This video is the first part of an interview by Vera Condivisione (Italian for True Sharing). You can see the video by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwszCWcuAvk&feature=youtu.be or the image above.
This video was recorded during a live satsang as part of my Falling Open course. It starts with me responding to a participant’s question. The image is frozen during the first few seconds of the video. You can see the video by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3P8SqHe_n8 or the image above.
This new video was recorded live during the Falling Open course. The video starts with one of the course participants speaking to me. You can see the video by clicking on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eijEIVDsfKQ or on the image above.
This new video is from the final session of the Falling Open course. The video starts with Joseph, one of the course participants, speaking to me.
This new video is a clip from a live workshop that I gave this Spring, as part of the Falling Open course. The video starts with Joseph, one of the course participants, speaking to me.
I’ve just returned from the delicious Portland retreat of The Center for Nondual Awareness, (the community of nondual teachers that I’ve led – with a lot of support – for last three years). There’s such an overflowing abundance of love and gratitude here, that is independent of any story or reason. Just a devoted willingness to serve love.
Abundant love to you,
Being Good and Right?
In response to something you said at satsang last night: What is there to be, if not “good and right”? – Julea D., Berkeley, CA
Are you “good” and/or “right” in this moment? Where do you look to find out if you are good or right? Do you try to assess all your past actions, thoughts, and feelings? Do you try to evaluate your current actions, thoughts, and feelings? What do you compare them to? What do you imagine you should or should not be doing, thinking, or feeling in order to be good or right?
“I’m reading an article when I should be feeding the hungry!” “I’m reading a nourishing spiritual article rather than drinking myself into a stupor!” Even when our judgments of ourselves are more subtle than these examples, they are still made up. What you are is never really good or bad, right or wrong. These labels are slapped on by the mind.
Most people judge themselves harshly as bad or wrong, or at least as not good enough. We typically hold some idealized image of what we ought to be and then berate ourselves for all the ways in which we fail to match the image. Other times we judge ourselves as good and right and find images of comparison to support these judgments. But even here, there’s always part of us that knows we’re making it up. We’ve got to keep our eyes fixed on this point of comparison and avert our eyes from anything that threatens to make us bad or wrong.
The whole game of labeling ourselves as good or bad, right or wrong, sets us at war with ourselves. When we need to be good and not bad, we must be constantly wary and struggling against anything in us that we associate with badness.
What if we feel things that the mind might label as bad like anger, sadness, anxiety, envy, neediness? How are we going to prevent or stop such feelings? Nobody gets to pick or even know their next feeling, so all our struggles are in vain.
But what if all our feelings are just innocently appearing? What if there’s no such thing as a good or bad feeling? What if the sensations the mind labels bad are just as valid as the sensations the mind labels good?
What if being here as we are is enough, regardless of what thoughts we have about being good or bad, wrong or right? What if everything that we are can be met with love, even the parts that we are most convinced are bad?
As you read this, I will have just arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent this last week in Macomb, my home for the last fourteen years, organizing my move and saying goodbye to many of my dearest companions. It has been heart breaking at times, and yet it remains clear that I’m called to make this move. This clarity is all the more surprising to me, given how few clues I have about what will happen next.
Follow Your Heart?
For many years of my life I found the phrase “follow your heart” completely incomprehensible because the heart didn’t seem to say anything. It doesn’t speak in words like thoughts do. But this is precisely the point of the invitation to “follow your heart.” We’re being asked to let something deeper than words guide us.
It’s really no different from “trust your gut” or “listen to your intuition.” We actually can’t say what this other source of guidance is because it’s the non-thing that includes all the things that the mind delineates. All these phrases are inviting us to feel into and be moved by the whole field rather than pretending, as we typically do, that our particular worldview is the whole field.
However, even when we have some appreciation of the nature of the invitation to “follow your heart,” we can often find ourselves wary of doing so. Thought, especially if narrow and familiar, can provide a reassuring sense that we know. When we believe our thoughts we erroneously believe we know the truth. Even though listening to the heart connects us with deeper wisdom, it often feels like not knowing, because we’re leaving behind the familiar ground of our repetitive thoughts.
The heart is mysterious and confounds the mind with its subtlety. The mind creates fixed images of the good life for us to move toward, but the heart is completely disinterested in the fixed and dead. Thought defines things as this or that, good or bad, black or white, but the heart receives all the nuanced undefinable flavors of life.
So even when we do feel into what’s here, it may not produce the clear “yes” or “no” that thought would like. Following the heart often means honoring not knowing rather than trying to grasp an answer. Not knowing is, in a way, the baseline state of the heart. We’re just innocently exploring and playing in the rich, ever-evolving field, having little sense of direction or of what will happen next. And yet, like a miracle, clues can appear to guide our next movement.
At the end of this month I will be giving up my apartment in Macomb, Illinois, my home for the last fourteen years, to live in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. There is both great joy and considerable sadness about this move. I sense that being in the Bay Area will further support the development of this work. But, I fully expect to continue travelling frequently, and offering live events in Macomb and other cities in that region.
Honoring Our Laziness
Most of us are typically ashamed and intolerant of our laziness. We’re convinced that we should be doing our projects even when we feel no energy for such doing. So we push ourselves forward dragging our body-minds through the activities, or we find ourselves avoiding them with distractions and procrastination, in which numbing and forgetting are an essential component. At the end of such episodes of avoidance we often feel shame for indulging our laziness and vow to be more forceful with ourselves next time.
But what if we honored our laziness? What if we really listened to the absence of energy for a project without prejudging it as a vice or failure? What if we interrupted the cycle of our compulsive doing and avoiding doing to inquire into what was really true for us?
Having learned to define ourselves largely by what we do (“what do you do?”) we shouldn’t be surprised to find an uncomfortable impatience with not doing. After all, who are we if we’re doing nothing? A nobody? A nothing?
If we can bow to our laziness enough we might be blessed with an opportunity to explore what we are prior to our doing. We might even realize that we can be be here without needing to do things to create and affirm an identity.
When most of our action has been the result of forcing ourselves forward, it’s easy to imagine that realizing we don’t need to do things would lead to doing nothing. But there is another source of activity that requires no self-bullying. It is fueled by spontaneously arising inspiration rather than fear. Like when we play tennis for the joy of it rather than because we fear ill health.
When we attune to where our action is coming from we start to hear how we are being called to move. We notice when there is abundant energy for our action because it is aligned with what matters to the heart. And we become sensitive to the contrast when the energy for the action is being manufactured by stern-sounding thoughts about the need to accomplish things and not be lazy.
Just as the eating of food happens in natural response to hunger even when we give ourselves full permission to be lazy, all actions that genuinely nourish can happen without the need to beat ourselves forward.
Receiving The Whole Gift
At an early age most of us were taught to distrust ourselves. We learned that some of our feelings were not at all welcome here, and that only parts of us were worthy of love. To cope with this we’ve developed habits of numbing ourselves, contracting our bodies, and hiding parts of us to try and convince ourselves and others that they don’t exist.
We typically find it hard to allow feelings of neediness, anger, or grief, and we rarely want to acknowledge how wild and unpredictable our feelings are. So we try to ignore what is being felt with endless strategies of distraction and pretend that our thoughts are in charge. We’d rather shut down and be dull, than be bad and unworthy of love.
But is it really true that what we feel can make us bad? What does your heart want for the one experiencing needing, frustration, or sadness?
We are invited to receive the full gift of life by simply opening to whatever we are given to feel. When we fall open to this felt experience, a deeper and more subtle universe of sensation appears that is far beyond anything the mind can grasp with its clunky labeling system. We get to fully taste innumerable flavors of life energy moving through us, mixing, and mutating without any regard for the mind’s “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.”
At this point, our trained distrust of our true nature often raises fearful objections, like “if we surrender to our life energy rather than asking our minds to move us about, what will stop us hurting or killing people?” Such questions can only be satisfyingly addressed by feeling the truth of our actual experience. It is only in such direct experience that we can start to sense how compassionate, wise, and authentic action spontaneously arises when we are available to everything moving through us.
Actions that are guided by the heart, and energized by the inspiration behind them, require no additional validation. There is no higher authority. Participating in such action is worth more than any amount of the goods that the mind pushes us to seek by cutting off parts of ourselves.
But believing all this is not the same as actually receiving the full gift. To receive, we simply turn to the gift that is here right now: these felt sensations, just as they are, regardless of whether the mind says “gift” or “yuck.” When we feel into what is really here we’re leaving behind the realm of what the mind thinks it knows, and exploring the fresh and wild terrain of this moment. We don’t need to establish any new mental categories of “feelings good” – “thinking bad.” Instead we can just taste full the flavor of the moment, regardless of whether thinking is happening or not.
I was haunted by a fear of loneliness for many years of my life. I imagined myself as needing to acquire and maintain relationships to avoid being lonely. This made getting, keeping, and monitoring my relationships serious work, fraught with anxiety about failing and ending up lonely.
But what is loneliness? It’s not an emotion that always occurs in the absence of company. It’s more like a sense of not belonging, of not being invited to the party, feeling like an outsider.
Unfortunately, trying to ward off this experience by “having relationships” doesn’t really work, because we can’t be at ease with others when we’re needing them to make us feel like we belong. It seems like if we open ourselves up we might be rejected and have our fear of not belonging confirmed.
This is why it’s quite possible to feel lonely even in the company of others and in “relationships.” When we rely on others to give us a sense of belonging we’re always living in the shadow of fear. “It’s not safe to just be myself. What if they reject me?”
However, is it really true that we need others to validate us as “belonging?” How could we belong here any less than anyone or anything else? People will, no doubt, have all types of experiences around us. Sometimes people will be attracted to us, sometimes repelled, and all the variations and nuances in between. But how can any of their experiences make us belong here more or less?
Our very existence means that we possess an unassailably valid ticket for the party of life, complete with backstage pass. Nobody else’s words, thoughts, or feelings can ever cast the slightest doubt on this. We never have to prove the validity of our ticket to anyone.
However, this is not to be confused with the “I don’t need anyone else” attitude that pushes away the tenderness of intimacy in an attempt to protect the imagined self. On the contrary, only the dropping away of the fear of loneliness makes us truly available for intimacy. Now we are free to open to others because we don’t need anything from them. Intimacy just happens organically in the absence of fear, not as a fraught project to avoid loneliness.
And when fear of loneliness does come up we don’t need to invalidate that experience or believe that it in any way means that we don’t belong. Instead, we can become intimate with our own experience. As we do this we start to realize that we are so spacious we can accommodate it all. We can meet our experience with infinite patience and compassion. We don’t need to abandon ourselves, even if the mind labels our feelings as bad, dangerous, or unevolved.