After the darkness comes the light

 

At least that’s how the expression goes… Here’s what’s been going on since I emerged from the darkness a few months ago.

I’m not entirely in the light yet, but the horizon is a lot brighter these days. On the whole, I’ve been feeling a lot better and stronger. Much more functional, with some ups and downs. I’m still rather sensitive energetically, but interactions with others are becoming easier. Of course, the inner healing work continues, but now the results are really palpable, which is very exciting for me.

I’ve written briefly before about my experiences with my higher self. I had my first encounter with Her, as a vision, over a year ago. With the visual image came the knowledge that this was a spiritual divine aspect of my soul, a more evolved higher vibrational aspect. And that She would be making room inside me so that full embodied expression can be established. It’s been a lengthy and complicated period of integration.

There is a lot of overlap between the higher self integration and the kundalini process itself. I’m not sure yet where the distinctions lie, but not everyone with an active kundalini has this higher self process. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have had an active kundalini for years, and most have no tangible experience of what I’m talking about. Basically, of all the weird stuff that can happen, this is even more uniquely weird.

So far, my theory is that one must have an active kundalini to go through this process; but the activation itself is not enough. The energy doesn’t do this on its own. The person has to actively do an enormous amount of inner work to make any real transformations. And contact with the higher self, and the process of integration, is something that comes from Grace. It’s not something that can be done by any mechanical means. I don’t have any functional control.

When the integration period began I didn’t know anything about the higher self, nor about how any of it works. Slowly I’ve found bits and pieces of information, sprinkled throughout different esoteric writings, that now give me a semi- solid framework for the process I’m going through. In my research, I came across another person going through this precise sort of integration. Her experience of it follows a path similar to, and yet totally different than, my own. So I offer the following only as my own experience and larger understanding. Not necessarily the same for everyone; in fact, likely entirely unique for each person.

This engagement with the higher self, and living as the embodiment of it in human form, is the true arena of mysticism. It’s kind of the entire point. There are theoretical mystics, who are interested in the pursuit of truths in the intellectual sense. They are a wealth of knowledge and information, but only in theory and observation of others. And then, there are practical mystics (like me) who have little theoretical knowledge, but actually go through the process of complete inner destruction in order to become the human expression of this vibration. It’s a very complicated process that does not lend itself to formulaic expectations. There are no set stages or consecutive chapters, except for the most general of categories. When the shifts of consciousness happen within, and the higher self comes through, it really feels like an entirely different person within. (Some in the new age community describe a similar experience of a “walk in soul exchange” – this is a slightly different experience, as far as I can tell, but it really does feel like a completely different soul coming in and taking the reins).

In order to make room within my consciousness for this expression, (for the higher self to take permanent root) everything that is not truth has to be excavated and removed. Everything. Every single false belief. Every emotional wound. Every thing that is not of the highest vibrational quality of love within is getting processed out. !#&!@&. It’s not pretty. The last phase involved all the childhood pain. This new phase focuses on other areas, including a lot of past life stuff.

I have been dredging up all kinds of subconscious garbage for a few years, but never as ferociously as has been happening the last few months. Huge huge inner structures are disintegrating, as the core beliefs that sustain them are released. Stuff that remained hidden from conscious awareness (even after years of intense work), is now coming to the surface. I’m always slightly shocked to find new stuff in there. Just when I thought I’ve found everything, some new knot shows up to be untangled. (It keeps me humble 🙂 ).

There is also a ton of shadow integration happening, where the polarities of my human personality (and/or some learned ego patterns) are being balanced out by their polar opposite. In a rudimentary sense, it’s the cliche yin yang thing. 

For example, it is in my nature to be independent, in the sense that I like to do everything myself. I love this particular trait, and admire it in others as well. I get a wonderful sense of accomplishment and self esteem from doing things on my own. The more complicated the better. In addition, through my childhood experiences, I learned to be fiercely independent, and hate feeling like I can’t handle everything without having to ask for help. So Spirit creates situations for me in the three dimensional reality, where I find myself in circumstances that make me feel extremely vulnerable and helpless. Through these experiences, I have to learn how to be ok with this opposite polarity. By wrestling with the judgments, beliefs, and emotions that arise out of these situations, I come into acceptance of being this opposite way, to my normal way of being. I see the beauty in vulnerability, and I can appreciate how proper interdependence with others can lead to some really profoundly sacred feelings and experiences. (I have to re-learn how to trust other people!).

As I balance independence with vulnerability, the shadow of that trait is incorporated and balanced within. This allows the higher self greater and greater latitude. It creates more space within my consciousness for this higher vibrational energy to take more permanent residence. 

There has been a lot of this over the last few months. And it’s not fun at all, being pushed out of my comfort zone and turned into the opposite. But it appears that a lot of inner axes are now in a comfortable state of balanced alignment. It’s still a work in progress… It’s a curious thing that my self has to be healed, strengthened, and built up, only to then be dissolved. (There is an old saying in spiritual practice that you must have a self before you can get rid of the self. I think this is what it refers to. You cannot have sustainable spiritual transformation without the psychological healing, otherwise you end up with a completely fractured personality.)

So far, the expression of the higher self within and through me has been very interesting. I’m still trying to get a handle on the mechanics. I’ve written about the few defining characteristics before. She is kind, loving, and supportive in the deepest sense. Also fierce, direct, and stoic, but with a wonderful sense of humor. She is intelligent beyond anything I could ever fathom. And She is only interested in truth and fairness of the highest spiritual order. My experience of the higher self as these things (contrary to the saintly angelic concepts) has been confirmed again and again in the writings and experiences of others. She is much more warrior goddess than Mother Teresa…

I wasn’t really comfortable being the embodiment of these things for a long time, but I’m getting more used to it. I used to make the distinction between what I would say as me, and what I would be asked to say from Her. As I become more comfortable with the expression, the distinction is no longer necessary.

I’m learning very slowly how to allow this expression to come through fully, without judging it. It feels quite scary at times, not knowing what’s going to come out of one’s mouth, and not having much sense of control. (I used to love having a sense of control). But also, if I remember not to judge it, it’s kind of exciting. I never know what is going to be revealed.

I still have regular experiences of insight and wisdom that come, although they are a little different now. I can only describe them as a kind of intuitive download of understanding. Sometimes there is so much of it coming at once, that it’s too much for my brain to grasp, and I begin feeling overwhelmed and ungrounded. It’s like standing in a house of mirrors, and trying to keep track of an infinite number of reflections at the same time. My brain is just not smart enough to handle it all at the same time. So I spend a lot of time doing actual research and reading various texts in all different areas of study. What to read and study is also inspired from within; as sudden sparks of interest appear, which weren’t there just the day before. This gives me a framework and context into which I can incorporate what I’m shown. The downloads then become a lot more comfortable and manageable.

In the interim, for the human me, as I go through this new phase, there are so many fluctuations everyday in the core of my being, that I’ve given up trying to hold on to anything solid. It just not possible. My entire belief structure gets overhauled again and again. What I have noticed though is that as the old structures are knocked out, and the wounding they held is healed and released, the next day or so, those particular areas feel a lot more deep, stable, and solid. The emotional reactivity of that particular sphere drops entirely to zero. And a new stability and grounded peace emerges. I do experience a sort of floaty sensation sometimes, as if my sense of self has become very shallow, floating above emptiness.

In addition, as if all of the above weren’t enough, there is an experience of being made into nothing, which is a hallmark of the kundalini process. I’m not entirely sure how it relates to the higher self integration, if it does at all. The fully activated kundalini is said to be a life-long journey of becoming nothing, because the ego and conditioning dissolve and with them the sense of a self also dissolves. But there is a more intense concentrated experience within the process, which only started in earnest in the last few months.

Everything that is important to the human me, all the attachments, all the things I use to feed my sense of self worth, are being removed. It is as if I’m being stripped down to nothing. This hurts a lot. And can feel like unsupported free fall. There’s a lot of fear, shame, and grief involved in this particular section. I often feel like I’ve hit a kind of bottom. I make peace with that bottom (mourning the loss of the stuff that went and getting comfortable with the exposure), and then a new bottom is revealed. Ugh. But that process too appears to be nearing its end. (I hope. I really really hope).

There is a very distinct experience that started slowly some time ago, but happens more frequently now. More and more, I become able to “see” very clearly into a person. It’s a feeling, a sensation, and a series of thoughts that come as a sudden knowing. It’s not empathic, as I don’t feel their feelings. And it’s not clairvoyance; it doesn’t have anything to do with the past or future. It’s more like spiritual sight. I thought for a while that it was just a deductive reasoning; like a good educated guess. I’m relatively smart, and self-aware, so it follows that I can sort of guess what’s happening within people who aren’t self-aware. But what I see (which is later confirmed to be true), is not on the surface of the interaction. In fact it seems at times totally contrary to what the person is saying to me. No one would reasonably deduce what I’m shown from the interaction. It made me feel really nuts for a while. And while I still doubt the veracity of it quite a bit, I’m being shown that I can in fact trust it fully.

(There are implications of this new ability that I started writing about, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing it just yet. I’m still trying to work out how much of it is related to my own growth, and how much of it is in service to others. I’ll explain more about this when it feels right).

Just as the previous phase I wrote about, this entire thing is being guided and directed from within. It’s not my doing, but rather something I’m guided through (without much personal will in the matter. Resistance is really futile. Really.). I don’t know where the inner resources come from to continue this work. It feels at times like it’s taken everything from me. At the same time, I feel as though I’m being carried on some kind of current which directs the process and gives me the inner strength to get through each day. If it weren’t so painful, I’d say it is intensely beautiful. It’s sort of both at the same time. A most intricate, sacred, and magical play of light and darkness.

A real blessing of Grace, for which I am most humbly grateful.

 

Forgiveness and boundaries

 

One of the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts is that of forgiveness.

The practice of forgiveness is an internal emotional and psychological journey that is fundamental to any sort of healing (whether spiritual or secular). It is something that you do for yourself, within yourself. In your own heart, so to speak. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person, and it does not mean reconciling, or “getting back together,” or having any sort of relationship with the other person.

People often hold on to their anger and pain saying “no, I will never forgive this. What he did is unforgiveable.” This mindset, although very common, is both faulty thinking and it stands in the way of the victim’s own peace and inner tranquility. In reality, the painful thing has already happened; it’s done and gone. But by holding on to the anger and the pain in this way, we re-hurt and re-traumatize ourselves every time we remember it.

This becomes somewhat self-harmful and self-abusive. The anger and pain eat at us from within, each time we think of that person or the experience. And we use that pain and anger to punish the other person in our minds and sometimes in reality. (There is a vague sort of feeling of “I need this anger to keep me safe, otherwise he will hurt me again;” which is a false belief masking fear and a lack of assertiveness). This is why the practice of forgiveness is so important. It untangles all of these false beliefs and fear-based mechanisms that keep us from love, compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships.  

I’ve also often heard forgiveness being conflated with weakness; which is also inaccurate. Forgiveness doesn’t mean becoming a doormat or condoning any sort of hurtful behavior. Actually going through the process gives you incredible inner strength and courage to confront injustice in the right way, and hold people accountable.

Forgiveness also doesn’t mean just turning the other cheek or just ignoring our feelings. Forgiveness means I love myself too much to continue carrying this awful painful burden. I will do the inner work to release myself, to release them, and I make a decision that is going to create more peace and less emotional pain in my life.

The process of forgiveness is about sorting out our own truth from the painful interpretations we make by default in our minds. It is an undoing of the self-judgments that lie at the root of most emotional pain. It is an investigation into the self-blame that the experience generated, and a transformation of that pain with love and compassion. It is then a turning to look at the other with the eyes of truth and compassion. Listening completely to our own anger and then transforming that anger with wisdom and understanding. It means making inquiries into the false motivations we have automatically assigned to them. And creating space for new loving interpretations.

By working on forgiveness we are releasing ourselves from the pain and suffering in our own mind, and coming to internal peace, as it relates to that person or experience. Also, in my view, learning how to forgive properly is the only way to build healthy relationships. Without a solid framework for forgiveness within, there can be no real repair after a conflict, and the relationship becomes a minefield of resentment. 

There is an ocean of difference however between forgiving someone (inside our hearts), and allowing that person to remain a part of our lives. The former is healing and necessary, the latter is not.

Whether we allow someone to remain in our lives and hearts after a hurt has occurred, is a delicate consideration. It often will depend on the subjective magnitude of the pain we experienced and whether trust has been broken. Probably the most important factor is whether the other person has the capacity to genuinely apologize in a heartfelt way, giving some assurance that the hurt will not happen again. But this decision, whether to continue a relationship or not, has nothing to do with forgiveness. This is a question of boundary setting and self-respect.

The internal process of forgiveness comes first, and is independent of this second aspect.

Boundaries are incredibly important; and setting them is an area people struggle with a lot. Sometimes boundaries are simple “this hurt me. please don’t do this again.” And other times much more complex: “Out of self-love and self-respect, I cannot allow you to continue this sort of behavior as it relates to me. You are free to do what you please, but I don’t wish to continue interacting with you.” It takes an incredible amount of inter-personal courage and self-love to carry these out properly. It sounds really obvious and simple, and yet I have met very very few people who really possess these skills. 

We all have different levels of tolerance for pain and different capacities for forgiveness. I’ve seen lots of situations where people (me included) continuously ignore hurtful words and actions of others, under the guise of forgiveness. The deeper truth is that they (we) are really just too afraid to stand up for ourselves. (It has taken me a lot of work and courage to really begin standing up for my vulnerable feelings… It gets easier with practice.)

But forgiveness cannot be used to justify silence in the face of a transgression. If the hurts continue to be inflicted, at some point forgiveness no longer works. One cannot withstand constant hurtful words or actions, without the dynamic becoming self-abusive. Forgiveness cannot be used (or misused rather) as an avoidance technique when confrontation is too scary.

Setting boundaries, standing up for yourself, and voicing hurt feelings honestly are all required acts of self-love. The complicated part is that they are to be done without anger or resentment. (If they are being done with anger, from a negative emotional state, it’s not boundary setting but rather a form of punishment. The distinction is very important).

We must first do the work to reach a state of peace (internally) and compassion for the other person, and then we set the boundary peacefully and with kindness. (This doesn’t apply of course in emergency situations when harm is imminent. I feel this is so obvious that I don’t need to say it, but I suppose I do).

Setting boundaries also has nothing to do with the other person. You cannot change who they are, or what they do. But we must find the courage to see them with honest eyes. We must be willing to acknowledge how they make us feel, really and deeply. And if we don’t want to be treated a certain way, we are in control of your own lives, actions, and behavior. There is nothing wrong with removing ourselves from dynamics (whether temporarily or permanently) that we find hurtful.

Putting our own vulnerable feelings first is not selfishness; it is the ultimate self-love.  

 

Gone swimming; mysticism and schizophrenia

 

I read an account recently of a man diagnosed with schizophrenia. He described a sort of break with “reality,” that allowed him to see deeper truths. Sitting on a bus with a friend, he described it like a veil suddenly being pulled back to reveal his friend as evil. He described paranoid persecutory delusions and altered states of consciousness. He described seemingly terrifying physical sensations, and overwhelming emotional swings. He described being overtaken by an outside force (not voices, but the sensation that something else was in control). And while he was grateful for finally getting a diagnosis and medication, he said that it’s a daily struggle for him. He senses a constant presence of this other reality which he is working hard to fight against, so that he could be “normal.” It was heartbreaking to read. Not because of what’s happening to him, but because there is no one to guide, explain, or help him through it. What’s happening to him is not a mental illness, it’s a spiritual emergence. It is a sacred awakening. But rather than having someone to honor the experience and show him the proper way to manage it, he is being pathologized. The mental health professionals that are providing his care are trying to make him “normal.” They are trying to stop the symptoms, using all sorts of medications and therapies, to fight something they don’t understand. And the reason they don’t understand it is because they are unwilling to listen, unwilling to allow for the possibility that there is something western medical science cannot yet explain.

Joseph Campbell is quoted as saying this famous line: “The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

This statement is more profound than most people realize. The answer to many (not all, but many) schizophrenic cases is spiritual education. That is to say, self-awareness and the spiritual healing processes. This is what the mystic understands that the schizophrenic doesn’t.

The experiences of mystical openings and schizophrenia are really really similar. The difference between the mystic and the schizophrenic is context; spiritual context. The mystic understands that the mental/psychological disintegration is part of the healing process. He leans into it, and through spiritual work, moves through it. Or more accurately, allows it to move through him. He can observe it within him and work with it, without descending into terror. The mystic observes his thoughts and feelings, without acting on them, and curiously investigates them. He brings awareness, love, wisdom, and compassion into the depths of his being. He is delighted in the emotional upswells, because he knows that each one of them is an opportunity for further healing and discovery. It’s not always delightful (it is in fact extremely painful at times), but there is a logic to it. A divine pattern, if you will.

The schizophrenic on the other hand, without a sense of what’s happening to him, without love, support, and proper education or guidance, sinks. He doesn’t see the logic. He feels completely out of control. He believes his thoughts. He acts on his seemingly irrational feelings (which are completely rational in a spiritual perspective). He is told that he’s sick, and broken; he is medicated, and given up on; because our society doesn’t know where to begin to help him. Our mental health models don’t allow for the spiritual context.

But with spiritual context comes understanding, growth, acceptance, and healing. There is a way through it. There is a way to “heal” these symptoms. But it takes a different sort of therapy. It takes a radical shift away from what it currently being practiced.

The “evil” this man observed in his friend is in fact there; but it’s a mis-perception to call it evil. What this man saw in his friend on the bus is the friend’s egoic nature; which, to the lay-person, would certainly appear as evil. A mystic has this same capacity to see into people, and to observe their intense selfishness, their ego-driven words and actions masquerading as love, friendship, and normal relating. The mystic understands this; he understands why this is so, and accepts the reality of it. The schizophrenic is horrified by it. (It is rather horrifying to have this capacity to see inside of people… I’m still learning how to interact in a quasi-normal fashion despite what I can see).

Paranoid delusions, or persecutory delusions, the fear that “they are out to get you” is nothing more than a present day reflection of childhood fear. Sometimes it’s even past life issues that are being digested out. These episodes need to be properly attended to, not labelled and discounted. The person needs to be spiritually guided back to the source of these feelings, so that with awareness and wisdom and compassion these emotions can be properly released. If this is done properly the fear and paranoia subsides.

The experience of being overtaken by an invisible force from within would likely send anyone over the edge. But the mystic understands that this is the divine will moving through him. He becomes a channel for it, and feels relatively safe in surrendering to it. Those with awakened kundalini often report wondering if they’ve been possessed by something demonic. It can feel that way at times. Whether it’s kundalini, or spirit, or the emergence of the higher self (temporarily or permanently), it’s not a pleasant experience exactly. But spiritual forces never ever intend to harm. They are supremely loving (even if rather stoic or ruthlessly honest). (This is not the experience of hearing angry or hostile voices, or being instructed to carry out harmful acts – which also have a spiritual explanation and can be reckoned with and worked through.)

Similarly, altered states of consciousness can be terrifying. The mystic understands that what he sees in these states is a reflection of his own subconscious – his own wounding is being reflected for him to see and attend to. He knows how to navigate through these states because he gets the bigger picture. The schizophrenic is just terrified by it, and without proper names or descriptions or language to explain it, he becomes isolated in that terror. There aren’t words in existence that can describe the experience of higher states of consciousness. Lots of poets and ancient mystics have tried to use metaphors for what it feels like, but as far as I have read, none of them can convey the feeling of it to a person that’s never felt it. To the mystic it is a wondrous state. To the schizophrenic, sitting in a psychiatrist’s office trying to rationally explain what he feels, it’s devastating. To him, these states are an ever-present, uncontrollable, and very scary symptom of his illness.

There are countless examples here of the mistaken conceptualization and mistreatment of “schizophrenic” symptoms. I want to be clear – I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water. I don’t discount that mental illness exists; it certainly does. I also don’t discount psychiatric treatments or the need for pharmaceutical intervention; sometimes it is necessary and helpful. But the current state of western mental health care categorically lumps everything together as disease and dysfunction. It doesn’t allow for the spiritual context (as the new DSM-V leaves out the spiritual emergence classification entirely). And as a result these people are not receiving the kind of care they desperately need.

There is a lot of wonderfully courageous work being done in the mental health arena to shed light and understanding into the darkness. Revolutionary psychiatrists, therapists, and spiritual teachers, as well as those with lived experience, are coming together to make the shift to more integrative and compassionate understanding. But there is still a lot to be done. I don’t know how to bridge the gap between the needs for large scale systematic care and the truths of what I see. I am one person, with an idiosyncratic perspective, without any formal credentialing in this area – no one is going to take me seriously. And yet, I am hopeful that over time, the more that people like me write, and speak, and share their experiences and understanding, the more our larger systems can take heed and evolve.

I’m cautiously hopeful…

 

But they will think I’m crazy…

They say that in order to become enlightened you have to be willing to lose your mind.

This is usually understood as a humorous double entendre. Because enlightenment is something that transcends the mind. The mind can’t grasp or rationally comprehend enlightenment experiences. And in order to get there you have to let go of the mind (or ego) – the mental landscape in your head. And also because enlightened people are kind of loopy, and their experiences are outside “normal” mental function. They are by definition crazy. Get it?

It’s not that funny…

Walking this path is very complicated and destabilizing. And talking about spiritual experiences is scary. Really really scary. Even today, in our seemingly progressive era, many who have profound experiences often keep them a secret. They don’t tell their friends or family. They don’t tell their boyfriends or girlfriends. They create fake profiles on facebook, and anonymously join support groups online, so no one in their real life finds out.

It can be extremely isolating, lonely, and stressful to live this way. These experiences become so fundamental to who you are as a person, that hiding them feels like hiding huge essential aspects of yourself.

The reason for all the secrecy is almost always the same – “They will think I’m crazy. They won’t believe me. They will leave me. They will divorce me. I’ll lose my job. They will lock me up in a mental hospital.”  This sounds alarmist, but until you’ve actually experienced supernatural things, and tried to talk about them with those that haven’t, you don’t really understand the depth of this fear. It’s very real and quite paralyzing. It is not yet socially acceptable to talk about mystical experiences without being considered crazy. And that label, to most people, still carries tremendous stigma.

Yes. They will think you are crazy (until these experiences become more normalized). But so what?

What’s really being revealed deep inside the fear is something different. It sounds like this: “I’m afraid that if I tell them the truth I won’t be loved or accepted. I’m afraid that being crazy makes me unacceptable.” The root fear is rejection and abandonment. The root fear is  “the people in my life only love me conditionally. They will only stick around if I fit their definition of what’s normal and acceptable. They will judge me, shame me, and leave me if I’m not normal; if I don’t fit the image of what they want me to be. I have to be what they all expect me to be, otherwise I’ll end up alone.”

This belief, this fear (which may bear out in reality; the people in your life may, in fact, only love you conditionally) forces genuine spiritual experiences underground. It forces people who have them to live a lie. To create a socially acceptable false mask, pretending to be “normal.” And to keep their experiences buried in secrecy.

With all the stuff available online, all the television shows. and all the mainstream spirituality, still, in their private lives, in their interpersonal relationships, these people are terrified. I know I was as well. It took me a long time to work through all of my fears, and to begin talking about what’s happening to me. 

When I tell others that they have to be more honest, more forthright about what’s happening to them, they panic. They tell me that they aren’t strong enough. They don’t want to upset the apple cart. They don’t want to disturb the (illusion of) peace in their lives. “He’ll never accept this” or “she’ll never believe me.” Instead of taking a risk with the truth, they hide the truth. They don’t take ownership of what’s happening to them. They relegate it to some weird shameful thing that no one really needs to know about. They are embarrassed by it. They are afraid of being found out and labeled.

In my view, this runs counter to all spiritual mandates. Spirit doesn’t support hiding your truth. You came into this life to be exactly what you are (with all your weirdness). Pretending to be something else, to be normal, to be acceptable isn’t in alignment. You can’t claim to be evolved or spiritual when you are afraid to live your truth; when you don’t act in your integrity. When you are afraid that the truth will hurt others. Or that you won’t be accepted for it. You can’t be in service if you are living a lie. You can’t be the full expression of your beautiful talents and gifts, if fear and self-judgment keep you from being authentic.

I advise people that they ought to try telling the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. (This doesn’t mean you need to come out guns blazing; you can find a careful gentle way to deliver the truth). But relationships built on conditional love have to be challenged with the truth. That’s the point. The truth comes to burn things away; to reveal that which is not sustainable or in the highest alignment. By keeping the truth a secret, you interfere with the spiritual lessons you are being asked to learn. Safety, security, and peace cannot exist when there is deep seated fear.

Take a risk, tell the truth, and then see what stays and what goes.

I spoke to a woman not too long ago who has been experiencing various kundalini symptoms for over a year.* Her awakening so far has been relatively mild, and not specifically destructive to her way of life. She is able to continue working and socializing without much interruption.

She told me about her boyfriend, whom she’s been seeing for several years. They were thinking about moving in together, and she wasn’t sure if she should tell him about what’s been happening to her, or her growing spiritual life. When I asked her why she hadn’t told him right away, she said that he is an atheist, deeply skeptical and very committed to his beliefs. He’d never accept what was happening to her. She was afraid to lose him, by telling him the truth. “We’re so great together. We’re such good friends, and our relationship is so full of love. I don’t want to lose that.

Then she mentioned that she tried once to bring it up, to tell him what’s happening to her, but “we were having such a lovely relaxing time together, I didn’t want to ruin it.

But the appearance of a relaxing time, in reality, was not relaxing at all. She wasn’t relaxed. She was internally in discomfort – going back and forth in her mind over all the various scary consequences. Thinking about what would happen to their relationship in the future when she wouldn’t be able to hide her symptoms anymore. It only appears to be relaxing on the surface, but when your mind is not at rest you can’t feel relaxed.

What I’m going to say next may sound callous, but it’s the essential truth.

If someone doesn’t know the real you; they can’t possibly love you. If they don’t know the truth, then what they love is the person you are pretending to be. If the truth of what’s going on in your life is kept a secret, then the person you’re with never has a chance to love you. They don’t know you. And you aren’t giving them an opportunity to decide whether they really accept you or not. If you tell them the truth and they don’t accept it, then they don’t love you. Without acceptance there is no love, there are only attachments and transactions. In a relationship without acceptance there is only conflict and warfare, anxieties and power-plays for control.

In reality, if the people in your life don’t support you, don’t believe in you, don’t accept you as you really are, then do they deserve to be in your life at all? You have to ask yourself “what am I really holding on to here?” Do you have to pretend to be someone you’re not, in order to continue receiving love and approval? Or are you free to be your full and complete self, with all the weird stuff, knowing that the people in your life adore you just as you are? Wouldn’t you rather live your life around people that respect and admire the very things that you fear might be weird and shameful?

It begins with you. If you don’t take a risk to accept yourself fully and live your own truth, you’ll never know. Find the courage to let what is built on ego and conditions fall away. And let those that love and accept you unconditionally demonstrate that to you.

Keeping secrets create disconnection and separation from those you love. Allow the truth to bring you closer together. It may be scary in the moment, but there is so much love available on the other side. Allow those that really love you to be there for you. If you neutralize your own fears (by working thru them), it will not be such a terrifying situation. Then you can talk to the people in your life in a peaceful and confident way.

It is ignorance that creates fear, so use this opportunity to educate the people in your life. Show them that there is nothing crazy about spiritual experiences. Part of the reason that it’s viewed as crazy is that the people that came before were also too afraid to talk about it. They kept their experiences a secret. They stayed in the shadows because they too were afraid.

If you really want to be of service to humanity, start within your own life. Find the courage to live your own truths. Life has a way of surprising you. And when you approach something with the right energy within, people you thought would never accept it, somehow manage to surprise you as well. It won’t be as bad as you think. 

I leave you with this quote from John Irving

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

 

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* Details have been amended to protect privacy.

Emerging out of darkness

 

A couple of months ago a new energetic force arrived in my life. On top of all the different energies surrounding my strange existence, this was something different. Uninvited and unannounced, it came into my life and took me on an extremely difficult and painful journey into the depths of darkness. It is both a sacred journey, and one I wouldn’t wish upon another living being. Ever.

You can call it an “ego trip,” but not in the usual sense. Slowly and methodically, following some invisible plan, this energy of darkness took me on a regressive ride back to childhood. Part healing, part training, it felt like my consciousness was aggressively yanked backwards, against my will, to revisit the entire formation of my ego.

A little bit of background first: There are a lot of misconceptions about what the “ego” is. In spiritual circles, it’s something bad that needs to be avoided, rejected, killed or transcended (depending on which tradition you follow). Lots of people mistakenly conflate the “ego,” with the entire personality or “self,” which creates a lot of confusion. And the entheogenic folks use the term “ego death” as a threshold marker for the mystical realms; also inaccurate. 

In my view, it’s relatively straightforward.

The ego is the false self. It is a solidified network of beliefs in the subconscious mind, which generates thoughts, feelings, reactions, and patterns of behavior into the conscious mind and personality. It’s not bad, per se. But left unattended it leads to a lot of suffering in life. In essence, it is a program (like in a computer) of coping mechanisms that we develop, for living in a world where being yourself is not acceptable. Ego is the mask we learn to wear, because we’re too afraid to be real and vulnerable. Ego is the person you believe you should be (or must be in order to be loved and accepted), rather than the person you actually are.

Ego takes shape in response to experiences during the formative childhood years, and hardens and reinforces itself over time. The more rejection you encounter, the more fear, judgement, criticism, shame, and trauma that is inflicted upon you, the bigger or stronger the ego becomes. Like an armor or a shield against an emotionally dangerous world.

The real self, the personality you were born with, gets buried deeper and deeper until it’s completely repressed. Without awareness, most people have no inkling of their real self. They identify with the program running in their subconscious mind, believing that that’s just who they are. They wear a kind of false mask to face the world, and live out the dictates of this subconscious program. Most people live without conscious awareness of this program their entire lives.

(There is some philosophical debate about whether there is even a real authentic self at the core or not. The argument is that even the very process of birth effects the personality and conditions it in some way, so there is no absolute personality at all. My view of this is that there is very much a real self; but it’s not consistent or definable. It’s a mutable feeling sense. It’s not something that can be conceptualized or described. It’s something you feel, not exactly something the mind understands. There is an authentic self, but there is no self concept. You can’t reduce the truth of the authentic self into words, because it’s too fluid in its expression. It doesn’t conform to anything consistent.)

And so all real spiritual work is an undoing of this false ego self. Not because it’s bad, but because it stands in the way of authentic expression, joy, happiness, and satisfaction in life. Ego causes lots and lots of emotional suffering. With love and awareness (and the proper tools) dismantling the ego is not that difficult. Different spiritual traditions approach the dismantling differently, but at the core that’s what spirituality is really about – the shedding of the false self (that which isn’t the real you, that which isn’t the truth), so that the real self can be fully expressed and liberated. The entire chakra energy system is built around this goal – getting a person into authentic alignment and expression. When he is in alignment with his real self, all the chakras are in proper balance. (It’s also the central goal of the kundalini process – shedding the false self so the authentic self can emerge and live freely. This is what true liberation is all about).

There are more advanced spiritual practices that try to take a person even further, to a state that transcends the self entirely (to gain access to the spiritual realms), but that’s a separate discussion for another time.

As I see it, if a person isn’t doing the inner discovery work to shed this false mask (by healing the wounds that created it), if he isn’t striving to live more authentically every day, with more self-love and acceptance, more in alignment with his true nature, then he isn’t spiritual at all. He doesn’t actually understand what spirituality is all about.

Despite what passes for spirituality in the mainstream these days, in my opinion, there are few people who understand this fully. Meditation is not enough. Mindfulness is not enough. Yoga is not enough. Talking about esoteric mysteries, and love and light are not enough. Ayahuasca ceremonies are not enough. And even having a fully active kundalini is not enough. It takes conscious effort and disciplined awareness practice (deep deep self discovery work) to really make a difference with actual results; actual transformations in consciousness that work from the inside out. Everything else, to me, is just pomp and circumstance. Pretty forms without any substance. 

I’ve gone off on a tangent again. Sorry. I’ll save the preaching for another post. Let me get back to my story…

So I’ve been practicing this form of contemplative inquiry for several years. I’ve done a lot of discovery work, a lot of childhood stuff, and tons of healing over the last few years. And having reached particular milestones, (ego death, higher self, etc.) I felt confident in my own process, in my own healing work, and in my work with others. 

And then in November, without much warning, amidst a bunch of other strange experiences, this really dark energy took me over. It literally felt like darkness descended upon me. I couldn’t shake it. It was heavy and thick, and debilitating. It plunged me down into a special sort of hell; simultaneously torturous and sacred. I’ve dealt with tremendous pain before, but this… this was totally different.

This energy asked me to apply all of the tools, discipline, and strength I had, until there was nothing left. Day after day, in indescribable psychic pain, I was shown how my ego, my false self, was formed. I got to visit every single one of the places I was hurt, shamed, criticized, rejected, abandoned and unloved. All of the relevant crucial moments where my childhood self internalized the words and actions of others, believing herself to be deeply unacceptable as she was, and forming a more acceptable version of herself (my false self), in order to be loved, accepted, and safe; all of it came alive again before my eyes.

Most people, everyone who has even a modicum of self-awareness, will tell you that their childhood was painful and difficult. Subjectively, mine was as well. It’s a socially conditioned illusion that childhood is some idyllic wonderful carefree time. It’s not; not for anyone, regardless of circumstance. And people who continue to believe that their childhood was perfect (and their upbringing ideal) are in a deep form of denial. Even the children of the most loving and evolved parents will collect wounding, ego conditioning, and (subjectively) traumatic experiences of rejection. It’s unavoidable. It’s the very purpose of incarnating into human form – to accumulate pain, and then learn from that pain.

And so for the last two months, I have had a front row seat in my own life review. Every day, multiple times a day, I would receive the internal energetic signal that there was work to do. I’d sit down to investigate the arising thoughts and emotions (intense feelings of shame, fear, guilt, anger, despair, anxiety, depression), and each time I’d trace them all the way back to the moment of their creation. I would then fully re-live and emotionally re-feel the ancient experience, in its entirety. It felt as if I was holding my inner child in my arms, as she took me through everything she’d ever felt; every place that she learned she was unacceptable. There are no words to describe the pain of this. There are just no words…

Sometimes I’d have to revisit the same memories multiple times, each time with a slightly different vantage point and perspective. This is what’s known as the spiral effect in healing. You go over the same thing again and again, each time at a deeper level of awareness and understanding. Kind of like a downward spiral. This was all happening to me; as if according to some divine schedule. It wasn’t something I was orchestrating or directing. Even after all of the magical things I’ve experienced so far, most days I couldn’t believe what was happening to me.

And as I’ve been shown over the last few years, resisting this work and these lessons only causes more pain. If ignored or resisted, Kundalini will ratchet up the pain with all kinds of physical symptoms until one comes into compliance. There is no way out of the pain, but through it. In this arena, the concept free will becomes something of a joke. Seeing all of this, and feeling all of it, you come to understand that you were never in control to begin with… 

During these months, it became physically painful to talk to other people (not that there are many people who could understand and accept what was happening to me). I became energetically sensitive in a devastating new way. I felt completely raw and exposed, like all my insides were now on the outside. I’ve had phases of this experience before, (being turned inside out) but never quite like this. If I wasn’t actively crying, then I was on the brink of tears all the time. In that kind of extreme vulnerability (with all the spiritual components) there is almost no one who has the capacity to offer the right kind of presence, compassion, or support. Other people’s well-meaning attempts to cheer me up, or offer me advice or opinions, felt like nails on a chalkboard; only making me withdraw further inward. And so I spent these months in almost complete isolation and seclusion. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t interact with anyone. I could barely make it off the couch to walk the dog.

Led by nothing but intuitive guidance and synchronistic signs, there were moments when I really didn’t know if I’d make it through this alive. My faith was severely tested. My sanity barely hanging by a thread. The psychological crisis points were so acute that words don’t convey the magnitude of it. It is an other-worldly sort of pain that I can’t explain. The only real solace was an inner knowing that this is okay and necessary. It’s part of my own healing process, and it’s part of my training as a teacher. It was as if living through it, I was also observing it happen. There was an internal separation between the one experiencing this, and another awareness watching and learning.

Through this process I was offered a map of the darkness; like a guidebook (built on the foundation of all the prior spiritual processes I’ve developed). I was shown how absolutely every single thing we think and feel is childhood itself; being reflected for us like a mirror image, for our spiritual growth. It’s so divinely intelligent and intricately beautiful in its design, that it would leave you awed and speechless if you could see it in all its glory.

The healing protocol works like this: If you can stay with the emotional reaction long enough, investigate it fully with spiritual awareness, find the roots of what’s being reflected, apply love, compassion, and wisdom to that pain, and allow those old emotions to move through you – the wound heals itself. That’s it. It’s really rather simple. It’s also really really unpleasant. But there is a magical component to the healing that makes it all worth it. (Not that I have much of a say in the matter).

If this is done correctly, when you think back to that memory again there should be no emotional charge. You see the scars, but there is no internal movement in the emotional body. Sure enough, at some later point something in the external reality will come along to retrigger that wound (something that would have sent you into a strong reaction before), and internally nothing happens. That’s how you know the wound is healed.

Over time, with practice, you can heal all of the wounding in this way.

Over the last few days, it appears that my journey of darkness is finally coming to an end. There have been significant shifts in consciousness that feel “back to normal.” (I use the word “normal” very loosely…). I’m not sure that I’m totally out of the dark just yet, but this phase appears to be coming to an end. The blissful mystical and transcendent experiences have returned. It feels very much like this darkness has been lifting, and I feel more and more stable and grounded again. Yesterday I could envision talking to other humans without a feeling of aversion. A good sign, I dare say.

Despite the pain, there is an incredible sense of reverence and gratitude for the experience. And there is a new really profound level of peace accompanying this re-emergence. The deeply buried fears and anxieties that I carried my entire life are gone. All the future planning, worrying, needing-to-know-and-control-things thoughts are gone. There are virtually no attachments to anything, even less than there were before. There are still some remnants of old stuff arising, but nowhere near the intensity of the last few months.

Mostly there is now a kind of surrendered repose in the present moment, and finally (finally!) a growing sense of excitement about what’s ahead. I am cautiously glad to be coming back to normal.

I wish I had some kind of graceful way to end this post, but I don’t. So be it.

Until next time…