A few years ago I put away all spiritual practices. Ironically, I had just come to a point of realization on the “how-to” of meditation but then I suddenly abandoned the whole thing altogether. This spiritual “fast” lasted 10 years, during which time I had no intentional spiritual or meditation practice. What I didn’t realize, however, was meditation was still happening, albeit unaware to me and it was happening regularly through ASMR videos on YouTube.
If you aren’t familiar with ASMR, Wikipedia describes it as follows:
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. A pleasant form of paresthesia, it has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia and may overlap with frisson.
ASMR signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control. A genre of videos which intend to stimulate ASMR has emerged, of which by 2018 over 13 million are published on YouTube.
As a child, I was aware I experienced ASMR but I had no idea anyone else experienced it or that the experience even had a name. I remember feelings of ecstasy and almost paralysis when my younger sister would pretend like she was putting makeup on me, brushing and stroking my face while whispering to me. When I got older, I often found it difficult to focus in class if a particular teacher’s voice triggered my ASMR. I was a horrible math student and my 8th-grade algebra teacher would often bring me to her desk to explain the problems and concepts to me. I still can’t do algebra but I remember the ASMR triggered from her whispered voice sure kept me in tingles.
Decades later, I heard an ASMR episode of This American Life podcast and learned my ASMR experience wasn’t as individual as I’d thought. In fact, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of other people experienced this same phenomenon. Through the podcast, I discovered many people were actually making videos designed to trigger ASMR response. Once I was exposed to these videos, I was hooked. I’ve spent a startling amount of time since then relaxing while watching ASMR videos. Most of the videos center around specific ASMR “triggers.” Often these triggers are whispering, tapping sounds, repeating certain words, crinkling sounds, scratching sounds, and role-plays. Role-plays are videos where the “ASMR artist” pretends to be someone in an environment or situation that would normally put a person into a state of ASMR. Popular role-plays are teachers (remember my algebra instructor?), doctors, salon and spa workers, librarians, etc. Over time the videos have become more and more inventive and quite elaborate with acting, technical and production values rivaling small independent films. All for the simple purpose of making a person relax and tingle.
As the videos have become more numerous and more popular, they have also become less about ASMR and more about simple relaxation. While the experience of ASMR is certainly very relaxing, not everything that is relaxing is ASMR. Still, the label ASMR has become associated more with relaxation than with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Not necessarily a bad thing but a bit misleading nonetheless. Additionally, not everyone finds these videos to be relaxing (my wife finds them highly irritating) but if they do create a relaxation response in you, they can be very useful in relieving instances of insomnia, anxiety, and even depression.
There are several ASMR videos created specifically for guided meditations but I have found even the standard, every-day ASMR videos are useful as gateways into meditation for those who have never experienced meditation at all. I wasn’t aware of it then, but I now realize when I was not meditating but I was regularly watching ASMR, those videos were keeping me spiritually open in the same way meditation does now. In fact, I would suggest that at least part of the popularity of ASMR videos today is they provide the benefit of a regular meditation practice to those who do not or never have meditated.
If we could say there is any “objective” in meditation, it is to separate ourselves from the content and noise of our mind. As we reside in presence, our mind shuts down and silences itself since it cannot function while we are experiencing present awareness. While experiencing ASMR videos, the resulting physical and mental relaxation often puts us into a state of present awareness. We become hyper-aware of a voice or a sound and that awareness rarely involves the mind. Just pure awareness. The results of this experience are very similar, and in many cases not different at all, to actual meditation. Amazingly, the entire ASMR video movement is creating millions of new meditators who are benefitting from the effects of meditation but completely unaware they are, indeed, meditating!
I would never encourage anyone looking to explore the depths of a spiritual life to use ASMR as their only meditation practice. However, I can personally testify to the state of present awareness I continually experience from watching these videos. That practice kept me prepared for an even deeper and more focused meditation practice later. Truth reveals itself through the language and culture of every generation. It takes on new forms but at its essence always remains the same Truth. It is exciting to see a contemporary cultural phenomenon like ASMR planting the seeds of meditation into so many people who may have never considered meditating otherwise.
I have plans soon to release some Guided Relaxation ASMR videos of my own. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore the genre yourself, starting with three videos I have found to be particularly useful in my own meditation practice.
I am staying in a cabin in north Georgia this week while doing some artwork for a client. It’s secluded so I don’t have to deal with other people much but I do have to encounter others when I’m working on the project or when I have to go to the store for supplies. I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable interacting with people in locations I’m visiting. Sometimes I feel like an invader. Like I’ve moved into their home and they know nothing about me and I know nothing about them but we need to now, somehow, relate. It’s a dysfunctional mental habit of my own. I’m not sure what it stems from but it always lingers in the background when I’m visiting unfamiliar locations.
I received an insight into that strange energy yesterday while at the grocery store. I saw several people, felt the energy rising up and I recognized it as resistance. I noticed there was a resistance to a potential expectation I would need to defend my reason for being there. Perhaps someone would ask me who I am, where I’m from, why I’m in the neighborhood. Not in a confrontational way, mind you, simply out of curiosity. I felt the anxiety of having to come up with dialogue. I’ll need to be interesting. Charming. I’ll have to say the correct thing or perhaps I’ll be judged.
I also noticed resistance to me starting any conversation with anyone at the store. “This is their town, what right do I have to strike up a conversation with them?” I watched a few of the shoppers and they, too, seemed to be disconnected from the shoppers around them. Everyone seemed to be focused on items on the shelves and no one was making eye contact. We all seemed just as distant from each other as we would be living in our own remote cabin in the woods.
I tend to enjoy solitude and social interaction isn’t one of my strengths. I realized, though, how healing eye contact, a quick smile or a friendly word can be to people who feel disconnected. It isn’t necessary to take on the personality of a flirty, overly-familiar truck stop waitress (apologies to flirty, overly-familiar truck stop waitresses) but interaction creates an inner opening and that opening invites the revealing of a sacred silence where once there may have been resistance, fear, or judgment.
In our society, we are frequently encouraged to “Unfriend” those who have differing opinions than we do but my recent insight made me see the value of communicating with other souls, no matter how different from me they are. Bring to every interaction the gift of spiritual openness and an atmosphere of non-judgment. It is spiritual healing on a subtle but vital level and for introverts like myself, it is a transforming spiritual practice. The healing happens in us as much or more than those we connect with.
The physical manifestation of openness is listening. In listening without judgment, we connect to others beyond physical form to our spiritual essence. We bring spaciousness and silence into our encounters and we receive others with the recognition that we are one. It matters not whether we agree with anything someone says in our conversations. It matters not what type of person they appear to be or what type of behavior they seem to be manifesting at the time. Listening is a powerful spiritual practice for all people in all situations.
This isn’t a revolutionary practice or a spiritual lesson for everyone. I know many people who seem to do this naturally. But many ”socially challenged”, like myself, can find a new perspective in altering the way we relate to others, particularly those who are unfamiliar to us. After catching this insight, I suddenly found my own resistance fading and I realized I wanted to seek out others to listen to. I even began planning on visiting environments where I would have huge differences with people just to hear what they had to say and to provide the openness in which they could say it.
I have made a decision to consciously incorporate this awareness into my own interactions. What do you think? Is this a practice that is missing from your life? Will it change the way you relate to others? Can you see a way this practice can change the world we live in?
We have been convinced by ignorant people to believe we are less than we are. We have been told by those who do not know, and are only repeating what they have been told, that we are flawed, limited, imperfect, and broken.
You can decide who and what you want to believe but I challenge you to examine the facts before doing so. Do not allow yourself to be trapped in someone else’s limited belief about who they think they are before you look within yourself and discover the reality of who you really are.
Who are you?
You are not your body. Your body is limited and changing and it is destined to return back to the earth of which it is made. If you believe you are your body, you will seem to be limited, changing and destined to die.
You are not your mind. Your mind is limited and changing and it is destined to disappear into nothing like the thoughts of which it is made. If you believe you are your mind you will seem to be limited, changing and destined to disappear.
If you are not your body and you are not your mind, what is it that you are?
Look within and notice another dimension which is your very Presence. This Presence doesn’t change and has never changed. You have noticed it before, that ageless, ever-present being looking through your eyes. It speaks loud when you are silent. It is that! That Presence is who you are!
It is that Spirit, that Presence, that Being, that Life who you are! You may say it is “your” Spirit but it is far beyond “yours.” It is pure Spirit. The Spirit of God! How could you have ever been convinced to believe you are less than perfect when your very essence is the Spirit of God?
When you know who you are, when you see who you are, when you feel who you are, no one will ever be able to take it away from you. They couldn’t really take it before, but now that you are aware of it, you will never let it go because it is always there, always present, always YOU. It is never less than perfect. How could it be? It can never leave you or be extinguished.
Take some time to be aware and reside within yourself. Watch what happens when this awareness increases and becomes more permanent. You will soon discover you are so much more than you always believed and so much more than others have told you you are!
Searching for happiness is like the person looking for their glasses perched on top of their head. (Sounds familiar…) We all look for things in this world to make us happy and we do find many things that bring us a certain amount of temporary happiness. Eventually, though, we discover what looked like a “thing” that was making us happy was actually a “thing” and happiness. The “thing” sometimes seems to stick around a lot longer than the happiness. The new car, new love, new money that we thought was bringing us happiness seems to no longer work. Is happiness temporary while the “things” are permanent?
Sooner or later we discover the problem is not that happiness is temporary but the projection of happiness onto the “thing” is temporary. Money seems to be the thing making us happy but it isn’t so because we can feel unhappy while we have money. At some point, the “thing” and happiness seem to split and we find ourselves once again in a situation where happiness has eluded us.
You may find it odd for me to say this but happiness is with you eternally because happiness is actually who you really are. You can never be without happiness! All that needs to be done, like the person searching for the pair of glasses on their head, is become aware of this truth.
The source of unhappiness is always the thoughts our mind traps us into believing. The voices from our head say we are not good enough, not talented enough, not blessed enough or not spiritual enough and it is the belief in those thoughts that veil from the awareness of our eternal nature, which is stillness, peacefulness, and happiness. But like a window pane covered in dirt, we cannot see clearly enough past all of the mind’s obstructions to experience this happiness we are.
This is why it often appears the “things” in life will bring us happiness. For a short time, those things bring a certain amount of silence to our mind, which allows an inward glimpse our true nature of happiness. Unfortunately, we soon lose that glimpse when we stay focused on the “things” rather than that which is beholding the “things.”
Looking away from the “things” of this world to our inner being is the path to reconnecting to our true nature of happiness. Once this reconnection is made, we carry it like a lamp to any and all situations or conditions. It illuminates our experience and is never extinguished because it is actually who we are. We are already and always will be the happiness which we have been seeking!
The duality of the mind imagines that there are choices to be made between two or more options. Since the mind likes to believe it is always the one in control, it will tell us we can choose this or that or go here or there. But is this really what is happening in our experience?
We usually think of our lives as if they are a linear-existing, fully-scripted, “Life-Movie,” complete with props, sets, and characters already in place, waiting for us to act out the consequences of every single choice we make. We see life as already having a planned beginning and end and we must make vital choices to maneuver our way through it. However, life is not this way, nor is it like a “choose your own adventure” comic book. Life constantly unfolds in the present moment, it does not follow a predetermined plot. Even when there are the appearances of choices to be made in life, the reality is, there are no choices. There is only doing.
I know, I know, I can hear you now. “What the heck does that even mean? I make choices all day long, every single day!” OK, so let’s imagine a few scenarios. First, think of yourself as an old-time traveler on a horse, riding along a dirt trail. You come to a fork in the road. “Do I choose right or left?” you think to yourself. You imagine one choice may involve a longer, more difficult path to navigate. Perhaps one path involves a potential encounter with thieves. One choice may bring you to a town where you can rest or sell your wares. What’s a traveler to do?
Honestly, you could sit at the fork for days listening to your mind tell you about “this or that” choices. Because of the way the human mind works, you will be convinced that each side of the fork contains its own fully scripted Life-Movie with you as the main character. Depending upon the choice you make, you will either act out this scene or that scene. The choice to make, your mind will tell you, is in which scene will be the best for you to act out?
The reality is, your mind has created an illusion and is trying to convince you to believe this illusion is real. There is no Life-Movie and there are no Life-Movie scenes already set up, waiting for you to enter. There is only life unfolding now. When we begin entertaining ideas such as choice, purpose, and destiny, we assume life is an already constructed map, complete with preferred choices already planned and laid out for us. We think of ourselves as needing to align ourselves with those predestined choices and paths in order for everything in life to go perfectly.
Another scenario. Imagine you must decide if you are going to marry Terry or Alex. You can imagine what life would be like with either of them. Would you have kids? How would the relationship with your in-laws be? Where would you live? What would your financial situation be like? Your mind can (and will) design complete scenarios of life with either partner. It would be tempting to believe either choice comes with its own scripted Life-Movie plot, waiting for you to jump into as a character. But does that Life-Movie exist? It does not. It may appear Alex has more money and life will go a certain way as a result, but Alex could lose it all. Maybe Terry wants several kids as you do, but perhaps you both later discover physical issues prevent that. All of the reasons for making a choice between Terry and Alex are just as illusionary as the actual “choice” of who you will marry. The truth is, you simply marry Alex. That is what you do and, therefore, it is all that is or can be done. There are no alternative paths on a predestined life map to go unfulfilled. You married Alex because that is what happened. The “choice” was only an illusion. Yes, you may divorce Alex and marry Terry, but you can never examine an actual scenario where you marry Terry first because that didn’t happen. Speculation would just be imagination and fantasy. Any idea that it “could” have happened is only based upon the idea of the “Life-Movie.”
Let’s consider one more scenario. You are at a coffee shop and you are asked if you would like coffee or tea. You say “coffee.” Could you have requested “tea”? No, you can only order coffee because that is what you ordered and there is not an alternative existence where you order tea. To order coffee makes it impossible that you “could” have ordered tea because you didn’t. What is real is only what exists, not what you imagine exists. “Could” only exists in the mind. What “is” exists in reality. In this case, coffee is reality and tea is mind. There are no choices. There is only doing. While it may appear we are making a choice between two things, the reality is, we are simply doing a single thing. The appearance of “choosing” is only mind-stuff based upon more imaginary mind-stuff. We may believe we choose coffee because we prefer the taste but perhaps the coffee is spoiled and the mind-stuff would then prove to be a lie. Reality is, we order coffee and that is our only option because it happened. It unfolded in the now with the rest of our life experience, none of which we chose.
As long as we live as human beings, we will be confronted with the illusion we are making choices. It is a part of the human condition and it cannot be avoided. On the spiritual path, we play along with appearances while remaining aware that all of our life is simply doing and it is that doing that unfolds from our highest awareness of what is right. We do not constantly make choices to not steal or not kill. At times it may appear to be so. Perhaps a voice in our head says to take something that does not belong to us or to harm another. But that is never a choice for us. We only do what we know to be right. As our awareness becomes more transparent, our doing incorporates less thought and mind activity, and our doing results in a greater harmony than any choice could have arranged for us, or any mind could understand or have imagined.
Every artist begins each creative session in touch with infinity. There is at the artist’s center, an infinity of creative thoughts, ideas, and impulses that swirl within, unlimited by style, medium, or canvas. At some point, an apparent choice is made by the artist to consciously limit that infinity by placing a stroke of color upon the canvas. With each additional expression of the artist, more and more infinite possibilities are narrowed until, at last, the painting is complete. Upon its completion, the painting is then looked upon as a “thing.” A single piece of art created by the artist, defined by its color and style as well as the size and shape of the canvas. Few people look at paintings in a gallery and see the infinity from which they originated. Most only see the appearance of a single, individual painting.
Even though a piece of art has the appearance of individuality, it is also true that every painting contains within it the infinite options the artist had available. We see the color blue but we also know the artist could have used the color red. A single stroke across the canvas could easily have been a series of many strokes. Appreciating a piece of art is also the appreciation of the infinite options available to the artist and the finite decisions the artist made use of to express an individual idea.
As each painting is the illusion of individuality, so are you the same illusion of uniqueness. We look around the world and see appearances of millions of individuals, each seeming to be single, separate, self-contained creations. The unseen reality, however, is the very Being we all are is Infinite Spirit. Even though you seem to be an individual, finite creation in appearance, at your very essence you are unlimited.
Spirit is always infinite and can never be limited. However, just as the artist consciously decides to use specific, limited options in order to create what appears to be a single art piece, so does Infinite Spirit allow itself to use limited options in order to create the appearance of an individual. This is obvious when you look around and observe our vast differences. To make these decisions of limitation, Infinite Spirit can be compared to a driver choosing to obey a speed limit. The driver could go much faster or slower but consciously decides to limit the speed of the vehicle for the purpose at hand. This decision may produce the illusion that the car can only drive to a certain speed, when the reality is, the car is capable of going much faster or slower.
In this way, Infinite Spirit decides to take on individual form (you and I) and, in doing so, picks from a palette of seeming limitations, thereby creating this ”individual” illusion. It is not at all unlike an actor playing a role in a theatrical performance. The character appears to be a separate person from the actor, but in reality, is not. Likewise, life’s characters appear to be separate individuals, male, female, light skin, dark skin, old, young, sad, and happy but the very reality of each and every so-called character is Infinite Spiritual Being. As the artist utilizes specific colors and techniques to make the appearance of an individual piece of art, so does Infinite Spirit utilize a variety of human physical, mental and environmental traits to make this world of glorious, artistic creation!
The Human Condition
All of this brings us to observe what we might refer to as “the human condition.” The human condition happens when this so-called individual begins to believe it is actually a separate, self-contained individual. In spite of its real, infinite nature, the individual begins to believe it is autonomous, like the actor’s character suddenly believing it is a real person! The illusionary individual mind begins to believe it is the one in charge and begins dictating its own, limited perception of reality. “I am insufficient and finite” this mind instructs. “Life is full of unexpected events and uncontrollable tragedies that will bring me harm, make me ill and, ultimately, take my life. I must look out for myself and protect me at all cost!”
Now deeply trapped in this human condition, the illusionary individual spends its entire existence searching for a way out. It seeks peace, happiness, and eternal life, never realizing it already is those things! The majority of individuals put so much trust in the dominion of their own limited mind, they rarely take a moment to stop, look to their essence, and experience the Spiritual reality they are. Most people are trapped as a character in a play for the duration of their life experience.
Fortunately, rediscovering and reconnecting with our true Spiritual nature is as simple as looking past the appearance of our limitations, seeing past the body, ignoring the false leadership of the mind, and experiencing the reality of our own Being. Because that Being is always who we are, this state is immediately available to be rediscovered. Always here, always now. It is the only state there really ever is.
When we rediscover our Spiritual nature, we do not cease becoming apparent individuals. The play continues, but we are no longer lost in it, believing we are the limited characters we appear to be. We play these characters to their fullest, all the while silently abiding in the awareness of our true self. We encounter other individuals every day, many of whom are unconscious in the illusionary life-theatre, but we know the truth about them just as clearly as we know the truth about ourselves. We are, at our essence, Infinite Spirit creating Its masterpiece and we, in our individual form, are that masterpiece.
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
Spiritual literature is saturated with the concept of “waking up.” When we start on a spiritual path, we soon become familiar with terms like “awakening,” “enlightenment,” being “born again,” “dying to the old [person],” “attaining bliss,” “reaching nirvana,” “experiencing nothingness,” etc. All of these concepts refer to the same thing: waking up from our human state of awareness into a spiritual state of awareness. But what is our human state of awareness? What is a spiritual state of awareness and how does one attain such a state?
A good first step in our inquiry is to simply ask, ”What does it mean to ‘wake up’?” The answer to this question is obvious because it’s something we do every morning. We wake up from hours of sleep. During our sleep period, we are seemingly unconscious and, in waking up, we leave behind that state and become conscious. “Spiritual awakening” refers to this exact experience on the spiritual level. It suggests that our human existence is one of spiritual unconsciousness and encourages us to “wake up’ to an existence of spiritual consciousness.
Let’s keep in mind that anything we discuss or refer to spiritually is only a pointer to reality. We can never truly comprehend the spiritual with our human mind so we are only able to point to what is spiritually real. This is why spiritual literature is full of stories, parables, koans, poems, and illustrations. As Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” To understand the spiritual, we look at pointers and stories. Therefore, let’s examine one story of “falling asleep,” told in the Judeo-Christian Holy Bible.
In the book of Genesis, we read of the first humans, Adam and Eve, being placed in Eden, a garden of paradise. They are instructed by God to do anything they want, but they are forbidden to eat the fruit of one specific tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Everything else in the garden is available in fullness to Adam and Eve. Eventually, Eve eats the forbidden fruit and soon after, so does Adam who then has an encounter with God. God wants to know where Adam has been and what he has been doing. Adam tells God he was hiding because he was ashamed of being naked, prompting God to ask, “Who told you you were naked?” Adam admits they both ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and discovered their current, naked, and flawed condition. God is angry and becomes concerned that Adam and Eve will eventually eat from the tree of life which will allow them to live forever, so he tosses them out of the garden. He places an angel with a flaming sword at the garden entrance, so Adam and Eve (and presumably everyone else throughout time) will never have access to the garden again.
The story of the Fall of Man in Genesis is one filled with allegory, legend, and colorful symbolism. The very human-like God in the story has limited powers (he doesn’t know where Adam and Eve have been or what they have been doing) and has a volatile temper when his creation exercises the free will which he, himself, apparently gave them. It makes the story difficult to take at face value, yet there are still some significant spiritual pointers about “The Fall” (or the falling asleep) in this parable.
According to the Genisis story, man once lived in paradise, a state of constant presence and communication with God. Let’s make note that this very state must be the state of “Being Awake” that we have been seeking. Waking from the human condition must involve returning back to the awareness of being in God’s presence and of not being separated from God. What was the event that ripped man away from that state of paradise? Was it the disobeying of God or the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that caused the seeming rift? Remember, there could be no state of “disobey” or “obey” until the eating of the fruit of the tree, so it seems that it was this so-called knowledge that started the fall of humanity.
The knowledge of good and evil is significant because it represents the beginning of a belief in a state of duality. Good and evil. God and the Devil. Sickness and health. Me and you. Partaking of the forbidden fruit illustrates the formulation of the belief that there is a power or a state other than God. In other words, it was at that point man started living under the belief that God is limited. Notice how limited the God character seems to be after the so-called “knowledge” gained by Adam. God is no longer omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. To Adam, God has become a limited, separate being from himself. This separation is illustrated even further by God tossing Adam and Eve out of the garden, out of his presence.
Now, let’s return to our current time and ponder the implication of this story. The state of paradise is a state prior to the knowledge of good and evil, correct? What is it that knows “good and evil?” Good and evil are known by our mind. Isn’t it in our mind where all concepts of good and evil are continually generated? We declare sickness “bad.” Babies are “good.” Tornadoes are “bad.” Cake is “good.” Foreigners are “bad,” soldiers are “good” and it goes on and on and on. Every time our mind labels something as “bad” or “good,” we put ourselves in the judgment seat of God while at the same time we place limits on God. If we proclaim something as “bad,” we testify that God has created something ”not good.” To live as a fallen (or unconscious) person means living this mind-based life as opposed to a spirit-based life. It is a flawed life limited by our own mind-based judgments. This is what it means to live an unconscious, or unawakened, life.
It’s interesting to note in the Genesis story, not once does it seem to occur to Adam that he could go back to the state of paradise by “unknowing” good and evil. In other words, he could give up the belief he has any knowledge of good or evil and he could cease living this mind-based life. In fact, that idea didn’t seem to come into existence until the appearance of Jesus in the New Testament who boldly claimed to be both parts of all duality, thus freeing man from Adam-consciousness. Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” In Christ, we find no duality. Similarly, the apostle, Paul, later said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” How could Paul say this when a person only needed to look around to see Jews, Gentiles, free people, slaves, men, and women? Paul was, of course, not speaking of the appearance world where all of those varieties exist. He was not talking about the mind where all of those differences originate. By saying we are all one in Christ, Paul meant we are spiritually one. In the spiritual realm, there is no duality. There are not two, only one. That one is you. That one is me. The realization of that one is the “awakening” from a human mind-based life of multiplicity.
We are all born into this world of diverse appearances, but at our birth, we only know pure Being. We are like Adam and Eve in paradise, existing in constant spiritual presence and awareness. We know nothing of separation between ourselves, our mother’s breast, or sleep. Everything is one seamless, unbroken experience, free from labels and judgment. The journey of the spiritual life is a journey of returning to this pure state. It is The Prodigal Son returning home to an inheritance of wealth and title. Our spiritual Being has never been separate from us, yet we have spent a lifetime shrouding it from our awareness with a life experience of mind-made labels and judgments. That pure state of Being still exists within us as who we really are. To connect with it, we only have to make the decision Adam did not. To simply un-know. To give up our human judgments. To realize we are not now, nor have we ever been separated from our Spiritual Source and Being. This is the Gospel Jesus proclaimed. This is awakening.
Awakening is available to everyone regardless of religion, nonreligion, social status, gender, sexual preference, or nationality. Awakening is your birthright and not something you get as a religious reward or have to work hard to achieve. It is not about learning new techniques, information, or teachings. Awakening is about unlearning. Unlearning old mind conditions in order to experience the reality of who you are, not what your mind has told you that you are. Living unconsciously is living someone else’s life. Why live according to what others have told you is real, or with the abstract judgments your mind has convinced you are true? As the God in Genesis asked, “Who told you? Who told you these things you now believe? Who told you this is real?” What is real is this: you are Pure Being. Pure Spirit. Pure Life. How can you possibly be anything else? Realize this, awaken to who you are, and sleep no more!
A few years ago I was watching a documentary about the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. You may recall, there was a tremendous loss of human lives and property in that tsunami. To witness the destruction being captured ”live” on video, gave a sense of immediacy to the tragedy. I felt as if I, too, was there with many of the survivors, barricaded in an upper-floor house or hotel, hoping the sea of death and destruction wouldn’t swell any higher and sweep us away.
I was struck in particular by one scene of the video. Dark, muddy water flowed through the streets of a small village, taking everything in its path that wasn’t anchored to the ground. Houses crumbled, cars were tossed around like toy boats, and human beings, unlucky enough to not find higher ground, were hurled about in the debris-filled, ocean soup. A man and woman, thrashed about in the black water, hung on to a broken tree, and frantically searched for something more stable to cling to that would possibly rescue them from impending doom.
While the man and woman clung for their lives, I was soon aware of two birds that landed on a power line directly above the chaos. The juxtaposition of the two scenes hit me hard. The two birds, apparently deciding to take a break from their flight to relax, were oblivious to the heart-wrenching display of struggle and survival that was being played out directly below them. They surveyed the picture, determined there was no threat to them, and continued their peaceful pause. Meanwhile, human tragedy continued to take its toll beneath them.
I’ve never been able to shake the image of those two birds or to forget the idea that, in the midst of every human tragedy, there is an atmosphere of rest if we know where to search. Sometimes that rest is in the deepest of the ocean during a hurricane or it’s in the highest altitude during a tornado. And while those physical locations may provide for us some protection, there is also a spiritual dimension that ensures peace during any storm, tragedy, or catastrophe. We may not be as fortunate to be the birds on the wire, with physical distance from the calamity but we still have that spiritual location of peace and protection we carry within us wherever we go, even if it is in the heat of the battle or in the heart of the destruction.
This spiritual center of peace within us is our true Being. Because it is who we are, we can never be removed from it. It is our secure foundation to hold to when we are being tossed about by life’s waves. When we become aware of this center of our Being on a regular basis, we begin to realize that it is never touched, moved, or injured in any way during any condition, even if our body is maimed or destroyed. We begin frequently to reside in the awareness of this spiritual location ”above the earth’s calamities,” similar to the two birds in the tsunami. We anchor ourselves in this place of deep joy and peace, untouched by sickness, tragedy, or annihilation and, in doing so, we see manifested our true life of happiness, peace, and love.
Do you sense that we are currently under the influence of tremendous ego energy?
It’s true. Election years are always one of the most gratifying times for the ego and, at this writing, the United States is in the middle of one. There are so many opportunities to believe “I am right and the other person is wrong.” But why stop there? “I am on the path of political truth and righteousness while so many others are unconscious, selfish, and evil! Why can’t everyone else wake up and vote properly?” Election years are the all-you-can-eat, free buffet for feeding the ego.
The year 2020 has become synonymous with catastrophe. With the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine leading the way, we’ve since seen fires, hurricanes, riots, racial unrest, deaths, asteroids, pestilence, plagues, and a pretty decent amount of mediocre music performances. It’s so tempting to believe we are personally under attack and that current conditions are putting our individual well-being at risk. The result, as we can see, is a global wave of anger, insecurity, anxiety, and depression.
During this time, it becomes a vital practice to pause and ground ourselves in the recognition that nothing can disturb the peace which is our true being. We are not that temporary existence under attack by a multitude of forces. Our mind will constantly attempt to tell us otherwise, but when we choose not to believe the warped fantasies of our own mind and to instead look to the reality of our experience, we will notice that our essence and our reality is still there, unmoved, unharmed. Even the greatest of calamities cannot move us from our true being. There within us is the spiritual light shining as bright as always.
When you notice the world becoming louder with its testimony of destruction, it is the perfect time to go within for the realization of real peace. That peace will never be found in the world, nor in your own mind but it is always there.
Look beyond all temporary states to your own permanent being and take refuge there.
We have seven mammals living in our household. Each of us, it seems, has a penchant for continuous hair loss. It isn’t unusual at any given time to find areas of dog, cat, and human hair on the floor, forming temporary, interspecies carpeting.
This morning I watched a spider walking across the floor and attempting to maneuver through one particular hair jungle. Its spindly legs attracted and carried hair strands of similar leg size, causing the spider to pause every so often to shake loose the additional cargo before continuing its journey.
As I watched this little nature documentary happening live on my bathroom floor, I thought about what it would be like to live in the world of that little hiker spider. A world where one would walk across a hard, polished tile, while enormous ropes, in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors, clung to your legs. Not to mention, a world where you could, at any moment, be devoured by a ginormous, whiskered feline. Or inadvertently squished by shuffling slippers. It’s a completely different world than my world, yet the exact same world, isn’t it?
The only difference is in the perspective of the experiencer.
I often consider how the object I know of as “my body” appears to the bacteria and other live beings that also reside within it. What I consider my body, they also consider (so to speak) as their body. I experience my body as this large, moving shape I use as a vehicle for awareness. A host, which lives within this body, experiences it as a dark world of seeping moisture, chemicals, and nutrients. What I label as “my body,” a host might label (so to speak) as “my world.” It’s a completely different experience of the exact same object, depending upon perspective.
Even my own experience of my body ignores the reality that it is composed of many different, and seemingly separate cells, almost all of which began as things outside of my body and not things I would normally consider to be my body: food, water, air, impurities, viruses, germs, and an occasional craft beer. It’s a perfect example of how I think I know something so intimately familiar as my own body, when the reality is, I only know it from my own limited perspective.
We can get so attached to our own human, eye-level existence that we ignore the fact our own world is really an illusion. We see what we see and how we see it but we never know the reality of what we are actually experiencing. We don’t hear the variety of sounds in this world that a dog hears, nor can we see the multitudes of colors like a butterfly. Still, these “pieces” of reality exist within the world we occupy and we rarely consider it.
The error is when we believe we “know” anything as it is, or experience reality in its wholeness. Living a life of conditioned and habitual thinking has forced us to label and categorize our experience so we can comfortably believe we know the truth of our world. Actually, we only see distortions, half-truths, and illusions fabricated by our mind. A mind conditioned by our own upbringing, education, society, and opinions. In being satisfied with that mind-created reality, we never know the truth about anything.
To spiritually experience reality, it is necessary to go beyond our mental creations. We transcend our human existence of habitual thought and we experience the world with inner silence. We look at a flower without the mind telling us it is a “flower” or the color “yellow” or that it smells “sweet.” We experience the flower, and everything else, without mental labels, without descriptions and in deep silence and open awareness. It is in this atmosphere that the true nature of the reality of our experience is revealed.