourselves and disappointed others. It’s condemning. These two aspects of who we are always at odds with one another until we integrate them by developing awareness. It vital at these times to become acutely aware of what you are telling yourself about yourself and the messages that you are sending to your body that create so much pain and suffering.
What I cannot encourage enough, is to resist the urge to label any feeling as good or bad, right or wrong, and choose not to succumb to the tendency to tell yourself “I shouldn’t be feeling this way or thinking theses thoughts.”
An exercise I like to have people practice, is to quiet themselves when they are in pain and observe any thoughts or feelings that come up inside them, just as they would observe clouds that briefly form in the sky and slowly dissipate and vanish. In other words, I encourage them to let them bubble up to the surface offering no resistance and allowing them take shape. The very act of displacing our thoughts and just observing them, as if they lie outside of us, creates a gap, a space between us and our thoughts and feelings. From this gap we have created, we are able to observe our thoughts. It allows us to listen to the internal dialogue with having with ourselves, and the internal narrative that we have come up with to explain our circumstances. In doing so, what we will find is that the thoughts coming to the surface are the beliefs we hold about ourselves. Now we have something to work with. In changing our thoughts, everything changes. In changing the way we look at things, the things we look at change.
So much suffering comes from labeling our feelings. It’s a form of resistance, instead of allowing. In labeling our feelings we are ultimately labeling ourselves, judging ourselves, putting ourselves down, belittling ourselves, and resisting the natural flow of life as we transition. When we do so, we are focusing on the past, which is dead, instead of in the present moment which is life. We spiral downward in hopelessness, wishing things could be different or wishing “we” could be different and fail to see all the opportunities life is opening up to us. We feel inadequate and irrelevant, disposable and unlovable. In developing our awareness we come to see that all these feelings are in fact, imagined and temporary. They are merely stories we tell ourselves.
The truth is, we are what we believe and convince ourselves we are, not what anyone else “thinks” of us or has to say about us. It is the internal dialogue that we are having with ourselves that creates all of our pain and suffering. The only reason someone has the ability to trigger us in to hurting, is because something they’ve tapped into and released unresolved pain from our past, the parts of ourselves we’ve not yet learned to love. It emerges from the garbage we believe to be true about ourselves, which we’ve stuffed deep down inside, and yet so readily comes to the surface when someone triggers us. It is because in trying to hide what we really believe to be true about us, we’ve put the buttons there for them to push and trigger. But please understand, others do not hurt us. They only tap into the pain that’s already within us simply looking for a way out, a release. Pain we’ve not yet overcome and let go of.
It’s important to understand that our reactions themselves are just poorly designed coping mechanisms developed as children that we designed instinctively to protect us in time that we felt threatened or afraid. We’re pushed to harden ourselves at a very young age and encouraged to grow up quickly. After all, society can be very unforgiving.
These reactive behaviors developed intuitively and were adopted through the observation of our parent’s behaviors that were learned from their parents, which they learned from their parents. On and on, the cycle of adopting these behaviors continues, generation after generation. As adults they no longer serve us, but our ego, which again, always sees us through the lens of comparison to everyone else, utilizes these patterns as the only way it knows to protect itself. These reactions manifest themselves in the form of emotional outbursts, yelling, gossip, retaliation, vindictiveness, the need to prove we’re right, calling others out, name-calling, sadness, depression, playing the victim, and apathy.
As long as we continue to unconsciously “react” to life we will be slaves, emotionally tethered to and affected by the internal ranting of our minds. Simply put, it will be our master and we will be able to exert very little control over the way we feel or our emotional state of mind. When we become the awareness behind our thoughts, we arrive at a place of being able to “choose” of how to respond to life; instead of reacting. We’re able to reframe our thoughts around a particular circumstance, look at it from another perspective, and understand another’s reactive behavior. Perhaps one of the most obvious signs of developing our awareness is that when some one acts in a hurtful way towards us, we don’t seek to retaliate but rather seek to understand their hurt, which is the real reason people lash out at us. Hurting people always hurt people. In elevating ourselves above our involuntary reactions, the mind becomes our servant and is no longer our master.
We’re Only Ever Having ONE Relationship
To awaken is to see ourselves as whole, sufficient, loving, and lovable, not “insufficient or lacking.” It’s to move from an external focus to an internal journey. It’s to realize we are here to learn, only learn. It’s to see ourselves as “connected,” not separate, and to make decisions that supersede the will imposed upon us by the ego. Not an easy task, but with a little practice we can learn to completely overhaul these automatic behaviors and live consciously.
Seeing ourselves for who and what we really are is paramount in a society where, short of a natural disaster, cooperation and a sense of community are no longer highly regarded values, and where by contrast, competition is perhaps our society’s most revered and highly glorified value. As a result, connecting with one’s self can be an extremely difficult undertaking in an economic model built on striving against one another, entertainment, self-indulgence, celebrity status, and the “cult of personality.” There are so many things to preoccupy ourselves with and distract us from ever truly getting to know ourselves.
It is only in knowing ourselves (our true nature) that we are able to see and feel comfortable with ourselves and others and allow our true self to emerge through the masks of the ego.
What we “really” are, beneath these mortal coils that we temporarily reside in, is not our persona, our personality, or even our thoughts about ourselves. We are essence! Our essence dips into time and space but ultimately lies beyond it and transcends it entirely. Believe me, to conceptualize and understand this can be a very daunting task, to say the least. It’s a very foreign concept to us in the western world. It’s our failure to see this that keeps us always thinking LIFE is “out there” happening “to us,” acting upon us in fairly unpredictable ways, which is why we strive so hard to create predictability, continuity, and security in our lives. And let’s be honest, life can be scary. It was quite an arduous journey for me to learn the deeper truths that I now lean on heavily to guide me through life, but my journey is far from over.
In a society where we have been conditioned to blame others and life’s circumstances for the way we “feel” it’s important to understand that how we view ourselves and/or “feel” in any given moment is paradoxically the result of the internal workings of our minds and the thoughts we choose to ruminate on.
Contrary to popular belief, the way we feel emotionally in any situation or at any given time is NOT the product of anyone or anything external to us. It’s the result of the internal dialogue that we are always having with ourselves in any given moment. This internal dialogue we’re always having creates the picture we’ve painted of ourselves or the narrative we’ve created about others and/or our life’s circumstances.
For most, our internal dialogue tends to be very self-deprecating in nature. This shouldn’t be surprising. Our society appeals to people’s egos. It’s what drive almost all commerce in the marketplace that is predicated on competition and comparison. But it is this internal dialogue we are always having that determines what we tell ourselves, how we react to others and treat ourselves, how we show up in the world, and how we interact with everything: the earth, the environment, and all living things. How we view ourselves in relation to the world around us determines every cognitive, psychological, and emotional aspect of our lives. The key point here though is “how we see ourselves” in relation to everything else.
In other words, the only relationship we are ever having, from the day we arrive, until the day we depart this world, is the one we are having with ourselves in any given moment, and that relationship is always and only taking place in our head. How we see ourselves isn’t based on what others think of us. It’s based on what we think others think of us. So, all external relationships essentially serve as a mirror reflecting back to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves, because it is our interactions with others that evoke innate feelings within us that we use to weave together stories in our heads to explain everything that is going on around us.
I think it’s safe to say that our self-perception is pretty important, especially in a world where there are 7.4 billion people/mirrors reflecting back to us, different aspects of what we believe to be true of ourselves.
In a world polarized by political views, religious beliefs, patriotism, class distinction, and the national fervor that is a product of identifying with our country of origin, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of labels that we identify with and may choose to pin on our self and others.
An accurate depiction of ourselves is elusive because that depiction is completely imaginary (and by imaginary I mean, only in our heads) and always filtered through the complexion of a whole myriad of different emotions that unfortunately, are always changing. In other words, we see ourselves through a different set of lenses every time we choose to look at ourselves and contemplate the essence of who and what we are.
For the most part, as mentioned before, our perception of self in any given moment is reactionary and myopic in nature, usually in response to an external trigger, or some circumstance we find ourselves in. It’s illusory, and making an accurate appraisal of ourselves “as a whole,” in an isolated moment of “feeling” something, is virtually impossible because we are not what happens to us nor are we the wellspring of feelings that bubble up to the surface in response to the events that transpire within a given day.
It’s often said, we can never step in the same river twice, and that is indeed, very true. But, what is left out of that consideration, as a friend once reminded me, is that the same person never shows up to the river’s edge either. Who and what we “are” is never the same from one moment to the next. We are always changing. So to see ourselves for what we are perhaps requires a different perspective.
Because life is fluid, dynamic, and ever-changing, our feelings are always changing in response to it. If that’s all true, how could we ever form a clear picture of what we are from moment to moment based upon how we “feel?”
So, to say, “I AM . . . anything,” to label our self as anything, is a grossly limiting and terribly inaccurate statement, because our appraisal is based on how we feel in “that” moment.
An experience from my childhood may serve as a good analogy . . .
As a child, I remember seeing an object on the bottom of a pool of water, but making out what exactly it was, was very difficult because the surface waves made by other people in the water, caused the object to jump back and forth. In each moment, each wave at the surface created glints of light magnifying part of the object for a fraction of a second and then another part of it for just a moment, revealing different aspects or a different portion of the object with each wave. To figure out what it was involved either waiting for the water to become tranquil and smooth out or required observing it long enough to mentally piece these fragments together to create “the whole.”
To see who we are is just like that, and it involves looking deeper inside ourselves, past the image in the mirror. It takes time to see beyond all the illusions of ego we’ve created about ourselves, to discover the “real” entity living beneath the skin we wear. That’s because the stories and the illusions we create in our head have so many feelings associated with them.
Feelings are a horrible lens to take a mental snapshot of our self with. It’s like trying to take in an enormous painting that covers the entire side of a building with our nose up against the canvas. Depending on what part of the canvas our nose is pressed up against, will determine the guestimation we make of what we are looking at, or in this given analogy . . . who we are. The picture is always incomplete and always will be until we dissolve our association with form. We, beneath the surface, are “formless.”
We are not the avatars or the bodies that we temporarily reside in while here in the physical plane. Consider that science has probed every orifice, fissure, sulci, and organelle in the human brain and yet has never identified or discovered where consciousness lies within the human body. It appears to be completely nonlocal. And yet, paradoxically we all have the experience of being the observer looking out at life. We each experience ourselves as “I.” This is why we experience ourselves as being separate from everything we observe, and therein lies the illusion. Life is always only occurring in our heads.
“Life is Never Happening to Us”
It’s important to understand that at the level of our emotions, life is never happening “to us.” Instead, it is always and only happening “within us” as we consciously project our feelings and what we’re experiencing internally outward onto what is happening in our immediate environment.
We create stories about what’s going on as our thoughts seem to form a dialogue without any effort. Thoughts seem to bubble up from an unidentifiable wellspring within us painting our interpretation of what is going on around us. Only when we develop “awareness” and become the “observer” of our thoughts, can we rise above them by realizing there’s a much deeper aspect of ourselves behind the thoughts that are a product of our automatic, unconscious thinking. We become consciously aware, and stop reacting to the thoughts we’re having, understanding that they’re simply “patterns” of automatic thinking we learned along the way. We stop judging others and judging ourselves, and realize that our judgment of others and how they may treat us is really only a reflection of how we see ourselves.
Only then can we stop “unconsciously reacting” to life, pause, and “consciously respond” to life, knowing how others are behaving, even if in a way directed at us, has nothing to do with us, but rather is simply the result of the unconscious and automatic patterns of behavior they’ve learned along their way.
Reactions are always an unconscious provocation of the mind and involve no choice. Responses are always a conscious endeavor, a choice.
From this viewpoint, every we experience in life; good, bad, or indifferent is teaching us something about ourselves. EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is our teacher if we choose to examine the internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves. Everything happening in our lives chips away at the beliefs we hold about ourselves. When we really develop our “awareness” we will realize that every time we look outside of ourselves as an explanation for how we are feeling, there is no absolution. We never find an explanation for why we feel the way we feel, or why others are treating us a certain way. As a result, peace of mind is something that will always elude us.
“When we blame others, we will always suffer.” – Buddhist proverb.
Our experiences only reflect back to us the feelings, thoughts, judgments, and perspectives we project on to them, which are only a projection of the feelings, thoughts, judgments, and perspectives we carry about ourselves. So, to reduce this concept down to a very elemental, punctuated statement, it is not LIFE itself, but rather “US,” who create the way we “experience” life itself. How we “experience” life is all merely a product of our own thoughts. Simply put, our thoughts create our beliefs, our beliefs create our story or the internal narrative we make up (in response to everything we experience), and our story creates all our feelings. Change our thoughts and everything changes.
As Wayne Dyer stated so simplistically, “Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world – Same world.”
Since we’re the only one “creating” the stories about our self and everything going on around us, everyone else in our lives is “off the hook” so to speak. No one is responsible for the way we feel, other than “us” because it is “us,” and “us” alone; not others, creating all the stories in our heads and therefore all the corresponding “feelings” that we experience. It is our own self-deprecating internal dialogue that creates virtually all our suffering in life. Pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is a choice because it is a product of the thoughts we “choose” to mull over and fixate on.
The only one capable of hurting us is US . . . NO ONE ELSE.
When we rely on other people to make us feel good about ourselves, joy will always elude us because someone else can decide whether we feel joy, happiness, sadness, anger, abandonment, or any other emotion. We will have rare interludes of happiness and feel good about ourselves, but we will always be dangling ourselves precariously between emotional bliss and annihilation, and our emotional well-being will always be based upon how others are treating us, which of course is something we have no control over. Not a very good methodology for approaching life.
The reality is, most of our emotional wounds in life are self-inflicted where, as victims of our EGO, we bully ourselves endlessly and convince ourselves we are nothing. It is this internal, self-deprecating dialogue we’re having with ourselves that chips away at our sense of self-worth. For many, it can be downright debilitating.
Most of us try to control our minds and avoid negative thoughts. And therein lies the paradox. When we attempt to control the mind, it becomes increasingly more difficult to control. We resist our feelings by living in denial and ultimately spiral into catastrophic thinking instead of learning to accept our feelings, and process them by offering no resistance and choosing to feel them instead of ignoring them. Through awareness and detachment, by suspending all judgment of ourselves for what we’re feeling, and allowing the emotions to come and go; eventually, the mind will clear itself.
Change Your Thoughts and EVERYTHING Changes
OSHO, arguably one of the greatest modern spiritual teachers of eastern philosophy, says this is the first step to enlightenment. He says that “this insanity” that we are so prone to can be overcome and alleviated by “being a simple witness of our own destructive thought processes.”
When we sit with our thoughts and just observe them, we create a gap between us (the witness) and our thoughts. In doing so, we suddenly become aware of the fact that we are not our “mind” or our thoughts, but rather the “observer.” In doing so, we can give ourselves permission to “feel” our feelings and process them, realizing our feeling aren’t us. They’re automatic behaviors we learned a long time ago. It allows us to be gentle with our self, loving and forgiving of our self and others.
Taking responsibility for our own feelings, instead of blaming others, is not a very popular concept for many because it requires too much accountability and divorces us from the luxury of blaming others. It’s so much easier to just blame others for the way we feel, but when we blame others we’re not taking responsibility or accountability for the way we feel. There is no absolution in blaming others. We don’t process our feelings when our focus is on what others have done.
Something I teach, in working with others, is positive affirmations. The human mind is a fascinating thing. All discernment, the idea of determining what’s true or untrue, takes place at the level of conscious thought. The subconscious mind, by contrast, exercises no judgment. Judgment is a product of cognition, applying thought to something. There is no evaluation, judgment, or critical thinking, taking place at the level of the subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind sees all incoming information as equal, relevant, and true. Because of the simple fact, we can take advantage of our own minds. Quite literally we can train our minds to think differently, simply by “programming” ourselves to think differently. Just as in the pre-cognitive stage of our development, between birth and 8 years old, we learned automatic behaviors through repetition, without applying any cognitive judgment to these behaviors we were learning, we can do the same thing as an adult. It merely involves paying no “mind” to one’s self with a simple exercise.
An exercise I have a lot of individuals do is to replace every negative thought they have, with a simple four-word phrase. Understanding that everything is our teacher, and every experience is revealing to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves, then every experience holds a lesson for us. I teach others to have a gratitude for every experience, even the bad ones, by repetitiously repeating (out loud if possible, but if not, in their heads) the phrase “I LOVE MY LIFE!” every time they have a negative or self-deprecating thought.
Something miraculous happens every time and in every individual practicing this. To date, with 100% success, every individual that has tried this and stuck with it, has dramatically improved their state of mind.
If at first, as the phrase is repeated over and over, the individual does not believe the statement, it doesn’t matter. Again, the subconscious mind doesn’t know any better. And, since it is estimated that about 98% of our conscious thoughts bubble up from the subconscious mind, as we continue to program subconscious mind, our conscious thoughts begin to effortlessly become more positive. As our thoughts become more positive, the beliefs we hold of ourselves change. As the beliefs we hold about ourselves become more positive, the internal dialogue we are having with ourselves becomes more positive. As a result, we begin to see the world and ourselves in a different light and all of our feelings shift to a more positive and uplifting emotional state. “Change our thoughts and everything changes!”
“As I See It” – A Perspective
The reason I titled this book “I AM, WE ARE . . .” is because I hold the fundamental belief that how we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world, and because our view of ourselves and the world has been prescribed to us, we all tend to see the world in a similar fashion with only minor differences in religious and political beliefs. I would even argue that most of our beliefs are based in fear as opposed to love.
So how does my preamble leading up to this point shape the way we view our self and the world around us? Since LIFE is only and always going on inside of us, let’s expand this concept of “self” to include our perception of the world around us, since after all, our view of the world is just a construct of our ego that we carry in our heads, based on the beliefs we cling to.
The original impetus for writing this particular book, before I used it as a reference for those I counsel, grew out of a response to all the hate and fear that has been highlighted in the news in recent months. It has been disturbing and very disconcerting to me that since the election of Donald Trump, entire groups are coming out of the woodwork, to give a voice to hatred in a way we haven’t seen since the 1960’s. Metastasizing like cancer, I really felt compelled to provide a different perspective.
Not knowing where to begin, I referred back to a copy I kept of a response I had written 3 years ago to an individual who chose to attack me in a public forum. After a long rant from him expressing his vitriol and hate for Muslims, I was asked why I would defend them, and asked “What are you? A Dreamer? A Liberal?” As I said, the question came as a personal attack and was directed at my “apolitical” affiliation (yes, I said “apolitical” because I see the whole system as profoundly misguided) and at my spiritual views.
The particular individual was in sensed that in the midst of promoting his anti-Muslim rhetoric, I would dare challenge him by asking questions trying to determine how he arrived at his rather skewed and misguided conclusions. My questions were met with indignation and my character, and universal acceptance of others was attacked, which lead to his question, “what are you?” I believe his hope was that my response would provide him with a way to categorically reduce me down to a label so that my point of view would have no relevancy in his eyes and provide him with the excuse to just dismiss me. Perhaps.
With that said, I’m sharing my response here hoping it may provide a credo, a dogma, or simply a reference point that each one of you reading might see as a foundation upon which you may choose to build perspective from or even reframe your own prejudice and bias from. It truly came from the most sincerely and authentic part inside of me.
Here is my response:
Since I have been woven out of the very fabric of the universe and the energy that created it, what I know to be true to the very core of my being, is that I AM a boundless, infinite, eternal, non-physical entity having a temporary human experience; here to learn, love, grow, and evolve, in this three-dimensional classroom called “LIFE.” I AM of NO religion, NO country, NO state, NO political affiliation. I see NO boundaries between countries, states, or provinces; NO distinction, and NO lines drawn between me and others. I see NO race, creed, color, tint, or hue. I temporarily belong to only one race, the human race. I AM NOT a citizen of America; I AM a temporary citizen of the planet. I AM one with the planet and every living thing. I AM one with the cosmos. I’ve crossed from the non-physical to the physical to expand consciousness and to lift and magnify others.
To ask what I AM? I AM nothing and no one in particular, and yet everything and everyone at the same time. With every element that comprises the physical aspect of myself having been formed in the crucible of a star, I AM not only existing within the universe, the universe is within me. As Rumi once said so beautifully, “I AM not a drop in the ocean, I AM the entire ocean in a drop.” Separation is only an illusion. As mentioned earlier, we are each like a wave on the ocean’s surface, but intimately connected beneath the surface at a much deeper level. WE ARE ALL ONE.
To label our self or others as anything is a dangerous and violent act. It is to prejudiciously categorize, alienate, and separate others from ourselves. It is to segregate and see “them” and “us” as separate from one another. It’s to focus on our differences instead of our similarities. It’s to divide instead of uniting.
The reality is, we are all far more alike than we are different, having the same basic needs, and for the most part wanting the same things for ourselves that others want for themselves and those dearest to them.
We tend to lose our true sense of identity because society’s labels put us all in boxes that count us as part of one group or another. This is dangerous because in today’s world, faced with countless challenges jeopardizing our survival, we need a cohesive sense of community more than ever.
Worse than restricting ourselves with these labels, is to apply them to entire groups, stereotyping them, and reducing them down to a monoculture of uni-dimensional beings that can be represented by a banner, a sticker, or a tag line.
To make broad sweeping generalities and point fingers at an entire culture, ethnicity, or religion because of the interests of an infinitesimally small portion of the population (governments included) is reckless and irresponsible and only serves to perpetuate stereotypes, promote bigotry, racism, profiling, and is at its very core of the bias, hate, and prejudice that breeds pride, antagonism, hostility, and war.
I’ve never personally met a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jew, that showed me anything but love, kindness, and compassion, and saw in their eyes, the same beautiful kindness, love, hope, and aspirations for themselves and their families, that I see in every person I meet.
Our churches, mosques, and temples are filled each week with those who listen to the message of “universal love and acceptance,” that has been preached for millennia, but does what we hear ever move from our head to our hearts? Beyond our societal programming? Beyond the pride and prejudice of believing our country, our religion, our way of life is better than everyone else’s?
How can we claim to “believe” in the practical application of such divine principles and still subscribe to the pride associated with the archaic concepts of patriotism and the vitriolic fervor that arises in individuals by identifying with such an abstract notion such as a country? After all, what is a “country?” Is the flag we wave representative of the people that live in it? If so, what people? Does it represent their values? If so, whose values does it represent? Are they the values of the most predominant ethnicity? Religion? Race? The Dominant political party?
I tend to believe that the banner we wave as representative of our country tends to be emblematic, like team colors, signifying the cumulative sum of that country’s corporate interests, since the only thing that tends to identify a country as a world power or not, is their economic viability and the size of the military defending those interests. The concept of one’s country is really not representative at all of what any one given individual may hold as righteous, dignified, respectable, or as an inalienable right.
With all the racial bigotry so evident in our recent presidential campaign rallies, religious profiling of Muslims in recent years, and the degree to which we were appalled by a sports figure’s choice to sit during the National Anthem, there’s little evidence that we believe in the very values that our forefathers fought for. So, what does it actually mean to say, “I AM AN AMERICAN” or “WE ARE AMERICANS,” or Russian, or Serbian, or Greek, or Kurdish, or Iraqi, or anything else?”
To collectively make such a claim with any degree of pride or arrogance, elevating our nation as being better than others, is a profoundly underdeveloped mentality tantamount to that of a high school pep rally, pitting one country against another through the segregation of ideologies that may or may not represent the collective interests of the individuals living in each country. How can we believe in something as amorphous as the concept of a country or believe that that concept can espouse divine spiritual principals, that on Sunday morning we claim to hold so dear when the idea of a country is in fact imaginary? Every country today is made up of countless different kinds of people of every ethnicity, with countless different points of view based on the heritage and the beliefs passed down within each group’s ancestry.
Viewed from space there are no visible boundaries dividing the Earth up into individual countries. These boundaries, though universally believed in and accepted as real, are in fact imaginary and only serve to polarize and divide ourselves into groups based on lines and labels that don’t exist. And yet, there are those who will die defending these imaginary lines and labels.
These wars we fight are fought for resources, political/economic dominance, corporate profiteering, or to sustain an existing system that perpetuates a cultural point of view, all in the name of “country.” This is no different than the fighting that took place in the sandbox when we were children, played out on the grandest of scales, with the same basic argument of, “This is mine, that is yours!” “My point of view vs. yours (Egocentrism/Bigotry), my religion vs. yours (Dogma/Institutionalized Thinking/ Profiling/ Stereotyping/Pride), my political beliefs vs. yours (Conceit/Idealism), my possessions, wealth, and social status vs. yours (Selfishness/ Pride/ Arrogance/Conceit), my people vs. yours (Ethnic Prejudice/ Racism/ Radicalism), and my country vs. yours (Nationalism/Pride/Arrogance).”
Which of any of these abstract precepts for war epitomize spiritual values? Where is the universal love, compassion, connectedness, acceptance, forgiveness, stewardship, or sense of community, as a collective family inhabiting a shrinking planet? How can these values even exist in a world that has become predicated on the belief that life is competition and it’s “every man for himself?”
What humanity is painfully learning is that we haven’t matured much since we played in the sandbox as kids. There are very few grown ups left in the world, they’re a dying breed. We play sycophantic games as individuals to get ahead in life, while we collectively plunder the planet, consume natural resources to fuel commerce and the “marketplace,” destroy animal habitats, bringing about the extinction of countless species, destroy the Earth’s life support systems, and exploit entire ecosystems to complete collapse in the pursuit of economic dominance and marginal gains on Wall Street. All the while we further detach from our essence, our spirit, and the divine within us.
The good news is, life in the physical plane is fairly short and subsequently ends, so it’s only a temporary state of insanity we suffer from.
All this DIVISION is caused by the lack of a relationship we have with our self. We remain polarized with others having different political beliefs, religious beliefs, and national affiliation because we simply fail to understand ourselves and understand our connection to one another. Society has divided us by perpetuating a constant focus on the superficial and everything external to us. Society grooms and cultivates a constant focus on our egos, where again, we only live at the level of comparing ourselves to others, never reaching the ever-elusive perspective, that we are all one and that we are all in this thing called life together.
So then, let’s examine some otherwise unexamined beliefs. This insanity notwithstanding, WHO ARE WE when we pull ourselves out of the realm of such contrast and contradiction?
Consider for a moment, that the vast majority of the world believes in life after death, which is to subscribe to the belief that some part of us survives the demise of our physical body, which taken a step further is to believe that we are in fact, something formless, intangible, ethereal, nonphysical. If we are something nonphysical then how could our bodies, or the mental construct we create of ourselves by attaching these prescribed societal, political, and religious labels to ourselves, ever truly represent “US?” Simply put, they can’t.
So if the essence of what we are is something that is inherently non-physical, lacking “form,” how is it we are “here” in what we perceive to be the physical plane in the “form” of a human being? I view our “physical” state as no different than the different states of matter that molecules can take. Just as water can take on the different states of water, steam, or ice, we as spiritual beings can take on the temporary state of coalescing or condensing into a physical being (or what appears to be a physical state) in the physical realm, but our essence is and always will be non-physical.
Everything, both physical and non-physical, is cyclical in nature, including us. As a science teacher, I developed the realization that everything we need to know about ourselves can be observed in nature. Earlier, I alluded to the idea that we are “formless.” Let’s expound upon that idea here with an analogy.
Every square inch of the air we breathe is saturated with water vapor. Within every droplet of water vapor lies the entire constituency of its source, the Ocean. It is temporarily separate from the ocean (its “source”) but it is the ocean (its “source”) and will someday return to the ocean (its “source”). Likewise, we are separate from our source energy (the non-physical/ ethereal/formless) from which we all originated, but will someday return to the source. WE ARE THE SOURCE, and we ALL came from the same ONE SOURCE.
Our bodies are nothing more than a temporary housing, a wrapping so to speak, a vehicle for our spirit when we incarnate, that we let go of and is recycled back into the environment. “Ashes to ashes.” It’s all cyclical. Just as a star’s life cycle involves dissolution (usually in the form of a violent explosion), going from something with form and structure to something completely nebulous and without form, the gaseous scattering of stardust over time coalesces, creating new stars, and the process repeats.
Drawing upon the laws of physics, and going on the presupposition that prior to the evolution of this universe of “form,” things were “formless,” then we were there in the beginning, as part of the field of “formless” energy that gave rise to everything with “form.”
We, being “formless,” before “form,” had to exist before the physical universe, or what we now identify with as “form” in this “physical” dimension. In other words, we’ve always existed. We always will. We’ve always been immortal, eternal, limitless, and formless as a field of energy with no beginning and no end. We never die because we were never truly born in the first place. Being born is a product of “form,” our entry to the physical plane. We are “formless.”
Though we inhabit and animate this sophisticated machine we temporarily reside in, we are not the machine, we are the “ghost in the machine.” Once the ghost leaves the machine, the machine ceases to function. As Eckart Tolle said, “Death is not the opposite of Life. Birth is the opposite of death. Life is eternal.”
Our true essence is that which is formless, infinite, boundless, eternal, with no beginning, and no end. Therefore, the religion, political affiliation, or national flag we choose to identify with in this temporal experience, as a human can never define us. And yet, within this 3-dimensional hologram, we believe the illusions we’ve spun so much that we can wage war on one another in the name of these bizarre ideological concepts that only serve to separate us. But they are just that . . . intangible concepts . . . ideas . . . beliefs, and are completely imaginary. Cultivated since birth, massaged relentlessly into our psyche, and relatively unquestioned by the masses, they endure.
Nationalism, politics, social status, and religion are nothing more than socially acceptable forms of separatism and prejudice that serve as the pretext for justifying competition instead of cooperation, pride instead of humility, egocentrism instead of collectivism, fear instead of love, hatred instead of acceptance, and intolerance instead of freedom, as we indulge ourselves in the competitive money sport this world has become . . . . where we believe our lives are defined by what we do and how much money we make, by an imaginary class system creating an imaginary hierarchy of importance that is horribly lopsided in favor of certain groups, races, or even entire countries versus others.
To identify with a nation, a political group, or even with a particular religion for that matter, is to separate from that which connects us as a whole. It is incongruent with the most sacred, divine spiritual principals, and everything that quantum physics is now revealing to us . . . “Everything is interconnected and inter-dependent.”
To awaken is to see that the world is only a reflection of what we choose to believe it is, that LIFE is for the most part imaginary and illusory, lived out entirely in our heads. What we see in the world is only a reflection of what we believe and what we see in ourselves.
– End of my response –
“Forgetting Love, and Putting on Fear”
Sadly, a large percentage of the population sees a scary world, where we’re all just competing with one another as individuals, as groups, as corporations, and even as entire countries in a world that we’ve reduced down to a score board on Wall Street and the symbol in our driveway. We, as a society, have to a large degree become defined by our possessions and status. As a result, the professional image we convey to others is paramount to our success, so our lives are lived out casting shadows and selling an acceptable image to those who can affect our livelihood. We adopt and project a “success-oriented” and “success driven” persona, pretending to possess a fiercely competitive nature that will contribute to increasing the company’s bottom line, that is often very different than the “essence” of who we are beneath the surface. It’s all role playing.
In a very insidious way, we were indoctrinated into a system that we didn’t even realize we were participating in until it was too late. Our participation requires us falling into a deep hypnotic state where we chase after an abstract concept of what it means to be “successful” and the only thing that matters is making money. So much so, that money and the acquisition of it is tied to every emotional state we experience. Our lives are centered around. This pursuit creates a culture driven by the ego and more importantly, fear. Once proselytized, there is no end, there is no questioning it.
Our lives become that of endless consumption and purchasing symbols of our success. As we acquire more and more “things” we, of course, have to protect them. We’ve got to protect what we have in this world of “haves” and “have-nots.” We have home security systems installed, we lock our doors, and we lock our cars. We have insurance to prepare for eventualities that may never happen. We’re very vigilant and hyper-focused in protecting our self-interests, our collective interests, and our way of life. We outfit every store and business with cameras. We spend billions to build a military to protect our national interests. Governments working in conjunction with all kinds of social media apps, now track every person on the planet’s location and internet activity, scan every phone call using “scrubbers” to identify key words which are seen as threatening “national security,” has in conjunction with several social media apps, amassed the largest facial recognition data base on Earth, and put into place countless other measures that limit our freedom, under the guise of protecting us. It all serves as a means of exerting “control.” This control has been an agenda for millennia.
Every major religion on Earth is predicated on promoting the fear of a dire eternal inheritance when we meet our demise, which is juxtaposed by the assurance of a heavenly paradise as an escape clause to compensate for a grossly apparent flaw in our design. The “true believer” accepts his religion’s messiah and doctrine, and in return is provided with a “get out of jail for free” card upon the completion of this lifetime. This is morbidly sick thinking and nothing but fear mongering to keep people living in fear.
Let’s be honest, there are plenty of reasons to be afraid. After all, even the human race is competing against itself and against the very planet that provides for and supports it; a blatantly obvious contradiction that most are oblivious to. The economy grows while mankind devours and poisons the planet. Built upon the obsolescence of everything, the marketplace convinces us, as individuals to acquire as many pleasantries and conveniences as possible to protect ourselves from life’s harsh reality. As nations, instead of sharing, we compete, we fight, we conquer, we plunder, and we hoard as our world shrinks and gets smaller year after year.
What drives this insanity is not greed, but fear. But, greed is simply a byproduct of fear. Man has been conditioned to be miserable and the marketplace promises the antidote for virtually every purported feeling that deprives us of our happiness. And so we have been trained to look “outside” ourselves for happiness, never realizing it’s not out there, it’s not something we find, it’s something we create by reconnecting with ourselves.
Almost every belief we hold comes not from personal observation but rather social conditioning. The beliefs we espouse have the underpinnings of fear instead of love as a foundation. Fear of each other, fear of violence, fear of intrusion, unrealistic fears of entire ethnic or religious groups, races, and countries, fear of terrorism, fear of being alone, fear of being insufficient, fear of not being relevant, fear of death, fear of our eternal inheritance,. . . basically, just a fear of LIFE. These fears are ALL learned and guess what? They can be unlearned.
We ALL entered this world, each as a loving entity, having an inexhaustible love of life, a love for ourselves, and a love for everyone and everything. We had no bias or prejudice, no religion, no political interests, knew no fear, anxiety, depression, or loneliness. The world was an enchanting and surreal place filled with wonder and the opportunity to explore and discover.
By contrast, as adults, a large percentage of us are just trying to survive life. So many have lost their vigor, their curiosity about life, and worst of all, the ability to love themselves. Bombarded on a daily basis with imagery of war, terrorism, stock market and Wall Street reports, the controversy surrounding our incumbent President, and news that only focuses on everything negative, there appears to be very little love left in the world.
As a result, most have developed a defensive, “every-man-for-himself” survivalist mindset, where we pursue our self-interests, to get ahead. What’s been lost is a sense of community, where we now have a better relationship with our phones and our computers than we do with our neighbors and friends. We’ve exchanged conversation and connection with others for superficial communication provided through social media. To a large degree, we have lost healthy and effective communication skills and in the absence of truly connecting with one another, we’ve become very isolated and alienated from each other despite the promise that technology would make us all more connected than ever. As a result, the world can be a scary place for many.
Is it any wonder why so many are terrified of ending up alone? Starving for love from others and seeing it as the “cure all” for every fear we possess, we desperately look for it, with the belief that if we can find LOVE with that special someone, we will treasure them for the rest of our lives. We believe all our problems will disappear, as will we in a sea of eternal bliss. As I mentioned earlier, I truly believe that the vast majority of human relationships are predicated on fear, insecurity, and codependency. Not a very reliable foundation for a healthy relationship, but this tends to be the default motivation for most because most of us do not have a healthy relationship with ourselves.
This is why the world hurts so much. We hold the belief that something is missing so we must go in search of it, pinning our hopes to elusive dreams that never materialize. Even if we find someone to spend our lives with it’s certainly not a guarantee of eternal bliss. One need look no further than the current divorce rate which I believe is holding steady at around 50 – 55%. Not very good odds if we are tethering our hope and happiness to the idea of finding someone to save us from our loneliness.
So why do we continue to look to others to make us happy? We have been molded by society, through the input of others and ever recurring marketing into an illusion of ourselves. Regrettably, many of us focus on the “conditioned self” that lives at the level of the ego, at the level of instead of something much more substantive.
We buy into the labels others pin upon us and those we choose to pin upon ourselves, using them to build the fragile ego that we hide behind and is yet so easily offended and so easily wounded. We lose sight of our essence. Somewhere along the way, we abandoned the child we were and loved so much, which is the most intimate relationship we’ll ever have. Sad.
This disconnect that takes place with ourselves is a globally pervasive and epidemic amnesia that develops over time as we leave our childhood behind and enter the world of rigorously working to make ends meet. We forget something we inherently knew as children but as adults have forgotten. With media spinning and dispensing illusions in countless ways, we endlessly compare ourselves to unrealistic images, somehow concluding that we’re not “good enough.” Externalizing our feelings that came so natural as a child, we look outside ourselves for something that can only be found within . . . the LOVE we once had for ourselves.
Love is nothing external to us. It is NOT something “addressed” to someone, it is NOT something we “find” with another; it is something we “ARE.” We knew this as children, but we’ve long since forgotten it.
When we externalize love and acceptance as something we “receive” from others, we develop codependency. We rely on others to make us happy and in essence reduce others down to the level of a drug to provide us with a hoped for feeling or experience. When the drug wears off, we move on to a new one and look for the next soul to glob on to. This desperate search for love leaves us groping for it like drug addicts and suffering serious withdrawal symptoms mentally, emotionally, and even physically if we fail to find it. We exploit others to get from them what we can’t provide for ourselves. Failing to love ourselves, any love or affection we receive from others, like any other drug, will wear off in time. A pail with a hole in it, will never be filled.
A comparison I like to make for those who believe in love as an external pursuit is that of an amphibian; in this case, a Frog. Frogs are truly remarkable creatures in that they possess such unique characteristics that allow them to live and breathe comfortably both on the land and in the water. This is because frogs possess lungs that obviously allow them to breathe out of the water and a unique type of skin, that by way of a cutaneous (skin) gas exchange, allows them to absorb diffused oxygen from the water through their skin, allowing them to stay underwater indefinitely. This is a key point! Frogs are well aware of their attributes. Humans, by contrast, are a lot like a frog that does not understand the unique characteristics they possess.
Humans, by contrast, are a lot like a frog that does not understand the unique characteristics they possess.
So for the sake of comparison, I’d like to provide a story about a frog. Like all frogs, the frog in our story developed and gestated underwater in an aquatic environment, in an uneventful way, with his egg envelope firmly attached to a plant stem in the water along with his entire family. As nature ran its course, the day came where he left his embryonic sac as a tadpole and immediately began exploring his environment with tremendous enthusiasm.
Now because he was a tadpole, he emerged from his embryonic sac along with all of his brothers and sisters, and like most species operated purely by instinct. Instinctually, he had no fear of the water or his aquatic environment, no fear of life at all. This new place was wonderful! There was so much to see and do, so many things to explore and discover both above and below that water. Everything was exciting and fun. Every day was an adventure. As he grew, just like us, he chose to model the behavior and choices of his family members and friends, subsequently adopting their choices, their perspectives, and their behavior. With no parental guidance, he learned what it is to be a frog by following along with everyone else, mirrorinever really questioning much of anything. He realized that being a frog meant, if one is going to survive, he’s got to find his way in the world by being disciplined enough to find his own food, evade predators, and begin networking and creating ties with others.
As he continued to grow, just like us, he learned to model the behavior and choices of his family members and tadpoles from other pods, subsequently adopting their choices, their patterns, and behavior. With no real parental guidance, since frogs don’t rear their young, he learned what it is to be a frog by following along with everyone else, never really questioning much of anything. He learned the basics and realized that being a frog meant, if one is going to survive, he’s got to find his way in the world by being disciplined enough to find his own food, evade predators, and begin networking and creating ties with others for safety until he’s big enough to take care of himself.
Swimming about freely in his magical and alluring environment, he formed friendships with plenty of other tadpoles. Together they spent their days frolicking in the water, chasing each other, playing in the beautiful ecosystem of the tree roots and plant stems, that produced shade and pockets of sunlight that would shimmer through the water. Slowly they grew up as their bodies transitioned from tadpoles into mature frogs. He learned that there’s a price to developing friendships. Frogs are instinctively social but only at a distance. As they mature they tend to spend their time alone.
As time passed, he noticed, as he sought out his friends, that one by one they went missing. Not knowing why he couldn’t find them, he began to speculate. Because he had no parental figure or an elder to turn to for perspective or understanding, he came up with a whole host of elaborate stories, one more irrational than the next. Suffering from catastrophic thinking, he always arrived at the worst possible conclusion.
Knowing that most of his siblings and friends could deftly maneuver through the water to evade predators, he ruled out the idea his friends had all been eaten. So, he came up with a story that was completely illogical. His contemplating lead him to the hypothesis that with age and maturity, frogs must lose their ability to breathe underwater. He thought to himself “perhaps we’re seized with this inability with no notice with or time to get to safety.” He surmised that perhaps this was what happened to his friends.
Choosing to be proactive and play it safe one day he crawled out of the water and up onto a lily pad. He decided that from that day forward he would never go into the water again for fear he might drown. Day in and day out, he enjoyed the security of a life above the water but, if he was honest with himself, he missed the water terribly. Despite his yearning for his childhood, which held so much freedom and joy, he went on jumping from lily pad to lily pad, avoiding the water.
As he went about the business of being a frog he continued to eat insects, croaking and bellowing at night, and calling out to others to stave off his fear of being all alone. He could hear them in the distance but because of his irrational fears, his days grew more and more disparaging and lonely. He found security in sticking with what was familiar to him . . . his habits.
As a result, he spent the rest of days out of the water jumping from lily pad to lily pad, secure in the comfort of routine, but all the while remaining oblivious and afraid of reacquainting himself with his true nature as an aquatic animal. Had he only had the courage to face his fears and return to the water he would have discovered he was safe all along and in returning to the water he would have rediscovered his true nature. The moral here is that his beliefs and distorted perception created an unrealistic fear that kept him from living a life of boundless potential.
The moral here is that his beliefs and distorted perception created an unrealistic fear that kept him from living a life of boundless potential and unending joy.
We, like the frog, have grown up to develop distorted beliefs about ourselves. We too have lost sight of our true nature, our essence, that which lies beyond the veil of our ego, that keeps us from knowing what we truly are. We become unaware of the fact that the only relationship we are ever having is the one we are having with our self. We spend a life-time lost in the imaginary and distorted perceptions of others and of ourselves. Believing we’re inadequate, ill-equipped to venture into the world alone, we jump from person to person, relationship to relationship, our so called “lily pads,” with the hope that others will fill the void within us and keep us safe.
So misguided are we in this pursuit, that with all of the tantalizing distractions that society offers, we can avoid ourselves forever, running from our fears by keeping busy with a never ending myriad of recreational activities to indulge in.
Few discover that our journey is not one with an external destination or one of finding a person to love us, but rather a journey inward toward our true nature. To return to what we knew as children, our inward journey is a journey of abandoning the labels we’ve grown so readily accustomed to applying to ourselves. It’s about letting go of the stories we’ve chosen to create about ourselves and others. It’s about walking through our fears, our hurt, and the emotional minefield we’ve created that prevents us from moving towards a love for ourselves. It’s an exploration that begins and ends with the discovery that all there ever was, was “us.”
Our poor unfortunate frog spent an exhaustive amount of time engaging himself in avoidant behaviors and managing his fears by escaping the natural environment of the water he came from. Seeking the path of least resistance he became addicted to recreating over and over those experiences that provided him with a sense of familiarity and safety. He kept his head above water by living outside of it. In other words, escapism. The lily pads became his proverbial drug of choice so to speak, so he’d never have to face his fears.
I’ve always believed that the greatest human addiction is not drugs, alcohol, work, gambling, shopping, or sex but rather the addiction we have to our emotions. I believe these socially identified “addictions” are merely symptoms. All these choices, or what some may argue isn’t a “choice” at all, but rather an “addiction,” are well rehearsed and repetitious behaviors that are so automatic that they’ve become automatic avoidant behaviors, that are seemingly impossible to over come.
Though I have not heard this idea expressed, my tendency is to believe that all addictions are in fact a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The obsessions are the repetitious, over-thinking about everything, like the frog’s irrational fear of returning to the water. The compulsions, which in psychology would be defined as the behavior that is adopted in order to alleviate the negative feelings associated with a particular pattern of thinking, manifest themselves symptomatically in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, gambling, shopping/retail therapy, or working excessively to avoid having to sit with our thoughts.
I believe our greatest addiction is our search for something or someone that can alleviate the pain of not loving ourselves, that drives those behaviors.
In the case of finding LOVE our search is based on the belief that finding “the one” will provide us with an eternal sense of bliss, and an escape from all our worst fears and the addictive habit of over thinking. That may be why the world believes in the idea of “true love” as something found with another. Though that could happen, statistically speaking, most people will never find never ending, blissful love with another person; because the love drug almost always, ultimately wears off. In time everything extraordinary becomes ordinary. It’s the consequence of looking outside ourselves for happiness. Romantic love is a tantalizing indulgence between two people but in time, the biochemical romance wears off, and in most cases so does our happiness.
Happiness is truly an inside job . . .
“Our Pain Is The Path to Our Evolving and Emerging LOVE”
What we’ve lost as civilization as we’ve continued to advance, is our understanding with respect to the value of pain as our greatest teacher and unfortunately have developed several strategies as poorly designed coping mechanisms, to keep us from ever having to deal with it. Instead, we seek distraction in a plethora of ways that keep us largely unconscious. As a result, seeking the path of least resistance, retail therapy, constant entertainment, and institutions like religion have become socially accepted methodologies for avoiding our pain and ever taking the journey inside to reconnect with one’s self.
So, we continue to see ourselves as separate from everything. Separate from one another, separate from other species, separate from the environment, separate from nature, separate from the planet we live on, separate from the cosmos, separate from an ethereal creator, and sadly, even separate from the different aspects of ourselves: the physical body and the non-physical soul. Peace of mind is only found when we “integrate” the different aspects of ourselves as one. Only then will we truly “connect” with ourselves on a level deeper than the automatic behaviors learned as children and “respond” to life instead of being slaves to our “reactions.”
The world we’ve created in its current state, is a fabrication, a consensus hallucination of countless generations, each collectively inoculating their children with their unquestioned, unscrutinized, and limited understanding of what the world is and how it works, teaching what it is we have been taught. Never questioning the status quo we accept the world the way it is for the most part and teach each new generation the way we were taught to see it.
Love, acceptance, compassion, and kindness, are mere conjecture in a world where money, nationalism, political leverage, religious and racial bigotry, monetary segregation, education for profit, and a tiered hierarchy of class distinction exists. To free and subrogate one’s self from the bureaucratic thinking that governs our world is truly one of the greatest feats any spirit that has incarnated can accomplish in a single lifetime.
To awaken is to discover that we are all one, we are all connected, we are all interdependent, and we are all free…..
…..not because of the country we were born into, but because we are made from the very fabric of the universe itself which is an extension of the source energy (some call GOD), and permeates everything. Like waves on the ocean, we will always be one with that from which we have come, we are made of and always connected to.
To ask what I AM . . . . . ??? I AM EVERYTHING!
May the light that is within all of us shine forth. Let’s imagine a better world and Shine on.