theartoflovingkindness

living from the transformative power of the heart

Risking Everything

lose-myself1

Poetry is a kind word made flesh experience for me. Below are two poems that describe the life that can be found after you lose your (first) life of the ego. It was Jesus who said, “Lose your life and you will find it.” Here are two descriptions of what it means to lose one’s life only to find it again, fuller and richer than ever.

Here in this body are the sacred rivers;

here are the sun and moon,

as well as all the pilgrimage places.

I have not encountered another temple

as blissful as my own body

–Tantric Song

Trust the energy that

Courses through you. Trust

Then take surrender even deeper. Be the energy.

Don’t push anything away. Follow each

Sensation back to its source

In vastness and pure presence.

–Danna Faulds (quoted in Tara Brach, True Refuge…, p. 77)

Umberto Eco Character on the Results of Grasping

THE NAME OF THE ROSEUmberto Eco wrote The Name of the Rose, a story about the abuses of power at institutional and personal levels and about the dark side of human grasping and clinging. In one sentence, his characterization of a Frenchman from the court of the King of France reveals what happens to all of us when we fail to let go of our grip on things and of our impulse to control everything. Here is his ingenious quote and insight:

…the men of that corrupt land are always inclined to foster the interest of their own people, and are unable to look upon the whole world as their spiritual home…

May we all be given the support and love

we need to give us the space to

learn how to let go and

to live at peace

with all that IS.

Everything

belongs

ūüôā

Increasing Sense of the Eternal Nature of Consciousness

creek near hendersonville nc

In the late afternoon today, in a moment of reflection and solitude, I traveled beyond time. In an illuminating instant, reality merged into the ocean of a timeless, vast spaciousness of pure being. I simply entered that stream of consciousness, of being, and I saw, no, I knew that I was and always had been. I was pulled up into that third heaven where the eternal Source allowed me to swim in the joy of being itself. And I knew right then that I had nothing to fear; I knew myself as eternal being, as a son of the Divine, without beginning or end, in union with God as unending life. There was no more striving, no more knowing or not knowing. All was light. All was love.

A Gentle Validation of the Artist’s Burden (and of All Who Seek Awakening)

onion

Sunday night, my wife and I were visiting with friends over red sauce and pasta, listening with an admiring fascination to their daily dilemma. They exist between the polarizing demands of making a living and of living as the genuine creative types that they are. It can be maddening at times. One of the friends said, “Someone in my family made me promise that I would be an artist. It was my uncle. He was an artist, but he became a stock broker to make a living and he said he has regretted it his whole life. He said to me, ‘Promise me that you will be an artist. Promise!’.”

They are artists. Artists are like onions: peel one layer away and you get artist at the next layer and the next. I think that’s why artists are tormented souls. They cannot NOT see and feel and hear and taste because their inner essence leans toward the “getting at” the inherency of things, the integrity of things.

They live in a similar process with all of us who seek to awaken to the present moment: the painful process of learning to see with new eyes and to hear with new ears. And this too is its own kind of torment when it comes to ‘making it’ in this world.

It just so happened that two days after our visit with the artist friends that I came across the autobiography of Thomas Merton. Merton tells us of his father that he was an artist. A good one.¬†But I was particularly drawn to Merton’s observation about his father as an artist living in this world. Merton’s assessment of his artistic father would apply to all artists and to all who seek to awaken to the ‘truth’ of things. So, take this thought as a gentle validation of the struggle to be creative and/or to awaken to higher consciousness. Merton said,

The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.

Be encouraged! For you are an onion!!

ūüôā

bryan

Carl Jung, Necessary Suffering and Transcending Suffering

c Jung head adn shldrs

Carl Jung’s assessment was right: neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. Suffering, Jung would agree, is legitimized by its universal existence in every sphere of our lives. It is here to stay.

I get that.

But this is what’s hard and frustrating¬†for me both as a person and as a psychotherapist: Neurosis ends up happening to most of us because our cultural and environmental training leaves us completely exposed and unprepared for how to respond to legitimate, inevitable suffering. We are, then, left to the training of our biological conditioning, which has been to live out of lower consciousness of self-this and self-that. This makes us neurotic and it is the general condition of most people in western countries.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit: where do any of us get the training we need to go beyond neurosis in how we deal with suffering? How do we face necessary suffering without ending up with neurosis?

Here’s an encouraging idea for thoughtful reflection: We might not be able to avoid inevitable suffering, but what if we could be trained to expand our consciousness so that we could transcend legitimate suffering?

Take that a step further. What if Eckhart Tolle and others like him are right when they say that humanity is destined to transcend suffering?!

Now, I like the sound of that!

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about what or who has enlightened your consciousness and trained you to transcend suffering.

(I’m not fishing for blog comments to ‘expand my blog’ audience; I’m genuinely interested in YOUR experiences in this realm).

Bryan

Four Agreements with My Ego

ego-deflation

  1. My ego will complain about what life and others have done ‘to me.’ The Being that I am agrees to gently ask the ego, “Who is taking things so personally?”
  2. My ego, understandably, assesses certain emotions as a sign that something is wrong and that some action(s) must be taken to bring about change; unfortunately, my ego learns over time to resist the very emotions themselves, gradually narrowing my window of tolerance for the full range of human experience, including ‘pleasant’ experiences. The Being that I am agrees to thank the ego for its service and kindly show my ego to the door.
  3. My ego believes it is the real me. The Being that I am agrees to gently ask, “Who is talking in my head?”
  4. My ego thrives on making quick comparisons and judgments of what’s happening; but this keeps me from being where I am now. The Being that I am agrees to do my best to slow down¬†in order to¬†allow whatever is happening to be felt and embraced and experienced.

Ten Practical Thoughts on the Ego (from Eckhart Tolle’s new book, A New Earth)

a new earth

Excellent read from a well-traveled scholar and seeker of wisdom. Read this book if you’d like to take personal growth beyond the levels of popular self-help insights.

10. The Ego keeps us from “inhabiting a living reality” (p. 39). It only knows a conceptual reality that is thought-dominated around “the unconscious compulsion to enhance one’s identity through association with an object or an idea” (p.¬†35).

9. The ego is built into the structure of the mind, and one of the ways it comes into existence is through the process of identification. The ego always identifies with something because the ego wants to “enhance one’s identity through association with an object…So when I identify with something-things, people, religion, status-I endow it with a sense of self, and so it becomes a part of my identity” (p. 35)

8. Advertising and marketing are built on ego. To sell products that people don’t need, advertisers must convince folks that “those things will add something to how they see themselves or are seen by others; in other words, add something to their sense of self” (p. 35).

7. “But we cannot really honor things (or people) if we use them as a means to self-enhancement” (p. 37).

6. “The ego identification with things creates attachment to things, obsession with things, which in turn creates our consumer society and economic structures where the only measure of progress is always¬†more” (p. 37).

5. “The unchecked striving for more…is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part” (p. 37).

4. To get out of ego and this striving for more, we must get out of a thought-dominated consciousness into a being-dominated awareness or consciousness. The ego only knows thoughts that identify with some thing or status; ego can never access the “being” aspect of consciousness, which must felt, lived, and experienced rather than thought (pp. 39-40).

3. “If you say, ‘That building is mine. I own it…’ you are telling a story in which the thought form around ‘I’ and the thought form around ‘building’ merge into one…This story and the thought forms that make up the story…have absolutely nothing to do with who you are. Many people don’t realize this until they are on their deathbed and everything external falls away that¬†no thing¬†ever had anything to do with who they are” (pp. 42-43).

2. “Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them. In the meantime, just be aware of your attachment to things” (p. 45). This is a good starting place.

“Unconscious people will quickly tell you who they are: their name, their occupation, their personal history, the shape or state of their body, and whatever else they identify with…Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating around in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being…You can use this criterion to find out how deeply you know yourself-Ask yourself the question:

What are the things that upset and disturb me?

“If small things have the power to disturb you, then who you¬†think¬†you are is exactly that: small. That will be your unconscious belief” (pp. 186-187)

Eckhart Tolle, 2005, The New Earth, Penguin Books: New York, NY.

The Higher Consciousness

Everything belongs…

Sinus Surgery and Zombies in My Head

After two months of sinus infections (really, 25 years) and something that felt like the flu that was hanging around for a couple of weeks, I felt the effects of being sleep deprived and living with chronic fatigue and pain. I ended up at the ENT out of quiet desperation and my doctor, a very competent and kind man who knows my treatment history, said, “Looks like you have 100% blockage here and here and 85% here and here. You probably have zombies living in your head.”

Zombies?! Living in my head?¬†¬†How freakin’ brilliant and poetic and TRUE in more ways than he knows!

How to Find the Cure for Zombies in My Head

zombies are real!

zombies are real!

So late one night, while I was awaiting surgery, I went searching for zombie movies.¬†Have you seen¬†The World of Z¬†with Brad Pitt (The Z stands for zombies :)? There’s a scene in the movie where a brilliant young scientist is talking to Brad Pitt’s character (I won’t give anything away here) and he makes an observation about finding cures for any type of terrible suffering inflicted at the hands of Mother Nature, including zombies:

Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one’s better. More creative. Like all serial killers, she can’t help the urge to want to get caught. What good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So, she leaves crumbs. Now, the hard part is…seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of her inflicted suffering turns out to be the chink in her armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as her strengths.

There it was! The clues to overcoming zombies living in my head… and it was in a zombie movie all this time!

Where to Look: the Clue to Curing Zombies in the Head–The Most Brutal Emotional Suffering Holds the Answer

In the zombie movies, getting up close to the terror of the zombies is where the weakness of ‘the virus’ is revealed. That revelation occurs when the suffering seems indomitable and all-powerful and lots of people have been reduced to a ravenous hunger that can’t be¬†quenched¬†and healthy people are running away like mad¬†except for a few folks who remain calm enough to look straight into the scary, painful behavior and consequences of all the zombie mayhem.

Hmmm…interesting insight here into emotional suffering and how to either keep adding to it or learn what, if any, weakness might be revealed in all that pain, I thought.

The Ego’s Conflicting Roles: Protector and…Torturer

With the help of eastern wisdom and western scholarship, we now know that the clues to the sources of our most intense emotional suffering happen when we move toward suffering. What do we learn about the source of our worst pain when we let it guide us to its weakness? We learn that it is our ego. The pain and the suffering reveal the ego to be the cause and source of our worst emotional suffering. Not that there aren’t real physical threats and dangers that cause us pain. I’ve lived through some pretty serious, dangerous, on-going, threatening events and craziness, but as bad as those experiences hurt me at the time, it has been the damaging effects left inside, from the ego, that have caused the greater suffering in my life.

Ego as Protector

The ego is our protector. It protects us from real danger and threat; from all-too-real zombies in this world! For some, this ego mechanism was especially active and helpful in early childhood experiences, where living with terror was the normative, consistent experience in life. Protection is our basic need in such times and we have an excellent, hardwired, highly complex fear-threat response system that has been finely tuned over millions of years and is nature’s gift to us as part of our humanness.

Ego as Torturer

But the ego as protector tends to harden and thicken our consciousness. It¬†is the voice in our head that never stops chattering and pushing. Always analyzing, comparing, evaluating and judging situations and people, it makes our consciousness stiff and rigid. We find it less possible to be present (though we don’t know this is happening to us). The ability to be where we are and to sense the authenticity of being ourselves is lost behind thickening walls of self-protection.¬†Hiding, running away, isolating oneself, contracting, or restraining oneself from showing up fully,¬†as Almaas writes,¬†are ways we avoid being open because being open is way too dangerous.

Zombies Live Inside: The Ego Must Protect ‘Me’ from Inner Threat

The negative aspect of the ego as protector, as necessary as it is against external dangers, is that we ‘learn’ to be afraid all the time without letting ourselves consciously feel the fear. ¬†The ego as protector teaches us, in the moments of real or imagined threat, how to NOT feel fear, or weakness, or sadness so that we can take action to survive. At this level, the ego has shifted from protector against external threats to protector against perceived internal threats fueled by an unconscious mind teeming with bad memories and feelings. The result? The building of an internal defensiveness, where the ego starts to ‘watch out’ for feelings, thoughts, emotions, memories, states of mind, etc.,. that are too scary to allow to arise into our consciousness. Inner walls are built as protective barriers against this darker side of ourselves. ¬†The ego becomes our “intel” that gives us the sense that we have demons living inside of us, zombies nonetheless! Any verified internal threat becomes a¬†self-justifying reason for the unconscious mind to build¬†inner walls, ‘necessary protectors’ to keep the zombies from getting out and gobbling us up. The sad news is that these protective inner walls end up torturing us, adding to our suffering immensely more than the actual, real threats from life. These inner walls¬†separate the different parts of ourselves–such as our heart and our genitals, our consciousness and our unconscious–or they (the walls) can be between us and what we perceive as the ‘outside’¬†writes Almaas in The Unfolding Now.¬†

In my next blog entry, I will write about how to make the zombies that live inside our heads go away. I will close with a few practical thoughts about doing the hard work of staring straight into the emotional pain caused by our ego.

1. When we sit in our chair and begin to practice being where we are, inquiring into what is going on, we will eventually begin to discern what Almaas calls a stance of defensiveness that is becoming more conscious to us.

2. As Almaas teaches in his book The Unfolding Now, this defensiveness against our experience is actually attempting to keep our deeper fears locked away in the unconscious where they cannot be felt.

3. When resistance and defensiveness start to be discerned in the heat of our emotional suffering, we are inching our way to no longer interpreting our internal pain to be the all-powerful, default self that functions as completely in charge of our personality.

4. This is a critical insight. It means we are nearly ready to consider that there is something deeply buried that keeps us from the fuller range of human emotions that might be on the verge of arising into our consciousness: things like fear, hurt, terror, not knowing who we are without the fear and the anxiety.

5. These are all signs of life! And they are scary as you-know-what. But, this means the ego is weakening and slowly we are seeing that, while it functions as our protector, it bloody-well keeping zombies alive now in our heads.

5. The next step, then, is to slow down and experiment with the new world of becoming v-u-l-n-e-r-a-b-l-e. This “V” word is how we approach the inner wall of defensiveness and take it down, brick by brick. I’ll have much ¬†more to say about the “V” word in my next entry. But, for now…

May you know calm and peace as you learn and grow and seek to live from the transforming power of your heart, friend!

Bryan

 

A Poem of Being for Feb. 1

I am not a poet, but I am a poet at heart, attempting to learn to be…(and not always live a few feet apart from where I am).

The pre-dawn sun

is mapping the sky

in indigo hues.

…no, wait,

the colors are

changing.

Right before my eyes.

Indigo plumes gilded now

with violets. Then pastels,

darker at first, yet ever

so subtly highlighting,

changing.

I am here.

I know I am…

Seeing, letting be.

Feeling, letting be.

Letting be, there is.

Everything simply is!

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