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 invigorating 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 you look at it. But this obsession was bore out in our 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. That gap is never more painfully obvious than when we “fall in love.” It’s soooooo delicious and yet bordering on delerium in every way.
We obsess over this person we recently met and have fallen for. We can’t wait to see them again, laugh with them, kiss 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 our “to-do” lists entirely. Our priorities are reshuffled and everything in our list of priorities is now secondary to time spent with our lover. We’ve literally flown the coup!
When we fall “in” love” we tend to fall “out” of our mind and trip all over ourselves to be with our romantic partner! We can barely 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, we try to maintain the ecstasy of it all indefinitely through role playing, and modeling the behavior of our parents, friends, and the expressions of romantic love as depicted in the movies. Along with modeling all these behaviors comes the whole host of behaviors and feelings that are attached to the underbelly of romantic love and come to the surface when relationships end: feelings of hate, jealousy, abandonment, rejection, grieving, depression, anxiety, and fear. But who has time to worry about these when we’re so “in love” right now?
Convinced we’ve found “THE ONE” – that someone that feeds our ego and validates us – our search is over; we’re ALL IN!!! We see ourselves with this person for the rest of our life. Talks of marriage, children, having a family, and growing old together are commonplace and the planning begins. As a result, without even noticing, we tether 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. Our lives are now inextricably intertwined with this other person and become utterly defined by this relationship . . . until they don’t. This is why so many lovers become enemies after a break up. With the fantasy we created in our head now collapsing in around us, we’re annihilated and reduced to nothing. It’s tragic that we invest so much of our well-being and self-worth into the completely unpredictable choices of others, and yet lovers do it all the time.
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 our emotions, we expect them to remain the same, to the extent that we demand “commitment” from those we have fallen in love with. But commitment has nothing to do with LOVE. It’s based in fear and is designed to create continuity, predictability, and security for us, but is built on a very poor foundation.
This is why most 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 conditional and it’s nothing more than codependency. 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, anymore than the sun intends for all of its light to only reach the Earth and no where 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.
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.
At this point, our ego, which always needs validation, applies a story to these feelings; one that needs to feel “set apart,” unique, or special in the eyes of someone else. 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 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 feelings we’re feeling in any given moment.
If we pay attention to the stories we create in our head, they are always commensurate with 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 our internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves, that is creating our feelings. NOT our lover!!!
Lacking this self-awareness, we look out side ourselves for people we can glob onto. 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 for ourselves is now tethered to someone that at any moment can walk out of our lives and unfortunately take our sense of self-worth with them. We’ve unwittingly reduce that person 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 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.”
That requires a little explaining . . .
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 becomes an exchange, something we hope to get from others by appeasing them . . . we learn love is conditional.
When parents berate 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.
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 wearing our brave face out into the world we bury this pain, these beliefs, and insecurities 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 self-deprecating 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 sadly, 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.
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 just goes on and on and on – lust is taken for love.
Lust and romance really has nothing to do with actually loving another person. It’s simply an ego trip!!!
. . . 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 and something we find with another.
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 hoping 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 “desired 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!!!
Shopping and consumerism, endlessly promoted as the “cure all” for everything, has truly become the opiate of our times. 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. We even shop for people…
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 any other product. So, we now even shop for relationships that we can import a sense of relevancy from to make us feel “good enough.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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, depression, loneliness, sadness, or misery, but essentially it simply means our mind has gone rogue and is now perceived as being beyond our control. 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 debilitating and disempowering 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 or the future. We 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, 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 you can know life and perceive the world around you. Without your senses you’d have no perception of the world or yourself at all. We experience this deprivation every night when we sleep.
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 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 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.”
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.
In the last ten years, research into states of consciousness has had a bit of a resurgence or what could be described as a new renaissance, as scientific inquiry in the field of psychedelics is revealing more and more mysteries of the human mind.
After a surge of very promising clinical research into psychedelics – a term meaning “mind manifesting” – from the 1950s and 60s, showing so much promise in treating depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia, recreational abuse of psychedelics created both political backlash and public outcry demanding their discontinuance. It forced the research to cease and to be abandoned by 1965. For four decades all the wonderful findings gathered had all but been lost. But, in the early 2000s, thanks to the tenacity and groundwork laid by a tremendous team of scientists from multiple disciplines, the Federal Government allowed research to resume, and what we’ve learned about the human mind, has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Used for thousands of years, it is well known that compounds such as psilocybin, derived from mushrooms, as well other psychedelics such as LSD and ayahuasca (often referred to as “the God drug”), create what can only be described a “mystical experiences” – typically described as the dissolution of one’s ego followed by a sense of losing all identification with one’s body, and a merging with nature and the surrounding universe. A sense of being connected to everything that is.
Those that have taken the deep dive into what we casually and even within the halls of academia refer to as a “trip,” report feeling flooded with love, beauty, and peace beyond anything they could imagine being possible. They all come back to their baseline level of consciousness, suffering from the same ineffability; a complete inability to describe what they experienced. They emerge from the experiences with unshakable convictions, the most important of which, is that ALL participants are sure beyond a doubt, that what they experienced was not at all “just a figment of their imagination.” They felt very strongly that these experiences “opened portals of perception” to other dimensions of reality, but in no way feel their experiences were hallucinatory.
It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, the physical form we take on in this physical reality, emerged from and is enmeshed in the universe. Our bodies are vessels made from and housing the universe itself. We (in the physical sense) “ARE” the Universe!
Artwork by Cameron Gray
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 entire physical mass of your body came from the soil in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and even the animals you’ve consumed over the course of your lifetime. Your body is an accumulation of everything you’ve ever ingested. 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 your biology. 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.”
Perhaps a more concrete example will suffice. Think of the water cycle as an analogue for understanding this concept. Just as a drop of rain (a liquid with mass) is formed by the coalescence or aggregation of water vapor (an invisible gas), the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from its source, the ocean . . . For a span of time, it is separate from its source, the ocean, but it “IS” the source, the ocean, and will someday return to its source, the ocean. So, it is with physical form. The physical aspect of your being that you identify with as being “YOU,” is nothing more than the product of focused consciousness that pulled together fields of energy and coalesced them into a density of material that you perceive as your physical mass. Again, your body is “yours” but it’s not “you.” This life is just a rite of passage that involves a body that belongs to you, but is not you. You, and every atom in your body, are as old as the Universe itself and arguably older because the universe exists within the parameters of time and space which are just constructs of the mind that arise from the perception of being separate. I, and many mystics, sages, gurus, and teachers would argue “YOU” have no beginning and no end . . .
We tend to maintain this illusion of being separate from everything because society breeds an outbound focus. As observers looking out from behind these eyes, we delude ourselves by clinging to the belief that we are separate from the universe, that we are “here” in these bodies, and life is “out there,” as something external to ourselves. But, “THERE” is a devious trick of the mind. The mind always makes us interested in things far away, over “there” so we can be lead from here to there. Our attention is always wandering to another place, another person, another thing, another time. As a result, we are never “HERE” and almost always elsewhere, lost in the capricious nature of our thoughts.
In India, there is an ancient proverb – diya tale andhera– which means “there is darkness under the lamp.” A lamp provides light that can fill an entire room and yet right underneath of it lies darkness. As is the case with man. We are capable of seeing all that surrounds us but incapable of seeing ourselves, within. We delude ourselves thinking life is “out there” and worse yet, that we are separate from it.
Why would I say something as preposterous as “life isn’t ‘out there’?” Consider for a moment that you have never “experienced” anything outside of yourself.
Sadhguru, an eastern guru (teacher) noted,
“Whatever you look at, you see from within yourself (from inside yourself looking out). Whatever you hear, you hear from within yourself. Where have you seen the whole world? Within yourself. Have you EVER experienced anything from outside of yourself?
EVERYTHING that has ever happened to you is only experienced from within you: Darkness and Light happen within you. Pain and pleasure happen within you. Joy and misery happen within you. Have you ever experienced anything from outside of yourself? No.”
“So the question is, what happens within you and who should determine how it happens? Someone else? “WE” determine what happens within us. We alone determine how we experience life. To believe otherwise is the ultimate form of slavery and means how we feel will always be determined by other’s choices.”
– Isha Foundation Goalcast
Though many reading this may feel insulated from the world “out there” and from others, sometimes creating feelings of loneliness and being all alone, we are never alone. This is merely a story our ego has created by living through constant comparison. It’s a failure to see our connection to everything we are a part of that leaves us feeling isolated, alienated, separate and alone. Seeing this connection brings an unceasing joy. It helps to see that we exist, we always have, and we always will. So, enjoy the journey because the journey has no purpose. The journey is the purpose! Every experience we have is only lending itself to the evolution of our consciousness because everything is our teacher.
“Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” – Eckart Tolle.
We, like everything else in the physical plane, are a unique, short-lived manifestation of the universe, much like waves on the surface of the ocean are an extension of the ocean itself.
Each individual wave on the ocean’s surface represents a discrete and uniquely individual event that is separate from every other wave on the surface of the ocean. Like us, a wave has a brief and distinctly separate life cycle from every other wave, but at the same time is connected to every other wave, because below that surface they all arise from the same ocean. Every wave emerges from the same source, the ocean, and each wave “IS” the ocean.
So it is with each individual’s life in this “physical” plane. Though appearing on the surface to be separate from all other waves of expression (physical expressions of the universe) that arose from the source field and give rise to the physical universe, (in the form of people, animals, plants, planets, stars, etc.) on a deeper level, woven out of the fabric of the universe itself, we are all ONE with the universe because, we ARE the universe. Each one of us is intimately tied into this vast sea of intertwining fields of energy we call the universe because we ARE the universe, just as each wave on the surface of the ocean IS the ocean. We have all emerged from the same source, the same sea of energy, as we all came forth from something “formless” into something taking on or congealing into a well defined “form.”
It may be a bit of a mental catapult, but if you can think of the universe as a vast sea of invisible, formless energy, where non-physical fields of energy coalesce and condense into physical matter, we take on form much the way water vapor, imperceptible to the eye, condenses to form clouds, and ultimately rain and various other forms of precipitation. Likewise, everything with “form” in the physical universe, including our bodies, is merely a unique manifestation of the same “formless,” imperceptible ocean of energy that gave rise to the physical universe itself and everything in it.
Everything that exists is just variations on a theme; a different wave of consolidated energy in the form of a human, a different physical expression of the original “source energy” or “source field,” (some may even call God) but nonetheless all emerging from the same source, the same sea of energy (God) as it emerged from something formless, nebulous, and intangible, into something perceptible and with form.
Just as a drop of rain, or a dewdrop on a leaf or a blade of grass, is formed by the condensation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean . . . for a span of time, it’s separate from its source, the ocean, but it is the source, the ocean, and will someday return to its source, the ocean. We’re not separate from a creator, we are part of the creator, which is creation itself. The creator and the creation are not mutually exclusive, but rather, mutually indivisible. The creator is the creation, and the creation is the creator. EVERYTHING IS ONE!!!
John Lennon glimpsed this idea when in the song, I AM THE WALRUS by the Beatles, he wrote, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together…”
He understood that we’re all connected and we are all one.
What we are is something that cannot be defined, only defiled by attempts to define it.
These labels we pin on ourselves are “MAYA,” the illusion of “self.” It’s a false image. This self-perception we have of ourselves is only an illusion that exists in relation to everything else we come in contact with or experience. This shell that we hide behind has been constructed over the course of our life and is nothing more than an accumulation of impressions that have been made upon us. It’s a collage of labels we identify with and have pinned to ourselves, believing the labels themselves give context to who we are. They’re all illusions of course. None of the labels we use to proclaim who or what we are can ever define what we truly are. It’s blasphemous to even attempt to do so.
Because of the way we’ve structure society, we’re turned inside-out. Over time we slowly lose the intimate relationship we’re having with ourself. We become oblivious of our connection to everything surrounding us, seeing ourselves in the context of comparison to everyone else.
More to come . . .
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 5 – The Importance of Understanding Who We Are
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery
So what exactly is this body of ours?
Let’s see if we can deconstruct the hyper-fixation on our body as what we think of as being “US.”
Our body is a very sophisticated technology with an intelligence completely separate from our cognitive awareness of it. Every cell, every organ, and every tissue in our body possesses an intelligence, a software so to speak, that is performing an unimaginable number of very complex processes and activities that we are completely unaware of. We delude ourselves in thinking, we’re running the machine; it’s running itself independent of any and all cognitive awareness on our part.
Made entirely from elements of Earth, it takes everything we eat or drink (which also comes from the Earth) and transforms it into the body that we temporarily inhabit, again, which is merely a living piece of the Earth. We aren’t living in these physical bodies, we’re “LIFE,” simply passing for a short while through and animating these bodies of ours. Just as birth is a passageway, death also is simply a passing through point; a doorway. There are no beginnings and no endings, only transitions . . .
To expand upon that, if you’re reading this, my suspicion is that right now, you think of yourself as being “alive.” But, what does it mean to think you’re alive right now and will someday die? That’s an understandable perspective if we think that we ARE the body, but, consider for a moment that you’re neither dead nor alive. You’re both in every moment!
When we are born, what is the very first thing we do? We inhale. We enter “the physical plane” by inhaling it. And, when we die? What is the last thing we do? We take our last breath. We “release ourselves from the physical plane” by exhaling it. Only breath keeps us tied into these bodies of ours.
Every breath in between the book ends we call birth and dying, contains both life and death. We inhale the life-giving properties of oxygen, O2, and exhale toxic carbon dioxide, CO2, which is fatal in elevated doses; so much so, that contrary to popular belief, our rate of breathing is not based on our body’s need for O2 but rather the body’s need to rid itself of CO2 in our bloodstream. This is why when you exercise there is a more laborious, forced nature to your exhaling than there is to the effort of inhaling.
Once here, in the physical plane, we (that is to say, our bodies), exist along a continuum between the life and death of our “body,” but not of “ourselves.” In any given moment, our body exists only as a ratio of percentages that include life and death, as we move along this continuum between birth and the demise of our physical body.
With the severing of the umbilicus connecting us to our mother, we are locked into our bodies. We will never be more alive! Growing at an alarming rate our cells propagate by dividing and multiplying much faster than they’re dying. With only so much real estate to occupy in these tiny bodies we’ve put on, all those new accumulating cells continue adding to our mass. As a result, we begin growing up. This gathering of mass, weight, and height continues until around the age of 18 – 21 where we hit a break even, and from then until around 25 years of age, we’re in a holding pattern in which our cells are dying at about the same rate our body is producing new ones. From 25 on, our body, at the pinnacle of its growth cycle, begins to go into decline. Now, our cells begin to degenerate and die off faster than the body can repair or replace them. Simply put, we begin to age.
In short, from birth until around 25 years of age we grow up; from 25 on we simply grow old, with every breath along our journey containing both life and death. Again, in the physical sense of our body, we’re neither living nor dead, we’re both.
Just as one cannot see light, but rather only what stops or reflects light, we cannot see LIFE, only what contains it. In other words, we cannot see our essence. We cannot see the living entity inside animating this body we’re leasing. We, at our essence, exist only as conscious awareness, (the seat of which has never been found anywhere in the human body) and have always existed. Birth and death are only properties of form, as everything in the physical plane is in endless transition, ever-changing, but we, in our essence, are formless with no beginning and no end. As a living entity, we ARE life, a pinpoint of consciousness, or if you like, awareness, simply passing through and temporarily contained in these vehicles called a human body.
Made up of only 11 elements (out of the 148 known elements), all of which come from the Earth, we are just a scoop of the Earth held together for a brief period of time by our breath. Nothing more. Our bodies are on loan; we borrow them from the Earth, temporarily animating them, and when we depart from the physical plane the Earth will reclaim them. The human body is simply a medium that allows life to pass through it. They are “ours,” but they are not “US.”
Our “current” physical state is just one aspect of ourselves, a shell, an outer dimension hiding a much deeper and far more expansive part of ourselves that exists beyond the boundaries of time and space and beyond form.
Thanks to modern physics and our recent understanding of thermodynamics, we now know energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be converted from one form to another. In other words, all the energy in the universe that exists is all the energy that has ever existed and ever will exist. All that is, has been part of the known universe since its inception. All the energy, life, and even consciousness contained within our body has been part of this physical universe since its inception. In that sense, the body you are currently borrowing is as old as the universe itself. Ponder that for a moment. The energy contained in every atom of your body is 13.7 billion years old.
With bodies made up of elements pulled directly from the Earth, which is an amalgamation of elements that coalesced from the dust-like remains of burnt out stars, we are quite literally made entirely of stardust, and stars were woven out of the fabric of the universe itself. We’re not living in the universe, we ARE the living universe!
Earlier I stated that at the level of our senses our perceptions are deceiving? Advances in physics, and more recently quantum physics, in drilling down into the smallest units of physical matter, discovered something quite unexpected – there is no “physical reality” at least not in the sense that we perceive it as “physical” or “real.”
What they discovered is that our physical reality is not made up of – how do I put this? – “physical matter,” and an emptiness between the molecules and between the stars. Rather it exhibits the characteristics of a vast sea of intertwining fields of energy in which everything we perceive as physical is in fact just a dense field of energy that vibrates at a frequency commensurate with our 5 senses. In other words, we only perceive it as “real” because we can observe it and “experience” it through our five sense organs. But how can we trust our senses as a reliable marker for what is real and what is not? So limited are our 5 senses, it’s like looking through a keyhole and trying to surmise what is in every room of a 150 story building . . . that of course, we can’t see and don’t have access to.
Of all the fields of energy that exists, we, as humans, perceive less than 1% (0.0035% to be exact) of them with our 5 senses. More than 99.9965% of the fabric of this universe is imperceptible to us through our senses organs, and yet we’re convinced that what we can experience through our senses is all that’s “real” – and believe there is no other reality or dimension to our being other than what we can sense by looking in the mirror.
So, what is “REAL?”
When we observe the fabric of reality at the quantum level, more and more evidence seems to point to the idea that the entire universe is a conscious field of energy, a canvass of sorts, that we as individuals, and collectively as an aggregation of sentient beings, project our conscious awareness onto, which creates the experiences that we have. In other words, we each are the center and the circumference of all of our experiences and are the center of our “own” universe. Our “realities” simply overlap with one another’s.
Here’s the odd part. Nothing, in reality, seems to exist until we consciously project our awareness onto it. In other words, is only a conscious projection of the mind.
Just as Einstein stated, that reality is just an illusion, what if what we think of as “reality” is really just another dream state, another form of consciousness? Like a dream state, only in high definition?
Sound absurd? Though some may think of that as straining the threads of credulity, outside of the fact that during our waking state, things tend to be more vivid and clear, ask yourself, “is reality really that different from our dream state?”
In a dream state, we see, yet without employing the use of eyes. We hear, yet without employing the use of ears. We taste things, but what are we tasting and what are we tasting them with? We engage in dialogue with others, experience tactile sensations, even sensations such as moving or falling. In our dreams, we experience all our same emotions and experience virtually every perception we experience in our waking “reality” and yet dismiss it as an “unreal“ fabrication of the subconscious mind.
What if “reality” is simply a conscious projection, just as quantum physics is implying it is? Far fetched? For most of us, that’s a leap perhaps because we’ve never taken the time to consider what we really are beneath the surface. That may all be slowly changing.
Artwork by Salvador Dali
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 4: What is Reality? Really?
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery!
It’s unfortunate, but life comes at us pretty quick. Pushed out of the security of the nest (home and the boundaries that define our sense of security), we’re taught from a very young age that what we “do” defines who we “are.” This is why we pin labels on ourselves. We’re encouraged to “find” success, happiness, love, and self-worth, as if participating in a scavenger hunt, never realizing that none of these are acquired from anything external to us. So misguided with this seemingly ostensible perspective of life as a money grab, and that money will solve all our problems, we completely neglect the most vital aspect of living . . . “self-awareness.”
The direction we’re given is not only misleading but can have devastating, life-long, adverse effects on our sense of well-being.
We’re not encouraged to delve into the inner dimension of our being to discover what makes us, “US.” With our focus constantly outbound, always looking for the next experience to create a desired feeling within us, our self-awareness becomes dulled to the point of becoming imperceptible.
Our essence becomes constrained by the straightjacket of our ego and its constant bantering that urges us to live only through comparison and competition. As a result, our essence is lost to insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, buried under layers and layers of a well-designed persona we’ve created to protect our vulnerable inner child; the innocent, eternally present aspect of ourselves that knew only how to be bewildered by the miracle of life, before the “been there done that,” predictability of life set in. Our primary concept of “self” becomes our identification with our body and a series of self-applied labels, comparing ourselves to others.
It’s unfortunate, but only a short period of our life is lived from our authentic self; that part of us that existed before we were taught what to think, what to believe, and how to see things.
From birth till around the age of eight years old we have no self-awareness, no concept of “I” as something separate from everything else, much less the ability to define ourselves as “I am . . . fill in the blank.” There is no “ego” yet. Life during this period is completely experiential, like a dream, where time doesn’t exist. There is no sense of fear, apprehension, expectation, or agenda. Children live immersed in the eternal “present” moment; an ability we lose as adults, where we are rarely present. How little control we have over our mind that often is working against us. We find ourselves drifting effortlessly into the past, ruminating on past experiences, lost in our memories or projecting ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown with an overactive imagination that we can’t seem to turn off.
Looking into the eyes of a young child, you’ll see that most often there is no self, only an empty yet expansive presence behind the eyes. “Essence” is all that is contained in the body of a child, and essence has no concept of time, no worries, no fear, no expectations, no script, no ego. For a child, nothing exists beyond the precious bubble of time or temporal experience they are involved in at any given moment. If only that could last forever…
By the age of 6, our indoctrination into society begins. We are placed in schools where we are taught to prepare for entry into a task-oriented business world that operates according to a very fixed schedule. Time, something that didn’t exist for us, now becomes an integral part of our lives and something we are taught to become very acutely aware of. For the first time, our lives are given structure, and we now have to learn how to compartmentalize time devoted to our own personal interests and the obligatory time devoted to our education and preparation for entry into the “system.”
In the classroom, we are taught vocabulary, colors, numbers, names of everything, and not only how to think, but what to think. We exchange our imaginations for rote memory and the regurgitation of facts, most of which have no relevance to us whatsoever.
Sadly, most of what we are taught goes unquestioned by our fledgling little minds, that simply trust that what adults are subjecting us to is in our own best interests. Lacking any sense of discernment, our entire focus is outbound. We’re taught that life isn’t something that “is,” it’s something we need to prepare for so we can begin participating in it. So in preparation for our entry into life, everything has been labeled for us, defined, mapped out and explained. As a result, we see ourselves and the world as a series of labels and never see the “essence” of anything ever again.
Ultimately, what we are being taught through our schooling process is how to become “essential,” “relevant,” and how to “compete” in the world. We mindlessly recite our allegiance to a country before we even know what the words mean. We quickly learn that the world is divided up into teams, and establish that a “country” is the team we belong to and something separate from every other country. With our clever intellect, we divided reality into a never-ending list of dualistic concepts: right-wrong, good-bad, gains-losses, us-them, etc. We’re taught to compete for good grades, compete for the best attendance, compete in sports, compete for prom court, compete for college placement, compete for jobs, compete for advancement, compete in the marketplace, and to compete against one another for not only survival but an imaginary social status that we think somehow defines us. From this level of thinking our “ego” begins to emerge.
Our “EGO” is just a poorly designed coping mechanism we construct to hide from others the innate sense of fear we feel as we venture out into the world alone. It’s all posturing and it’s all a bluff. We feign confidence, when in fact, most of us are just struggling to love or even like ourselves.
Life is no longer something we are connected to and having a symbiotic relationship with, but rather something to contend with and compete with. We see even the Earth as something to conquer, subdue, exploit, and cannibalize for the marketplace. We become separated and detached from everything, dividing even ourselves into two entities: our essence and our persona or ego.
Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona or personality that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness. This external image we project to the world, whether as a professional persona in the world of business or the personality we develop for our personal endeavors and relationships, creates a focus that only distorts the perception of who and what we really are . . . our “authentic self.” We are encouraged to wear these masks so long and so often that we forget the “essence” of who we are beneath it. As a result, living a life of casting shadows, we are provided with only a few brief glimpses of our “real self,” our “essence,” that lies beneath the veil of our ego; beyond that which we identify with as “self” – beyond name, beyond form, and beyond thinking.
Developed by living in a society of endless competition, our ego is like a reflection of us in the shards of glass of a shattered mirror where each shard represents different roles we play in different environments with different people to secure something for ourselves. It might be for friendship, sex, social status, entertainment, a job, self-preservation, or a whole host of other reasons.
Though it occurs at an almost entirely sub-conscious level, we tend to place people in our lives in the way that is most self-serving for us and meets our own self-interests. Instinctively seeking those experiences that provide us with pleasure vs those that elicit negative feelings, those we call “friends” are those who validate us, our beliefs, perspectives, and opinions because their belief systems and interests align with ours the most. By contrast, we tend to steer clear of people whose opinions and perspectives are different from ours. As a result, we become polarized, avoiding those that don’t agree with us and gravitating towards those that do. “Birds of a feather, flock together.”
Bound to our ego we constantly seek attention, importing and gathering the acceptance and validation of others. Without it, our ego collapses in on itself. It’s what drives us to seek inclusion and the company of others.
The fear and insecurity that lies behind the thin veil of our persona emerges in our time alone. It’s because we’ve forgotten how to simply “be.” How to be whole.
Who is truly solitary? “A sannyasin – a solitary being, a wanderer, absolutely happy in his aloneness. Alone, he is whole. This ‘beingness,’ this wholeness, makes you a circle, where the beginning and the end meet, the alpha and the omega meet.
He desires nothing of this world. He does not need to. He has learned whatever was to be learned from this world; the school is finished, he has passed through it, transcended it – a sannyasin is one whose need to be “needed” has disappeared, who does not ask anything of you, they draw no meaning from you, from your eyes, from your responses. – OSHO
This is how we are ALL born. But, life does something to us.
All children are complete, self-sufficient, and beautiful. They exist as a light unto themselves. As we become elderly, a lifetime of chasing titles, the respect of others, relevancy, and the need to be needed, we arrive at the beginning . . . the solace of our “being.”
We’re no longer needed. The people who needed us have all disappeared. The children have grown and have lives of their own with their own families, our spouse has passed, and now the world no longer needs us. Nobody comes to our home anymore to pay their respect. Even if we go for a walk, nobody recognizes us. We may have been prominent CEO’s, the president of a bank, actors, actresses, celebrities, but now we feel futile. No longer needed, in the end, we all become nobody. This is a beautiful place to arrive at if we allow it to be.
There’s a beautiful quote from Jesus: “When the beginning and the end have become one, you have become God.” It’s one of the oldest motifs in Egypt – a snake eating its own tail. That’s what the circle of life is, that what rebirth is, that’s what becoming like children is, moving in a circle, back to the source, returning there from where you have come.
But most of us don’t see the end and spend a lifetime trying to be admired and relevant, to someone, to anyone, but ourselves. It’s our need to feel relevant and to feel a sense of belonging that pushes us to compulsively seek romantic relationships or to cave into group mentality because of the false sense of security it provides us. Most of us are terrified of being alone and often feel very lonely if we’re not constantly surrounded by the attention of others. This is why humans are inherently social and generally timid about expressing their authentic self and their true feeling in relationships or their own ideas in group settings that may be “counter-culture” or different from what most would consider “mainstream” or “consensus.”
Self-expression was once a highly revered trait. But, today having your own identity, thoughts, and beliefs, is almost seen as audacious and rebellious if they lie outside of what we’ve been spoonfed to believe. But, ask yourself, can you think of anyone you admire that isn’t “different,” or “weird,” or fiercely independent? Who admires people that accel at “normalcy?”
Seeking inclusion, whether we realize it or not, we often place people in our lives in a way that makes our lives work, and in building our networks of friends and acquaintances, our ego is very strategic in keeping checks and balances of what people like about us and what they don’t, who we can share certain experiences with and who we can’t, and we can get what from and who we can’t. We wear different hats and different masks in different environments. It’s what through countless positive and negative interactions fashions us into a version of ourselves that we project as our persona to others in a way we think will be most appealing and acceptable to others.
Operating at a subconscious level, our ego begins to emerge shortly after the age of 8 years old. Very malleable and impressionable at this age, our ego is made up of a series of redundant, automatic patterns of behavior reinforced by experiences that had produced gains for us. In other words, we tend to repeat behaviors that get us what we want from others. Weighing out the payoff of choosing to interact within a framework of learned social behaviors against our need for self-expression and having a voice all our own, we are constantly governing our behaviors between two tidal forces: the ego and our essence.
Our ego, reinforced with every positive gain, getting us what we want, only chips away at our essence by constantly encouraging us to develop a persona which makes us more socially acceptable in the eyes of others.
We delude ourselves with our ego because it creates a false image of ourselves by fragmenting us into countless categories of comparison with everyone else. From the perspective of our ego, we never see ourselves as “whole” but instead, always see ourselves as lacking something that always makes us less than whole and inadequate. From this perspective, we can only live with the constant fear that we don’t measure up. We’re never good-looking enough, charismatic enough, likable enough, or lovable enough. The bottom line? We’re never “good enough!” And that is the tragedy of an overactive ego. This inadequacy is learned, not inherent, because we didn’t possess it as children.
As we enter our formative years, from early adolescence into our 20s, two decades of exposure to endless corporate propaganda promoting materialism, urging us to shop, define ourselves through the acquisition of “things” and television promoting images and messages just below the level of cognition (feeding the subconscious mind) of what’s acceptable and what’s not, our perception of “reality,” is galvanized and unshakable. Our religious beliefs, political views, perception of others, and the world around us, is pretty much set in stone unless we can rise above the level of our karma, or social conditioning.
Catering only to the “egoic mind,” our indoctrination into society is complete. We dutifully go about the business of working, paying our bills, and trying to not ruffle too many feathers along the way. Like chameleons, we learn to camouflage ourselves and cover up our insecurities by catering to others, both professionally and personally, in what we see as socially acceptable patterns of engagement and conversation, generally staying in the middle, as opposed to having views or beliefs that may be at the edges of the bell curve. As Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage, we each are merely players.”
This is detrimental long-term because it comes at a price . . . over time, we slowly lose a vast amount of our individuality as we try to blend in to secure the acceptance of others. Playing these roles we often lose sight of ourselves.
What’s been stolen from us, is awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love. Our entire “experience” of life is that of being something that we’re immersed in, an experience we’re having as a physical being. Rather than being something we’re a part of, it’s seen as something separate from us. It is something that’s happening to us or around us and entirely external.
In a very insidious way, we’re taught to “work hard,” “life is what you make of it,” and is measured in dollars and cents. In essence, we’re taught to be consumers. The value of our life is found through attainment. Our “self-image” becomes a projection. It’s just that; the image we hold of ourselves and project to others. It’s largely purchased. With this external focus, not only our happiness but life itself is also purchased in increments. We buy life and the experiences we have by going to work and “earning the right to have a life.” Life becomes a series of diversion tactics, designed to keep our heads emotionally “above water” and our fears and feelings of being inadequate at bay.
As consumers, we become anything but “present” because, having embraced the idea that happiness is just another purchase away, we are always hoping to import happiness from an external source. As a result, we’re never “present.” Without “presence of mind,” we’re never living “mindfully aware” of the moment, the NOW, that we’re immersed in, but instead lost in our thoughts and “to do” lists. As a result, we live with very little self-awareness, convinced our emotional state is entirely circumstantial and something we have little control over.
In such a competitive society, we become almost entirely identified with attainment, materialism, and the adornment, image, and preservation of our body. Why? Because society has no use of one’s soul. But, society can exploit our bodies, as workers, so it keeps us focused on the external with our primary focus being the preservation of our bodies. This is why an entire dimension of ourselves, our inner dimension, goes unnoticed. The spiritual aspect of ourselves is traded in and replaced by religion which only has us feasting on scraps from the table, nurturing the idea that we’re lost souls trying to find our way home. It divorces us from our “true” nature.
More to come . . .
See Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 3 – The Nature of Reality
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery!