My father had a brief stay in the hospital once (it turned out to be nothing serious).
Several of us were visiting and had gathered around him as he rested in his hospital bed. He and my young nephew were hungry so someone brought some burgers and fries.
While eating my father offered my little nephew one of his fries. My nephew instinctively and gleefully took it and gobbled it up.
My nephew's father (my brother), alarmed at this, said to him:
“No No, don't take grandpa's food. You have your own."
Even though he was just simply accepting a gift that was joyfully & freely offered to him.
A few moments later, ignoring my brother's lecture, grandpa offers him another fry.
This time my nephew raises his hand and waves it in objection and says "no, I can't take it".
My brother beamed in pride at seeing this and there was a moment of admiration in the room about how kind and good my nephew is.
But as I watched this unfold I knew my little innocent nephew wasn't truly BEING kind, he was following the orders he was given for how to behave. It wasn't coming from his heart's truth.
He wanted the fry but learned in that moment how to act differently.
This is how most of our human population is. We experience many moments like my nephew that shape us to act a certain way. With time we start to believe the act is who we are.
We then expect and ask others to act accordingly too.
Many are also like my brother, trying to raise a good child. Maybe even a good christian who believes in and follows god. They want their children to be a force of something good and an example of what they believe is right. Perhaps also wanting them to get to heaven someday.
But in our programmed "good behavior", in our false humbleness and "niceness", we are far from our innate goodness, God is farthest from us in those times. Because God is what we are, when we are BEING what we are.
I have been where my nephew is, trying to survive in this upside-down world. I have been the others in the room admiring "how sweet he is" and I have so often been my brother, passing down my belief & control patterns to vulnerable ones.
GOD was already there, saying YES to the french fry.
On the periphery we each have our stories, diverse experiences, and unique way of being in the world.
At our core, in our center, is something beyond our personal identity.
This is the only place where I’ve glimpsed true equality and unity.
This place is also sometimes called the zero-point. Where nothing is happening and yet all is possible.
It’s peaceful, restful, clarifying, and nourishing. It’s also where empathy arises from.
I sense that this core center in us, is also the center of the entire universe.
Many of the messages of equality or unity say that we have to make it happen somewhere 'out there'. You have to behave this or that way. You can say this, but you can’t say that. You have to fix this or that problem in the system and to do that you have to be this or that way.
But it’s often only about the periphery.
Trying to change just our periphery, we can end up compromising our unique way of being.
Our unique way of being is the path to the center.
I’ve lived the first 35 years of my life trying to change or fix the periphery. I didn’t know there was anything else to who I was or to life. I didn’t know because I was living in survival mode.
This shift from survival surface living to more expansive living is in some ways like going from a heavy, colorless, one-dimensional, and hostile world to living in a place that is often vibrant, multi-dimensional, spontaneous, and full of wonder. Not always, but often.
If I would have read my own words 10 years ago this would go right over my head. It needs to come from experience. But the words are there to help encourage and validate the experience.
Recently I was struggling with my mind and was experiencing exhaustion. I could barely focus on anything longer than a few minutes and the exhaustion felt deep and existential.
My thoughts were around how it's all so meaningless. I'm too tired to care. What's the point? It's all so meaningless. So much suffering (mine and others). So many lifetimes of seeking, of trying and what has it done? Nothing. I have nothing to show for any of it.
I'm used to going through darkness and rough patches and ups and downs (it's natural for all of us sincere seekers at different phases. The light gets lighter but the dark also gets darker).
But this time I thought I'd share since we are going through what I see as an unprecedented shift and time on this planet. In case it is of help to anyone.
But more than the difficulties, I want to also share the awareness that came to me this morning after my relentless mind finally surrendered it's need to know and be in control.
Out of the peaceful void I was resting in, this understanding came to me:
There is no controlling what is happening on this planet.
The dark will do what it does. The light will do what it does.
Our true being is beyond all of it. Humans are no longer in control over this planet. This is a good thing, existence is doing what needs to be done.
What is happening is not just beyond our control, it's also beyond our human comprehension. We can know bits and pieces. That's all. That's enough.
Certainty is an illusion, we never had it but are now much more aware of it. This is bringing up a lot of pain and suffering. But the suffering has always been there. We were more able to avoid this through having our identity and sense of self-centered importance be constantly affirmed through our busyness and attachments. This is all being exposed as false.
Nothing and no one outside of our mind is the real cause of our pain.
We can care for our well-being and for our loved ones. But we cannot choose who will stay and who will go. It's the choice of each Soul.
We are losing our identity as humans and joining the rest of the universe. The only way out is to transform the layers of separateness created by our ego and re-join the universe.
We are so much more than human, we are cosmic beings. ❤️
In my personal experience in how my self-awareness has grown in the 45 years I've been alive, and in my observation of people: I've realized something.
Most people who are afraid don't know they are afraid.
This was about 5 or so years ago, one morning during meditation I got a clear urging from within to focus on being centered.
So I stayed very focused on that peaceful unmoving center within me as I got ready for work.
*** It took me years of inner work to discover this center, before that, I didn't know what it meant to 'be centered', just a vague notion that it was to be peaceful and unaffected somehow, to be zen-like. Now I know it is that but doesn't always look zen-like on the surface. We can be in movement and expression of various feelings while also being centered and peaceful within. ***
As I drove that morning to work still focusing on my center, someone in the stream of traffic stopped abruptly causing an accident involving about 5 cars.
I was in one of those cars, and my car hit the guy's bumper in front of me, but not too hard. The women's car behind me, however, slammed very hard into mine, totaling my car.
No one was hurt too seriously and I was unscathed, physically, and emotionally. I calmly just did what needed to be done while also observing what was happening around me.
As all the drivers pulled over to wait for the police and deal with the situation, the woman who had slammed into me was visibly shaken.
She shared with me that she has an anxiety disorder and suffers from panic attacks. It looked to me like she might have a panic attack soon. So I suggested that she breathe slowly and deeply and we did this together. This helped her and she relaxed a bit. Then I mentioned that the breathing will help her feel the fear and that it's okay to let the body shake and tremble. (I too have had panic attacks )
All of a sudden she reacted, upset at my use of the word 'fear', saying to me "What! I'm not afraid!".
She was unconscious of the fact that anxiety and panic is fear.
Her reaction to the word 'fear' was resistance to acknowledging it in herself. Acknowledging and feeling it though would have allowed it to move through her which could prevent a full-blown panic attack. (judging & resisting a feeling gives it more power over us)
There are many ways we hide fear. Psychological phrases and diagnosis is one way we might do that. It can help us become somewhat more aware but only diagnosing ourselves mentally can keep us in our mind and out of our body. This happens especially in times of shock or abrupt change (I've done a lot of healing for myself around shock & trauma).
Intentionally exploring the ways we hide fear and hide from fear is so helpful. Fear often drives us unconsciously, limiting our potential and happiness, and it's also built into our social fabric. We all experience fear yet there's this unspoken message that it's not okay to talk about it. And to show that we are afraid is not okay either and means we are weak somehow.
I've often been surprised at what I've discovered when I explore my fears. But I'm so glad for this self-exploration path I've chosen because we can't change something without becoming aware of it first.
Examples of fears:
Fear of being rejected
Fear of being alone
Fear of making mistakes
Fear of losing control
Fear of being judged
Fear of fear
Fear of the unknown (a very challenging one)
Fear of death (a very challenging one too and is related to fear of the unknown)
What would you add to this list?
Not feeling good enough for someone. Who hasn't felt this way at some point?
Here is my understanding about this.
When we are carrying an insecurity about ourselves, we may experience others as not accepting us.
This can result as patterns of conflict with others or of trying to please them. This is very common but keeps us trapped in a painful and draining situation.
You can watch for any time you want to prove something to someone or get them to accept you in some way.
When you spot it happening: Stop. Breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply. And instead of focusing on the other person, explore your inner world (thoughts, emotions, sensations).
You can take this even further by exploring with an intention to see the Truth.
If you can manage to make this shift in focus, if you can withstand the initial force of resistance, before you even get to an insight, you will already feel a huge shift. You will likely feel energized.
I call this INNER EMPOWERMENT.
People are incredible reflections of what we need to understand within.
This does not mean we allow ourselves to be mistreated all over the place. This is not contrary to speaking up and not allowing someone to impose their judgments or views on us. In fact, it may lead to doing just that. Not as a hurt-based reaction, but out of a self-respect for ourselves.
Seems paradoxical, but the inner focus makes us kinder and more honest. We become trustworthy. Because we minimize burdening others with our pain. Our hearts can open in the recognition that others are struggling too and that it has nothing to do with us personally.
I've experienced this countless times.
But at first I would beat myself up. Feeling bad that I was doing something wrong to draw to me negative reflections and dynamics.
But with time more joy and self-compassion has come in. And with experience I know the consequences of not doing it and the incredible awe-inspiring gifts of doing it.
If you want support and are in Kansas City this November, Madeleine Newkirk and I are leading a Communicate with Your Heart workshop. See if it speaks to you.
I don't go to art museums much anymore. I used to. I've always loved visual art. But when I discovered something called Process Art years ago, I realized what I loved.
It is aliveness. It is spontaneity. It is originality. It is the surprise of color and form and how they interact.
I appreciate an artist's skills, the talent that comes from years of hard work and practice. Professional artists deserve recognition for the beauty they bring and inspire.
But what I appreciate the most is the energy that comes from someone being present in the act of creating. Professional or not. The aliveness is captured, and it does not matter to me what it looks like.
This often comes from the very people I meet that tell me
I AM NOT AN ARTIST
They look to me for permission "Is it okay if I come to your painting class?” There is something inside that is longing to be expressed.
The answer is of course always YES
This image is my painting. Many of my paintings look like they came from a young child and I have loved painting them. Freedom of expression brings an inexplicable joy and expansion and taps us into the inner essence of creativity.
Artists. Non-artists. It's all good here. Because there is something deeper happening than the mind's perception of "good" - "bad" or "appropriate" - "inappropriate".
That is why I have chosen to call these classes Meditative Painting. (If no classes currently scheduled - sign up at bottom of events page to be notified when they are).
I had an experience.
It happened while bartending. Over 12 years ago.
The bar I worked in had a cigarette machine in the back. The bartenders were told to keep an eye out for under-18 teens sneaking in to get cigarettes.
One night three young-looking guys walked in and headed toward the cigarettes. I stopped them to check their I.D.s.
I looked at the I.D.s but my mind got dizzy and I couldn’t make sense of how to figure out their ages (this mind dizziness still happens, especially with numbers. doesn’t bother me too much. But it used to).
I tried but couldn’t make my brain work and I felt a wave of panic. The guys were staring at me, waiting. I had to go find my shift manager for help. When I asked my manager to look at the I.D. cards, he looked at me like I was crazy. Yes, they are 18, he said, annoyed at me.
As I walked back to hand them their cards and saw the expression on their faces, I felt the shame intensify and engulf me. And then the experience happened.
I suddenly became bigger than myself. I expanded to about 6 feet bigger all around my body. I watched from this bigger space, somewhat above myself, yet everywhere at the same time. From that bigger space I watched myself being embarrassed and hand the I.D.s back.
But as I watched I was unattached from it all. Just fascinated by what was happening.
Unattached might give the impression of flatness. It was not flat at all. It was magical and joyful. It was total and pure curiosity (not an analytical curiosity, but a “see what happens” curiosity).
I was free from the need to control or direct anything, including myself or what I was feeling.
The whole experience must have lasted only a few moments. But it felt longer, like it happened in slow motion.
For the following few days I felt peaceful and then the peacefulness faded and I went back to my usual inner turmoil. If anything, feeling even more unsatisfied.
In the back of my mind I was wishing I could find a way to make that experience happen again. I sensed this to be the way out of suffering. But I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Because I didn’t make it happen to begin with.
It was a completely spontaneous experience. I wasn’t really meditating or doing dedicated inner work at the time. I was actually working 3 jobs, barely sleeping, and living off Redbull. I was saving money for my “dream” of traveling the world.
I had been reading books on how to make your dreams come true, visualizing, etc. I couldn’t think of a dream that would make me happy except traveling. So I decided for a little while, with nothing else to go on, that traveling the world must be my dream. As usual for me back then, I was focused outside of myself and on the future (I thought that's where 'happy' must exist). I was ignoring what was right in front of me and within me.
Even though my life didn't immediately change much on the surface, that experience was a glimpse of a truth for me.
That glimpsed truth was that I am not my body, my mind, or my emotions. There is something else to who I am.
I recognized this something else as what teachers and mystics call witnessing awareness. I've heard descriptions of this witness being a non-judgmental awareness of all that is, and that it is full of joy. That sounded exactly like what happened for me.
I never had anything like that experience again until I did travel, but not the outer world, I shifted my search inward, traveling instead through my inner world. Instead of making my dreams come true, I started seeing the untruth in the dream I had been living in.
As I began peeling away the layers of my unconscious, the experience of expanding beyond my mind, emotions, and body, and witnessing have become regular occurrences.
My perspective on what it means to Be Conscious.
It is not in the way I talk or words I use. It's not the way I look, act, or dress. It is not a technique I use or approach to life I prefer. It is not the teacher I love working with. Nor is it about some kind of gift, talent, or ability. It is not in being kind nor is it in any particular trait in me.
It's not a list of good deeds I can show off.
It's not in the money or any outer success I can attain.
It's not in environmentally aware habits, living clean, or simple. It's not in not having money, success or possessions either.
Becoming more conscious can certainly influence and bring profound changes, it has for me. The outer changes though, for me, are really secondary.
Consciousness for me is an inner alert state of being. It has nothing to do with spiritual correctness, in fact it obliterates it. I've come to a realization that consciousness is the only thing that recognizes and detects consciousness. Which is one reason there is so much confusion out there. This confusion is when we try to think ourselves into being conscious.
A story to illustrate what I'm trying to say…
Years ago, through a few documentaries, I became aware of how horribly animals are treated in the meat industry. Months after this I began to ask myself "If I care for animals, why am I still eating meat knowing how cruelly they are treated?"
I wasn't judging myself. I was honestly curious about this.
Not long after this question arose for me, I discovered that deep down I believed myself to be dark.
I was initially nervous to find out where this belief came from and what the darkness was about.
In allowing this belief to fully surface and be expressed (using the Dalian Method) I discovered this rigid stubbornness in me insisting that I AM dark. Insisting that this is who I am: “I like being dark and dammit I'm not letting this go!”
During the healing session this then shifted and I felt the fear that was behind the stubbornness. I was afraid (terrified actually) to dissolve into the light.
The fear lasted several minutes then it released from my system. A wonderful peace and clarity surfaced. I realized that the so-called darkness didn't have much substance to it. It was just my ego that wanted to stay in that identity of being dark because it was afraid to dissolve into the light. I let go of that identity and welcomed the beauty of more light (of expanded consciousness).
After this I decided it was time to stop eating meat. The next day after I made the decision, during my lunch break from my office job, I went to my usual Mexican food place. Out of habit I initially ordered something with meat and then stopped. I remembered my decision and changed my order to a vegetarian option. In that moment when I switched and ordered the vegetarian item I saw a vision of myself stepping out of the stream of darkness I had been attached to.
It was a beautiful experience in honoring with action my shift in consciousness. It was a way for me to step out of the old identity.
Now, here is what I didn’t have a desire to do…
To BECOME a vegetarian. Meaning I was not interested in now having a new identity for my ego to attach itself to. "I was dark, but now I'm light and don't eat meat".
I wasn’t interested in telling people they should do it too or feeling superior to meat-eaters and making any assumptions about them.
I was simply letting something go. I didn't want to fill that new space with something else. To fill it with a new identity (even if it does seem like an improvement over the old one). Instead I can enjoy having more space and light in me.
Working inside-out is how I like to do things. If I had become a vegetarian before that inner shift happened because I "should" than I am not sure how it would have gone. It would not have had the same meaning for me and I would’ve struggled with sticking to it. I probably would have also created another battle within (by trying to think myself into consciousness).
And if I’m really wanting to eat meat, which I do every now and then, I just let myself have it. I’m not going to fight with my cravings (been there, it sucks). I'm not bound to anything either.
My habits, including "bad" ones, are just to help me understand and discover new things. About life. About what it is to be human. About myself.
After what I've personally released and have worked through over the years, the last thing I want is more programming or another ideology (however healthy or altruistic it may seem).
There are definitely major turning points in my life but Being Conscious isn't a place I arrive at, it is an on-going expansion into new experiences. Some experiences I admit are way more enjoyable than others. But it is a never-ending discovery that lets me stay open and flexible so I can adjust when I learn something new (or UN-learn something new).
This is how I work best, it's not necessarily going to look this way for everyone. Perhaps for another it is expansive and fulfilling a purpose for them to tackle certain problems in our society. Just like those documentaries influenced me and I'm glad someone created them.
**Technically I’m a pescatarian because I eat seafood.
I love my body.
Not in the physical way and in the "my body is beautiful as it is" kinda way. That's there as well.
But what I mean is how my body brings me to the Truth.
I've had times where my mood seems very low and I'm thinking things are not going well in my life. Then I allow my attention to drop deeper into myself, into my body, and I have felt a surprising lightness and a palpable sense that all is okay and fine.
Sometimes I will be excited and in a whirlwind of feel-good energy, but then I realize that my body is signaling to me that something isn't right. This has happened to me a lot actually, since I tend towards excitability.
This can happen in my love life, it can happen in my friendships and in group settings. All is seemingly great but then I get a moment to myself and something in my body doesn't feel good.
It might feel like being suddenly drained or tired. I've also experienced it as uneasiness in my own skin. Sometimes it’s a heaviness in my heart.
Nothing wrong with that bubbly fun energy. I like that about me yet I've been looking more closely at times where I am in that experience and have momentarily disconnected from myself. In these moments I'm not truly experiencing connection or real joy, I'm actually escaping from something.
I might have been escaping because I don't want to acknowledge to myself that I do not resonate with the ideas coming from people I'm around in that moment (nothing personal against others and their choices). Or it might just be time for me to rest and be alone and I'm resisting it. I've also seen myself be entertaining to people to get attention I've been craving.
Exploring escapism, especially in social situations, has brought up valuable opportunities for transforming my blind spots.
A major one for me right now is the fear of being alone. In working with this fear I've had beautiful glimpses that I'm never alone because I have myself. And within myself is all of existence.
But there are deeper layers still operating on this fear. I am actually feeling sad as I write this. I realized yesterday how I still diminish myself, my wisdom, and the work I do to at times to avoid feeling isolated and misunderstood (being alone).
Ouch. In diminishing myself I broke my own heart.
I know this sadness is necessary though and I'm just letting it be there and feeling it.
This is why I love my body, it connects me to the Truth, even if that Truth is uncomfortable. It won't let me kid myself.
Where have you noticed the difference between what your mind or mood is saying and what your body is saying? Feel free to share in comments.
I hated talking about my feelings. Ugh. Sharing my inner world. It was awful. This is how I felt up till my early thirties or so.
But I would have times of intense depression and desperation and the psychiatric medications I took weren’t enough to completely numb it. There was this idea I had that when you have an emotional or mental problem you “get help”. Like some kind of magical solution happens when you “get help”.
At that time “getting help” meant therapy to me. Going to some kind of expert, a professional. So despite the dread, I would motivate myself to seek out a therapist. This happened a few times over the years. I would go to someone and hate the sessions and then leave feeling worse. After a few sessions I just couldn’t bring myself to go back. When I stopped seeing that person I felt I had failed at “getting help”.
One main reason I felt worse after these sessions was because I had so much repressed pain that would start to surface and I had no idea how to talk about it. I didn’t understand it at all.
But there were other reasons. I felt like a sick patient in those sessions. It was also awkward because I would be blocked and it was hard to talk and the therapist would stare at me waiting for me to say something. The pressure was difficult for me. Sometimes I would share what was happening in my life and would feel I was being psychoanalyzed and would get further labeled or diagnosed. They wanted to pick apart my childhood and my relationship with my parents and that was excruciating to me.
I was intimidated by them. But I could sometimes sense their fear of me too, of my self-destructiveness, of how traumatized I was (even though I didn’t really know it then myself). Other times I would feel the person’s projection on me and I knew their solutions and ideas had nothing to do with me, it was their own unresolved stuff.
But then one day I attended this short workshop on dream symbolism at a local holistic health fair. I was immediately drawn to the woman who led it. I’m going to call her Nan (not her real name). Nan radiated a certain presence. After the workshop I looked up her website and found out she gives therapy sessions in her home in my neighborhood.
I started seeing her once a week and this went on for several months.
I loved it. I loved her. I started to open up. I was coming out of my shell a little. I felt lighter and happier than I had ever felt up to this point.
Interestingly enough she seemed to have no desire to fix me or label me or even try to help me solve my problems. In fact, sometimes I would tell her about the latest health problem I suspected I had and wanted to obsess over it. She would refuse to even discuss it saying “No, we aren’t talking about that”. I would be confused and disappointed at first. Isn’t she supposed to help me figure this out? Doesn’t she see I could be sick, maybe even die? Doesn’t she see something is seriously wrong with me?
Other times I felt relieved and elated with her permission in letting go of guilt and doing what made me happy. But then I would start to blame the other person for guilting me. Again she would say “Nope, not doing that”.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was forced to let go during those sessions. Nan refused to indulge my fearful obsessive mind and my tendency to swing from blaming myself to blaming someone else.
Sometimes on the way to our session I would feel there was no point to going. I had nothing to talk about and nothing was going on. Those times we would just sit silently together, no pressure or expectation for anything to talk about. Out of nowhere I would start talking about something seemingly random that happened to me recently. And then I realized that yes, something did happen and it bothered me. Nan would listen. She sometimes shared a story. Sometimes just reflect what she noticed in my sharing.
After a few months, she moved away and I instinctively knew it was time for me to move on even though I struggled with losing her. (After this I went on to the work I'm doing now which has given me a depth of knowing that was unimaginable and unattainable for me at that time of seeing Nan)
So why was Nan’s approach to therapy so helpful to me while all the others weren’t? Some therapists I went to had successful careers, books published, and advanced degrees in psychology. Nan didn’t have these things, she was a retired social worker.
It took me years to understand why this woman had such an impact on me.
The two things that stand out to me:
She Respected Me
She Was Present
It seems so simple. But it is profound. Why? Because in order to give these things to me she had to have done it for herself first. That takes focused inner work and wisdom. Can that come just from learning psychology? Can respect and presence come by studying ourselves or another solely through mental concepts and elaborate mental explanations and strategies? No, not in my experience is this possible.
I see it as a deep, very honest, and mystical personal exploration inward. It’s facing the unknown, over and over. And over and over. Until it begins to be more of a way of life. In the unknown we inevitably come to layers of fears and pain from the past. Transforming what we come across frees us and we no longer need to project that onto others.
At that time of seeing Nan, I had not yet learned to respect myself. I had not yet learned to be present with myself. She modeled this for me though. I was not a broken human being that she had to fix and put back together, even though sometimes I wanted her to. She taught me without teaching me. She did what was easy and natural for her. Because of this, I was not a burden to her. I was paying her for a service she provided, yet she refused to take on my worries and fears.
Was she perfect? No. Could she help me understand what was driving my obsessiveness and my guilt and blame? Could she help me see the truth behind my dependence on medications? No. That wasn’t her purpose for me though. That came later when I started working with Mada Dalian. That’s when I started to uncover in myself the respect and presence that I continue to deepen and grow today.
I don’t blame those other therapists for not being able to help me. How could they? They were suffering deeply themselves. In some ways they were also a reflection of myself.
I know now that LOVE is not what we think it is.
I write this in gratitude to all who have guided me towards the next step, regardless of their level of awareness. Most of all to my teacher, Mada.
Leela Haris - Expanding Consciousness