Ah, relationships! As Jimmy Buffet once said in his song, FRUITCAKES, “We all got ’em, we all want ’em. What do we do with them?”
Recently, a friend wanting my perspective, shared with me a short video of a relationship/dating coach being interviewed. During the interview, he dispensed what was his formula for keeping “loving relationships” alive and vibrant, sharing with the audience the “how to’s” of making love last. If only it were that easy.
The interview received thousands of comments and praise from those who watched it, lavishly thanking him for his insight and for providing them with a “to do” list of how to reinvigorate their romantic relationships.
Here’s the thing. I disagree with virtually all of it! Videos like the one sent to me receive so much attention because society has us . . . well, looking for love in all the wrong places. Cue the music! Some reading will be too young to know what that’s a reference to. Here’s a hint: Urban Cowboy! Thank you Lee Greenwood!
Sadly, what most “relationship/dating coaches” find themselves entangled in, in helping couples navigate their own emotional complexities and providing instructing to their clients, is not “LOVE,” but its imposter . . . “romantic relationships;” those things that we occasionally brush up against and have a tendency to stick to us like velcro. When they’re ripped away from us, it hurts. Few will have the insight to understand that this pain we experience is not because our lover has left us, but rather our return to the baseline appraisal we have of ourselves without our lover; which for most, without the feelings of relevancy we were importing from our lover, is pretty self-deprecating and therefore creates copious amounts of pain within us.
Romance has a funny way of making us forget about ourselves, and frankly, how we really feel about ourselves. It provides us with a way to become what we see as the “idealized” version of ourselves . . . a magnanimous, amazing, wonderfully loving person. All our romantic gestures are evidence of how loving we are. Being “in love” and believing we are “loving” feels amazing! In romantic relationships, we give ourselves permission to feel good about ourselves. “After all, the world can be a pretty ugly place at times, isn’t it good that I’m so loving? A true beacon of light in a dark, uncaring world.” This is why falling “in love” is so intoxicating. It’s empowering!
Most of what people would describe about their relationships, the ups and the downs, the dramas, the fights, even the thoughtful, romantic gestures that are oh so delicious to sink our teeth into, has nothing to do with LOVE, even when we believe we are in a “LOVING” relationship.
It’s unfortunate, but most will pass through this entire life never knowing what “LOVE” is, but rather only the Walt Disney version of what we think love is or at least should be. We conflate the idea of being “in love” with someone, with LOVE. The two have no relationship and should not be conflated.
Let’s take a rational look at being “in love.” Being “in love” is literally, a temporary state of narcissism, derived entirely from an overactive ego. Those I counsel have heard me say, “when we fall ‘in love’ we fall out of our minds.” One might ask, “How could it be narcissism when it’s all about how I feel about another person?” And therein lies one’s blindspot. It’s about how “I” feel inside about another person, and that is entirely a projection.
The experience of being “in love” is a socially acceptable form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a topic explored in more detail in my series called “HOW TO MINDFULLY APPROACH ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS.”
Click here for the first article in that series: https://shiftethos.com/2019/11/02/crazy-little-thing-called-love/
Being “in love” with someone is us simply acknowledging a sweetness to our emotions that we believe our lover creates within us. But in truth, no one can make us feel anything. What we feel is predicated entirely on our thoughts. Our thoughts create our beliefs about ourselves, others, and situations (in this case, relationships) we find ourselves in. Our beliefs are then woven together into an internal narrative, a story we create within ourselves and project on to others (in this case our lover), and that romantic story we’ve created, creates ALL of our feelings. In other words, our internal narrative, NOT our lover, is creating all our feelings. Knowing this is to develop true “self-awareness.”
Most of those reading this won’t like it, because in accepting this premise, everyone is off the hook! No one is to blame. I, and I alone am 100% responsible for how I feel at any given moment. No one can make us feel loved any more than they can make us feel rejected or abandoned. All these feelings created within us, are merely a product of OUR thoughts.
It shocks those I work with to find out that the modern word LOVE comes from the Sanskrit word Lobha, which means greedy and self-serving behavior. I don’t think this is a coincidence. After all, we never become more greedy than when we fall “in love.” We obsess over our lover. We think about them incessantly. We can’t wait to be with them again. We want them to be the last voice we hear before we go to sleep and the first text we receive every morning. We want our lover all to ourselves.
“The love most people know is nothing but a biological urge. It depends entirely upon your chemistry and your hormones. It can be changed very easily. A small change in your chemistry and the love that you thought was the ultimate truth, will simply disappear. What most people have been calling love is simply lust. The distinction should be remembered.” – OSHO
Real love says to another person, “I love you, I am concerned with your well-being, your thoughts, and I care about the way you feel.” Being “in love” says, “I love the way you make me feel.”
The world doesn’t know what love is, and it’s evident everywhere. We look to these misguided formulaic approaches to human emotions from so-called “Leadership” or “Relationship” Gurus . . . treating love like it’s a cookbook recipe. “If you do A + B + C, you’ll get D.” That’s called courtship, which is really marketing ourselves to get our lover’s buy in, and in doing so, is followed by the “biochemical romance,” that usually leads to life-changing decisions while each lover is in a socially acceptable form of insanity. We don’t make rational decisions when we fall in love with another person because we are so intoxicated with the idea of being” in love” which is nothing short of being obsessed with the idealized version of another person we’ve created.
In teaching “mindfulness” I share with others that when we fall “in LOVE” it’s because we’ve fallen “out” of mind. Our entire focus is outbound, as we import our sense of well-being, importance, and relevancy in a very parasitic way from another person.
This is codependency. Codependency is defined by “Rules of Engagement,” quid pro quo, and employing so-called “formulas” for making someone fall in love with you and what in theory should create and make a long-term relationship work. This is a very childish and anecdotal perspective of “relating” to another person. It’s based entirely in ego and conflates love and romance, love and attachment, love and commitment, love and sex. None of those are based in LOVE.
Love is not a formula, love has NOTHING to do with another person. Can you not by your own nature be loving? Love requires no recipient. It’s a quality we possess and the essence of what we ARE, not what we find. The quality of ALL of our relationships is determined by the quality of the relationship we are having with ourselves, within ourselves.
What most relationship/dating coaches describe to their clients is not love, but rather the same emotional bartering, everyone is already practicing in their relationships. It upsets me when I hear coaches reducing love down to a formula . . . “and if you’re just consistent enough, and continue to do this and this, you can live Blissfully Ever After.”
As a life coach, I would never give this advice to someone… but instead would teach an individual how to undo their media programming and how to cultivate a loving relationship with themselves. Then and only then can we LOVE another person. Until then codependency is all we’ll ever know or be capable of knowing.
“If we make friends with ourselves, we are never alone.” – Buddhist proverb
These are the rules that the world plays the game of “LOVE” by and this is why almost all relationships are doomed from the start. They are ALL conditional. What we tell one another, either directly or indirectly is, “I will love you as long as you continue to love me. Leave me, and I will be so deeply wounded that I will vilify you for the rest of your days.”
Love, for most people, is something we give with the hope and aspiration that the recipient of the love we extend will reciprocate it back to us. It’s completely transactional, conditional, and contrived. As long as they keep reciprocating, and remain in compliance with our expectations of them, we are “in love” and have effectively reduced our lover down to our drug of choice, providing us with all the desired biochemical endorphins and feelings of validation we long for to keep emotional buoyant and maintain a positive view of ourselves.
Everyone dreams of receiving unconditional love from their lover, but unfortunately, no one has the courage to extend it to another. Because loving someone with, “NO CONDITIONS” is terrifying and takes far more bravado than most will ever be able to muster up. It means the object of our affection has total freedom. They can walk out of our lives at any point and we give them the freedom to do so. Love requires no commitment, because commitment is an abomination to love. It’s the antithesis of LOVE. For most, it’s a spoken or unspoken contract. People like the idea of commitment, because it creates continuity, predictability, and a false sense of security for them. But commitment, has nothing to do with loving another person because “commitment” tethers you to another person as an obligation, a promise once made, and is supposed to be adhered to independent of any feelings you have about it. An enlightened individual knows that there is no need to vilify our ex’s because our happiness was never dependent upon them. Love never destroys another’s freedom and never seeks to possess anything. LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!
What we end up grieving when a relationship ends, is not the loss of the other person but rather the fact that we can now see in painful detail, we never loved our self in the first place and were exploiting the other person to make our life work for us. It’s evidenced by the fact that most of us are devastated when another person breaks up with us. We were simply exploiting them like a drug and importing our sense of love, joy, happiness, and self-worth from another person.
But again, this is not loving. Love seeks NOTHING!!! It’s not contrived, it’s not calculating, it doesn’t count the cost, it’s not strategic or divisive, it sees no mile markers or destinations to arrive at by using a formula to get what it wants. Love doesn’t seek “relationship,” only “relating.” The minute we Define our ability to relate to another person as a “relationship,” it is the beginning of the end of the relationship, because each person brings their own mental template of what a relationship looks like, acts like, behaves like, chooses, feels like, and the rules that the two lovers will play by to the relationship, which are conditions fashioned by Society. As long as our lover remains in compliance with the expectations we have of them, the relationship flourishes. But, fall out of compliance, and the relationship is in jeopardy.
This is because most lovers are empty vessels with no real love to extend to one another. They are like two beggars treating one another like emperors only to find out in time that they are both emotionally bankrupt without the other and have only been exploiting one another to make their life work for them. Love on an emotional level (Lobha) is the most selfish human emotion. Love on a spiritual/mindful level is about inclusion and is all-encompassing. It an intimate relationship we have with LIFE, not one person. It is expansive and is realizing our connection with all of existence, not the narrow and confining connection to an individual.
The only TRUE love that exists is LOVE without attachment. The minute we become attached, everything we do is to seek out and solicit the love, affection, and attention of our lover which will create within us a feeling we desire to have.
Once we step into attachment, anxiety is sure to follow. Once anxiety comes, fear follows. And once fear comes, Madness follows. It is only because conditions have been conducive that we are able to hide our Madness and our dependency. The minute a situation threatens us, our Madness is exposed. Once we step into attachment, Madness is only a few steps away. There is no way to avoid it.
Only when we love without attachment, are we truly capable of loving another human being. Everything else is codependency, fear, and insecurity.
Love is something we ARE, NOT something we find.
Most will defend the idea that love is something we find with another person. So, convinced of the truth they speak of, that they are even willing to conflate the idea of LOVE causing pain, which is an oxymoron in and of itself. LOVE and pain are mutually exclusive…it is impossible for one to create the other.
“He who looks outward dreams, he who looks inward awakens!” – Carl Jung
If one truly believes love is something found with another person, then they have not yet discovered within themselves the foundations of their own being, or what in eastern mysticism is referred to as Samadhi. Still convinced that love is something we import from another person is the delusion that just about everyone suffers from. We’ve been taught this view of love as an external pursuit. Anything that is sought out as an external pursuit, that is, external to us, is a drug and is a departure from the essence of what we are.
How so? Well, let ask ourselves some questions. What is the difference between the intoxicating feelings of invincibility that partakers describe in doing a line of cocaine and falling in love with someone? Drinking alcohol and having sex? Shopping? Going to a concert? Sounds like absurd questions, I know.
The point is, we can never experience anything outside of ourselves. Being averse to pain and biologically programmed to seek pleasure, what most do, is seek people out, just like any other drug, to provide them with an experience that they believe will provide them with a desired feeling.
To import our sense of joy, happiness, security, and feelings of love from another person is to reduce that person down to a drug that we exploit, so as to provide ourselves with a desired feeling just like any other drug. After all, falling “in love” is entirely biochemical in nature. A tidal wave of hormones rushing through our veins. It’s intoxicating!!! Just like any drug!
What if you are so full of love, that you no longer search for a relationship outside of the one you are having with yourself to provide you with the love, happiness, and security that you already possess?
People will argue this perspective by rigorously defending their co-dependency. It’s primarily because most people never learn to love themselves and therefore lean heavily upon others to provide them with just enough validation to think that they now love themselves. But in doing so, they dangle themselves precariously between bliss and annihilation.
ALL KNOWLEDGE begins with self-knowledge and in developing our self-awareness we begin to develop a relationship with very deep roots within ourselves to the extent of even learning to love ourselves independent of the need to like everything about ourselves or the desire to import it from others. When people meet such a person, they write them off as the arrogant, or a “know-it-all,” or say to themselves, “oh, they just think they’re better than everyone else,” never realizing that all they are doing is reaffirming their own insecurities. They abandon even the thought of taking the inward journey to loving themselves by convincing themselves that it’s too arduous of a pursuit, so they seek the path of least resistance . . . and glob on to the next soul that can validate them. This is compulsive pathological behavior predicated in fear, not LOVE.
It’s one of life’s greatest paradoxes but, the well traveled “path of least resistance” is in fact, the path of most resistance, because as we dip in and out of relationships, we contend with all the feelings of inadequacy we hide behind, underneath this outward persona we wear and project to the world. It’s exhausting. When we go inward and discover ourselves, we will know true peace of mind, true love, and will stop the tiring pursuit to find a sense of worthiness in the eyes of another. We rest!
Life is never happening to us it is only going on within us. Light and darkness happen within us. Joy and sadness happen within us. Love and hate happen within us. – Sadhguru
No one can make us feel loved any more than they have the ability to make us feel rejected. LOVE never hurts, but co-dependency does because it’s based in fear.
When one understands life at its essence and realizes that we are not living a life, but rather LIFE itself – that we don’t possess a soul, we are a soul that temporarily possesses a body – and that we are not humans that will someday inherit a spiritual experience, but rather intangible, immaterial spirits having a temporal Human Experience – the perspective of life is not narrow, but rather all-encompassing.
Understanding that life is a dynamic process where everything, yes, EVERYTHING, is in a constant state of transition, we realize that everything is permanently impermanent. Realizing this allows one to celebrate the Journey of Life without becoming attached to it. This is what allows us to make a bond of love, not a bondage.
To trivialize love as possessiveness, as belonging to another person, as commitment, dedication to another, are nothing more than expressions reflecting the narrow scope of cultural programming…
(Excerpt from my forthcoming book)
One of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing 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 too 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 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!
In the previous installment in this series on “How To Mindfully Approach Romantic Relationships” – “Love As a Bandage” – we talked about how our concept of LOVE is developed at a very young age through positive and negative reinforcement and ultimately becomes conditional. Applied to romantic endeavors later in life, love is reduced to “emotional bartering.” It’s in learning there are rules to this “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” most relationships become breeding grounds for the emergence of fear and insecurity that are the unresolved by-product of traumatic events experienced in our early, pre-teen childhood. This underlying fear we carry, which may be entirely unacknowledged by us until triggered by something that threatens our sense of security, serves as the underpinnings of every choice we make in our relationships.
Simply put, AUTHENTIC LOVE is appreciation and has nothing to do with our physical attraction to another person or the physical exchanges we have with our lover. LOVE and SEX have nothing to do with each other, though lust is usually the impetus for any romantic pursuit and is generally at the heart of what holds most romantic relationships together. And therein lies the problem. In a culture that conflates love and sex, for most of us, our pursuit of love is driven entirely by biochemistry and compulsion – not love itself – to stave off our fear of being alone or feeling irrelevant. It’s not truly an expression of AUTHENTIC LOVE (which seeks nothing from another) but rather becomes a means of importing self-acceptance from others. As you can imagine, carrying these unexplored and misguided concepts of LOVE into our pre-teen, teen-age, and post-teen age years as young adults, the impact of these beliefs only becomes more and more pronounced as our fledgling self-image sheepishly limps into adulthood and our ego and all of its dysfunctional yearning for approval starts to emerge. This is the foundation upon which most marriages are entered into, with the promise of a lifelong commitment; is it any wonder why half of marriages end in divorce within 7 years?
For most, these paradigms are left unexamined. As a result, these uncontested beliefs we hold about love and marriage, means we enter into these contractual agreements with someone, unaware of the fact that the very commitment we demand from our lover is the anti-thesis of LOVE, and is based entirely in fear, though the celebratory guise of a wedding would dictate otherwise. Because we have been conditioned to see a life long commitment as the quintessential expression of love, most would dismiss that statement as heresy, as it’s very unpopular to expose what most people have been taught love is, for what it is . . . nothing less than self-serving. AUTHENTIC LOVE requires no such commitment, because AUTHENTIC LOVE only wants for the other what they want for themselves, whether it includes us or not. What most call LOVE is in fact an entirely selfish enterprise, designed to “fill the void” we feel within us.
As adults, our concept of LOVE becomes an extension of what we learned as a child by modeling the behavior of others. Entering adulthood, deep rooted, well-learned patterns of behavior, expectations, emotional bartering, and codependency learned through positive and negative reinforcement, have become so automatic that they are now completely unconscious and compulsory behaviors. We are driven by these compulsory impulses that have been programmed into us. These drives have created predictable and reflexive patterns of behavior within us and now govern most of our choices. But here’s the hitch. They’re entirely sub-conscious behaviors devoid of any conscious choice we’re making. Though it feels like our decisions are largely conscious decisions, I can assure you, they’re NOT.
It’s important to understand that whatever we are deprived of as a child, becomes our highest aspiration in life as adults. Deprived of money, wealth becomes our highest aspiration. Deprived of security, creating a stable living space becomes our highest aspiration. Deprived of love as a child, feeling loved as adults becomes our highest aspiration. We will endure anything, overcome any obstacle, travel any distance, just to believe we are precious in the eyes of another person.
If unconditional LOVE and acceptance is not displayed or demonstrated to us as a child, which allows us to develop a sense of emotional security, then one of the most persistent drives in us as adults is our need to be needed, validated, accepted, and to feel relevant to another person. In short, we become very codependent.
So How Did We Become So Neurotic and Needy?
For most of us, everything we know as adults is the product of a process of indoctrination into a system, designed to create a task-oriented workforce of relatively docile, passive, and obedient worker bees. This is why our indoctrination begins at such a young age, before we can apply any cognitive rationale to it. Initiated by well-intentioned parents and other adults, simply teaching us, not only the way they were taught, but what they were taught, which is, how to be “competitive” and how to become “essential,” our initiation into a system of pathological thinking begins.
Outside of parents that home school and typically question the rather orthodox, structured, and authoritarian approach to imbuing our children with knowledge, most parents generally believe they are empowering their children by sending them off to school. They are completely unaware of how much the schooling process is arresting their child’s development and their child’s attempts to develop confidence in their own sense of autonomy. School is where most children’s confidence begins to erode.
As children we’re taught how things “are,” or at least “should be,” how to “properly” do things, and how to prepare for our entry into the workplace environment. We’re given a religion, a nationality, a racial and political identification, and gender roles.
We as parents build our child’s entire mental construct of life for them instead of letting them explore LIFE for themselves, come to their own conclusions, and allow them to be whatever they want to be, think whatever they want, and express themselves however they want to. I see this imposed brainwashing every time I see parents dragging their children into churches, a particular social event, or see parents telling a little boy not to wear little girls clothes to fit into a prefabricated gender identification, and cringe at the thought of how the child’s essence is soon going to be strip from them.
Since there’s safety in numbers, children (and even adults) mistake consensus for wisdom, and tend to believe what the majority of people around them believe. Slowly, the light of their beautiful uniqueness fades and is lost as peer pressure and the urge to be accepted leads to conformity. In adopting the beliefs of the majority we no longer have the confidence to “go against the grain” of conventional thinking or “think outside of the box.” Afraid to be ostracized, children lose confidence and fear expressing themselves, their thoughts, and feelings, especially if it’s incongruent with what the majority of people around them think. They become afraid to try new things, or do things in their own unique way, feeling everything has to be done a certain pre-ordained and accepted way. As a result, they become risk adverse and lose confidence in themselves, their instincts, and their own creative potential. Seeking the path of least resistance; we conform. I cannot tell you how many individuals I have counseled in their 30s and 40s, who have shared with me that they got married in their 20s because that’s what all their friends were doing and it just seemed like the next logical step in life. Again, this is compulsory behavior and role playing that only leads to our eventual sense of entanglement with another person.
LIFE IS JUST A STORY WE TELL OURSELVES . . .
Surviving childhood and adolescence and coming out on the other side with a self-image that’s intact, and the ability to truly love and honor ourselves is a daunting endeavor to say the least and one of life’s greatest challenges. Unfortunately, most of us don’t fair too well. This is why we develop the mask of our ego to conceal our pain, fear, and insecurity from others.
As our ego begins to emerge in our teen-age years our self-image begins to erode further because of constantly comparing ourselves to others. This societal neurosis and pathological thinking is largely bolstered by marketing, which is designed to do one thing – sell products.
Living in a society driven by consumerism and endless consumption, the marketplace has but one goal . . . to make us “want” things. “Wanting” is always based in comparison, by comparing what we have with what we want and could have. It’s predicated on the idea that we lack something, therefore happiness is always going to be connected to something external.
The very nature of wanting is to “externalize” our happiness, joy, well-being, and sense of self, as defined by social media, magazine covers, and Hollywood celebrities. We compulsively shop to define our self-worth through the acquisition of material possessions. But “wanting” always creates suffering, and there is nothing we “want” more than to feel loved and accepted by others.
Being “accepted” by others means we feel “adequate.” But where this becomes detrimental to our well-being is when we tether ourselves to and develop a dependency on things external to us – like people and products – to bolster our sense of self-worth and self-acceptance. Without constant validation from others we cannot seem to hold back the self-deprecating thoughts that taunt us, the insecurities that plague us, and the incessant feelings of being inadequate.
Compounded by advertising that purposely brings attention to and magnifies our insecurities by making us believe we are lacking something, we enter adulthood with few of us believing we are likable, lovable, or “good enough.”
So, developed as a coping mechanism to protect our impressionable and vulnerable inner child, our clever ego takes shape. The more our ego develops, layers upon layers of karma (our conditioning) is accumulating in us. Slaves to a persona we’ve created to “blend in,” this persona develops as an extension of our ego. As it develops, the love and self-acceptance we once had for ourselves dwindles. We become further and further removed from the essence of who we are and knowing ourselves. We wear this mask so often that we barely recognize or remember the essence of the person hiding behind it.
El Astuto Ermitaño – Cuadernos del Yogui
Living in the world that has been reduced down to a marketplace, survival involves more than simply making money. Spiritually, emotionally, and psychological we are challenged by this rigorous journey we call “LIFE,” and navigating through it and managing to keep our head above water is challenging.
Our entire perception of the world that surrounds us is the product of what has been marketed to us, and in my previous article I mentioned that society programs the individual out of the individual, only to create “isotypes.” This is because the way we see ourselves and the world is nothing more than a product of exposure. Who we associate with, what we watch, what we listen to, and what we read, leaves impressions upon us that create the lens we see the ourselves and the world through. This is Karma!!!
With the advent of “social media,” EVERYONE, with the exception of those who have largely disconnected from it, are living in their own “virtually reality,” completely fabricated by the beliefs they hold.
Our entire perceptual experience of the world around us is nothing more than an amalgamation of beliefs and assumptions that we project onto the canvass of our mind as we try to make sense of the world, others, and our feelings about all of it. What we see in the world depends largely upon what we look for. We don’t objectively see things as “THEY” ARE; we only see them as “WE” ARE, meaning, a reality that is filtered through the lens of our beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and perspectives that are largely the product of marketing and propaganda, and observing the behaviors of others. Our perception of the world has been prescribed to us.
Even our concepts of love and relationships are the result of marketing and modeling the behaviors of others who have had their entire concept of love modeled and marketed to them. As a result, we’re all role-playing, expressing romantic love/lust in all the creative ways we’ve had it modeled for us. This is truly a case of the blind leading the blind, as we struggle to figure out why we all trip over our feet in relationships. Simply put, we’re all approaching love and relationships in the same dysfunctional way, with no real foundation to build upon.
In virtually every aspect of our lives – in society, business, and in commerce, we’re taught to get as much value from what we’re investing in, with as little cost and investment of our time, as possible in any given transaction.
Unfortunately, this mindset spills over into the way we handle relationships, especially romantic relationships. We “emotionally barter” with others, by “investing” time, money, gifts, and emotions into the person we are romantically involved with, extending ourselves to them with the hope, and honestly, the expectation, that the relationship we’re cultivating will indefinitely yield the experiences and the feelings we dream about having with another person. In other words, love isn’t a free gift, it’s completely transactional, expects reciprocity, and a return on our investment. We do this because in a very insidious way, society has primed us to import our self-worth from everything external to us. We lose ourselves to the relationship, by attaching our self-worth to another person’s approval of us, their choices, and their behavior, never realizing that we and we alone are responsible for the way we feel. No one else!!!
It bares repeating, the ONLY relationship we are ever having is the relationship we are having with ourselves, within ourselves. Every external relationship only draws to the surface the beliefs we hold about ourselves. This is important to understand.
It’s unfortunate, but whether we realize it or not, most of us tend to place people in our lives in the way that is most self-serving for us and meets our own self-interests. Real “LOVE,” has nothing to do with another person, but is instead only a reflection of the relationship we are having with ourselves. Again, LOVE SEEKS NOTHING from another, but instead is only a giving, a sharing of, the love, appreciation, gratitude, honor, and joy we have in knowing ourselves and participating in this thing called “LIFE.”
Today, loneliness is an epidemic. So many, so lonely who are looking love, but looking in all the wrong places. Looking “out” is “EGO.” Looking “within” we find the “essence” of who and what we are – complete, whole, sufficient.
Endlessly searching, the lonely join dating websites and seek out “dating coaches” and “relationship experts.” What most so called “relationship experts” are prescribing to those who seek their input, is not a roadmap to enlightenment and the true bliss of loving and honoring ourselves that accompanies such an awakening, but rather the dimly lit and perilous path that only leads the masses deeper and deeper into the darkness of our ego and our emotional ineptitude, as the blind lead the blind, promoting love as an offering that demands reciprocity.
Writings on the subject of love and relationships of course, appeal to our delicate egos and our conditioned understanding of society’s underdeveloped concept of love and relationships, but ultimately steer us further and further from even the hope of ever experiencing truly unconditional AUTHENTIC LOVE.
Though well intentioned, many, arguably most “experts,” don’t know the first thing about relationships, because they’re pushing a worn-out narrative, we’ve all known forever. “You’ll eventually find The One, and then you’ll be happy.”
They unknowingly perpetuate this outbound pursuit of happiness by taking a “formulaic approach” to relationships. “Do A, B, and C, and you’ll cultivate these feelings in your lover, which they will then reciprocate and reflect back to you.” It all about how to modify YOUR behavior to create a fairly predictable behavior in your lover.
THIS IS NOT LOVE, NOR IS IT LOVING!!!
This is calculating and is only a way of protecting the emotional investment we’ve made in another person, that we’ve now reduced down to “our drug of choice” that makes us feel oh so good about ourselves. In other words, without even thinking about it we import our sense of self-worth and well-being from others. This is why most relationships have tragic endings that upon ending cause us to return to the baseline appraisal we have of ourselves, when someone is no longer bolstering our self-image.
Living in a society that has reduced LIFE itself down to a commodity and a competitive money sport, constantly catering to our ego, this competitive spirit bleeds over into our relationships, which is why most lovers enter into relationships that demand “commitment” from one another. Why? Because, “If I’m going to emotionally invest in you, you’re required to emotionally invest yourself in me.” Again, at the level of our emotions, love becomes completely transactional and conditional.
We’ve romanticized the idea of commitment because we believe it will provide our lives with predictability, continuity, and security. People don’t commit to one another out of love, they commit to one another out of fear. If two people love one another, commitment is unnecessary, because to truly love someone is to want for them what they want for themselves whether it continues to include us or not.
The fact is, when most people say, “I love you,” they’re really saying “I love the way you make me feel,” never once realizing that no one can make us feel anything. Only we possess that ability.
When we stop getting from our lover what we want, and so desperately need, which is constant validation, our love turns to hurt and more often than not, turns to hate.
Applying even most superficial introspection to this visceral response, we find our insanity is now exposed. We never “loved” our lover, we, just as we had modeled for us, were unknowingly exploiting them to make our life work for us. Our love is and always has been a transactional, quid pro quo, exchange of emotions.
Again, this is because most relationships aren’t predicated on love but rather a culturally biased version of what we call love, which isn’t love at all – but rather codependency. It’s something based entirely on alleviating our fear of being alone by “winning the heart” of another person. Think about that for just a moment!
When we convince someone to marry us, we’ve won!!! This is why we celebrate weddings! “MY” lover, is now “MY” wife, “MY” spouse, “MY” better half, “MY” security blanket, “MY” prize. Every other suitor faltered and fell short of the goal line, but we, yes we, the fun loving, charismatic, loyal, patient, understanding, compassionate, thoughtful, romantic, and let’s not forget, “emotional-available” and just attractive enough suitor, have convinced our lover we will make them blissfully happy for a lifetime, so, it’s time to “put a ring on it.”
And this is what coaches, many of which don’t even have a healthy relationship with themselves, cater to – selling a product that capitalizes on traditional role playing in relationships.
Love and relationships have become big business. They’ve been commoditized as a product to help you find “THE ONE,” who’s out there, and is a remedy for one’s loneliness. This is why the desperately lonely masses seek out those who will dispense advice on how to find your soul mate, “make anyone love you,” find the counterpoint to your soul’s essence, and meet the fulfillment of one’s quota of yearning. In other words, they promote love as an acquisition, an external pursuit, and something that is found with another.
This is why in our culture, happiness, self-worth, self-respect, self-love, peace of mind, confidence, and joy are all concepts that tend to remain circumstantial and transient experiences at best, or worse, remain entirely foreign, elusive, and well beyond one’s ability to grasp. If you want to fall in love, begin by spending time with yourself and learning to love yourself.
The key to knowing love, experiencing self-acceptance, and having peace of mind, is knowing that the only thing that threatens our well-being is that we have allowed our thoughts and emotions to take instruction from outside rather than inside. That is very dangerous in a world where, as Sadhguru, an eastern mystic once stated, “our minds are like a garbage heap. Everyone that passes by it throws something into it.”
And so it goes . . . until we develop self-awareness and truly learn to live “mindfully present” – and stop ruminating on past memories or projecting ourselves into an imagined future – both of which are non-realities, we will forever be lost to the whims and the capricious nature of our thoughts that we weave together into an internal narrative we’re having with ourselves. These narratives we spin subsequently creates ALL of our feelings. No one else!!!
If one pays attention, they’ll observe that for most of us, our self-image isn’t based on what we think of ourselves at all. It’s based on what “we think” others think of us. It’s all merely a story WE tell ourselves, and unfortunately, the internally narrative we create is always going to be the one that is the most commensurate (validating) with the beliefs we hold about our self. Sadly, ALL WE SEE IS OUR BELIEFS!!!
If we believe we’re not likeable, lovable, or good enough, we’ll constantly look for evidence to support our beliefs.
“Most people do not see their beliefs. Instead, their beliefs tell them what to see. This is the difference between clarity and confusion.” – Matt Kahn
What I invite the reader to begin is an inward journey . . . to actually sit, become silent and meditative, and simply become an observer of the pain you’ve been ignoring.
Get comfortable. Create a gap between your thoughts and you as the “observer” of your thoughts. Picture yourself in the movie theatre of your mind where you, as the observer, sit in the audience and simply observe the thoughts that appear on the screen, while suspending all judgement. Don’t label them as “good” or “bad” but rather, just see them as an experience you’re having. They cannot hurt you unless you give energy and meaning to them. Avoid the urgency to create a story around them. Just allow the thoughts to be whatever they are realizing your thoughts are yours but they’re NOT YOU, nor do they define you.
Observe the feeling that come up inside of you but do not resist them. What we resist, persists. The very act of resisting our thoughts or telling ourselves that we shouldn’t be thinking these thoughts, or we “just need to get over it,” is resisting. By not resisting our thoughts, we process them, which dissipates the energy associated with painful thoughts, and allows the pain to evaporate away.
Thoughts happen automatically as they bubble up from the sub-conscious mind, so simply let them. Again, just observe them while suspending all judgement. What you’re peering into is all the activity that is going on beneath the level of your “conscious” mind. It’s what’s running in the background.
Pay attention to what you tell yourself as you observe these spontaneous thoughts that are being generated. Examine the beliefs you hold about yourself, listen to the internal dialogue you are having with yourself and the messages you send to yourself. This can be a very uncomfortable exercise. It involves having the courage to take an initial step into the darkness, where trapped emotions from childhood traumas, and the emotional wounds incurred in our youth, are kept hidden from the world. After all, this is the aspect of our being that no one gets to see, while we wear our “brave face” out into the world, with the hopes of appearing to be put together. But if one has the courage to step into that place, we can begin addressing and changing those beliefs and messages that no longer serve us.
In a society that only breeds “isotopes,” it’s easy to turn to self-loathing and self-hatred. You’ve spent your entire life hating and beating yourself up. How has that worked for you? What would your life look like if you could actually learn to truly love and honor yourself?
It’s very disheartening, but very few people will live having ever truly experienced truly unconditional LOVE, because ALL LOVE begins with learning to LOVE and honor ourselves. Until we do that love will remain an external pursuit and usually involves feasting on scraps from the table, because others can only validate us so much.
Those that have come to truly know love, TRUE, AUTHENTIC, “UNCONDITIONAL” LOVE for themselves and others, are those who become meditative, who have turned inward and become so silent, so still, so peaceful and contemplative, that by going within and becoming acquainted with their inner essence, they realize they ARE LOVE and they are never alone. They are everything and nothing at the same time. They feel connected to everything and attached to nothing. What they see is that love is no longer a relationship with another but only a “relating” to others. Wherever you are, with whomever you move, you are simply LOVING because LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!!!
LOVE is something we ARE, not something we find. LOVE is authentic. Relationships are role playing. LOVE is sincere. Relationships are games. LOVE is boundless. Relationships have well defined boundaries. LOVE is FREE. Relationships demand reciprocity. LOVE never destroys our or another person’s freedom. Relationships are a commitment to limiting our freedoms, and the freedoms of our lover. LOVE has no rules. Relationships are wrought with Rules of Engagement, quid pro quo, commitments, and expectations. LOVE is presence and lives only in the “NOWness” of each moment. Relationships are always future-oriented, with a destination, a mile marker, a pinnacle to arrive at. LOVE is unconditional. Relationships are conditional. Love is un-attachment. Relationship is attachment.
LOVE is a dance, not a tethering!!!
Maturity is when we have the ability to make a bond of love, not a bondage.
FREEDOM IS OUR NATURAL STATE. Whether we realize it or not, the human spirit is in endless transition and is ever changing. It seeks constant expansion and experiences that lend themselves to the evolution of the soul’s consciousness.
Careful what you wish for, for the walls of security you build with another today, become the walls of your imprisonment tomorrow.
Love and Light to you on your continued Journey of Self-Discovery.
Images like the one above provide us with a somewhat erotic and yet sentimental depiction of love and romance that represents a fairly ubiquitous concept of what most of us have been taught to dream of having someday – a blissful relationship with someone we can grow old with. These are natural inclinations and aspirations of the human heart. After all, who doesn’t love the mouthwatering experience of two entangled bodies rolling around in bed sheets and the exhilarating and highly addictive “biochemical experience” of falling in LOVE?
Those who know me know that I routinely describe the experience of “falling in love” as a socially acceptable form of insanity, or more specifically – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; and it is, in virtually every way we look at it. Though we are completely bowled over by the sudden onset of these unexplainable and overwhelming emotions drawing us to this particular person, who we see as a gift from the heavens, this infatuation/obsession emerges from, taps into, and nurtures our vulnerable, timid, and frightened inner child that is always looking for security. It’s a desire that emerges from an emptiness and lack of security we feel that was bore out in us in early childhood.
Research psychologists and clinical-behavioral therapists routinely reflect upon and write abstracts about the disparity that exists between our human logic and emotions. The two are completely incongruent, never occupying the same space in our mind at the same time. This gap is never more painfully obvious than when we “fall in love.” The whole experience is soooooo delicious and yet bordering on complete delirium in every way.
If we could stand outside ourselves and observe ourselves objectively, we’d witness how we obsess over this person we only recently met and are now smitten with. We can’t wait to see them again, laugh with them, kiss them, touch them, taste them, have sex with them. They’re the first person we want to receive a text message from every morning and the last voice we want to hear before falling asleep. We love knowing someone is “pining” for us and misses us as much as we miss them. No distance or time that separates us can keep us apart. We will go to extraordinary lengths to be in their presence. We lose sleep, staying up all night just to talk to or be with them. We have boundless energy, we forget to eat, forget to drink, we forget or voluntarily abandon our “to-do” lists entirely. Our priorities are reshuffled and everything on our “to-do” list is now secondary to time spent with our lover. The thought of doing anything with any one else is a negotiation at best, because every decision we make is the one that allows us more time with this person we’ve always dreamt of meeting. We’ve literally “flown the coup!”
When we fall “in” love” we tend to fall “out” of our mind as trip all over ourselves to be with our romantic partner! We can barely even recognize the person we were before meeting this person that we feel now “completes us.” Indulging in this “biochemical romance” we’re having with another person, as tidal waves of hormones rush through our veins, we will do anything to maintain the ecstasy of it all indefinitely through role playing, and by modeling the observed behavior of our parents, friends, and the expressions of romantic love as depicted in the movies and the lyrical content of songs, to win over our lover. The perilous nature and accompanying risks inherent in repeating these patterns modeled for us, is that it comes with a whole host of predictable behaviors and corresponding outcomes during the relationship, and even more predictable, very reactive behaviors and corresponding feelings that are attached to the underbelly of romantic love and come to the surface when relationships end: feelings of self-hate, jealousy, abandonment, rejection, grieving, depression, anxiety, and fear. But hey, who has time to worry about these when we’re so “in love,” right now?
This scenario doesn’t play out for an awakened individual who has freed themselves from the needless suffering that happens for most following the moratorium and post traumatic demise of a lost romantic relationship. But before you feel sorry for those that don’t suffer this departure from reality, thinking they must have never been in love, we must first understand why it happens to us in the first place and why we find it all exhilarating during the relationship, and soooooooo debilitating after it ends. It says something about a much deeper dimension of ourselves, and is what causes us to seek love from others as a bandage, to cover up our deepest fears and insecurities.
To understand this aspect of ourselves, we need to look at the nature of “falling in love.”
Convinced we’ve found “THE ONE” – that someone that feeds our ego, validates us, and makes us surrender to this bliss – our search is over; we’re ALL IN!!! We see ourselves with this person for the rest of our life and begin plotting the mile markers that will get us there. Talks of marriage, children, having a family, and growing old together are commonplace, and thus, soon the planning begins.
Without even noticing, we’ve now tethered ourselves to this person that we describe as our “soul mate” to anyone who will listen, and import our entire sense of self-worth from them. We’ve now become an unwitting participant in a self-induced, bio-chemical dependence on another person who’s going to help build our own cage. This is because the walls of security we build today, become the walls of our imprisonment tomorrow.
Please understand, what I’m describing is not the “LOVE” that gurus, sages, teachers of the esoteric, and yogic sciences refer to, but rather what the masses have adopted as their concept of romantic love, which is something altogether different, and is anything but loving. What society has adopted conceptually as “love” is something that only appeals to the most superficial aspects of our ego and can actually become a tremendous impediment to developing spiritually and understanding the essence of who and what we are.
Blissfully in love, our lives are now inextricably intertwined with this other person and have become utterly defined by this relationship . . . that is, until they end. When they end, our footing, our falsely bolstered, self-aggrandizing ego, and feigned confidence is lost, as we spiral downward. This is why so many lovers become enemies after a breakup. With the fantasy we created in our head now collapsing in around us, our ego and our entire sense of self-worth is annihilated and reduced to ashes. We spend days, weeks, even months feeding on the filth of our imagination, and we now vilify the very person who only recently was seen as our ultimate truth, our soul mate, “the ONE.” We ask ourselves, “How did this all go so wrong? How is it, my lover, no longer loves me? What’s wrong with me?” During the time we usually arrive at the conclusion, “I’m not good enough.”
Can you feel the weight of that statement? It’s debilitating…
It’s tragic that we invest so much of our well-being and self-worth into the completely unpredictable choices and thoughts of others, and yet as lovers we do it all the time. The saddest part is how disempowered we become in doing so, because we fail to realize that our pain isn’t caused by our LOVE for the other person, nor is it being caused by the loss of the relationship, but rather because of our “attachment,” codependency, and the destructive internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves. Attachment is the antithesis/the opposite of love.
This is important to understand.
“The only love that exists, is LOVE without attachment.”
A difficult concept for most to understand, because it runs counter to everything we’ve ever had modeled to us. At the level of our fledgling and nescient emotions, what most think of as “love” destroys the essence of everything it projects itself onto. This requires some explaining, because right now my dear reader you’re probably shaking your head, thinking, “love destroys?” That makes no sense…
It’s interesting to note, and may surprise you to know, that the modern word “LOVE” comes from the Sanskrit term, LOBHA which means greed and self-serving. I don’t think of this as coincidental. After all, we never become more greedy than when we fall “in love,” as why try to sequester as much of our lover’s time as we can.
We believe that because we’ve grown so attached to another, this is why we’re so caring towards them. What if I told you we are actually the most uncaring once we become “attached?” Though we believe we care about our lover, (and we do on some level) every choice we make is ultimately selfish and designed to create experiences that provide “US” with a desired feeling . . . in this case, LOVE.
It is not because of our attachment that we have become so caring about the other person. Lacking self-awareness, we don’t see that our caring is only because we believe we’re investing in the other person in a way that will continue to provide us with all the intoxicating feelings we’re currently indulging in with our partner. We want these feeling to last forever, or at least indefinitely. As a result, our caring is nothing more than an elaborate ruse, a means to an end, a transactional exchange, and is completely, utterly conditional. It has been learned by modeling others, and cultivated through positive and negative reinforcement since childhood.
Our caring is entirely contrived, but that’s not to imply that there’s something nefarious or scheming about it. It’s just that we’re not consciously aware of what we’re doing. Guided by entirely sub-conscious patterns of behavior and biological drives, we shower our lover with cards, gifts, flowers, chocolates, love and affection, appeasing them and essentially marketing ourselves as someone that can love them forever. We do this believing that this recently discovered individual, providing all of these invigorating feelings, will continue to do so if we continue to reinforce their behaviors that make us oh so happy. We mirror their loving and romantic gestures thinking we can maintain this infatuation with one another.
This is what I call “emotional bartering” and “transactional love.” Two beggars treating each other like emperors, only to find they’re emotionally bankrupt without the other.
It’s an unspoken contractual agreement and emotional exchange between two people romantically involved and there are severe penalties if either one or the other falls out of compliance. “I’ll love you as long as you love me. Stop loving me? Watch out!!! I will hate you and vilify you, and sadly, pretend that i don’t miss you when in fact, I miss you terribly.”
If you question this outcome, invest yourself in another person, 100%. Hold nothing back! Adorn them with gifts, surprise them, kiss them, love them, be completely intimate with them, and extend to them the freedom to see you whenever they want . . . or not. Give them the freedom to be with whoever they want, whenever they want, go wherever they want, do whatever they want. Then, check yourself. See how much you truly “LOVE” your lover. To what degree can you truly extend “unconditional” love, (a love with no conditions, no expectations, no bartering, no contract, no titles, no agreement, and no commitment) to them? If you can’t do that, you only know Love at the level of the Egoic Mind and codependency. This is what is termed “Eros” love, and although Eros love feels like a bond of love, it’s actually emotional bondage!
Eros love is the intoxicating feelings, the obsessing over another, the butterflies in our stomach, and the romantic fantasies we create about our lover, but is anything but genuine LOVE. Genuine LOVE can only be extended to another person as a product of our own self-actualization, self-awareness, mindfulness, and presence. Self-aware individuals don’t fall “in love” in the first place, because they realize that everything we feel is only a product of the script we choose to write over life, thus determining how we experience every situation we’re in. Eros love, by contrast, is unconscious, impulsive, biological, needy, self-aggrandizing, contrived, and as mentioned before, destroys everything it comes in contact with . . .
Why do I say this?
When we find something or someone that we believe we love, our perceived love for the object or the other person, is often conflated with the idea of how it makes “us” feel, never once realizing that no one can make us feel anything. But because we believe the other person is the source of all these amazing feelings, as opposed to the concept we’ve created of them in our head, we become attached and dependent on this person. Like a heroin junkie hooked up to an IV with their drug of choice, we’ve now tethered ourselves to this person we “can’t live without.” We’re addicted! We cannot fathom what our life would be like without them any more than a junkie can imagine their life without their fix. We want them all to ourself, we want them with us all the time, we want to possess them, we want to “belong” to them, and we want them to “belong” to us. The ultimate expression of this dependency is called “marriage.”
This yearning to secure the love we’re now importing from another person is wrought from a very deep fear and tremendous insecurity about being on our own and being alone in the world. This fear is why we tend to cling to anyone who shows us affection and glob onto any soul that can indefinitely provide us with feelings of self-worth and a false sense of security. But this clinging only impairs and postpones our ability to discover ourselves and love ourselves independent of someone’s constant validation, because beyond the bliss of infatuation, it only reinforces our dependency. Our sense of joy, happiness, self-worth and sense of relevancy, is complete circumstantial and dependent on how our lover feels about us at any given time. Our blissfully loving relationship has now become an exploitative and incestuous relationship, hiding our madness. We leech life from our lover to feel good about ourselves. This is very destructive to our individual growth and theirs. Let me provide an example:
While out on a day hike, you stumble upon a meadow full of beautiful flowers. The intoxicating fragrance and beauty of the flowers compels you to consider them as a centerpiece on your table back home. Smelling the flowers and seeing their profound beauty, you fall in “LOVE” with these flowers!!! Having to have them as your own, you pick the flowers, take them home, and put them in a vase. Within a week to ten days, they die.
Why are the flowers dead? The most common response I receive when positing this question to those I counsel is, “because they were ripped out of the ground?” Well, yes and no. They’re dead because you “LOVED” them. If only you had let the flowers remain rooted, grounded, there in nature, and left them where you found them, in their true “essence,” they would’ve lived all summer long, sharing their beauty and fragrance with so many others who would have come across their path. But, because you “LOVED” them, you had to make them your own, and in doing so, destroyed them.
This is exactly what we do to our lovers and is exactly what love is to the vast majority of humanity. This is ALL learned behavior. We have been taught that if you find someone who makes you happy, “you put a ring on it.” If you’re looking to save money, dog tags, stating “property of . . . [insert name]” is considerably less expensive than diamond rings, but will essentially serve the same purpose.
In doing so, we reduce our lover down to a possession, an object, our drug of choice, that we don’t want anyone taking from us, so we demand – though we ask politely – commitment from them. Once committed we will never see the “essence” of our lover again, but rather see them as ‘something’ that “belongs” to us. We will never know again if our lover is with us, begrudgingly adhering to a commitment they made, or if they’re with us by choice, as we have now removed their “choice” altogether by demanding their commitment.
Once married, our bond of love is now a legal binding contract, an enterprise, a corporation, (albeit, with tax advantages, but still not enough to compel me), and a bondage. And oh how messy divorce is! Where true love exists, commitment and marriage is not only unnecessary, it’s completely unwarranted. Love NEVER destroys one’s freedom, because love is not possessing someone or belonging to someone, it’s simply appreciating the beauty of another one’s spirit with no need to possess or belong to them. It bears no titles, make no demands, has no expectations, no mile markers, and wants for nothing.
Unfortunately, most of the world will never know love on this level. For most, love is framed in the idea of inclusion. In other words, we see something external to us that makes us happy and try to include it as part of our being, part of our day to day experiences. We now see the object of our affection as an extension of us. We develop an attachment, so strong, that we are tortured by the absence of this object (in this case, our lover).
LOVE would never consider “possessing” or “belonging” to someone, because when we possess something, it can no longer been seen as something separate from us, nor can it exist in its natural state as an individual identity, because relationship again, are role playing. We only see a contextualized version of our lover through the lens of what they mean to us.
When we attach ourself to someone else, we’re attaching our identity to something other than “OURSELVES.” We attach ourselves to and identify with another person to create favorable experiences for us . . . We try extracting LIFE out of someone else to keep ourselves going in a positive way, to create a sense of security for ourselves with a certain predictability and continuity to our lives. This is how we lose ourselves and is why we seek “commitment” from others, to make sure that this security is never taken from us.
If we are complete within ourselves, we’re free to give love effortlessly to everyone because there is nothing we seek from another person. There’s nothing we NEED from another person. We have become so complete within ourself, that our existence, our joy, our relevance, self-worth, and happiness is no longer dependent upon anything or anybody. Only then will we be truly wonderful to everyone that comes in contact with us. Otherwise, we are selective about who we’re nice to and who we’re not nice to, because there is always an agenda hidden behind every interaction with others.
So, the way we pursue romantic relationships is not driven by the desire to love someone, it driven entirely by fear. So where did all this fear come from?
The Wounded Child
In early childhood we learn primarily, through positive and negative reinforcement, how to get want we want, which is primarily love, affection, and security. Love, which is the essence of what we are, often becomes a foreign concept to us, because before we can apply any cognitive reasoning to our emotions, we learn very early on, that life is a series of exchanges and compromises. Love is something we receive (positive reinforcement) by pleasing others and something we’re deprived of if we don’t (negative reinforcement). So, love and acceptance become an exchange, something we hope to get from others by appeasing them . . . we learn love is conditional.
When parents berate or abuse their children, few realize that the child doesn’t stop loving them as parents. The child, whose sense of self-worth is defined by the acceptance or the lack thereof that they receive from their parents, stops loving themselves. This is devastating to the emotionally inexperienced child that is trying to navigate their way through childhood, manage complex emotions that are completely foreign to them, and figure out what the rules are in this thing called “LIFE.” In yelling and chastising our children we undermine any sense of security they have in being themselves and erode away at their trust in others. Lacking the ability to love themselves, the child begins, what for most becomes an endless journey, to try and please others in an attempt to receive love and a sense of self-worth from others.
Realizing parents and others can be irrational and unpredictable, this is where the evolution of our ego and personality begins . . .
Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona 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, the essence of what we are. Though we generally think of “ego” as a bad thing, it’s not. Our ego developed as a product of evolution. It’s a psychological coping mechanism designed to protect us in response to events that as a child scared us and threatened our security. It’s often what pushes us to develop our autonomy and independence.
Our personality is a sophisticated construct and extension of the ego unconsciously developed during our formative years as a child, not only through a series of “wins” we experienced in having our needs met, but also as a way of avoiding and insulating ourselves from painful experiences. Our personality and ego are intimately intertwined.
The mind compartmentalizes and catalogs all of our childhood experiences for life, as either pleasant or painful and in doing so, it employs strategies to help us create a gap between the emotional aspect of our being (our vulnerable inner child) and those painful experiences that were overwhelming, intolerable, or traumatic.
These painful experiences are internalized by the child as “there’s something wrong with me,” but in not wanting to appear weak and vulnerable, we put on our brave face . . . this is our EGO! We venture out into the world burying the pain, the beliefs, and insecurities we cling to, beneath the veil of our persona or personality. These traumatic experiences and the reactions of the people involved in them, say nothing about us and who we are, though they are processed that way. These experiences leave an indelible mark on us in the form of an internal narrative we create about them, which is usually very judgmental and filled with limiting beliefs we have about ourselves. Sub-consciously this creates unhealthy, negative patterns of behaviors that are reactive in nature and work against us as we grow into adulthood.
During our childhood feeling loved, seen, heard, understood, and accepted is paramount to our development. If we are deprived of this, “finding” love and acceptance outside ourselves (since we can’t find it within) becomes our highest aspiration in life.
This is where our endless search to find acceptance in the eyes of a lover begins, but again, this misguided pursuit is rooted in fear, NOT love. The search for love, happiness, joy and relevancy have all become external pursuits for the masses who sadly, are “Looking for Love in all the wrong places.” Some will get that reference . . .
This is a pervasive societal problem where people conflate LOVE and romance, when in fact, romance is based in lust and is a marketing tactic that serves as a divisive prelude to sex. LUST is a product of the body, LOVE arises out of our consciousness. But, people aren’t even aware of their consciousness as separate from their biological drives, so conflating lust and love seems to go hand in hand, and just goes on and on and on – lust is mistaken for love.
Lust and romance really has nothing to do with actually loving another person. It’s simply an ego trip designed to protect our inner child that is seeking security!!!
Moving Past our Pain and Fear . . . The Way Out, Is In
With love as an external pursuit, it will always evade us. Though relationships may initially provide self-affirming feelings, in time all our old patterns, beliefs, fears, and insecurities resurface and rear their ugly head. We become suspicious, distrustful, insecure and afraid our lover may leave us.
If there is one constant in life, it’s that life is permanently impermanent. EVERYTHING is in transition, EVERYTHING changes, and yet, when it comes to the often fleeting emotions associated with love and romance, we expect them to remain the same forever.
This is why most romantic relationships are actually a tragedy in the making and are doomed before they ever really have a chance. This is because our star-crossed lovers are approaching their relationship from the wrong premise – a foundation that doesn’t exist within either one of them.
When our love has an address, it’s not LOVE, it’s role playing. Though this is what society has adopted as “love,” it’s completely conditional and is nothing more than codependency dressed up as “romance.” It’s two people exploiting one another to create all the desirable feelings associated with being “in love” within them, though they can’t see it until the relationship ends.
True LOVE is not addressed to someone or something, any more than the sun intends for all of its light to only reach the Earth and nothing else. In other words, LOVE is simply a radiating outward of the appreciation, honor, and respect we have for ourselves and share with others. It’s something we simply are, not some “thing” we find with anyone else. But lacking love for ourselves, we seek to extract it from others.
Commit this to memory . . . LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!!! It only wants for others what they want for themselves, whether it continues to include us or not.
For most of us, when we say the words “I Love You” we’re really saying, “I love the way you make me feel.” In other words, we’re simply acknowledging the quality of our own emotions in response to another person, and these feelings are not caused by the other person but rather the internal narrative we’ve created about them in relation to us.
At this point, our ego, which always needs validation, applies a story to these feelings; one that see us as “set apart,” unique, or special in the eyes of someone else. And oh, how empowering that is!!! As lovers, just as when we were children, our two individuals appease one another (positive reinforcement) and indulge in one another, never realizing that the only relationship they’re ever having is the relationship they’re having with themselves, within themselves.
Again, ALL of these feelings, we cannot help but indulge in, are the product of the internal narrative we’ve created within ourselves about our lover. In other words, our lover is not creating any feelings within us. It is us, the storyteller in our head, that is creating all of our feelings, no one else. Our thoughts create our beliefs – about ourselves, others, and every experience we are having. We weave these beliefs together into a story, a novella, an internal narrative we’re having within ourselves, and that story or narrative creates ALL the emotions we’re feeling in any given moment.
What we feel in any given moment is only a product of the internal dialogue we’re having within ourselves at any given time. In other words, no one can make us “feel” anything. And yes, this means everyone is off the hook! No one is responsible for the way we feel other than us. I know, I know . . . that’s not very comforting and means that ultimately we have to take full accountability of what we’re feeling.
We create our own experiences through our perceptions and our experience of anything, at any time, is all a creation of our own doing and the result of the appraisal we have of ourself in any give situation. As mentioned in my previous installment on this subject, “the degree to which we possess the ability to love and honor ourselves will determine the degree to which we need to believe others love us.” The quality of every external relationship we’re having is determined by the quality of the relationship we’re having with ourselves, within ourselves.
If we pay attention to the stories we create in our head, the narratives are always commensurate with and validate the beliefs we hold about ourselves. What we see in our lives depends largely on what we’re looking for. In other words, we create these stories and then look for “evidence” to support them.
We have a very empowering, self-aggrandizing narrative or storyline at the beginning of a relationship, and a very disheartening, diminutive, and self-deprecating storyline when one ends. But in either scenario, it’s the internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves, that is creating our feelings. NOT our lover!!!
This “Crazy lil’ Thing Called Love” is highly addictive, and like any other drug, when we indulge in it, we dangle ourselves precariously between bliss and annihilation, because the love and grandiose appraisal we have of ourselves is now shackled to someone that at any moment can walk out of our lives and unfortunately take our imported sense of self-worth with them. We’ve unwittingly reduce our lover down to our “drug of choice” and will subsequently experience withdraw symptoms in their absence.
Robert Palmer, in the most apropos way, described this obsession in his song ADDICTED TO LOVE. In the off chance you’re one of the few people on earth that are not familiar with the mega-hit, you can click here to watch the music video. Something tells me the lyrical content will resonate with you. Click here: https://youtu.be/XcATvu5f9vE
What so many call love, is a complicated interplay between a entire panacea of hormones, biochemistry, neural peptides, emotions, impressions and nuances we’ve been encoded with since early childhood, that all contribute to how we experience another person we are romantically involved with.
As eluded to in my previous article, for a lot of us, our concept of love and romance as adults was more than likely first conceptualized by Walt Disney at a very young age.
We learn about love – or at least the socially agreed upon version of love – by emulating those who modeled love for us, which was hopefully demonstrated by our parents or care-givers. Regrettably, there are so many who have never had unconditional love modeled for them, so love is learned contextually through trial and error, listening to countless love songs, and by what we see portrayed on television and at the movies. What most of us have come to think of as “love” is really lust, codependency, and if we’re being honest, “emotional bartering.”
Because all knowledge begins with self-knowledge, we must go within ourselves to find the way out.
. . . More to come
Love and Light to you in your continued Journey of Self-Discovery!
“In Love” – Artwork by Steve K
All knowledge begins with self-knowledge.
As a teacher of mindful living and self-awareness, there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t come across articles online about love and relationships. It’s a very popular topic, because the most pervasive fear in the world today, is the fear of becoming irrelevant. And how do we feel relevant? Relationships!!!
Articles on “relationships” are especially prevalent on curated websites, where each author reflects upon what they’ve learned from the demise of their most recent romantic relationship and the postmortem emotional trauma that occurs following the break-up. They outline for the reader the “signs they ignored,” the “red flags,” the “narcissistic behaviors” of their past lover, and how they’ve become victimized by the conflicts, the pitfalls, and the landmines they missed in their relationships, which is of course, always with an “emotionally unavailable” lover. They hope to inspire other bereft lovers, who like them, have also had what they thought was the ultimate truth, their perfect soulmate, their twin-soul, stripped away from them.
With empathetic words of support encouraging the downtrodden reader to press on in spite of their grief, the author’s words are like an elixir to the reader’s broken heart and salve to their incurred wounds, resonating with the reader who can so relate to the shared pain and experiences of the writer. In writing about what feels like a Shakespearian Tragedy, the authors of these types of articles write with the intent that others can glean wisdom from their experiences and perhaps avoid the hassle and the broken heart that they themselves were forced to endure and recover from.
If only our lives could play out like a Walt Disney fairy tale, where to the sound of beautiful orchestral music and birds chirping, we ride off into the sunset of eternal bliss with the prince or princess of our dreams and live happily ever after.
Insert a collective sigh from the audience here for full effect . . .
Offering a road map of sorts to use in navigating the reader’s next romantic encounter, those writing about romantic relationships extol the virtues and characteristics of “healthy relationships,” and the usual, mandatory “quid pro quo” and “rules of engagement” necessary in the exchange of human emotions within the unquestioned framework everyone has been taught to approach romance from. They expound upon the mutual understanding, the obligatory respect lovers must display and practice, and the agreed upon boundaries that lovers must adhere to and protect if they are to continue adoring each other and fawning all over each other within the context of their romantic relationships in order to maintain the endorphin rush we find so delicious and addicting.
This, of course, is a type of pathological and unexamined thinking we’ve been imbued with since our first viewing of Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, or “fill in the blank” with the romantic animation of your choice.
Sadly, articles written on the subject of love and relationships only highlight a symptomatic overview of human nature, predicated in endless searching, neediness, and a yearning to find someone, ANYONE to love us, in order to fill the perceived void, we feel within ourselves.
Unfortunately, these articles never address the real issue – the emptiness that lies within each of us and what causes it.
This is a persistent longing that society propagates by cultivating a constant outward focus in our search for love and happiness. And here is where the masses remain trapped, because the bulk of society has been inculcated with constant messaging that teaches us that happiness is “out there,” which means we fail to find it within ourselves. Thus, the endless search to find happiness by importing our sense of happiness, love, relevance, and well-being from others. Because of this outward focus, the most fundamental understanding of our true nature, the essence of what we truly are, remains elusive and enshrouded in darkness. This is why so few take the inward journey that the mystics and greatest teachers of the past advocate as the path to finding true bliss and self-acceptance within ourselves. “In there” is where all our past wounds and unresolved trapped emotions hide in our sub-conscious but still exert tremendous influence over our current choices. Resolving and healing these wounds and truly developing self-acceptance, means we have love to give. Love is no longer an external pursuit, nor is it something we “find” with another. We discover LOVE is what we ARE
So why don’t we take this inward journey?
Well, fundamentally it takes courage, and who isn’t afraid to journey into the darkness and confront the traumas from our past, when the darkness only cultivates our worst fears and insecurities of not being likable, lovable or “good enough”?
In dealing with these beliefs, or perhaps better said, in failing to deal with these beliefs about ourselves that lie just beneath the surface, most of us choose the path of least resistance, looking outside ourselves to others and to the marketplace, with the hope they can fill the void we feel inside of us.
Why? Because until we rise above the level of our karma, we live through compulsion, competition, and comparison. With “desirable social appeal” and what’s considered “en vogue,” promoted as a constantly moving target, we keep shopping and shopping and shopping to stay current in our social acceptability!!! After all, we’re ALL marketing platforms, and what are we marketing? Ourselves…
Shopping and consumerism, endlessly promoted as the “prescription” for everything, has truly become the opiate of our times. Oh, so delicious, albeit fleeting, is the endorphin rush that comes with a new purchase.
Arguably the most prevalent means available in America to infuse our lives with a dose of happiness through the acquisition of material possessions, we use shopping to distract and anesthetize ourselves from the constant barrage of thoughts and feelings of inadequacy that are so prevalent in individuals who’ve been taught to live life as a endless competition and comparison to others. We shop for status symbols to place in our driveway, to drape ourselves in, and name brand logos to define our social status with. Today, we even shop for people . . . no different than the way we shop for the products we buy to make ourselves happy. Romance is sooooo, the ultimate endorphin rush!!! “Falling in Love” is seen as the “cure all” for all our emotional emptiness. So we hope, we pray, we shop, and endlessly seek someone to fall in love with.
Instead of meeting people organically through social interaction, we now have dating apps that reduce initiating human contact down to the arbitrary task of swiping left or right. Countless dating websites now provide an array of platforms where we can market ourselves just like the products we buy and seek romantic relationships out like taking a trip to the mall. With these apps, we can “shop” for relationships to our heart’s content, in a way that’s no different than going to Amazon.com to shop for an item. We “shop” for relationships that we can import a sense of relevancy from, to make us feel “good enough.” It’s absolutely no different than the endorphin rush we get when purchasing clothes, or a purse, or a car. And if a relationship ends? Hey! That’s okay! There’s Plenty of Fish (also an app) in the Sea. Just go phishing!!!
It is from this premise most people sheepishly venture out into the world.
In a society that bombards us with media images that breed insecurity and feelings of inadequacy; confidence is sold to us as purchased products that make us feel “adequate,” at least for a while. Feeling this profound sense of inadequacy, we have a tendency to cling to others for security, even if the security itself is only a narrative we’ve created in our head about our lovers. Slicing through the thin veneer of most relationships, we find, that tragically most relationships are built on the wrong foundation – CODEPENDENCY masquerading as storybook LOVE, just like in the fairytales we grew up with. But alas, this bliss can never last, and when the love drug wears off, that’s when problems arise, tensions develop in the relationship, and if it ends, we collapse in on ourselves and return to our default appraisal of ourselves . . . feeling inadequate, lonely, and unlovable.
This is why most lovers are like two beggars treating each other like emperors, only to find out, that without the other, they are emotionally bankrupt and lack the strength to hold themselves in even the most meager regard as something beautiful and unique in all of creation.
Simply put, “THE QUALITY OF ANY EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS WE HAVE IS BASED ENTIRELY ON THE QUALITY OF THE RELATIONSHIP WE’RE HAVING WITH OURSELVES, WITHIN OURSELVES, WHICH IN FACT, IS THE ONLY RELATIONSHIP WE ARE EVER HAVING.”
More to come . . .
Love and Light to you in your continued Journey of Self-Discovery.
This area deals with your physical health. Since your body is the means through which you experience everything in the physical plane, it is important to keep our body healthy. Our health is largely determined by our mental health and the way we feel because our thoughts create our beliefs, our beliefs create our story or the internal narrative we make up about ourselves, others, and every experience we’re having, and that story creates ALL of our feelings, again, about ourselves, others, and every experience we’re having.
The relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and physical health is a complex interweaving of the three. What the mind represses, the body expresses. Emotional “dis-ease” always leads to “disease.” We can eat all organic foods, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, not smoke, avoid soft drinks and juices, and workout every day. If we’re not emotionally well, our health will always suffer.
In addition to working out, I’m a huge advocate of Yoga. By yoga, I’m not referring to the American commercialization of the asanas (the body postures of yoga) involved in yoga. Though there are some benefits to performing just the asanas; the body, mind, spirit connection made by practicing the authentic, sacred practice of yoga developed in India, is a practice I encourage everyone to incorporate into their lives. Daily practice of this type of yoga will have you well on your way to boosting your physical integrity and grounding yourself emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
Notice I didn’t write “Relationships.”
“All Knowledge begins with Self-Knowledge” – We cannot know anything outside of our self . . . every experience is only happening within us. Since consciousness is always outbound [from within], we are both the center and the circumference – the subject and the object – of every experience we are having.
No one else is responsible for the way we feel – blame does not exist in an “awakened” individual. An awakened individual doesn’t seek love and understanding from another person; they radiate it unconditionally to others. They love with NO CONDITIONS placed upon another individual, in friendships or relationship that are romantic in nature.
At the level of our ego, everyone we meet is a reflection of what we love or hate about ourselves . . . and with society only appealing to the egoic mind, it keeps us trapped at the level of comparison and competition. That is very dangerous in a world where our unattended to minds are like a garbage heap; in that, every one that passes by throws something into it.
The impressions made upon us create our biases, beliefs, and opinions about everything. These predispositions create an internal dialogue within us, and the stories we come up with about others are always narratives that are commensurate with the beliefs that we have about ourselves. The content of these stories is woven together so as to validate or invalidate the beliefs we cling to about ourselves. That internal dialogue, validating us or attacking us, is a poorly designed coping mechanism developed in childhood, that no longer serves us as adults, but has become so compulsive we can’t seem to stop or just turn our minds off. Now our minds are working against us by keeping us trapped in duality.
“When pain, misery, or anger happen, it is time to look within you, not around you.”
The stories we make up about others is just our mind’s way of deflecting our own internal bully’s attacks (our intellect attacking our vulnerable inner emotional child), and gives ourselves permission to feel sorry for ourselves as victims . . . because as long as we judge the other person we don’t have to face our own self-deprecating internal dialogue who is really condemning us . . . not the other person.
As a result, we fail to acknowledge and understand others feelings, wants, desires, ambitions, and choices when we are only looking at what’s wrong with us . . . we see everything the other person is doing as uncaring, neglectful, and as rejecting and/or abandoning us, never realizing they are operating out of their own fear, just like us, and simply trying to protect themselves as well.
Relationships with our family, friends, and colleagues, are only a by-product of the only relationship we’re ever having, and that’s the relationship we’re having with ourselves.
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 . . . when in fact, it’s all going on within us.
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 lens every time we choose to look at ourselves and contemplate the essence of who and what we are.
For the most part, 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.
Developing “self-awareness” allows us to live consciously, in the eternal “NOW” and become the observer of our thoughts and the messages we are constantly sending to ourselves, that can either build us up or tear us down.
Here’s all I’m going to say about work. If it’s not in line with your passions and you’re seeking a job out of fear disguised as pragmatism, get out of it. And believe me, I know all too well that this is easier said than done. I too, have struggled for years in making the decision to pursue my passion. I’ve done so by working on what I’m passionate about in my spare time away from the pragmatism of my current job. I’m soon going to be making the leap!
People lose jobs every day. They hate “playing it safe” and taking a job just to make money. Doing so is ultimately unsatisfying and only erodes at our sense of happiness. Our career and all of our achievements along the way only provide us with a very transient sense of satisfaction if we are only working to make a living. If we aren’t truly passionate about what we are doing, no number of accolades will make work more meaningful.
I know that being pragmatic is the default judgment that most of us make in pursuing careers. But, if you have the means and the opportunity to pursue your dreams, do it in increments and then take the leap! Life is short! Take chances and go for it!
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of self-discovery!!!
Of the 5 areas we’ll be discussing, we will spend most of our time here because “mindfulness” is the centerpiece of our experience of life. The degree of “mindfulness” we exercise in any given moment determines the quality of our life at any time.
It goes without saying that, it’s important to maintain a strong desire to learn, and an intellectual hunger, because continued learning keeps us mentally healthy, engaged, and active. It also gives us perspective. Continual learning ALWAYS enriches our lives beyond measure because it’s a catalyst for the blossoming of wisdom. Hopefully, we are all constantly evolving and moving from a nebulous state of “being” into a state of “becoming” a better version of ourselves. This area deals not only with our desire to learn but the context we give to what is learned.
The mind and spirituality go hand-in-hand and are absolutely complementary, because what we fill the mind with plays an enormous role in how we advance spiritually and our conscious experience of LIFE itself. What I mean by that is that we can fill our heads with a lot of knowledge in learning new skills for our occupation, improve our financial status, or how to just survive in the world and still have little to no understanding of ourselves. That’s because few us rise above living at the level of mere “functionality” and keeping up with all of life’s obligations. With time often being in short supply, prioritizing things to allow for what is an advocation, can be daunting. But with determination we tend to find time for the things we want to find time for.
Social media and mass marketing through every medium cultivate an outbound focus, keeping us preoccupied with things that appeal only to our ego and constantly focused on our external reality.
As a result, we become invisible to ourselves, and almost completely unaware of the inner dimension of ourselves. Our self-concept is nothing but a hollow projection of the beliefs we hold of ourselves. Instinctually, we begin to attach our value, sense of relevancy, and self-worth to a series of false identifications we make with things external to us: our body, our appearance, our relationships, our career, our income, our possessions, and the status symbol in our driveway. Whatever we identify with, our minds begin to wrap around. Once we begin identifying with these as a means of defining who we are, we’re heading for trouble, because all of these things are external, temporary, and can be taken away.
When we look out and see life, happiness, joy, love, and pleasure as an external pursuit, we’re in EGO. In meditating, we empty the mind of its contents, focus on our breathing and go within ourselves. Here we are creating a gap between our thoughts and feelings, and us as the observer of our thoughts and feelings. In doing so, we begin to realize we are something altogether separate from the experiences we’re having. We realize all these attributes of life simply spring forth from within us as a product of the quality of our thoughts. With this awareness the ego dissolves and we discovery our ESSENCE, which lies even underneath the experiences we’re having.
Prior to this discovery, this separation eludes us. We feel powerless in changing the way we feel. This is why we get stuck in our emotions. Looking within to find the source of our unhappiness goes against the ego’s tendency, which seeks pleasure and avoids pain. Instead of sitting with our pain, processing and transcending it, we by default, seek the path of least resistance and look for the next fleeting experience we can anesthetize ourselves with. When we live at the level of our ego we become trapped in an endless cycle of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance.
So, 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. That relationship is taking place completely in our mind, and based upon the string of identifications we make with things that are not “us,” but instead labels we identify with and pin on ourselves in a feeble attempt to define who we are. So, it’s best to be “mindful” of it and the internal dialogue we are having with ourselves.
Make no mistake; LIFE is lived out entirely in our heads. Every feeling we have ever had is 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 lulled to sleep into accepting our role in society by living 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 are 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 or 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 our mind is always somewhere else; and we are never fully present. We’re always racing from one obligation to the next, one thought to the next, one fantasy to the next. This is all automatic thinking that is sub-conscious in origin and bubbling up to the level of conscious awareness.
An “awakened” person has an entirely different relationship with life and an entirely different experience of time. An awakened individual no longer dwells in the past, nor do they project themselves into the future. They no longer live lost in future aspirations (which does not mean not having goals), nor lamenting over the past. In other words, they stop living in their heads as victims of their memories or trapped in their imagination, compulsively creating thoughts that serve as the underpinnings of all their feelings in any given moment. The awakened individual knows only peace and joy because they don’t project any bias, good or bad, on to any experience they’re having. Everything simply is what it is. They know only how to be fully present moment by moment, by accepting life for what it is as opposed to what they want it to be. They are devoid of ALL expectations.
Until developing this kind of relationship with life, we tend to operate just below the level of our cognition (intentional – deliberate – focused thinking), below the level of our awareness or conscious thought, operating at the level of a whole system of patterns of learned behavior that are sub-conscious, automatic behaviors, learned in childhood. Subsequently, this is where we get in trouble emotionally. Think of this level of consciousness as running on autopilot, compulsively ‘reacting” to life. We believe we’re making conscious decisions and choices when in reality we’re not.
It’s unfortunate, but most of us suffer from a type of self-deception; the idea that as we decide upon things we’re making “conscious,” well thought out choices. We make choices from the time we awaken till we retire and go back to sleep, and really believe we’re thinking our choices through, but in most cases, it’s the automatic, pre-conditioned reactions developed from past experiences choosing for us!
This is why I have to draw a distinction between being conscious (the opposite of sleep) and truly being “awakened,” which is an entirely different realm of conscious awareness.
Again, at the level of awareness that most would consider being “conscious,” we operate in an involuntary, reflexive way controlled by biases, beliefs, and perspectives learned in our childhood that have been developed over time through recurring experiences and have created certain predictable behavioral responses and perceptions in us. This is KARMA.
Sadhguru, an eastern mystic, explains karma very well:
“The very way you think, feel, understand, perceive, and experience your life is determined by all these past inputs. So, your mind, is deeply, deeply, deeply conditioned by all this past activity. This conditioning of the mind, is traditionally what we call karma. Karma means action. More specifically, “MY ACTIONS.”
These are all the things that I did in body, in mind, in thoughts, in emotion, and energetically; most of them were done unconsciously.
The residual impact of all the activity that I have performed is right now ruling the very way I think, feel, understand, perceive, and experience my life. So, that is my karma, so this is how I am. Your karma is deciding everything about you.
So, the reason we say it is your karma is the very way you experience everything is your own making. In other words, it is determined by the biases, prejudices, and beliefs you developed from past experiences, that ultimately determines how you experience the present moment.
You are making up your experiences every moment of your life, but right now you are doing it in a compulsive way, so it looks like it is all just randomly happening to you. If you only become a little bit more conscious of this process you can make it happen any way you want. You are the maker of you all your experiences!”
Your experience of life is 100% you’re doing. So, whatever your past karma, that is the way you are.
If you are in love and hate, creating and averting, wanting and not wanting, your karma is growing. The stronger your likes and dislikes become, the stronger and more painful your karma becomes. If you have strong opinions about things, and a strong sense of like and dislike, your suffering is also intense, is it not?
Patterns of bondage are being built within you…”
[In awakening], now a new sensation comes. You are equanimous. You simply experience the sensation for what it is. You neither like it nor dislike it. You simply experience it because, if you like it you will distort it. If you dislike it you will distort it. All the karma attached to that type of situation in the past will begin to crumble within you. So, if you maintain this equanimous mind, then your karma will begin to collapse.
Your mind will become equanimous when you become accepting of what is there right now. You are neither liking it nor disliking it. You are simply experiencing it the way it is. In order to experience life to its fullest, we need to develop this attribute.
As you accept, accept, accept, you move into higher and higher levels of freedom. As you resist, resist, resist, you are digging your own grave all the time. Karma means action. Whose action? My action. Whose responsibility? My responsibility.
Karma is fatalism. Taking 100% responsibility of your life is the only way to overcome karma.”
Simply put, how someone treats you is “THEIR” karma, how you react is “YOURS!”
So, until we rise above the level of our karma (conditioning) we are each a product of our past experiences. Each of us has learned a countless number of beliefs that create our perceptions. As a result, we see what we have been “conditioned” to see, seeing things a certain way, through the lens fashioned by the impressions made upon us by all our experiences.
Based on those beliefs our thinking is subjective; meaning our past experiences created beliefs that function as the lens we view the world through today. We unconsciously and instinctively compare what we’re presented with to what we know from past experiences. Those memories, particularly the painful ones, which forged the deepest patterns in our way of thinking, dramatically influence how we evaluate and react to things.
Our painful or traumatic experiences, which we may not even consciously remember today, unconsciously determine our choices. The option of whether or not we take a risk in most cases is predetermined. Unconsciously, we may be afraid to feel the pain of being hurt again, and so we choose not to take the risk. We think our choice is well thought out because we believe we’ve weighed out all the available risk factors, but the real fact is, our inner fears outweighed any external facts about the risks and predetermined what our choice would be.
In most cases, we probably already decided not to take the risk, before it was even presented because we’ve programmed ourselves not to take risks above a certain imperceptible level of risk. This is because our thoughts bubble up to the surface in a never-ending procession from a wellspring inside of us often times creating very unrealistic fears and apprehensions. So why are we so afraid?
Research has shown that the pattern and types of thoughts that run in the background, like apps on a phone, are a product of the 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. So even though we believe we’re making “conscious” decisions today, the decisions we make are most often predetermined by “patterns” of thought that we are oblivious to. They were developed in childhood and running in the background, as adults.
Running on this type of “auto-pilot” we tend to “react” without any conscious thought, to our experiences in a preconditioned fashion, 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.
Trapped at this level of consciousness we fall victim to the impulsive 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, these unconscious “reactions” hold a lot of energy waiting to be triggered and released with a myriad of corresponding emotional responses tied to them. But in “reacting” we have no control over how we feel. These patterns of thinking are completely compulsory.
So, is there any hope of rising above this automatic behavior and habitual thinking that is so prevalent?
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, impulsive patterns of behavior. Until we develop our awareness, our feelings will always lie beyond our control and we will remain powerless in “choosing” how we feel about things and whether we “react” or “respond” to things.
It’s unfortunate, but most will never ascend or awaken to a higher level of consciousness than the conditioned, 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. Doing so requires effort and a certain amount of tenacity. Living very hastily in a society of immediate gratification, the discipline of “mindfulness” is one that must be entered into with commitment and patience with one’s self, because it takes time and practice. After all, we’re trying to undo and overcome years or even decades of cultural programming.
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.”
A good first step to truly developing awareness is to commit to turning off your television for one month. Remove yourself from all social media and news media. Simply be with yourself for one month, fully conscious of every experience you’re having.
When we turn off our television and remove ourselves from all media and news, we can begin to experience life as it “IS,” unfettered by the musings, perspectives, and opinions of others and outside influences. We can begin to exist as a piece of life, no longer feeling trapped by it. We become present, not projecting any bias on to what is happening around us. Pay attention to everything around you, and be a part of it, existing only as an observer, while suspending all judgment and allowing people to be who they are. Project the idea, that you’re connected to everything and that everything is merely an expression of your own inner reality.
Free yourself from all expectations and the need to have life bend to your will. Experience this and take note of how you feel.
…more to come.
Love & Light to you in your continued Journey of Self-Discovery . . .
To live our life to the fullest, assuming that is one’s goal, and that our most basic needs of physical and financial security have been met, I believe there are five areas of life we need to develop and balance.
Whatever we have been deprived of in early childhood, the formative years of our life, always tends to be our highest aspiration as adults. Growing up in poverty and instability, money and creating financial security for ourselves often tends to be our greatest aspiration. Deprived of love and affection, finding a loving relationship tends to be our greatest pursuit. Assuming one has discovered the transient and fleeting happiness achieve through endless consumerism, and has moved beyond the ego alluring trappings of society, if we had the luxury of having a somewhat stable and wholesome upbringing, becoming the greatest version of ourselves is often our most determined pursuit, and part of that usually involves expansion into the spiritual expect of ourselves. But, though people associate the term “spirituality” with their highest aspiration, they often conflate the idea of spirituality and religion which by contrast, teaches us to export our happiness, well-being, and security to Heaven, believing a power much grander than ourselves will intervene should we need it to. It’s a somewhat fatalistic perspective, putting our lives in the hands of a god we’ve never met, but ultimately determines what our fate is. It also means that we will never have peace of mind until we shed our mortal coils, and are buried 6 feet under.
That is not the goal of life! Life in the physical plane is one of contrast and struggles that serve as a catalyst in the transformation of expansion of our soul, our spirit, and ultimately, the development of conscious evolution.
If we look outward it is an endless journey to finding happiness. If we turn inward and it is just one moment, where everything changes. We are no longer in pursuit of joy, but rather our lives become an expression of our own joyfulness.
“He who looks outside, DREAMS. He who looks inside, AWAKENS.” – Carl Jung
Since spirituality is a word ascribed to experiences that lie beyond our 5 senses, this area deals with our conscious perception, or lack thereof, of the non-physical aspect of ourselves that we loosely interpret as “I” or “me.” The proverbial “ghost in the machine.”
For most of us, we don’t develop deep roots and intimate ties with this aspect of ourselves, because so much of the intimate knowledge of the mystics has been kept from us and replaced by religion. As mentioned, many conflate religion (which sees creation as something separate from a “believed-in” creator) with spirituality. And society? Society only cultivates our overwhelming preoccupation and identification with the physical and mental aspect of ourselves – our ego.
In the Hindu tradition, this is referred to as “MAYA” – “the illusion of self,” and is a reference to the false identification we make with our physical body and even our thoughts as being “US,” as opposed to seeing the body as a vessel that we temporarily reside in, and our thoughts as an automatic process happening independent of who and what we are at our core – our essence.
From this perspective our body is seen as a sophisticated technology of sorts, that is an amalgamation of soil, water, air, and fields of energy that have coalesced into physical form, housing our consciousness. The body is ours, but it is not “US.”
A distinction between the brain and the mind should be made here because all too often we identify with our thoughts as being “US.”
Think of the brain as the doorway to experience in the physical plane of existence. It’s simply a technology created by nature itself.
Our thoughts occur spontaneously as an automatic process arising from the body’s software, with the brain acting like the CPU of a computer consolidating the information taken in through our 5 senses and creating perceptions that form the experiences we’re having in any given moment.
Here’s the kick in the head though. Quantum physics has revealed that there is no physical reality, at least not in the sense of what we believe reality to be.
Though imperceptible to us at the macroscopic level of our senses, everything, yes everything we see, taste, touch, hear, or smell, even solid objects, are vibrating. Light is a vibrational frequency detected by rods and cones in our retina that send a signal along the optic nerve to the occipital lobe of our brain which interprets it as shapes, shades, and colors to create sight. Sound is the vibration of air, or vibrational frequencies that upon vibrating the tympanic membrane of our ear, vibrates the three delicate bones of the inner ear, the incus, malleus, and the stapes. These vibrations are converted through nerve conduction into sound by the temporal lobe of the brain. Taste and smells? Again, both occur in tandem and are various vibratory frequencies of chemicals interpreted by the receptors in the tongue and the nose that are sent along the glossopharyngeal nerve to the olfactory cortex and are interpreted as a range of tastes and smells. All tactile senses are vibratory as well.
Why belabor the point of going to these lengths in explaining this and what the hell does any of this have to do with happiness and well-being? I do it to illustrate a point. Reality is only happening WITHIN you as a projection of the brain. Because you can observe these sensations, “YOU” are not the senses or sensations themselves, but rather the observer and ultimately the interpreter of them.
Think of our 5 senses as receptors that allow us to interface with these vibrational fields our physical form is immersed in. Everything we experience we experience because we are interacting with a narrow range of vibrational energies or frequencies that are commensurate with our 5 senses. As we do so our mind generates thoughts and feelings in response to them.
In every moment, we are viewing thoughts automatically generated by our mind. What we are witnessing is the mind sifting through information it has gathered from previous experiences, as it tries to tie or associate present experiences to what it has experienced in the past. This is how the brain wires itself and allows the mind to navigate through the experiences we’re having in the present moment. It does this to create predictions, because the only thing we know as “truth” is what we’ve already experienced. Every new experience is categorically associated with other similar experiences from the past.
But, to see ourselves as the body is to neglect and fail to see a much more expansive dimension of ourselves . . . our connection to everything.
Consider the fact that half the capacity of your lungs is outside in the trees. The entire water content of your body is from the ocean. The energy powering your cells originated in the sun and was converted into physical mass by plants. Ingested by you, this stored energy is enzymatically converted by your body into the physical mass you identify with as being “you.”
Knowing the history of the universe is to know that Earth and everything on it, including your body, is made of stardust and is entirely “solar powered.” The Sun is at the very heart of your existence in the physical plane and is what is powering every aspect of you. One might even say that the Sun is your power cell, and is, therefore, an aspect of your physical system. The point being, we are connected to everything that surrounds us. This acknowledgment of our connection to everything was expressed as far back as the 1st century in the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, in which Hermes wrote: “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.”
For a more expansive understanding of this concept, I encourage a reading of one of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing reality, which I came across in a book called THE SECRET OF SECRETS by OSHO. It 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.
The link is on the Shift Ethos home page, titled “The Universe Within and Without” or you can click here: https://shiftethos.com/2018/12/30/the-universe-within-and-without/
So, what does it mean to identify with our body as being us when in fact we, or perhaps I should say our body, is an amalgamation of the elements and fields of energy that surround us? Where does the physical aspect of ourselves begin or end? Our skin as the outmost aspect of our body?
We tend to think that the boundaries of the body are well defined by our skin, which separates our inner environment from our outer environment. But, in reality, we are an intricate piece of a much larger system that is interacting with itself, just as the molecules within us are part of a much larger system: our anatomy and physiology and all the chemical processes occurring within us.
Our physical body is just a scoop of the Earth held together by breath. As an extension of the Earth itself, which is the product of the burnt out crucible of a star predating the Sun, we are literally composed of stardust. Our body is a highly-organized aggregate of everything surrounding us (the air, the oceans, the plants, the soil, and minerals from the Earth) and is in constant interaction with it. The body is simply a medium that allows life to temporarily flow through it while housing the ethereal aspect of what we are for a brief time.
It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living on Earth, when in fact we “ARE” the living Earth. We believe we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, the physical form we take on, emerged from and are enmeshed with the universe. We are vessels made from and housing the universe itself. We “ARE” the Universe!
That is the physical aspect of ourselves. Our housing so to speak. But what about the “spiritual” non-physical aspect of ourselves?
As Rumi once so elegantly stated:
“I am not a drop in the ocean. I am the entire ocean in a drop.”
Just as a droplet of rain, or a dewdrop 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. Inside every drop of rain lies the entire constituency of its source; the ocean. Though it is separate from its source; the ocean, it is the source; the ocean, and will someday return to its source; the ocean. There is no beginning and no end to this cycle. It is simply a system endlessly recycling itself.
So it is with physical form. The physical aspect that you identify with as being you, is nothing more than focused consciousness that pulls together fields of energy and coalesces it into what we perceive as physical mass. Your body belongs to you but it is not you.
Birth and death are only illusions and are a product of form, but at our core, our essence, we are formless. “YOU” have no beginning and no end…
Understanding this “oneness” with everything is the beginning of one’s spiritual awakening!
I’ve placed an entire chapter of the same title, from my forthcoming book, that I’ve broken up into 5 short reads, here on this website, https://shiftethos.com/2018/02/10/the-illusion-of-maya-self/, that provides far more detail on this concept.
Our spirituality (not to be conflated with religion) is where our life’s purpose and meaning comes from. I consider this aspect of the Human Experience to be paramount to our “well-being” because how we experience life is largely determined by what we ‘believe’ the Human Experience is about. To delve into true spirituality involves looking deeper inside ourselves, past the surface image in the mirror. It takes time and a little devotion to see beyond the veil of illusions, stemming from our ego, that we’ve created about ourselves, to discover what lies beneath this skin we wear. That’s because the stories and illusions we’ve created in our head have so many feelings associated with them.
These are deeply ingrained, often unshakable beliefs we’ve wrapped ourselves in that we feel define us in a pragmatic way, or so we think. In reality, we’re not limited by anything but the beliefs we hold about ourselves.
Love and Light to you in your continued Journey of Self-Discovery
Life is really about “managing” two aspects of our lives: our “outer-environment” and considerably more important, our “inner-environment.” Keeping all the plates spinning can be a daunting task, to say the least. Living in a fast-paced, schedule-oriented society like ours creates a very fixed and predictable structure to our lives, but this very structure to our lives leaves little flexibility and can create copious amounts of stress that can rob us of our sense of happiness and inner “well-being.” Fulfilling so many obligations to work and family means a large percentage of our lives is lived out merely at the level of “functionality,” with very little time to devote to ourselves. This can have detrimental effects on our level of self-awareness and the degree to which we consciously navigate through life. Not “engaged” with the dynamic process of life, we tend to merely go through the motions of securing our most basic needs.
The key to having a sense of balance and any resemblance of peace of mind is by cultivating our ability to be “PRESENT.” To be present is to live ‘mindfully engaged’ in the ‘now-ness’ of each moment, in order to prioritize things, evaluate their relevance, and thus effectively manage our inner “well-being.”
“Mindfulness” and “presence” are elusive concepts for most because society keeps us living at such a hurried pace, we’re always focused on what needs to be attended to next. As a result, we bring very little “awareness” to our state of being. Awareness is the ONLY catalyst to bring about changes in ourselves and in our life. Without awareness our emotional state of mind remains entirely “reactive,” instead of “responsive,” and entirely circumstantial. Few discover that their state of mind is NOT of product of circumstance.
How often do we devote way too much time to certain aspects of our lives only to have other aspects suffer? For example, there are many who work themselves to death, only to have their health and relationships deteriorate. This imbalance and inability to manage the various aspects of our lives can create so much unnecessary stress for us.
Our human intelligence, a recently acquired product of evolution, is such, that if we do not organize it properly, it only causes confusion and misery. Instead of being robust with tremendous potential and possibility, it is a very sophisticated tool that has become a big problem for most of humanity.
With clever minds, we’ve given our suffering all kinds of different names, calling it concern, stress, anxiety, pragmatism, security, depression, loneliness, sadness, or misery, but essentially it simply means our mind has gone rogue and is now perceived as being beyond our control.
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry—all forms of fear—are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” Eckert Tolle
How often I hear people say, “I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it! My mind won’t shut off!”
No longer able to see that our thoughts and feelings are “ours” but not “us,” the complexion of our emotions is seen as almost entirely circumstantial – meaning, we believe our feelings are just a natural response to what is happening to us in any given moment, therefore we just surrender to them, feeling powerless to do anything but wait for them to pass. This is a very debilitating and disempowering premise to approach life from. Our feelings emerge from one thing and one thing only: Our perceptions!!!
So moving beyond suffering involves becoming “mindful” of it. But, oh how much energy we exhaust in trying to ignore it!
Pain in life is inevitable, but emotional suffering truly arises from within us and our inability to remain present. Tortured by our thoughts we find ourselves effortlessly floating back into the past, where we ruminate on memories and things we cannot change; or we project ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown. Both are “non-realities” that are devitalizing projections of an overactive mind.
In other words, we lose our grip on reality, as our mind writes a script over every experience we’re having instead of seeing and experiencing each moment for what it is. Our focus becomes very myopic in nature as we incessantly replay events and/or conversations from the past over and over, that we believe are the source of our pain. All the while, we mentally drift back and forth between these two non-realities: the past and/or the future, and are anything but immersed in the “present” moment.
If we are suffering all by ourselves, it is our mind, along with its never ending stream of thoughts, that is now working against us; no one else. As a result, we become victims of its seemingly intentional and incessant provocation. This is all fear masquerading as logical thinking as our mind tries connecting the dots in trying to make sense of what is causing us so much pain, but it’s very pathological, compulsive, and misguided energy. Rather than soothing us, it devours us. Sadly, this is the default state of mind for most of society and this constant stress has profoundly detrimental effects on our health. Learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way is paramount to our well-being.
So, let’s give this context:
Most of us have never paid attention to, nor have we explored the MOST IMPORTANT DIMENSION of who and what we are. We are trapped with a constant outbound focus, believing LIFE is “out there” and we’re “in here.” Looking out from behind these eyes of ours, we see life as something to be pursued, never realizing it’s only going on within us.
We cannot know life any other way than the way it happens within us. “YOU,” and you alone, ARE THE ONLY DOORWAY TO EXISTENCE for yourself and the experiences you’re having. LIFE is only experienced through the mechanisms of our body, which again, is OURS, but is not “US.” This distinction is crucial to one’s understanding on their path to enlightenment.
And therein lies the problem. Our whole perception of life is determined, not by the events themselves, but rather by our interpretation of all the information we take in through our five senses. Everything we know or ever could know, has entered our understanding by seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling. This is the only way we can know life and perceive the world around ourselves. Without your senses you’d have no perception of the world or yourself at all. We experience this deprivation every night when we sleep.
And this is the distinction that must be made. Most people’s level of awareness is such that they believe they are a human having experiences. But experience doesn’t occur in the body. The body has no experiences. ALL EXPERIENCES take place in the mind. Remove consciousness from the body and the body has no experiences whatsoever. The body is only a technology that processes sensory input that our mind interprets as an “experience.” We believe it’s “real,” but is it?
As we enter into sleep, the whole of existence disappears because our five senses have shut down. Obviously, we don’t cease to exist, it’s just that the mechanisms of the body are not being employed to create an experience for us. When we awaken, an obvious sign we still exist despite the absence of any “experiences,” our “awareness” returns . . . at least of the “outside” world. We see ourselves as trapped in this avatar interacting with the world “out-there.”
So, what I’m alluding to, is that our sense organs are all outbound. What we’ve internalized as “the world” pressing in on us, are only impressions; indelible perceptions we’ve developed about ourselves, others, and the world around us, based on what has been taught to us and what has happened to us along our journey over the course of our life. The repetitious patterns that play out have given a predictability to aspects of our life, and that predictability predisposes us to seeing what we want to see. What we see depends largely upon what we look for.
The cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us governing our hopes, fears, aspirations, biases, beliefs, prejudices, perspectives, and opinions –fashions and creates the lens we see reality through. This lens is our “karma.”
The key to developing peace of mind is to develop the awareness that life is only going within us. It’s ALL only perceived within us. Pleasure and pain is experienced within you. Joy and sadness is experienced within you. Lightness and darkness are experienced within you. Every experience is only going on WITHIN YOU.
Something I try to do in counseling others is to simply have them acknowledge their fear and realize it’s ALL going on within them. In doing so, we can then start to deal with our fears, insecurities, and past traumas to heal ourselves. So, to put an end to this endless chattering in our minds, wreaking havoc on our emotions that are teeming with so many complexions, we look at the irrationality of these thoughts by giving them context and putting them into one of two categories: Love or fear.
For all our complexity, and despite the fact that we give our emotions so many names, we really only have two emotions: LOVE & FEAR.
Anything other than LOVE is rooted in FEAR. All emotional suffering is fear. Anger, indignation, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and sadness, all come from unresolved hurt and the subsequent fear that developed within us as a result, that we are afraid to re-experience again.
For example, what is anger? Anger is a complicated emotion, because, unlike other emotions, it’s very acute in nature and has so many different triggers. If you look underneath anger, you’ll always find unresolved pain and fear. Anger can arise for a number of reasons, but, at its core, it emerges from fear. Anger can arise when something is threatening our physical or emotional sense of security, something that exposes our inefficiencies. Easily offended or provoked, we fear what others think of us or fear others will come to see who we really are behind the thin veneer of our persona (ego). Anger can be the fear of having to suffer the untoward consequences of choices that we’ve made, and as a result, we fear we will be penalized or will have something taken from us. Anger can be the fear that something adverse is going to happen to us or prevent us from getting what we want or the fear that something may be taken from us, meaning our expectations will go unmet. Fear that someone else’s decision or choices may create unwanted consequences for me.
What is depression? The fear our life is never going to be any better than our current state of affairs. And sadness? Sadness is the fear that the gaping hole left by something or someone we’ve grown attached to, in being lost, will leave us with the inability to ever recover because it or they cannot be replaced. Loneliness? Loneliness can be debilitating. It’s the fear that we’re always going to be alone or the belief that no one thinks we’re worthwhile or relevant enough to spend time with. Anxiety? Fear of the unknown. It’s all FEAR!
This is important, because a large number of our fears come from a very negative internal dialogue we’re having within ourselves, that stems from an incapacity to love and accept ourselves. As a result, we create self-deprecating and often frightening stories that only validate and reinforce our fears and the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. The key to reducing stress and healing the wounds from our past involves creating a “gap” between our thoughts and our feelings by becoming the observer of our thoughts and reframing them. By seeing the thoughts as separate from us and really having no power over us other than the credence we give them.
So, rising above the compulsive and capricious nature of our damaging thoughts involves developing our awareness, becoming “mindful,” present, and by paying attention to the meandering of the mind and the messages we’re sending to ourselves. Are we loving and honoring ourselves or are are we terrifying ourselves and bullying ourselves with insults that victimize us?
Victimizing ourselves is an easy place to go to because it actually serves us, at least temporarily. When we victimize ourselves we find it difficult just to breathe, so we give ourselves permission to just feel sorry for ourselves and play small for a bit. Others, understanding our pain, feel compassion for us, and subsequently, don’t expect much from us. So, we get to step out of the spotlight and stop participating in the incredible adventure of life to rest and regroup. But as is often the case, we often miss the lesson . . . the fact that EVERYTHING is our teacher.
Though usually met with resistance, pain is our teacher and is always a tremendous opportunity to grow! Primarily because, we tend not to grow during the joyous periods of our lives. During these times, we are immersed in the dynamic experience of life’s unfolding and the joy of just “being.”
Pain, has purpose! Whether physical or psychological in nature, all pain has purpose. When we are in pain we become laser focused!
Pain is a rather sophisticated biochemical cascade developed by the body, that summons and converges our entire energy and conscious awareness around the source of our pain or something that threatens our well-being. Pain is very acute and brings an immediacy to physiological and/or psychological gaps in our awareness by creating a hyper-focused awareness of the aspects of ourselves that we’ve been neglecting or to areas of the body that have recently experienced physical trauma.
Artwork by Martin Stranka
For example, the bulk of our immune system resides in our large intestine. Every year hundred of millions of people’s immune systems collapse because of poor, negligent choices made day in day out. With diets consisting of largely processed foods, loaded with sugar, and inorganic chemicals nature never intended for our bodies to process, our immune system is taxed and deteriorates. With millions of chemical processes occurring every minute of every day below the level of cognition and our conscious awareness, it’s only when the system collapses that the body’s software makes us painfully aware that it’s in trouble. Despite eating more than enough calories, the calories we consume are empty, nutrient-deficient calories. Starving our bodies without knowing it, our modern diets have created a very large percentage of people that are obese and simultaneously profoundly malnourished, decimating one’s immune system. In such a compromised state, that same percentage of the population develops a whole host of diseases ranging from the common cold, to the flu, to Type ll diabetes, to coronary heart disease, and cancers. All preventable by making conscious choices with respect to proper diet and exercise.
After years of neglect, and pushed beyond its ability to maintain homeostasis and a healthy internal state, our compromised bodies know how to draw our attention to what we’ve been either unaware of or simply ignoring. Diagnosed with any of these conditions, we seek the help of professional practitioners, and very quickly become acutely “aware” of the need to make better choices by choosing to live more mindfully, paying attention to what we failed to in the past.
With millions of years in its design the body knows how to heal itself, but sometimes it needs to gather our attention around what needs to be healed. Emotion trauma, always creates introspection and the tendency to reframe our choices. We evaluate the paths we’ve taken and where they’ve led us. In appraising the outcomes, we assign value to our choices, the intent and motivation behind those choices, and in turn learn a little bit more about ourselves, about our place in the universe, and how to move through this experience called LIFE.
Every living thing owes its existence, its development, its morphology, its anatomy and its physiology, and its survival to the natural process of natural selection and adaptation. Every virus, bacterium, fungi, mold, plant, fish, amphibian, reptile, and mammal’s intricate design is the result of adapting to opposing forcing acting upon them and nature’s beautiful solution in designing a way to counter and adapt to those pressures. Our emotional development is no exception. Every hardship galvanizes our emotional gains made in our development. This is what we call wisdom.
It’s unfortunate, but we live in a society that provides us with so many ways to distract ourselves, so, we don’t have to deal with our pain if we don’t want to. As a result, many become bitter instead of better; wounded instead of becoming wiser.
In our society, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport, where the individual is programmed out of the individual, and where endless marketing only creates a society of “isotypes,” our self-image is constantly being chipped away at. We cannot help but reinforce all of our fears and insecurities because society, sadly, only appeals to the egoic mind and keeps us focused on the superficial. With this constant outbound focus, we lose sight of who we are and become oblivious of the journey we’re on which becomes only an afterthought and something we rarely contemplate. And what is the journey we are on? The journey of self-discovery! Every experience here is lending itself to the evolution of consciousness, both ours as an individual and the collective consciousness of all that is.
Contrary to our popular societal belief, the point of our journey is not to simply work, shop, die and inherit some form of “eternity,” which for most, is a future event we arrive at “after” we die. Here’s the rub. If something is eternal, it’s infinite, it exists outside the dimension of time; it’s indivisible, with no beginning and no end. Time simply doesn’t apply in a dimension that’s infinite. Something doesn’t “become” eternal, it’s either eternal or it’s not. Though I explain this in far more detail in other writings of mine, our souls, the inner dimension of ourselves, are infinite with no beginning and no end. We are points of conscious awareness in the framework of a body and universe that is in endless transition and transformation.
And that’s the point! “Eternity” is not something we inherit, it is inseparable from what we are. We’re living it in each finite, tiny moment to moment experience we’re having! Forever is made up of “NOWs!” Eternity is only a series of “NOWs,” conscious experiences, strung together to create an endless procession of more “NOWs.”
Realize deeply within the essence of your being that the present moment is all you will ever possess, everything else is simply the meanderings and projections of a restless mind.
We cannot have an experience that lies beyond our awareness because our awareness is the only way experiences can be “experienced.” We cannot have an experience we’re unaware of. Because we cannot experience anything outside of ourselves, every event requires us as an observer in order for it to be “experienced.” The external world you experience is not something separate from you, it is an extension of you.
Awareness is a process of inclusion, where what is happening outside of us is experienced “within” us. We are both the center and the circumference of every event happening within the sphere of our awareness. External events create internal ripples within us that we experience as thoughts and emotions; the two are connected but make no mistake about it, every experience we’re having is based on how we “think” and “feel” about it, and that is only going on within us as a perceptual experience. So, life is never happening to us, it’s only and always going on “within” us.
Awareness creates ALL our experiences and only exists within the infinitesimally small space between the past and the future, that we call “now.” NOW is all there is. The past exists only as our memory and the future only as our imagination, but both projections of the mind are happening NOW. So do we want to experience Life as it IS, or live trapped in our head, ruminating on the past or projecting into the future – neither of which is “REAL.”
When we lose ourselves in thought our awareness moves from the physical senses to the internal projections of the mind. We disappear as does our awareness of what is going on around us. We go largely unconscious as we indulge in the pictures appearing on the screen in the theatre of our mind. The physical realm evaporates away as we become lost in our thoughts. The moment is lost to the meanderings of our mind.
This is eternity – regardless of where the mind wanders, or where we choose to focus our attention – in reality, or in our thoughts – is all only happening NOW!
Eternity is happening NOW. We’re living in eternity – only transitioning in and out of form, from lifetime to lifetime, as we phase in and out of the physical dimension with the avatars we construct. We’re here because the physical plane provides opportunities that are simply not available for the evolution of consciousness, in the nonphysical, where we rest temporarily. In between lifetimes, there are no struggles, no challenges, no problems to be solved. Our conscious expansion is halted. The physical plane and the mental obstacle course that it creates allows for the individual and collective consciousness of creation itself to expand forever.
So, let’s expand!!!
So why is it important to really understand who, or more importantly, what 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 both into and out of 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; not just a community of people, but a community of all living things. Why do I believe that the 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, the environment, the planet as a whole, and the whole cosmos we’re a part of. 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. Every living thing is contributing to your existence so that you may live.
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 from one another.
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 tell ourselves, we don’t have time to think about all that nonsense.
It’s fascinating to me 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. We’re left thinking this is all there is and that’s frightening. So, through the ages, we created elaborate myths to quell our fears.
Religion, in a very futile sense, tries to bridge the gap between the ethereal realms and the “here and now,” but, religion is insufficient at soothing our fears of the unknown and what lies beyond because one doesn’t practice religion, it’s only a one hour segment of most believer’s week. Its entire focus is outbound, dividing creation from its creator, when in fact the two are completely indivisible. It’s predicated on a dogma that is archaic and non-sensical. Its 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 (or lack thereof) and seeing ourselves and the world that surrounds us, over a much deeper and profound knowledge discovered by Buddha and other ascended 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 true essence and replacing it with a surface personality, with an ego, and countless societal labels, 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 all such things; 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.
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery.