One of the most life-changing pieces of advice I ever received came from one of my elders as we relaxed on an ancient stone wall, watching a thin stream of pilgrims ascend the majestic pyramid in front of us. I had just absentmindedly given voice to a question that had been troubling me for months. My teacher cracked a wide smile, elbowed me gently, and said, "You might want to read the ingredients on that question -- they might be poisonous!"
Over the years, my teacher's simple remark became one of the most powerful tools in my medicine bag, helping me to recognize the toxic brew of judgments, assumptions, and expectations woven through the most seemingly important and persistent questions in my life. For example, take a question like, "why can't I just make up my mind and change this situation." The question assumes that I can't make up my mind, that the problem in my life is a failure to make up my mind, that something is wrong with me and figuring out what is broken will allow me to fix it. The question assumes that the situation must be changed, and I am the one with the power and right to change it. We all have questions like this, and can waste extraordinary amounts of time repeating them over and over, each time making ourselves feel more helpless and disempowered.
How do we read the ingredients in our questions? If you have a few moments I want to encourage you to write down the most persistent questions in your life, leaving a healthy blank space beneath each question. Take a few minutes the feel how the question impacts your body, noting any sensations and feelings that arise. Does the question bring you alive and give you a sense of possibility, clarity, passion, and strength? Does it shut down possibilities, confuse you, numb you, or weaken you? Your body doesn't lie! It will always tell you exactly what your questions are doing to you. Next, take a couple of minutes to write down all of the judgments, assumptions, and expectations hidden in each question. You may be quite surprised to discover that's your whole history and your imagined destiny are completely circumscribed by the questions you are asking!
Now for the really fun part: See if you can find questions that feel better to you, questions filled with possibility, questions that uplift you. Again, your body will give you immediate feedback on every question! Don't try to get the questions perfect or to find questions with no assumptions or expectations; the quest for perfection is a deadly game. Instead, ask questions that feel good when you ask them and that make assumptions about you and your strengths, resources, and potential, that truly empower you. Finally, be really daring: once you have asked your questions, don't try to answer them in your head. Listen deeper inside you for the answer. You might even throw out the first few answers if they sound all too familiar, waiting for something richer and truer. Or, you might go with the first answer that comes, and dare to take action on your first impulse. Play with the questions! And no matter how compelling, how important, don't waste another moment of your life on a poisonous question.
Asking great questions and listening deeply for the truest answers is an art form, and takes long practice. Our assumptions, judgments, and expectations are often invisible to us, and we need the people around us to be clear, loving mirrors to help us recognize them. If you want to ask powerful and uplifting questions that make a profound difference in your own life, I hope you will reach out to me! I have dedicated decades of my life to this practice, and it has made all the difference - one clear, heartfelt question can open the doors to spiritual freedom, in ways we never thought possible.
Growing isn't meant to be hard, but we often make it that way. The tools and practices that grow us don't have to be complex, but we often turn them against ourselves. The things that divide us the most are often the things that could unite us. It can be incredibly hard at times to take the next breath, to speak our truth, to ask for what we need, to trust ourselves and each other. Life is awkward and beautiful, painful and wondrous and mysterious all at once.
I have spent the last twenty-five years with teachers, elders, and mystics from around the world, doing the hard work of applying their wisdom and practices in my own life and sharing these experiences with people from every imaginable walk of life ... and on this swiftly tilting planet, I have become absolutely clear about only a few things ...
One, this is the time ... every single one of us came here for. Two, you are exactly the person you need to be in order to do what you were meant to do from the very beginning. Three, the tools we need the most are the simplest, most obvious things of all: LOVE. FAITH. COURAGE. HOPE. Things it only takes a moment to access, and a lifetime to practice:
This year, Spirit Journeys is giving you the chance to reclaim the simplest and most powerful tools in the arsenal of the heart, and to laugh and play and grieve and celebrate our capacity to be brave and loving in the face of suffering, to move from grasping to joy, from stress to ease, from fear to freedom, from struggle to surrender, and from loss to love. Join us. It is time.
Deep peace to you,
2012 has come and gone. The Age of Aquarius has become a footnote, Nostradamus has been all but forgotten, and Y2K has become a punchline. While we can hardly go a week without hearing about a new asteroid barreling towards the Earth or a preacher whipping up fear with biblical predictions of armageddon, thousands of other asteroids and predictions have vanished behind us into the pages of history, and we are still here.
It would easy to become numb from the unending river of crisis and tragedy we are exposed to every day, even as new ages, promised saviors, and doomsdays all crumble into history. It would be easy to medicate and distract ourselves with the deluge of unending entertainment streaming towards us, or perhaps to pin our hope on the next magical alignment of the planets and stars ...
Or, we can accept the invitation that every prophecy from the beginning of time has offered us ... the call to become prophets ourselves.
Prophecy is not a prediction for the future written in stone or parchment; it is a spiritual revelation inviting us to bring ourselves into harmony with the deepest & most powerful forces of evolution in our world, & in our own hearts, and to take responsibility for living those truths in the world. Prophecy is the end of history, & the beginning of Presence.
We live in a time of tremendous transformation, and it is natural for our minds to seek to understand, predict, and create coping strategies to deal with these changes. This is not the function of prophecy, however. Prophecy does not tell us what will happen; true prophecy in any spiritual tradition invites us to become the change in the world. We can see this one in the Old Testament in a beautiful story of the Prophet Jonah. When God came to Jonah and asked him to deliver a prophecy to the city of Nineveh, a prophecy of complete destruction, the ruler of that city issued a proclamation to all of his people commanding them to stop everything they were doing, to cover themselves with sack cloth and ashes, to press themselves close to the earth, and to repent, to turn them from the ways they were living their lives, and to rise up in a new way of being. The story tells us that God's spared the city because they were willing to become the change the prophecy spoke of.
In the ancient pyramid City of Teotihuacan, their prophecies told them that every government institution Temple and home needs to be renewed, just as the days and seasons and years renewed themselves. As a result the entire culture transformed itself every 52 years when the sun and the inner planets of the solar system stood in the same place at the sky. Every household utensil, every ritual item, every ceremony in the law was composted and renewed every 52 years, as they buried every major Temple beneath the construction of a new temple, serving an even greater vision. Then after 486 years, the amount of time it takes all of the planets and the sun to return to their same places in the sky, the great city of Teotihuacan was itself burned to the ground as his people shifted to an entirely new way of living. They did not look to the skies for transformation; they looked to them for an invitation to become the living embodiment of the prophecy.
I had a wonderful reminder of this ancient truth to when I was visiting this sacred temple of Aramu Muru in Peru, where an entire cliff face has been carved flat with two great columns carved into the stone on either side and the great stone doorway carved in the middle. There are many stories of the ancient prophet who passed through the cliff face into another dimension carrying the great Sun disc from the Incan empire, and the people who have had profound visions of other realms when they meditated in the doorway. The prophecies say that in these times he will return to our world with the Sun disc bringing it forth from the rock.
I knelt there with my face pressed of the stone sinking deep into the silent spaciousness of my own true being, when a single thought passed through my mind. It would be so nice if you would open, I thought. And then a deep clear voice whispered back to me. It would be wonderful if you would open. I shook with laughter and walked away, having received the greatest invitation from this holy place.
Where is the invitation I am speaking of? Many people look to the skies and see extraordinary movements of the stars and planets as that invitation. Many people interpret conjunctions of the Pleiades and the Sun, at a configuration of the planets and equal distances around the Sun, the conjunction of the Sun with the galactic center, and many other compelling synchronicities as important signs calling us to transform. Others see the transformations our planet is moving through environmentally as another kind of invitation to change how we live. Still others look to the prophecies and calendrical cycles of ancient wisdom traditions for that invitation.
In my experience, these are fascinating metaphors and myths that stir the depths of our imaginations, but they are only reflections of the true invitation: the one that so many of us are hearing in own hearts, and feeling in every area of our lives. It is this inner invitation that leads us to seek in the sky for confirmation from the stars, the changing ecosystem, and the ancient wisdom keepers. What we discover when we truly look into these beautiful metaphors and myths, is that they all point us back to the place the invitation began: to our own hearts and to the change that has already begun deep within.
One of the most beautiful prophecies for our time comes from the ancient Andean wisdom keepers. Their prophecies speak of a coming time in Human history called the Taripay Pacha, the age of meeting ourselves again, when the entire human race will go through an initiation that was once reserved for only the most profoundly evolved Mystics and shamans. They call this the fourth initiation of human evolution, the opening of the spiritual heart, a time when we will abandon the constant quest for power over our worlds, because we deeply experience ourselves as our world. Their prophecies say that in this time 12 people will come together in the sacred temples of the Andes to be the first human beings to experience the fifth level of initiation, the opening of the spiritual eye. These people will recognize each other with a clear vision of the spiritual I and will share the capacity to heal all illness and suffering. Among these 12 healers, two people, one man and one woman will begin to glow with a light from within as they become the first to human beings to experience the seventh of initiation, the lighting of the spiritual sun.
These prophecies are especially powerful for me because of their profound resonance with the teachings of the ancient Toltec masters in Teotihuacan. Instead of initiations, the Toltec tradition speaks of "dreams," or levels of consciousness and evolution. The Toltec Seers derived these prophecies from observing the complementary processes of their own personal evolution, the collective evolution of humanity, and the shifts in the emanations of our sun. With each shift of consciousness in an individual, a new possibility is reinforced for the entire species; and as the species embraces that possibility, The quality of light emanating from the sun shifts, prompting another evolutionary leap in matter.
The Toltec seers can see that, in the First Dream, we are living our lives in the way that we were programmed, following the dictates of all the beliefs we were given as children. In the Second Dream, we become aware of how these old beliefs are limiting and poisoning our happiness, but we have no power to change our programming. In the Third Dream, we begin to question these beliefs and reprogram ourselves with beliefs that more accurately reflects the beauty and blessing of this world. We are working to take our power back from the old program and to acquire power to create our new dream.
In the Fourth Dream, corresponding to the fourth initiation of the Inca, we have won the war against our old beliefs, and we are living in heaven on earth, immune to the fear and judgment of the human dream around us. In the old Toltec mythologies, this was symbolized by images of human sacrifice. As with many powerful symbols this one was later distorted by those seeking to secure their own power and control. Originally however, the ancient initiates understood that the image of polluting our hearts from our chests really symbolizes the act of taking our hearts back from the old identity, the self image, which has ruled our lives so far. Once our hearts are free from the tyrannical self image that battered and abused them for so many years, we can offer our hearts to the Sun, to the source of life itself for healing and renewal. This is the same spiritual truth offered in the ancient Incan prophecies, in the story of Aramu Muru: the Sun disc is our own heart, and the stone is the heavy burden of history, hope and belief that makes up a human identity.
In the Fifth Dream, corresponding to the fifth initiation of the Inca, we begin to experience ourselves as the world around us; our individual soul merges with the soul of the world. We begin to experience the earth as one living being, and we began to live our lives with a deep and satisfying feeling of connection. We see things as they truly are, with open eyes and open hearts when we can see the world as it is truly, restored and whole, our very presence lifts those around us into states of healing and wholeness.
I cannot speak deeply from my own experience of the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Dreams, because I have experienced them only in fleeting glimpses through the grace of my elders. I can only speak from the teachings they have shared with me, and my own momentary glimpses. In the Sixth Dream, corresponding to sixth initiation of the Inca, I have been told that our souls expand even further to merge with the soul of the Sun. We begin to shine from within, and to illuminate everything around us. In the Seventh and Eighth Dreams, levels of consciousness and evolution beyond even the reach of the Incan prophecies, we merge with the soul of light itself, and then with the very force of life that creates, sustains, and renews everything.
In these, the deepest teachings and prophecies of the Incan and Toltec traditions, the only "earth changes" are changes in what is possible for us as individuals and as a species. The earth and all of its inhabitants have been in a continuous process of change from the beginning; "stability," "balance," and "equilibrium" have always been an illusion of consciousness produced by a dreaming mind trying to achieve a sense of permanence and separateness, in a world where these do not exist.
That being said, our desperate attempts to achieve permanence and separateness are ironically triggering an extraordinary acceleration of our consciousness, and of the planet's evolutionary process. We cannot continue to exist as a species of dreaming minds, or as an individual mind, in our current form. Each of us will evolve, or we will fail to adapt -- and if we fail to adapt, we will be recycled. Awareness will continue -- nothing is lost in recycling, of course -- but the particular masterpiece of art that is your dreaming mind will cease to exist.
It is this great act of evolution, individual and collective, that all of our prophecies speak of. They invite us to see what we are doing to ourselves and our world and develop a more adaptive belief system. They invite us to develop the habit of letting go of all our beliefs, so we can respond at the speed of life. We can drop all identification, recover the integrity of an undefended heart, see the world nakedly, and become a moment-to-moment expression of the infinite force of Life itself.
This is not a small thing to ask of ourselves, of course -- it is the greatest adventure of all. It is the true human sacrifice, the harrowing of hell, the alchemist's quest and the artist's greatest masterpiece. And it all begins the moment we recognize that the great mythologies of earth change, evolution, revolution and revelation do not refer to something outside ourselves that threatens us -- they are all invitations to become the change we're looking for, and instruction manuals on what must change.
Are you willing to become the living embodiment of prophecy? Listen ... there is one written inside you waiting to be lived into being. It is your destiny.
Deep peace to you,
“Mankind owns four things that are no good at sea:
Rudder, anchor, oars, and the fear of going down.”
— Antonio Machado
If your life is anything like mine, you find yourself bracing against life on a regular basis, and grasping for answers. The waves seem to come bigger and faster these days, and all the old answers seem to fall short. Fear is clearly useless — and dangerous! — but all of our old skills and tools lie around us, broken and useless. What can we hold on to, in times like these? How do we find a star to steer by? How do we move from bracing to living in grace?
I’ve only found three things that help in these moments. No, not control. Certainly not certainty. And approval? Empty Calories. These things only drag us down.
The only things that truly help in the hard moments of our lives are the most ephemeral, invisible, and absurd things we can imagine: our breath, our willingness not to know, and our vulnerability.
I know, crazy right? But life-giving.
Our breath is the only thing that can set you free in the hardest moments of your life — those moments when we’re paralyzed with fear or collapsed in grief, burning with anger or driven by desire — breath is our best lifeline. Breath brings us back to the present moment, teaches us to let life in, let go, and rest in the unending flow of our own lives. Breath is the body’s original language, and the body’s greatest tool in healing the everyday traumas of our lives.
Our willingness to let go of all our knowing is the only thing that opens a space for a deeper wisdom, an inner compass to rise up inside us. We need to let go of our old questions and our old answers, listen deeper, and discover that we know, deep down, far more than we ever admitted. We need to be content with each moment’s little cup of knowing, and take one step at a time, trusting that each step brings new understanding, and unfolds into the next … the path truly is made only by walking.
Our vulnerability — our willingness to be authentically ourselves with people who’ve truly earned our trust — is the only thing that frees us from a life driven by endless approval seeking, into a more authentic, joyful life. One risk at a time, one relationship at a time, we surrender all our images of perfection, and soften into our “one wild and precious life” — the only life worth living.
Will these things keep our boat from going down? No. But as the diamond sutra says,
“Thus shall you think of this fleeting world: A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.”
Or, as one of my elders likes to say, “hokahey,” which means, “Let’s roll.” This is a good moment to live — and our breath, our willingness not to know, and our vulnerability give us our life back, right here and right now. They make us real and they make our world real to us. They give us the opportunity be the only person we truly can be, to enjoy the only life we have, and to give the gifts that we alone can give.
So, let’s talk. Or breathe together. Of course, I have some wonderful workshops and journeys you might enjoy participating in, with other courageous, loving souls. It’s hard to stop bracing against our lives, and it takes real practice to set the breath free, to let go of knowing, and to take the risk of being what we already are. We’ve practiced everything else for so long that we’ve forgotten what comes easy.
Together, we can remember what it’s like to live in grace.
Happy Trails, my friends!
My teacher cradled my face in her palms with such tenderness, such strength, locking her eyes onto mine, leaving me no possibility of turning away, distracting myself, or disassociating. "Just give yourself love - that's all I'll ever ask of you, all you ever have to do," she said. "But what about . . . ," I started to say . . . but she silenced me with a flash from her eyes. "It's so easy, honey, so effortless, and its all there is to do," she whispered. We sat there in the silence, resonating with the vibration left by her words ...
My internal dialogue fell apart in the face of this silence, and my apprenticeship to my own heart began. For a long time I argued that I didn't know how to give myself love, but I began to realize that this was a lie: I had devoted my life to giving others love, in order to hook their attention and get their love in return. I was an expert in loving! At least, the best kind of love I knew how to give.
With that small realization, I began to give myself love the way I would give it to a lover: little gifts, healthy food, massaging my feet, taking myself on dates with myself, hiking in the mountains, treating myself to the company of loving people. Self-loving began with the little things. I stopped seeking outside myself, and drank from the well of my own heart, the real source of love in my life.
As I grew wiser in the art of loving myself, I discovered that it took much more than pampering myself in order to make myself "feel loved." So often, I did something loving for myself, and then felt disappointed when I didn't immediately feel better. "Something must be wrong," I told myself. "I must not be doing it right." Then I saw it - I hadn't been loving myself at all - I'd been trying to change myself, trying to make myself into a happier person. I also realized how unrealistic it was to expect anyone to trust my love, including me, with the inconsistent track record I'd shown in loving up till then! So I began to be patient with myself, not requiring results from my acts of loving. I began to show consistency in my loving. I took care of my important needs, even when I'd rather be doing something else. I listen to my own feelings. I start giving myself the deeper gift of simply being with myself, listening attentively with as little judgment as possible, giving myself my own time and my loving attention. I began to make space for myself to breathe, to feel and think and do everything that I am already doing. I began to make the same space for the rest of the world to feel and think and do everything exactly as it does, loosening the death-grip of my desperate attempt to control the universe, and giving all the energy I saved back to myself.
I discovered that patient listening, consistency, and letting go are the language of self-love. I discovered each day how little I knew of loving, and how little I need to know. Sometimes the voice of knowledge arose, telling me that "good, spiritual, healthy people" don't feel pain, or that my pain means I've done something wrong, or am broken. I took myself into my own arms, as my great grandmother used to. "Oh, honey," I told myself. "That isn't true. Pain is just pain - it doesn't need a story. You are perfect the way you are, and I love you so much, just this way." I rub my own head, smile, and relax. Sometimes I still find myself waiting for "the right moment" to speak, "the right song" to dance, "the right situation" to act, looking for "the right answer," or waiting for "the right person" to love. Now, I chuckle, breathe, and choose the moment I'm in, the song that is playing right now, and the situation I find myself in. I let go of the question, or chose the first answer that makes me feel good inside. I choose the person I am and the world I'm in right now, to love.
You may be somewhere in the process I describe above, learning how to love yourself -- and wherever you are on the path, it is miraculous that you are even walking it. You don't need to change anything, speed it up or slow it down, "fix" yourself, or learn a skill that you don't already have. In my own experience, it does help to have mirrors, though -- people who love you just as you are, with no expectations. People who give you a clear reflection of where you are, and what you are doing, with no judgment. The difficulty can be that we usually attract others to us who are just as confused as we are. Perhaps for you, as for me, the journey to self love requires the company of someone who feels just a little different from the other people in our life, someone outside of our usual circle . . . a mentor, coach, or ally. Someone who has walked the road of love a few steps ahead of us, who can point out some of the tools and resources along the way.
If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of creating such a powerful alliance, please contact me!
I was talking recently with a client of mine, a brilliant, successful man named Gene. After twenty years of building a successful medical practice, Gene found himself haunted by a sense of spiritual emptiness and a longing to touch people's lives in a deeper way. “I just don't know how to go about this," he said. "I feel like I need someone to tell me which way to turn, a teacher of some kind. I've been buying books, and taking workshops for a couple of years now, but nothing seems to fit." The longing in his voice was almost palpable ...
"What would you ask the right teachers if you found them?" I asked
"I'd have so many questions, I wouldn't know how to start. First, I guess, I'd ask them what the best way is to help my patients heal. I'd ask them what tools I need, what skills I need to learn, what I would need to do, to qualify to do this kind of work. I'd ask them where to begin."
"Why not begin where you are?" I asked. As the conversation unfolded, Gene began to recognize that his longing was rooted in experiences he had already given himself, where he experienced real moments of healing and communion with his patients. We explored how he created those moments, and turned each of the questions he was saving for the ideal teacher, into a question that only he could answer. "What is the best way," became, "what is my way, the way that gives me fulfillment?" "What tools and skills do I need," became, "what tools do I have?" "What qualifications do I need," became, "how am I already qualified?"
Over the weeks that followed, Gene began to give himself many more moments of healing and communion. He began to recognize and feel confident in his qualifications, and began to reach out more to others. He paid careful attention to things in his life that fulfilled him, and let other competing commitments drop away. Gene began to trust himself and gave himself a new permission to explore, to play, and to create.
Have you ever gazed into the innocent, wondering eyes of a small infant and felt something stir deep inside you that had no words? Have you stopped in such a moment and let yourself sink into that stirring? If you like, before you read any further, stop and remember such a moment ...
Moments such as this are our most precious spiritual resource, but all too often we pass them by, letting the momentary flicker of life inside die down again. What would happen if we made them an opportunity for the most simple and profound spiritual practice, an opportunity to rekindle a way of being so tenderly and ferociously alive that our experience of living in the world is utterly transformed?
These moments do not have to be sought; they are actually the most natural, obvious, and effortless experiences we have. In fact, they require us to give up all seeking, especially spiritual seeking; instead, we must soften ourselves and make ourselves vulnerable to the crashing waves of revelation. The habitual ways we relate to our own senses, our thoughts, our feelings, and our own movements in the world allow little room for deep living; we are carried along by the shallow currents on the surface of our lives, and rarely experience the passionate aliveness that swims just a little bit deeper. It is this softening that is the greatest part of our work in the process of spiritual evolution -- and ironically, the simplest.
I have compiled a list of simple softening practices that have transformed my life profoundly. They are not necessarily easy; many of them require going against the most powerful habits of consciousness. At the same time, they are completely effortless. They require no work, no struggle, and no suffering. Or, to say it just a little differently, they REQUIRE an absence of work, struggle, and suffering. And they give us the opportunity to experience life anew.
Here they are:
* DEEP SENSING! Open, soften, and deepen the attention. Come back to your senses: sense, see, act, and only then think. Keep it real: don't medicate or distract. Feel Deeply: you don't need to understand, manage or fix your feelings. Unresist painful experiences; relax and breathe in the experience of suffering. Feel your pleasure all the way!
* DEEP WONDER! Define lightly, believe even less, invest and identify only when law requires. Be curious about your thoughts, especially "mine" and "I". Don't fight thinking with thinking; it's only more thinking! Drop assumptions and opinions. Release the need to know and embrace the unknown. Imagine possibilities!
DEEP LIVING! Practice relaxing and contracting: breathe, breathe, breathe! Soften, loosen, and relax the body. Live by your body's signals, not your schedule. Don't exercise -- express and play! Reclaim the voice for expression & play!
DEEP LOVING! Refrain from hooking attention -- others, and your own. Refrain from gossip and sharing opinions, definitions, investments and identifications. Refrain from seeking "love and validation." Meet true need when it arises. Feel and express your fear, but don't believe it. Share as much pleasure and love as much as the law allows!
If you would like support in these softening practices or guidance in discovering the windows of revelation and happiness in your own life, please contact me!
You have probably heard the old cliches, even in New Age circles: life is a school, and we are here to learn lessons; life will repeat the lessons until we get them; we graduate from one lesson to the next, and one life to the next.
Have you ever wondered what life was before there were schools? Children, of course, still grew up. They discovered their bodies, the people around them, the world stretching out from horizon to horizon and the stars wheeling overhead. They adapted and evolved and enjoyed the miraculous cascade of experiences the world presented. But life was not a school and we were not here to learn lessons ...
Can you remember what this was like? You developed the capacity to maneuver your body with incredible pleasure, to roar and shout and sing and hum, to imagine and to play, to even speak, to negotiate the incredibly fearful and complex world of adults and still to love -- all before a single lesson.
And then we began to learn. We learned to sit still and pay attention. We learned to shut down our feelings when they are excessive or inappropriate. We learned to believe our thoughts, and to live our lives according to what our knowledge told us a human being should be, instead of listening to the actual signals from our bodies and our world. And then we told ourselves our whole world is nothing more than a school -- a place for learning.
It is not wonder, then, that we spend our lives looking for teachers -- someone who knows something we don't. We want to understand, to know, to figure out, and to find the answers, even though none of this has ever made us more adaptive, or given us any sustainable happiness.
What else is there? Unlearning, Experiencing and Enjoying.
In the old days, the Toltec Seers called these "recapitulation," "gathering power," and "dreaming," but these terms have become encrusted with so much mythology, superstition, and technology, recapitulation boxes and dreaming chambers, gimmicks and guarantees, that they only require more learning. So let's get back to the fundamentals of awareness. Adaptation requires awareness, and awareness requires unlearning, experiencing, and enjoying.
When we hear the word unlearning, we often think that we are being asked to forget everything we know, or somehow "stop the internal dialogue." In my experience, neither of these is really possible, short of brain damage! After every clever meditative exercise in silencing the mind, the mind comes in to congratulate itself on being so silent.
The brain is designed to remember and to imagine. Our ability to take the world in, represent it through symbols, and use those symbols to remake the world is an extraordinary act of magic, not a disease to be cured.
What we can do, however, is question our memories, beliefs, and even the impulse to know and understand. When we bring curiosity and wonder to our own mental activity, we are no longer compelled by it. We are free once again to experience the world nakedly -- and miraculously, all by itself, the learning process and the internal dialogue begin to unravel, all by themselves.
Experience, too, must be practiced. We have been so accustomed to sharpening, focusing, and fixing our attention and shutting down our perceptions and feelings, that we can hardly sustain contact with naked experience for more that a few moments. Softening and spreading the attention and breathing into the riot of feeling in the body requires that we go against a lifetime of conditioning. But what a payoff! Suddenly, we are alive again! We begin to enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive, and we allow that enjoyment to move us through the world, creating lives of fulfillment and ecstasy.
At last, we can abandon the need for teachers. At the same time, we discover how powerful it is to be in the presence of someone who has mastered the skills we are seeking to master, people who have unlearned to the point where they are no longer compelled by their own mental activity or anyone else's. People who have practiced softening the attention, deepening feeling, and experiencing nakedly to the point that happiness and peace come naturally and easily for them. Such a person can help us unlearn and experience by providing us with a clear mirror for our own process. Instead of adding their own knowledge to our collection of lessons, they inspire gentle curiosity and wonder about our mental activity, and invite us again and again to attend deeply to our own experience.
There are many wonderful processes out there that support us in unlearning and experiencing, but our tendency is to add them to our repertoire of spiritual identifications and attachments without really taking them to the point of dismantling the old structures of learning and half-living. It is like giving a thief a badge and a revolver, so he can arrest himself! We end up applying wonderful tools like the work of Byron Katie, the Sedona Method, or the presence exercises of Eckhart Tolle only to the places of greatest suffering in our lives, while keeping the processes that cause suffering firmly in place. Only with a mirror outside of ourselves, a mirror with clearer vision than our own, can we dismantle the process of suffering itself. And this is the work of a coach.
In my experience, this kind of coaching has been the most powerful tool for my own evolution. For a long time, I used my coaches as a source of validation . . . loving voices to combat the voices of judgment in my head. As I slowly began see myself as they saw me, I no longer needed validation. My point of view of myself and my world began to shift: I no longer believed myself, and began to trust my own experience and my own pleasure. Day by day, I discover my own life becoming a masterpiece of art.
I see the same process unfolding in the people I coach. Our conversations sound more like the pillow talk of lovers than the process of teaching, and we laugh often at ourselves. There is a wonderful, wild joy in questioning our own thoughts and giving ourselves permission to live without inhibition. More and more, I see each person I work with abandoning old beliefs, relaxing into their own lives, and creating with extraordinary courage and vision. They are not clients; they are initiates, which means that they are beginning again in each moment, discovering themselves and their worlds.
If you are interested in exploring this process with me, please contact me!