A Rejection of the ‘Reactionary Self’

Uncertain and quiet, I still just don’t know.

Lately I feel like I have no authority to be espousing my opinion on the internet, to post blogs, or even to write privately because I feel contaminated.

A deep-seated feeling of perpetuating something that’s not genuine. Of creating something that’s not bore of myself but merely a reaction of external and incongruous things. Something that in the end is just word garbage.

(And as I pointed out in my first blog post here, this was one of my prominent reservations that held me back when I started blogging.)

We all know that pure and unadulterated “reactions” are not always virtuous or the right idea/thought/feeling to hold onto or to emulate.

Perhaps this explains my relative lack of blogging and writing, perhaps not. But it does explain why I have started and stopped MANY different essays, none of which are posted here, and helps to explain why I never felt comfortable doing so.

A lot of my thoughts lately have resembled ‘rants’ of some kind and have been rather depressing and deflating to re-read (even to myself).

In a large sense, they are pure reactions to the pain and grief and anxiety and frustration of the people and situations that surround me and share this life. I’m mixed up in them and these myriad worlds of feeling right now, and therefore do not feel a ‘divinity’ or true connection to my writing space as of late.

The other ‘Me’ that catches words – not creates them.

When I’m writing for myself, I’m elated – because this means I have no agenda but to push my own buttons. But when the world is constantly pushing my buttons for me, I am stuck reacting to them and not my own. I have no thought energy or emotion left for the good stuff: The personal and inner journey.

This one takes effort, too. Much more effort than off-the-cuff reactionary thought.

And after crying and fretting at the news all day, sometimes I don’t want to delve down to the inner recesses of my being. I don’t relish opening up a crisp notebook with empty, white pages staring back at me.

Instead I just want distraction.

I think many of us are feeling this right now. Like a suffocation under chaotic clouds. Disbelief and bewilderment of the swirling, vaudevillian world we are suddenly witness to, manifesting before our eyes and before our children’s eyes.

But my inner voice keeps telling me that my reaction to all this is my choice – and that it is so, so, so important. I’m not sure how, but it is.

My heart swells and whispers to stop reacting and start Being. To stop getting caught in the swirl around me, and to create my own swirl. My own message. My own energy.

To connect to the message and energy that reside at the heart.

This or that tragedy. This or that anarchy. This or that doomsday proclamation of pressure and sadness. This is not you. It is not me. It is not Us.

This isn’t what we truly want. It’s energy gone wild. And I’m reminding myself – and maybe you – not to fall into it.

Be the rock in the swirl. The loving rock that observes and sees all things, accepts them as they are, and lifts them up to know the love that you feel so deeply. The love that exists so infinitely and without condition or borders or feelings or thought.

We are all so cataclysmically loved that we feel torn apart sometimes. But maybe that is ok.

The seams are coming undone. Power for power’s sake is getting ripped with cracks and slivers of truth, and is buckling under the weight.

We crave honesty. We crave connection and spirit. No more fakery. No more facades.

Feel the seams rip and love them all the same. Whether apart in pieces or together as a whole, we need to cover it all in love and fly.

Q+A: A Conversation with the Scales

Where am I?  I whisper into the night. Why am I here, in this place, at this time?

I wring my hands and crack my neck and stay worried all the same. Nothing feels grounded, nothing feels right about this place, this ephemera – this ME.

The constant swirl of dogma. The constant berating threads from social media and how EVERY fucking person needs to express to the world their feelings, and have them legitimized in some fashion.

And, of course, every single fucking person is RIGHT about what they feel because, well, it’s what THEY feel. WE don’t feel it, so how in the world are we supposed to tell them how NOT to feel it. Insensitive, right?

“Ugh.” Inner critic chimes in and scoffs at this thought. “These people are just expressing themselves. The problem is that every expression gets amplified and routed around like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. People will have opinions – this is fucking normal! – what is NOT normal is how we are bombarded with every single one at one time and then expected to nod our heads and tell everyone ‘I respect your viewpoint.’ Because we don’t, really. Not our inner selves. Not our heart.”

{ Inner critic has a point. }  Yes. I see it. So what about these other people’s opinions that we don’t respect? What’s going on there?

“If their opinions differ from yours, it will be a challenge – difficult even – to hear their side of things. You will have to exercise good listening skills and empathy –things that do not exist in great numbers! And are not supported or encouraged by social media and sound bite data streams. People these days listen to speak and react – not listen to learn. Listen to observe.

“But back to topic: you are certainly not going to agree with everyone – it will NEVER be Kumbaya and hugs all the time because there are billions of people with all shades and shadows of disagreement to what you think and what you believe. You will never find solace really.

“But somehow we convince ourselves that it is possible. That maybe – just maybe! – if we create a nice safe box to live in, where everyone looks and acts the same way, then we can finally be at peace. We can finally feel safe in our own skin and our own comfortable canon. But that’s just because people these days don’t know how to have disagreements with others and not feel existentially threatened. A shame really.”

Whoa, Inner critic. On a roll there!

“Yeah, well – needed to get that off my chest. Whew! Felt good. You’re not going to broadcast this on social media now, are you?”

What! And let this gem sit in a Word doc forever?

{ I am causing my Inner critic to deal with hypocrisy, and it makes me snicker so what the hell. }

*

{ But….. I linger on the conversation a bit. I can’t leave it alone. Picking the scab open further, I keep at it. }

So what was that part about not respecting people and that coming from the heart – what in the world does that mean? Because what I have been led to believe by my own heart-searching is that all people are of unfathomable worth and equal in the eyes of God. Why in the world would my heart not respect some of these people, brothers and sisters that share this planet?

“Oh I never said the heart does not respect the PEOPLE, I just said viewpoint.” Inner critic jumps back in with zealous rigor. “People don’t equal their viewpoint. Viewpoints change.

“But yet, to find a viewpoint that the heart truly and deeply disagrees with is a difficult one. I imagine the figure of Lady Justice inside of the heart, mother of the Fates, blindfolded and holding the scales and sword. That is her true home. If you weigh something against your heart and the scales don’t measure right, that is the sign that the heart will find it difficult to respect, because it will weigh against the heart of humanity. The wrongness will ring, and make it difficult to ignore.”

But….what? How do I know if this is the case? I am troubled by this train of thought, it sounds a little religious-right to me. Like, “I feel this is morally wrong because my heart/religion/God told me so, and so I cannot respect you.” A little bullshitty and hive-mind and not intellectually sound.

Inner critic pipes back, “Ah – but that is the hard part to discern. Was it truly the heart we are weighing against – or the words of man interpreted though another mouthpiece and mistaken as heart?

“If it is truly the heart, then you will know it as truth. If they are words you have heard or been reflected to from another source, then it’s not truly the heart. It might be something that aligns with your heart-logic, but it might also be something that aligns with your “safe little box” guidelines, and so they FEEL right. Heart-logic informed solely from mind-logic, which is easily influenced by “safe little box” logic. An erroneous place to start from. Remember that these visceral feelings are fleeting, and should not define a person.

“Also, you inferred that you cannot respect a person if their opinions offend your heart-logic; that is incorrect. They are still fallible human beings that are capable and deserving of love. Sometimes they know not of what they are doing. They just want to be safe in their boxes. And just because you don’t really respect their opinions doesn’t mean you can’t love them and hope they will find unconditional love for all beings.”

Yeah… sorry Inner critic, but I’m having trouble getting on board with radiating love to all people if they are spouting horrible hate-rhetoric, even if they “know not of what they do.” That sounds like it would feel weird and horrible.

“But it is not a silent love – it is a noisy love, a love in disagreement. Because you care. And it will feel weird and horrible maybe. But it will also weigh right against your heart and against humanity. “

OK, shit.

That is true. It feels true.

Thanks Inner critic for this dialogue. Didn’t know you were into love and stuff on top of questioning everything I do.

“Yes, I am 100% dialed in. And remember: if things are done in the name of good, but are detrimental or demeaning to others, then they are not wholly good. 100% goodness is a rarity. Just be comfortable with loving on your fellow people and doing it more noisily. Because you care. That is a wonderful goodness. Just be sure to self-examine once in a while to ensure you are not getting swallowed up in “safe little box” logic.”

Ok – but I’m an introvert sooooo…… can I love noisily on a blog?

“Oh absolutely.”

Wait – are you really my Inner critic, or are you a brand of heart logic that I wasn’t recognizing?

“You’ll have to weigh me against those scales and see where I fall.”
😉

 

Um seriously? A winky-face?

“I’m funny sometimes. Just you wait.”

Zenith

Seeing stones and sills go by
I see these things and start to cry

So many notes are gone and missed
I reach to feel them, shores to kiss

I greet You and I rise up tall
I want to search the Garden’s sprawl

To wander freely, touch what’s true
To love as greatly as You do.

“You Exist Because You are Loved”

“You exist because you are loved.”

These words popped into my head after work one day, out of the blue.

I remember right where it happened: I was starting the first leg of my pedestrian commute, walking block one out of eight. Headphones on, music loudly playing. And right as I was passing a giant, red-neon, laughing Buddha at the Asian fusion restaurant across the street – BAM!

“You exist because you are loved.”

So for me, this phrase of insight that came to me so unannounced and sudden is intricately bound with the image of a red, laughing, neon Buddha.

And now it is for you as well.

The meaning of these words might seem a bit backwards at first take. A little voice in our head reasons with us: “We can be born to a family and not loved,” or, even more sadly, “I’m/she/he/them are not particularly wanted or loved, but I/he/she/they exist!”

If I hold these statements in my heart, though, I don’t think they can be true. My heart offers a different interpretation.

“You exist because you are loved.”

IF you are here or have been here, and you are reading this, or if you are existing elsewhere and not reading this – my heart posits that you were meant to be there in that moment. Therefore, you are loved infinitely more than we can fathom.

This is a world of creation, and what is creation but a form of love?

That voice of reason, the shoulder man, is there again interrupting. Reminding me that we exist because of reproduction – a biological imperative. Nothing more and nothing less.

But I think there’s more to it than that, and the girl on the other shoulder implores me to hesitate in coming to conclusions. She is wary, skeptical – but tells me to listen to my heart.

So I chase the seemingly reasonable, logical, and analytical voice away. This voice of mine is rooted firmly into the realm of what can be seen and concretely measured. Palpably observed. And these words that I am contemplating defy a logic that could ever be measured, graphed, or perhaps even fathomed –  let alone scientifically analyzed and promptly debunked.

“You exist because you are loved.”

There is so much in this world that we don’t know, yet so much here that we DO know, if we would just open up. Recognize it. Imagine the unimaginable. See a world without divisions and separations.

Life – ALL of life – is here because it IS love; therefore, it is loved. It is all connected, and we are an integral part of it.

The shoulder voices ask me many things at once: Will we ever rise up and realize these truths? Will we let our hearts guide us as much as our mind? Can we pause our logic for a moment to imagine the unseen?

I hope these words catch you in your heart as they did mine. A little stumble, a double-take at the laughing Buddha. Opening your eyes a little wider, and an offering of peace of mind – and peace of heart.

May it be a little freer, and more loved, than it was before.

“You exist because you are loved.” And you love because you exist.

In Search of “Authenticity”

Self-expression. Is there any arena, stage or circumstance where self-expression is not wanted? Where it’s a bad thing?

I think the generations that have preceded us might have given a different answer than we would today. And if there are situations where self-expression is unwanted, we are slowly ushering them out – asking ourselves why, poking the great machine of cultural correctness.

But regardless the answer of that question, our society and culture of this day is striving – no, craving – an age of expression. Immaculate, unadulterated self-expression.

No limits, no boxes. Just pure US.

Pure authenticity.

Of course, this has led us to an age of superficial “authenticity” where we believe we are being our true selves, moving with pure self-expression – but in reality we are only reacting to an innately buried self-centeredness and idealized earnestness in the current “creative consultant” culture. One that makes us acutely aware that if our authentic ‘Self’ is not brand-right, palatable, and marketable, then maybe our authenticity needs some tweaks and nudges from the realms of self-promotion.

But true authenticity moves from a place beyond the idea of social or monetary profit, and beyond the idea that ‘Authentic You’ will be accepted and revered by the masses.

I am led to think that true authenticity is throwing everything – EVERY thing – out the window and just sitting down in front of a mirror. True authenticity is a search of knowing oneself.

Isn’t that what we all want? To make sense of ourselves in this crazy web called life? To find out what is going on in that boney skull of ours? What is driving us, moving us, putting the fire in our belly? To answer the penultimate question of our lives: Who am I?

And I’m not sure we can ever know ourselves authentically – our true mind, soul, heart, spirit, ‘Self’, thoughts, life – without introspection and self-expression.

That’s what I do here. I write so that I might know myself. I write so that I may self-express these strange thoughts, elucidate them, percolate them, and let them fly. For inevitably, they stoke the fire for ever more ideas, thoughts, and creative tangents from the ether.

All so that I might answer the question.

The other day I watched some of the new ‘visual album’ from Beyonce, entitled “Lemonade.” I was awestruck, and it surprised me. I do not count myself a fan of Ms. Bey. She is a cultural icon and entertainment powerhouse to be sure, but I’ve never really given her or her music much thought until that moment.

It struck me while watching that I was witnessing a great art of self-expression. The raw feeling, meticulously pried apart emotions. This is her delving into the darkness – diving into the journey of knowing oneself – however deep or shallow, we might never know… But this is what that journey looks like, and what that journey can sound like.

And I thought to myself: this might be the only way we can make sense of that journey and the thoughts, feelings, pain, happiness, and sorrows that inhabit us – the deepest parts of us. That the only way for us to process these disparate things and make them whole in us again is through the arrow of self-expression.

[[I do entertain the possibility that the entirety of “Lemonade,” complete with Jay-Z and poet laureate collaboration, could very well be a carefully constructed corporate ruse to make big bucks with an audience that is foaming at the mouth for authenticity. I recognize that – and would laugh pretty hard at the irony if that is the truth! ]]

But in the name of self-expression, aside from all the corporate greed and cultural trends that might drive our lives, I wish to encourage everyone to go out there and get to know the true You. Reach for it. Ask tough questions. Sit with your own comforting and disquieting gaze. Listen to the small voice – the meek one – that is drowned out by expectation and cultural constructs. The small song of the heart strings.

Some musicians make music for the masses and the money. Some purely for the sake of music. And some make it to reach for something beyond themselves… But most artists, first and foremost, make music – or any art – for themselves. To know themselves, to work through their shit in a glorious cascade of self-expression, to spring forward in perpetual renewal.

And perhaps that is why we flock to those artists who can do this so honestly. We see their raw authenticity, even if we cannot outright recognize it. We crave it. We devour it. We appropriate it. We want it for ourselves so badly. A way to know, a way to answer the question of all questions: Who am I?

I cannot condemn or dismiss any art or artist who is putting forth the effort and diving deep into self-expression. For they are being courageous. They are choosing the inner path. They are exploring that last unknown territory that we all yearn to face, but cannot articulate – yet alone consciously choose.

Introspection, reflection, self-expression. All leading down to the final destination: A never-ending, undefined, loving expanse –  Authentic YOU.

 

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Embrace of “Detachment”

I’ve been ruminating lately on the concept of ‘detachment.’

In the past, I’ve taken issue with this esoteric mandate that one needs to detach oneself from oneself and all worldly things and loved ones, as this is the only way to be enlightened. Or to see God. Or to ‘ascend’ or ‘transcend’ reality. Or the myriad of other metaphysical endgames out there.

I have always had a recurring feeling that this definition is not wholly correct. I felt that it was erroneous to think that ‘detaching’ yourself from others and the world was the way to wholeness.

God, by nature, cannot be detached – far from it! He/She/It is within everything, everyone – no exceptions. So isn’t this idea of detachment pushing a ‘separation’ agenda? This didn’t sit well with me, as I’ve always felt all separation is an illusion.

But looking back, I see that I was focusing more on the meaning of ‘detachment’ in the literal sense – emotionally and spatially – than in a figurative sense. Held back by the confines of language once again.

Now I have come to see that achieving the end goal of ‘detachment’ has nothing to do with literal separations. Instead, it has to do with shedding our conscious ego; giving up expectations, attachments and aversions. That part of ourselves that likes to put things in boxes.

Detaching from the ‘Self’ of the conscious brain so we may integrate ourselves more fully in our vast, all-encompassing true nature. The higher, universal ‘Self.’

You can still feel emotions and love – indeed, strongly! – while also recognizing and not taking personally these ephemeral situations, thoughts, feelings and people that pass us by on a daily basis. Difficult to accomplish, yes, but not impossible. Just being in the flow of the moment.

In essence, I feel that ‘detaching’ is not some kind of separation – it is a recognition. An embrace.

A deep, wide understanding that we exist beyond ourselves – in as such, our conscious ‘Self’ can become quite meddlesome. Which is why we are advised to think beyond just our own little paradigm of life. To ‘detach’ from the brainy prison of our own vantage point and look further.

*

My honorary grandfather Mel wrote this lovely post which discusses the terms ‘attachment’ and ‘aversion.’ Letting go of your attachments of expectations or situations, but also letting go of your aversions to certain situations and feelings.

Seeing these terms spelled out was an eye-opener for me. When thought of this way, giving up ‘attachment’ is in no way suggesting that you should not care for others or feel compassion. Quite the opposite, really. It is actually encouraging compassion by putting aside your own biases on outcome and expression.

You cannot see the world or others clearly until you have worked to put aside and recognize your own cultural, personal, and spiritual agendas. Once you can do that – then you are wide open to receive things as they are, without judgment and total love.

Unconditional love.

Before reading that post, I had never thought about the equal importance of giving up aversions. They are the same thing as attachments, just in the opposite swing. By giving up expectations that revolve around the aversion of certain outcomes, expectations, and feelings, you remove roadblocks of guilt and personal preference. You pave the way for a clearer vision of the world and open the door for love in places that you may not have loved before.

By no means have I mastered any bit of this, but in my past posts where I expound on boxes of cultural constructs, pre-determined values and the illusion of separation, it is plainer to me than ever that this is what I am trying to do.

To see beyond the attachments and aversions of the personal ‘Self.’

To remove the locks and curtains of cultural expectation and personal preference, so that I may open the window wide to the non-judgmental and unclouded observation of the universal ‘Self.’

The embrace of unconditional love to see things as they really are.

And in doing so, I think we will feel far from “detached” – we will feel as one.

What is “Enlightenment?”

What does it mean to be enlightened? My husband and I were arguing about it the other day.

Okay – after writing that down and looking at that statement again, I laughed to myself out loud. What an absolute JOY to be arguing about enlightenment! Of all the trivial things we could be discussing, we have a heated argument about the credentials of transcendence.

Back to the subject at hand: What is enlightenment? What does it mean to have this label or state of being?

Is it the long, painstaking acquisition of some mysterious body of knowledge?

Is it the emptying of yourself to transcend this ordinary life?

Is it necessary to spend years “in the wilderness” or temples in order to achieve it?

Is it necessary to swear off your family, friends, life possessions and trivial pursuits in order to claim it?

I don’t feel that detachment from reality or the act of “acquisition” is the real answer.

As my honorary grandfather Mel (over at Melting-Pot Dharma) might perhaps say, it is recognizing the Buddha within. It is seeing the connection, rather than the detachment, of the world around you.

Some of us need the temples and wilderness to know this, and others do not. But in recognizing the divine that is already there, and working to keep it top of mind, THAT is enlightenment in my opinion.

I was discussing this with my husband, who (I think) holds in the back of his mind that “enlightened” ones of high regard will have physically worked and put time into developing this title. But do they? Where do we get this assumption? And why do we demand these qualifications to this kind of title? Is it because we have such high expectations of this level of “achievement?”

I think my husband might think this, in part, because he has spent years studying Shaolin Kung Fu. He has put in his time. Almost 13 years of time.

To him, the discipline and practice is what makes you the master, the teacher – and in a lot of ways, we see other “enlightened” ones as teachers, or expect them to be. Masters of some kind. In Kung Fu, if you put in the time, effort, and dedication you are rewarded with opportunity to teach others and to be an example to others. This comes with – and is expected of – the titles and degrees.

So it goes with our modern society. We like to see teachers, self-proclaimed “experts” and masters as having the necessary credentials in order to lay claim to the designation (i.e. licenses, graduate school, years in the wilderness, years in the temples, etc.).

But when applied to spirituality, and awakened-ness, I think this is slightly a flawed assumption.

Credentials are conditional, and the state of so-called enlightenment is not conditional. It is like an unconditional love. It exists without any presumption or prerequisite.

It exists because life exists.

Recognizing it does not take work and time in the human sense; it only takes desire and openness to see beyond the material and spiritual borders we ourselves have drawn. Whether that takes years or minutes should not affect your “enlightened-ness.”

You do not need credentials to know divinity; to know God.

But I do agree with my husband that in order to teach this “knowledge” you need to find your proper credentials, the ones that speak to you. You need time to sift this out. Find your footing. Relax into the role if that is what you are after. Build trust with the world on your viewpoint.

But to be an “enlightened” person doesn’t mean you are going to teach, and it certainly doesn’t mean you claim to be an expert or a master. You just are, and are eternally becoming.

To me, to be awakened is to realize the interconnected-ness of all. That separation is an illusion. That there is a divinity within us that we don’t have to strive for or work to achieve – only to yield. Because it’s already there in its imperfect perfectness.

After discussing this with my husband, and tearing up a bit (as I usually do when talking about interconnected-ness), we both ended the discussion with a thoughtful “Hmm.” The best way to end a discussion…a little open-ended.

Do you really need to empty yourself to transcend this fleshy existence? Enter into the void that is above and beyond humanity?

I don’t believe there is some magical transcendence of reality, or the emptying of the Self. I don’t think there is some divine void above humanity.

It is within humanity.

Love it with all your heart.

*

In the end, isn’t Enlightenment just another label, another set of constructs that we set upon a preconceived notion of our most ideal selves?

What is your ideal state of being? Mine is love;  infinite love, and I try to always keep it at the forefront.

Husband, thank you for discussing these themes with me. I love you to the cosmos and back ❤