Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Heaven Is For Egos

I'm going to cut to the chase here for once: religion is based on the preservation of the ego. I'm probably not the first person to realize this but it split my mind open a little when that thought occurred to me yesterday. I had been having a conversation with a relative about why they would like it better if I was a "Christian" and had asked what was so wrong with me that Jesus was needed to fix. She responded that it was more that she believed in a forever Heaven and wanted to spend it with all of her family and it's sad to think I might not be there.

While I don't believe the same things that she does, I understand her perspective. Discussing this with my partner, she seemed shocked that people really hold onto the concept of heaven. "Yeah, it's basically a scheme where you live this narrow life and most likely suffer in trade for your wildest dreams. Or something like that" I replied. After a pause she mused "it's like they want to have the same life forever". That's when the lightening struck.

"God graciously granted you life" so you feel like it's right to fight for life because "that's what god wants you to do". Essentially it's giving survival instinct a story to feel good about fighting to keep the ego intact. That of course is taken to the max with the idea of Heaven because that's eternal life and you can't get any better than infinity right? So they plod on in the course that feels like they are punishing themselves enough for "God" to approve. Our upbringing determines much of our view of god leading some people to much more extreme interpretations of the "word of god". What does this all have to do with ego?

Ego is the concept of one's self and literally is Latin for "I" - our personality, bodies, family etcetera etcetera. Religion states that we are separated from god and are his creations, each one unique. It's this uniqueness and separateness that empowers belief systems like Christianity. When everything is connected and you believe that consciousness is god, matter, the universe, an illusion as some philosophies teach -then you lose the need for all the things that religion promises. If you are already eternal as conscious energy then there really is no reason to get attached to a form because you are constantly growing and evolving as nature does. The interconnectedness of things also removes the need for strict moral codes because any violence committed is ultimately against ones self. Heaven and the "narrow path that leads to life and few there be that find it" becomes useless with only a shift in perspective to acknowledging that you are not your ego. At that point you don't need to hold onto it because who cares?

What happens when we die? I couldn't tell you for certain nor do I care any more. I told my children this past weekend that I could prove to them with their Bible that an eternal hell is a contradiction because no child should have that shit crammed into their head! If sin is what separates you from "God" and "love covers all sins" according to Proverbs 10:12, then how can any reasonable person argue that hell could be eternally separated from god? It's asinine but it give the ego something to cling to because that's what the ego does - tries to survive usually revved up by the perpetual fear of the unknown.  If your ego is steering the ship and it doesn't feel safe you aren't going to sleep too well until you find something that sets your mind at ease.

I was astonished at how it had been staring me in the face this whole time and I didn't realize it - the difference between religion and spirituality really is ego or no ego.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016 - Disaster or Opportunity?

Didn't see that coming did you? I have to say on the one hand that I'm rather shocked but on the other, I'd have to have been delusional not to see it coming. I'm talking of course about Donald Trump winning the presidential race in the United States of America last night. Many people in my life, both online and locally, are feeling like the universe is about to close up shop in a really awful display of narcissistic self immolation. I'm only 33 so I certainly don't claim to know everything but having walked in a different world for many years please let me offer some perspective. 

I was raised to be fiscally, politically, religiously and morally "conservative". That view point was accepted pretty much without question until portions of it began to unravel at an astonishing rate in the last few years. If you paint a convincing picture to a child they will believe just about anything until they experience evidence to the contrary. Because most of us live cloistered in a relative social bubble, we don't have experiences that would counter the beliefs programmed in as a children via the segment of society that was our reality. Our lives change but the reality rarely shifts much in nature.

It's about as easy to imagine things you haven't experienced being real as it is to believe that Harry Potter wizard land exists somewhere. However, if you happened to walk into a brick pillar quite by accident and ended up in a magical world, you would have to throw out your previous beliefs immediately or suffer some kind of brain implosion. The insular nature of humanity, us vs them, has kept us, usually through fear, from having experiences that provide a crack in our belief system. A friend sent a story to me the other day about Derek Black, a young man who was raised to be the new head of the White Nationalist movement in America. In the last few years he made a major shift away from his instilled beliefs leading to a public renouncement. While I wasn't raised to be a racist, I was raised to be just as judgemental but in a different way - unambiguous, color blind, sin. Of course the entire liberal ideology and it's consorts were fraught with sin because democrats were hedonists wanting to shake their fist at god and tell him to essentially fuck off. Or so the picture was painted...with a bloody coat hanger.

Derek was sheltered much of his life so when he got out into the real world and met some of the people he had held prejudices against, those prejudices began popping like balloons. Living in Los Angeles for my mid-twenties exposed me to many people I had been taught to judge. What I found was that they accepted me, quirky as I was, way more than anyone I had known in my past world. Around those years I also began listening to several podcasts that gave me a glimpse into social worlds I had never come close to which served to further compromise the foundation of my erroneous beliefs - "this" type of people are evil. The article ended on a conversation between Derek and his father Don, a leader in the white with a capital W, movement. Don is just unable to comprehend the shift in his sons thinking because it seemed so well engrained and makes sense to him. Kind of what it feels like having a conversation with my parents - how did it come to be like this? The key is, we haven't shared the same experiences. 

I give this story of Derek as a parallel to my childhood and the ability to have a radical shift in belief once stepping outside the bubble and can speak with some authority. Having been on a few sides of this humdinger of a fence, I have felt the same things that many are feeling now regarding the fate of the country - but from the other side. When Bill Clinton was running and in office, the steady diet of conservative conversation through Rush Limbaugh and others, made it seem like the world was going to spin off it's axis and be swallowed by a black hole. This of course would be the punishment for all the liberal things "Slick Willy" would legalize like murdering babies in the streets and being forced to go to gay sex clubs (of course I'm exaggerating but only slightly). Even when Barack Obama was running the first time, I was still askance in regards to a liberal agenda and wondered how it was going to harm my future. I still don't trust politicians but my belief in conservatism still was falling apart in 2008 and I was still very anti-liberal. While in California, I accepted government assistance for the first time in my life and began seeing things from yet another perspective.

Maybe it's because most of my adult life was spent hovering around or below the poverty line, but looking back now having opened up more and ceased throwing things out just because of a broad label like "democrat" or "republican", I've found that my life wasn't that much different under any of the Presidents that I can recall. That isn't to say that a president can't make things go down the shitter in lightning speed, but to say that much of the consternation and acrimony is due to rampant fear being generated and amplified by the media. During this election cycle I heard several people posit the idea that Trump was a plant to help give the election to Hillary or that the voting system is rigged in her favor - to which I have to ask, "why isn't she president then?" Is Secretary Clinton squeaky clean? Doubtful but do most people let their imaginations get away with them? Probably. We are so paranoid that we selected someone we didn't feel could be controlled to lead us. Stop and think about that for a minute. 

Our nation needed Bernie Sanders but we got what we deserved instead and while I think it's cause for concern, I don't think it warrants picking out a headstone. We've seen what is out there, the flagrant racism etc, and the only way I see to combat it is to live our truth but as peacefully as possible. I am not saying that we shouldn't stand up for ourselves, but when anger gets involved, it gives the other side something to feed off of like blowing on a fire. Donald Trump as president is four years to say "how can I be the best ambassador of what I feel America is?" It's up to us now. We cannot continue to rely on a few people to care for us or care for us. I have nothing against President Obama, but I want to point out that we have some major things happen and continue to go on under his "watch" like the Flint Water Crisis? Of course we did, because presidents aren't all powerful. Put yourself in their position for a minute and realize what you think being president looks like. It's not pushing buttons on a computer screen with unimpeded power but more like a lot of work and stress. 

This is time for all the millennials nursing their wounds having never had a presidential election go against them, to grow up. Let's all put on our adult pants and accept responsibility for the world we live in. Practice what you preach! What can you do to make a difference? There are a ton of problems that are so entangled I don't know how you would begin to start except doing it the same as untangling a bunch of snarled string. You just start working on a section that interests you and move on to another when that one has been sorted out. If you get some help it can go fairly quickly from a frustrating mess to a nicely ordered bundle. Live the reality you believe every day don't just vote for it once every four years. It's time to get involved with knowledge, love and an open mind. 

DON'T PANIC!
Douglas Adams, 
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Friday, November 4, 2016

Timeless

Simply being, such as when meditating, is what transitions us to the mindset of immortality. It's engaging with a belief that knows no limits and therefore is no longer concerned with the passage of time. What are we worrying about, getting old? Missing opportunities? Failure? 

Infatuation with the "passage of time" is based on a belief in a limited supply. If your money was unlimited how would your purchasing habits change? Would you go buy everything you could right off the bat? Then what? Boredom, depression, attempts to escape life?

Life is a choose your own adventure where we drop into characters from various backgrounds and experience an infinite number of things. When you take away the fear of lack, mentalities shift. Instead of saddling ourselves with things to provide happiness and security - make the most out of our little plot of earth, we can move through life with a purpose - to be present in each moment knowing that there is always enough (provisions, love, happiness, etc) to sustain our journey. With unlimited resources, why not be more generous? More adventurous? 

We consume things - snacks, cigarettes, Facebook, pick your drug, as a distraction from the lulls in our daily experience. In most moments all we need to consume is the air that keeps our body functioning but we hardly pay it any attention because all the worry and insecurity are running amok in our minds. Breathing and giving your attention to what is, is a wonderful way to shift your mind to a new set of beliefs. 

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Watching with no hands, not helpless - timeless / grains of sand sans gravity - floating, flowing in endless eternity - focus on breathing, heart still beating / snap ties break, form change, pouring into a new vessel - a vehicle to restrain, contain, leave something temporarily to remain - birth control the flow all commas, no periods - everything gone in the blink of an eye / 13.8 billion years scaled down to a year, we only just arrived - far from having arrived / popped in to trash the planet December 31st, New Years Eve style. 
Time to let go, no restraints on restraint - hands up, hands off / holds barred, no barred holes / get a grip on yourself, choke up - feel something in this moment - awaken to eternity, enlightening yourself - the biggest loser winning, paradigms unwound. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Chicago Cubs FTW

Everyone is buzzing at work today over the Cubs winning the World Series. I don't follow baseball (or any sport really) though I enjoy watching a game from time to time - so I'm not really riding the high many other people have tapped into but I am intrigued. When I was ten, I played baseball for one season and all the teams were named after professional teams. We were the Cubs, we sucked and I was a huge contributing factor. Throughout childhood I did very little sporting related activities and my coordination was like a folk band trying to play with a telegraph machine as their drummer - shit gets confusing. I wore both glasses and a black pirate style eye patch in an attempt to correct my lazy eye and lack of depth perception. Being able to tell how far away something is, is kind of a critical skill required for connecting a bat with a bunch of tightly wound strings covered in leather hurting towards you at frightening speeds. If my memory serves me correctly, I never actually hit the ball the entire season while at bat and only ever made it to a base by getting walked or hit by a pitch. 
Near the end of the season my mother informed me that we weren't going to do any more sports because it took away too much family time. I was disappointed but the whole season had been an exercise in embarrassment not just on the field, but in the dugout as well as I saw just how weird I really was. There didn't seem to be any way of changing my environment so I resigned myself to the fact that this was just life and at least it saved me from making a fool of myself. 
In 2004 the Red Sox won the world the series after 83 years of disappointment. This also happened to be the year where my life began the slow push that has turned into the momentum which has brought me to the present day. I could go into some kind of astrological, numerological bullshit about how I was born in 1983 but I don't really see what point there is to any of that stuff. What I took away from the Red Sox win was that no "curse" is final - everything is subject to change and any obstacle can be overcome. Now that the Cubs have also triumphed after 108 years of "failure" (someone quit pushing the button, for all you Lost fans ;) the lesson continues. This year has shifted many things for me and this win is only further reinforcement that no matter how dismal things may seem, if you keep moving,  eventually change is experienced. 
The "impossible" inevitably become possible given enough vision and effort in that direction. "Everything in this world is magic except to the magician" - West World. Flying, telecommunications, the internet - all were fantasies not even a few hundred years ago (at least in Western minds) but now they are common place. The beauty of the universe is that as we become magicians and understand what's behind the curtain, we discover that there are an infinite number of curtains to find the break in beyond this current veil. Everything is possible but what's probable is what you believe to be possible. Long losing streaks being broken reminds us that even though we may have "failed" in the past, the present moment is full of innumerable opportunities to create a different future. 
Congrats to the Cubs and all those breaking through the chains to the past. The present and future are only bound to repeat the past as long as you allow what has happened to be the only information you pull from. There is good news though, no matter how stubborn you may be, eventually life does its thing and continues moving on either taking you with it, or leaving you behind. As I was in the jungle contemplating what authority the god in me held, I realized that the only thing bigger than each of us is all of us. We are all connected to everything in some way and this isn't some bullshit hippie babble - this is scientific fact. No place in space is a complete vacuum and even energy that is "contained" still allows minute amounts to propagate into the beyond never completely dying out. Each of us is the god of our own choices keeping in mind that we are only a part of the infinite consciousness that makes up the corporate universe - God. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Living A Dream

Two weeks have elapsed since returning from Peru and it already feels like an entire life time ago. Lying in bed the previous evening I felt a little sad being so far away from the jungle, from a time that was such an adventure. Outside the bubble, you see life and yourself differently, then going back to "reality" and have to work to maintain the new vision. Thankfully I had recorded several hours of both am and pm jungle sounds and fell asleep last night to the chorus which helped reinforce the authenticity of what I am learning. 

A week and a half or so (maybe two weeks) after arriving in the jungle I felt like I had already been there for months and my return to "normal life" was an eternity away. One of the last few days in the wild it suddenly hit how what had seemed like an impossible dream had become a reality so solid that it seemed to have always been there. Now it seems to be slowly fading out of existence leaving behind only the knowledge and memories. Due to the experience being so different from my normal life, I might as well have been on another planet. It's like a dream except I have my journal, photos, tattoo and souvenirs to certify that this indeed happened. 

Hinduism states that life is a lucid dream but most of us perceive a difference between dreams and "reality". What separates the two? Persistence of a repeated environment produces a pattern that becomes what we accept as reality. Should your environment suddenly shift, it can feel like you are in a dream and that's how many people describe incredibly powerful experiences like witnessing a terrorists attack, meeting their hero or being in a foreign country. It's when something happens that seemed like a major incongruity with your expectations. The radical differences between "worlds" are hard to reconcile except through self-assurance of what we have previously experienced and believed to be real. 

A popular aphorism states that "time heals all wounds" but this is inaccurate. Time and distance are figments of our imagination yet they keep us bound to the past. If there is no real time but the present, then all of time is contained in it. What heals wounds is a change in perspective which we erroneously believe requires time to gain distance. If you choose to sit staring at your pain, no amount of time will act as a salve. Gaining a new perspective doesn't require any time to speak of, it only requires you being open to the unknown. I used to work a job that involved being inside people's homes most days and it never ceased to amaze me how different everyone's lives are. A change in perspective may only require going a few streets over, spending time with your next door neighbor - or even just reading an article on your computer. 

All of us are simply a different pair of eyes, a unique perspective in an infinite consciousness experiencing diversity for the sheer joy of creating. If you allow yourself to put the day to day reality on pause and realize each moment is what you make it to be, life begins to feel like a dream you are awake and making choices in. Experiencing this odd juxtaposition has been like taking a hammer to the glass walls of a snow globe screen on which is displayed that thing we call the world. As I passed through the broken shards, what I experienced on the other side was the product of long held dreams. Now being back in the world that has been my prevailing reality for thirty-three years, it's like the broken screen has been trying to glue itself back together to obscure what is beyond whispering "this is what your life is". Except that I'm not buying it. 

If the only thing separating "reality" from dreams is repetition then you would probably be convinced you lived in two worlds if you had a reoccurring lucid dream with a persistent set of environmental factors every time you "drifted off". What we perceive as real is constructed by maintaining a belief long enough that it becomes engrained in our subconscious neural pathways. It's hard not to live in the past because it has cut deep grooves to slip into and ride the familiar song. We hold so tightly to our perspectives out of fear of the unknown that we stop ourselves from growing. I can sit here and talk for the rest of my life about all the things I've done in the past or I can accept the infinite potential of the universe and know that anything is possible. Yes, going to Peru was a dream that seemed insurmountable but it was no more a dream than where I currently reside. What we focus on is what our lives become because focus comes from values derived from belief. Repetition of belief is reality. 

There is no reason to be sad about chapters of life coming to an end unless your belief system is intertwined with an inflexible vision of yourself. Each new experience should reveal / reflect more clearly who you are which intrinsically is unrelated to current conditions (gold is still gold regardless of market value). Most of my life has been far out on the fringes of what many would call normal (whatever that means). As I've grown into adulthood, I've spent a lot of time feeling like I was on another planet. As icing on the cake, I've had several volunteer experiences over the years lasting 1-4 months, that provided an even further fringe perspective. Each time I got out of my unusual, though personally standard environment, I was faced with new challenges and potential for growth. As a teenager I remember feeling like I would grow and then return to my parents home only to step back backwards into the role I was expected to play. What I didn't realize is that I was allowing this regression to happen because I felt I had no control over my environment or more to the point - I hadn't absolved myself of many core beliefs. 

Walking out of a large house set for a TV show the other day I felt like I saw an overhead view of myself and all the rest of the crew milling about like ants. "We are all actor just like Shakespeare said" I thought. "I'm fulfilling a role just as much as the actors are but with no scene breaks". If we choose our lives before they happen, it's like an actor giving permission before filming for another actor to hit them during the scene and then having their memory wiped. Without the memory of previously granting permission, the slap delivered during the scene will probably feel like an assault instead of acting. We lead these lives to learn things but we are never powerless. At least for me, part of this learning process has been that I am the actor, director and editor - I've always had a say but I was too afraid of the consequences because I lacked confidence in myself. Being thrust into an unfamiliar environment reveals a lot about you but it's up to you to determine what happens with that knowledge. Do you believe in your dreams even though they may have seemed real but now feel distant and vague? 

The challenge I have accepted is not to dwell in any place but the current moment full of infinite possibilities. A guided meditation I've used says "let the past turning into wisdom" which I really like. While I may encourage myself from time to time with memories, the more vital endeavor is to allow my belief system to be changed based off the experiences gleaned. Our memories are fickle things subject to the whims of perspective but who we are at the core, as it is revealed by life more fully - that is where truth and dreams come from. Focusing on yourself is not selfish if it is in the light of oneness knowing that if you feel something, it's what you are putting out there or have previously agreed to. Self-absorption and narcissism are products of a solitary, I-am-an-island mentality which leads to pain being prolonged. Pain filled folks usually have a long list of wrongs done against them that they would love to tell you about. Jesus said "only that which comes out of a man defiles him" which makes me think of the whole "the universe is a reflection of you" concept. When you view yourself as something separate in a world you are out of control in - self focus results in self pity and self hatred. 

Peru is fading and I can hold onto this experience and milk it till the udder wears out, or I can take the knowledge and allow it to change my reality so that each dream becomes permanent (or at least till the next dream). Wake up in your dream and then keep dreaming.