Hello, beautiful humans, and thank you for reading my Soul Sharing for July post! It has been a few months since I posted my last blog. I didn’t intend to take so much time off, but the pause was needed. And what a difference three months away from blogging can make! I find myself “starting over” in some fundamental way, and that is much of what I would like to share and elaborate on in this post. Though I have the thought “I don’t know where to begin,” I’m going to follow the timeless guidance that whispers “start wherever you are”.
Soul Sharing: meditation
When I say I’m “starting over,” I say this because my meditation practice has changed over the past three months, and that has changed everything. To really get into this, I have to talk about my life journey a bit and what lead me to meditation in the first place. Before I do that, I will define meditation (as I practice, now) as the practice of allowing everything that is noticed from moment-to-moment to be just as it is. It could be called “the art of witnessing” or “the art of watchful existence”.
Soul Sharing: the path of conditioning and programming
When I was a young boy, before the concept of meditation was on my radar, like most of us, I wasn’t conditioned to look inside myself, to explore the reality of “me,” or to ponder the big, existential questions of life. Instead, I was programmed by family and American culture to strive to be better and do better in order to secure material stability, status, and wealth.
So, that’s exactly what I did. I fell in line, followed the herd, and did what many do. I finished grade school and then went to college. In my junior year of college, I chose to major in theater with hopes of one day being a famous actor. After graduating, I set my sights on graduate school for acting, and by the next year, I was in a 3-year M.F.A program at a reputable acting school. Seemingly, I was on my way to what I thought was a better me who could do better and reach that dream of security, status, and wealth.
All is not as it seems
The signs that there were cracks in my dream began to show-up early on after I left home for college. I remember being in the middle of my college career feeling desperately lost and wanting to ditch school and start walking. I didn’t know who I was or where I wanted to go, so walking anywhere seemed like a good idea. The idea sounded adventurous and full of freedom.
But I didn’t drop-out. Somehow I managed to graduate with a “B” average, and the seed of longing to know “who am I” had been planted. The first crack in my vision for the future and for my well-laid-plans had already begun to appear.
Graduate school for acting, or “trauma school” as I like to jokingly call it, was hard. The first two years were the hardest years of my life. It was hard for many reasons, but the biggest obstacle was this longing to know “who am I” which only grew stronger. It was my existential crisis.
This longing intensified, and alongside it, compounding my restlessness, were a cacophony of negative thoughts about myself and my life. Being on display in acting school and comparing myself to my classmates fanned the flames of my negative self-talk, and those voices got louder and louder and harder and harder to manage.
During my second year, I reached a breaking point, and came very close to dropping out of school. This time, it was the support of my classmates that gave me the strength to stay, even though I felt like a complete mess. My facade of “having it all together” crumbled. I was utterly vulnerable, afraid, and embarrassed as my classmates rallied around me and showed up for me in a way I hadn’t expected.
Then, in the midst of trauma school, a classmate introduced me to reiki, and my life took a dramatic turn as I discovered I had a gift for sensing and “channeling” subtle energies. After my first “attunement” (or initiation) to reiki, my perceptions of myself and life blew wide open, and I found myself in strange altered states more often than not. These states felt “warm” and pleasurable, rich with apparent intuitive insight and communication from various worlds within and around me. For the most part, I was enjoying these new and strange perceptions, but I did wonder more than a few times if I was going crazy.
Even though I was feeling “high” and inspired much of the time, I was also aware of the negative thoughts that still made their home inside me. I still thought I was damaged beyond repair due to surviving childhood in my dysfunctional family. I still had a reservoir of anger boiling over inside me that I was doing my best to keep bottled-up.
There was resistance, strain, and confusion with this incongruency. On the one hand I was starting to identify with a “lighter” version of myself, while on the other hand, my old, tortured identity was still very much present.
After graduating from acting school, I knew I had to explore the path of spiritual healing. I knew I needed healing, big-time, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pursue a path of security, status, and wealth, until I healed myself. That was my reasoning. I wanted to understand my “true self” and heal so that I could then be guaranteed a path toward that original dream. So, that’s what I did! With over $70,000.00 worth of school loan debt, I let go of trying to become a famous actor and began a deep dive into the exploration of spiritual healing.
Soul Sharing: unconditional love
That was back in 2004, and it’s hard to believe it is now 2022! I’ve been on this spiritual healing path since graduating from acting school, and what gifts I’ve received. I’ve healed and grown, for sure, over the past eighteen years. I know this is true because I rarely suffer from any negative self-talk like I did in the past.
I can honestly say that I have learned to love myself unconditionally. And not as some kind of superhuman sustained state of perfection and bliss, but rather, as an understanding and realization that no matter what is happening in my life at any given moment, “good” or “bad,” I am loved. No matter what, I can and choose to love myself. Always. My sense of worth is no longer tied to what I do, what is done to me, or any circumstances at all.
I understand that many people never learn to love themselves unconditionally. Many people never allow themselves love without conditions. They just don’t know how. It’s not something that is taught in our culture. We are only taught conditional love, and perhaps those of us who discover that we can love unconditionally are merely lucky. I don’t know. But realizing this for myself was the first truly solid spiritual “awakening” that I can say without a doubt I had experienced in my life.
I woke up to the truth that “God” loves me unconditionally, so I can allow this unconditional love in, and receive it. I can also give it to myself. This is the “home” I return to at the end of each day and whenever my mind begins to entertain any unkind thoughts about me.
Learning to love yourself unconditionally is not a magic pill that makes everything in life flow easily and effortlessly. It doesn’t mean you all of the sudden start to get everything you want exactly when you want it. Not at all! It’s a foundation upon which you can begin to build a fulfilling life. But you still have to build! Life goes on! Learning and evolution is endless. It is this truth that brings me back to now and why I am sharing all of this in this Soul Sharing post.
You see, for the past eighteen years, even since learning to love myself unconditionally, I have still been trying to use meditation and reiki to improve myself and to attain some realization or state of consciousness that would, again, guarantee material security, status, and wealth. The same insidious conditioning has been motivating me, it just cleverly shifted from mundane ego to spiritual ego!
Spiritual ego takes pride in being more spiritually realized than others and therefore feels entitled to all the material goodies like wealth and status. Of course, these perspectives do not reflect spiritual maturity or realization. They reflect ego up to its same old fearful shenanigans only in a different form.
Survival at what cost?
And to be clear, I’m not saying anything is wrong with pursuing security, status and wealth. We all need material security in various forms and how that is defined is relative to each individual. We need it to keep our bodies alive long enough to have our physical life experiences. Status and wealth may be absolutely necessary for some individuals’ life paths and purpose. However, I do think there is something wrong with this pursuit at all other costs, at the expense of and out of balance with so much else that truly matters.
This conditioned, hyper-fearful focus on survival and material wealth didn’t work for me. I needed something more as my motivation and purpose in life, something more aligned with my soul’s deep desires.
All this time, I’ve been “circling around” my soul’s deep desire, my core inspiration, that “thing” that lights me up and that I want to talk about all the time with everyone I encounter. It’s been there since I was a little boy, but the conditioned hyper-focus on survival, material security, status, and wealth at all costs has thrown me off this simple path over and over again.
Soul Sharing: Alan Watts and self-realization
Recently, I found my way back home to this core during a “new” way of meditating inspired by Alan Watt’s. Alan Watts’ insights and illumination on the concept of non-duality in Eastern philosophical traditions such as Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Taoism, has set me on a new path of self-realization.
I hesitate to use the word “path” in this context because the path is less a process or journey to attain my true self and more a recognition now that I am already divine just as I am. The path is the recognition that I am already and have always been divine. This understanding changes the entire foundation of the practice of meditation.
The art of being
This new way of meditating is not new, but it’s new to me. What Alan Watts (and teachers like him) encourage is to literally do nothing but observe and witness everything as it is. The idea is that what we are in reality is not a separate ego striving to realize oneness and bliss. This is illusion, a distraction.
Rather, we are the whole play of existence that you notice when you stop and truly pay attention. In other words, God is not only bliss and white light. It is anguish and darkness, too. God is the play of everything we perceive arising and passing in each moment: passing snarky thoughts, hearing, sensing, feeling, smelling, tasting, knowing, judging, and interpreting. God is even the sense of our separate self that comes and goes. God is all of it because God is one. And that’s what we are: all of it.
Try it for yourself. With this art of meditation you can’t get it wrong because there is no aim other than witnessing everything that you notice just as it is. A good way to start is to close your eyes and just begin noticing the sounds you hear. At some point you become aware of your breath coming in and going out. Then you continue noticing everything that’s happening, allowing your attention to go wherever it goes.
Everything is included, including your thoughts, your boredom, your sleepiness, your physical discomfort, your “drifting,” fantasizing, impulses to move, any movement, agitation, sadness, tears, laughter, anything and all of it. It also includes whatever your senses pick up in the external world around you.
If you find yourself wondering if you’re doing it right or trying to figure something out or judging anything, then that’s exactly what is there for you to observe just as it is. With this practice, you are coming to understand all the inner and outer “happenings” of you as God, as Great Mystery.
I don’t know what experience you will have if you try this for a while, but if you decide to meditate in this way, I recommend approaching it as an experiment, a playful exploration, rather than as an obligation. In my own exploration, I have experienced deep relaxation, clarity, vitality, and inspiration. I have also experienced great relief. How divine and illuminating it is to simply watch, experience, and not have to achieve or change anything!
This art of witnessing has opened up a clear channel right through my heart and to my deeper sense of purpose. I am not here to chase material things. I can’t take any of it with me when I leave this world. I’m not here to chase fleeting pleasures that only provide short-term fulfillment. My deeper purpose, what truly matters, is the direct experience and ownership of the truth, love, and beauty of being Great Mystery, and sharing the wonder of it all.
The wonder of it all
When I was a kid, I remember wondering why so many people had such a hard time believing in ghosts, believing in the spirit or non-physical realm. I remember thinking to myself “how is that any stranger than this?” I continue to ask that question. How is anything we can imagine be any stranger than the fact that we exist as we are right here, right now? Really? Nothing seems strange and unbelievable about the fact that you are sitting there reading these words right now? And then there is the complete strangeness and miracle of trees, oceans, flowers, giraffes, stars, planets, and all the rest?
Nothing lights me up more than the wonder of it all. Existence itself. And it’s a wonder I’ve been circling around it all this time and somehow unable to speak directly about it like I am doing now.
So, I’m “starting over”. I’m starting right where I am with this wonder that inspires me to meditate by doing nothing but sitting or standing or walking and wondering at it all just as it is.
I may return to the monthly patterns and insights eventually, but for now, I think I will continue with this simple, monthly Soul Sharing because this is where it all begins for me.
No matter what is going on in your life right now, I wish for you that you can allow a few moments of wonder at it all, for yourself, for others, for this whole stream of life that is ever flowing, flowing, and for the truth, love, and beauty of this cosmic drama, this Divine Great Mystery.