All posts by InfinityExplorer

What Does It Mean to Be “Spiritually Advanced”

In spiritual networks, it is common to label someone as “advanced,” be it the teacher, another practitioner, or oneself. It is pretty common to see someone presenting themselves as spiritually advanced. But how many go further to clarify what being “advanced” really means?

“Spirituality” is a loaded term that is contextualized to philosophy and religion, and conjuring images of crystals, candles, 5 am meditation, yoga, tarot cards, organic foods, and chanting. Yet, it just so happens that true spirituality has no props and all the aforementioned objects and practices do not define spirituality.

A spiritual life is available to all and is independent of one’s background and belief systems. If this were not true, some of us would be somehow superior to others, and one life would be considered more valuable than another – how is that possible?

“Advanced” is a strange term to use with spirituality because it implies being above and even beyond. To the ego, which loves to compare everything and everyone using its meter stick, “advanced” means either “better than me” or “beneath me” (ego is fairly binary). Comparison for purposes of fortifying oneself is a game children play on the playground, picking teams consisting of those most like themselves.

Something more unified than the individual is living all of us and, like a light beaming through a prism, is refracting into a rainbow of colors as each of us. The reality is that we can transform our perception of and relationship to what lives us. We are a differentiation of the One living consciousness that is experiencing itself through its many facets. Do we know this? If so, to what degree?

Spiritual evolution is a matter of shifting one’s attention to identify more and more with the Life that lives us, rather that our bodies, emotions, minds, diseases, and other conditions. No one is faulty at the core. The shifts seem to follow a pattern with common milestones.

To identify with something means to know that you are That – not separate, not worshipping something outside of yourself (and not worshipping yourself either), and not striving toward or pulling in anything because you are That.

I understand an “advanced” state as being increasingly identified with the unifying principle while maintaining an individual expression of that principle. We can be unique without being separate.

Our bodies express our degree of identification with this unified Consciousness through verbal and nonverbal communication. Our bodies are also valuable instruments for accessing and integrating the countless aspects of the one consciousness by happily handing over any clinging to a separate self. The more we surrender ourselves to That, the less we believe we are something superior or extra special. Thus, one naturally becomes humbled by existence as one evolves, while simultaneously understanding more deeply the value of all life. This is not even close to the practice of comparing, labeling, or either celebrating our superiority or wallowing in our self-perceived low attainment.

People who don’t use “spiritual” terminology may very well have undergone a transformation where they have peeled off the layers of separation – perhaps even more so than those who deftly toss around Sanscrit terms. This fact is often overlooked by those looking for superficial markers of a spiritual life. Someone who did not read the Vedas may be closer to reconfiguring their perceptual mechanism.

Transformation, as the name implies, is a fundamental shift in how one experiences life and relates to its processes. Perception changes to the degree that one begins to invent words and imagery to describe what one lives because such concepts do not exist in spoken languages. True transformation is not imagination because the descriptions of the so-called sages (as far back as ancient times) actually match at various key milestones.

For example, I have read Buddhist texts about the Watcher after going through several transformations myself to identify with these successive layers of consciousness. The Watcher is a palpable presence that seems to be observing “you” thinking, speaking, and doing until you identify with that observer. Then, one finds yet another Watcher. Eventually, there are no more Watchers. How do I know? Because in the incomplete state, a Watcher is tangible – there is clearly someone watching and seems to be other than yourself. Mostly, people claiming to be aware of their “consciousness” are aware of one of such Watcher layers. Once you’ve felt one Watcher, the rest are more easily recognizable. Their absence is also very obvious, which happens as one goes futher in letting go into Life. The One Life lives us and breathes us, not the other way around.

Transformation is a fundamental change in the configuration of our multifaceted body, rather than a honing or refining of an existing configuration. To someone who has gone through the change, it is obvious who else has or has not.

An “advanced” being cannot prove to others anything – nor wants to. But such a being can easily see where others are in their evolution toward unification and reidentification. Most important, such a being will not casually make claims about his or her state, lightly choose to become a public figure, or even subtly put down anyone at whatever level of life.

I have run into a number of people claiming something about themselves when it is clear that they have not transformed but simply got their life on stable footing. Also, highly tuned intuition or access to certain nonphysical planes of existence are no indicators of how or whether that being identifies. If “advanced” means seeing auras or reading people’s minds, then we are talking about different types of evolution – many who have not freed themselves can develop these skills but still remain removed from absorption as the One Life.

I am not at all implying that any life stage is more valuable than another. We all have equally important parts to develop by living. We will all make different and valid contributions as our lives unfold.

Someone asked me once why bother evolving or transforming if we are all valuable. The answer is simple – those poised for change will do the work to change – this will feel like the whole point of their existence, while others will have no interest in doing so. In any case, change is just that – something different, and neither superior nor inferior.

If someone is poised for change – especially at the critical points of early transformations, a teacher may come and invite one to complete the process. The teacher is an accelerant for something that may take lifetimes to do by oneself. For someone who is on the cusp, why wait aeons when the opportunity presents to move faster? There may be good reasons.

A clear expression of oneself supercedes any transformed state. Many advanced beings were seen as faulty because they did not express themselves clearly. Maybe they presented themselves as greedy opportunists or just horny, and this detracted from their contribution to humanity.

“Advanced” beings, whether hidden or in public view, contribute many things most people will not recognize as contributions by a certain person – beyond their spiritual talks and pithy wisdom. As one transforms, certain acts of service go on automatic and cannot be not done. In simplest terms, such beings make a difference to multitudes simple by being. They do not care if anyone knows what they really do and who they are.

I am a regular Joe. A mom with a job and two kids. I will remain that until my death. Most people won’t see me as anything else and it doesn’t matter to me. While my intensity is evident, it will be just “intensity” to most observers, chalked up to my personality.

In the meantime, I work on healing and clarifying my own expression. I want no gaps between my authenticity and what I present in everyday life.

Be wary of those who put down the human race or talk about it like a plague – this is not “advanced” behavior. As one gets closer to unification of life, it is impossible to hate or resent it, even while regularly confronting any dysfunction in no uncertain terms. Asserting truth may be seen as anger, but it can be very different from anger – although the intensity may be easily confused with anger at first glance.

Unconditional love becomes not only fundamental, it is simply one’s natural state and has little to do with the sticky, clingy “love” in most couples. “Unconditional love,” despite being misunderstood, is a phrase that still brings hope to humanity and continues to function – for now.

Spirit Is Not Human

Our “human-ness” is a particular expression of spirit, but spirit is not human. Spirit transcends species and enlivens all forms continuously. Our birth is an ongoing process of creation and is not marked by the time-stamp of exiting the womb.

Spirit is omnipresent and, thus, it is informed by all forms that exist.

Spirit is the medium of the life process and is, in turn, imbued by all the unique perspectives of life. Spirit “knows” the rock, the plant, the insects, and the animal kingdom. Thus, by opening our awareness to spirit, we can know directly the nuanced variety of life. Empathy is only a hint of what we can become. Want to know how a lady bug really sees the world? You can know this directly via spirit – not just out of sheer curiosity, but out of the natural yearning for union.

What is fascinating is that the form that identifies with spirit knows other forms. We are One only when a form awakens to spirit and begins to gradually integrate spirit knowledge – only then, separation is seen as an illusion.

The gradual nature of expanding awareness to countless perspectives is due to the fact that we must awaken dormant organs of perception to properly process and integrate the whole.

When spirit expresses through a particular form, the form uses spirit to shape an identity bubble. Then, the form becomes aware of its constriction and is inspired to unwind its enclosure – the ego – while still maintaining uniqueness. The form moves through phases of pulsing expansion until it literally is spirit using a body, rather than a body reaching toward spirit. This pulsing shift of consciousness is much like the birth of a star, preparing to ignite its nuclear fusion.

After awakening, it quickly becomes clear that the brain and the nervous system are multidimensional. The physical brain is only one aspect of a more comprehensive organ that translates spirit into expression through form on this plane. And, the form’s perceptions are translated to spirit.

This is a profound process still unknown to the consciousness of most living beings. The entire universe is continuosly birthing, pulsing, and breathing as its myriad sparkling reflections scatter about.

Without differentiation into diverse forms, the universe could not evolve. The universe itself is approaching enlightenment on a grand scale. Our universe is only a fragment of an even more unifying principle.

Each part has access to the whole, but only if the necessary “organs” of awareness are awakened, aligned, and ignited. The process of identifying with the whole must not be forced, but allowed to unfold with a natural rhythm of creation.

As the human body undergoes transformation and stabilizes, it is not accurate to call that being human anymore. Although a form appears human, the transcended awareness it emanates makes it trans-specied to the degree that it has integrated existence.

Busyness vs. Life Immersion

Someone asks: “How have you been?” People like to respond: “Busy!”

From a 50-thousand-foot view, the human race looks like a giant ant colony, moving piles of dirt from one place to another.

As a child, I once asked my father why he worked so hard. In my ignorance, I said to him that he resembled an ant. At the time, I did not understand how much work was required when one was trying to rise out of poverty. Frankly, I did not understand why anyone would want to live at all, given that life looked like some kind of voluntary slavery. The instinct to cling to life at all costs was never a part of my composition.

People who were content with their situations didn’t inspire me either. They projected an image of having everything they needed and maybe even wanted. However, they lacked that spark of spontaneous and creative joy. I knew even back then that what most called happiness did not even come close to the real thing.

Contentment is a fragile state, heavily dependent on life circumstances. If things don’t go well, contentment shatters and is supplanted by tears, prayers for help, and suffering. If happiness were real, it had to be independent of life’s ups and downs. But how many can say that they are happy when their situations go south and find winter?

I was convinced, for awhile, that the answer to happiness was in detachment. I wanted to be immune to emotions completely, and fantasized about being like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. If I felt nothing, nothing could hurt me. And yet, I was highly emotional and mercurial, which frustrated me to no end.

Had I not met my last teacher, I may not have ever known what real happiness looks like. It is so much more than even-tempered contentment and detachment. And it requires nothing less than a full-being plunge into life – an immersion from which there is no return.

For nearly a decade, I have been naturally immersed in life. In every daily detail lies an immense opportunity. Every moment is so rich, and our natural state is to be in this “zone,” in this “flow,” and authentic. This state is truly limitless and unbridled by doubts.

At the end of the day, I reflect. Every moment was spent giving of myself spontaneously and fully, and receiving the kind and heartfelt gestures of others. I have no time for anything else. Am I busy, or am I inseparable from living by superficial task orientation?

How many use tasks to escape the moment? The day – and I – feel full. Nothing is amiss. Nothing is lacking. Although I am sleep-deprived, attending to many daily details, and constantly running around, there is an unshakable stillness and joy. In my household, my kids and I never miss an opportunity to laugh and celebrate connection.

It turns out that the journey is all the fun and there is no destination. The destination is an illusion – a temporary marker for some next step. After the illusion is stripped, it is obvious that evolution is endless, boundless and – paradoxically – uniquely customized to each of us.

In an awakened state, we are the Divine in motion. We coruscate and gleam an embodied life process that leaves no room for false niceties, tight-lipped smiles, tough fronts, or know-it-all rigidity. Our natural state is freedom. Thus, it becomes literally impossible to waste time or to view tasks as an end goal.

Every moment spent being fake or detached is a waste of time. Every moment that is steeped in fear, worry, delusions of grandeur, or false humility is lost forever. Authenticity removes us from time by weaving us deeply into the fabric of existence, and time itself is surrendered. The clock stops or becomes irrelevant, and One becomes lost in service and feels no need to be found. Simple tasks transform into continuous, conscious actions. We transform by letting go of all safety nets, which were really mechanism that bypass life using closed-loop self-absorption – busyness.

The majority of people need to be reminded quite often that their lives are unfolding instead of waiting for a “working” routine. It is easy to get into blind habit and lose awareness of what is fresh. Once one embraces their authentic nature, any worry about being ill-fitted for life disappears and only pure awareness and expression remain.

Expression is life. It is the dance of a unique soul realizing its relationship to the whole while embodying the whole. When a being is guarded about their expression, they are not free. When a being minces words and is easily embarrassed, they are holding on to something that isn’t real. In the full state, there is no concern with being understood or misunderstood because one knows where thoughts and words are born, and how to imbue them with intention.

More than a vehicle, the body is a mechanism for constructing conscious relationships. Life is truly all there is, even in the seemingly lifeless. Surrendered awareness knows that nothing is dead and that there is no death. Absolutely everything is life.

Busyness is dull. As a child, I wasn’t wrong to question task-orientation as a way of living. Neither did I miss the mark when I thought that humanity was sleepwalking and dreaming, but not living. People call death the point when the body gives out, but I see death as a continuum of the degree to which one is immersed and connected to life. One could be highly active but dead, or laying down to rest and vibrantly alive.

We all have miles to go before we sleep. But our lives are measured in how authentic we are while moving through the moment. Our busyness is irrelevant when it is an avoidance of life.

Life is not indifferent to whether we embrace it or avoid it – it will continue to communicate the truth until we are ready and able to “hear” it. We eventually see through empty acts and discover our natural yearning to let go completely into our unfolding process.

Building Self-Awareness in Teens

Last month, I started an action research project in the classroom to help my 14-15 year-olds manage impulsive behavior and develop persistence during challenges.

When I started teaching, I remember being extremely sad that kids had so little emotional and “growing up” support in a school. I would observe vicious peer conflicts, inability to “fit in,” depression, anxiety, lack of interest in life, and a general feeling of “Why are we here just to suffer?” in those who are more self-aware. There were few to no adults these kids could come to for guidance and basic life-sanity.

My course load primarily includes 9th grade physics. These 9th graders must develop enough discipline to master the subject for a statewide test and prepare for future science courses.

They start the year strutting into the classroom, talking out of turn, interrupting others, not listening, not respecting others, and having no academic skills to speak of.

The transition for these students from middle school to high school is incredibly difficult and stressful. In addition, they have all kinds of personal drama that changes daily and ranges from homelessness, living in a foster home, parental abuse, too much responsibility for younger siblings, and relationships with peers.

To structure my vision for how to help them, I researched Costa’s 16 Habits of Mind and decided to explicitly introduce these in the classroom. Specifically, we have been working on Managing Impulsivity and Persistence. I wanted to see if simply building guided reflection time into the classroom routine would help these students be more self-reflective in their words and actions.

When I first inteduced the Habits, the more abnoxious students were dead-quiet. I could see their gears turning: Do we think before we speak? Do we say or do hurtful things to others and then regret it? Do we think that the world is mysterious and interesting? Do we feel proud of the academic work we produce? I asked students to reflect on the Habits with the entire class and was amazed at how much they shared, despite feeling psychologically unsafe around their peers – they wanted to talk about themselves reflectively so badly!

My intervention did not end up being simply reflection time. The Habits gave us a common vocabulary to talk about their benefits and implications for life. Each day, I projected a set of sample reflection quotes, which I constructed in a student voice based on my observations of students:

“I need to get attention to feel like I am real.

When no one pays attention to me, I feel like I don’t exist.

I do crazy stuff to get attention and that is impulsive. I can’t control it. I want to matter.”

“I think school is hard and I am not very good at it. But I want good grades.

When people don’t pay attention, I want to literally tear them to pieces. They act like they are the center of the universe.

When I see someone acting dumb, I tell them that they’re Dumb without thinking about it. It’s usually not a good move.”

I would ask students “What do you think about these?” and “How do you feel about these?” I remember that one student said “hash tag relatable,” referring to the Twitter tag for “I can relate.”

We spent this brief time at the beginning to hear any out-loud reflections and students filled out a reflection of their own at the end, ranking their application of Managing Impulsivity (for example) on a scale of 1-10, and writing a paragraph to give an example and to set a personal goal.

During the class, I continued to refer back to the Habit we were studying, and asked students to consider their behavior in light of the Habit. I also did my “Russian mother” yelling routine for particularly abnoxious actions, while naming behaviors as they occurred.

I have to act a great deal around kids – pretending to be angry or disciplinary, when – in fact – all I feel is love for these kids. I think they know it because my after-school help session is always full – for physics (which nearly everyone hates), and I have many students coming to talk to me, in general. I no longer feel emotions, such as anger, so the act is necessary because people are conditioned to interpret that display to pay attention.

It may sound like a lot of planning went into this, but it was post facto. I “planned” all of this in a flash instant of seeing the configuration I hoped to achieve on the other planes, and then translated what I saw to the language of this plane using the mind. Most of my confrontations, feedback, and support are in-the-moment and without any mental activity.

Yesterday someone called a student a “faggot.” I beamed them an intense look and asked if they heard of a poet, called Rumi. The student had not.

I quoted Rumi: “Before you speak, ask yourself – is it true… is it necessary… is it kind…” I had paused after each to give all students time to reflect. Then I asked, would they speak more or less if they considered these things before speaking? Many whispered “less.” I said “That’s what I thought…” and moved on with the lesson. Later, of course, I had to pull aside the two students to ask them what went on to warrant such language.

How did the project go? I saw a visible change in students during the month, as they were given descriptive language to consider their behaviors. Overall, the students were more attentive to their actions and caught themselves regarding the words they used. Their written reflections were quite deep. The classroom felt more together, rather than a bunch of bickering cliques. Even my paraprofessional said she felt more at ease and liked the humor.

I ponder my kids a lot throughout the day – their lives, their sense of self, and their crises. I also see them as being healed of their dramas and traumas. I am no different at home with my own kids. We have “life lesson” conversations frequently, and I carefully observe how they feel before, during, and after.

Kids do need to learn how to talk about what they feel, and in a way that helps them release and reflect. Schools are moving in the direction of being more open to building social emotional intelligence (SEL), and I am happy the climate is more accepting of this kind of work.

Things I Find Boring

When my high school students tell me about feeling bored in certain classes, I respond that boring people are easily bored. By this, I mean that nonboring people always find a way to engage – even in unstimulating situations.

There are two types of boredom I’ve seen: a) boredom due to not seeing the possibilities, and b) intolerance of repetitive pathways that have been trodden countless times before.

In the first case, possibilities are there, but one lacks the creative awareness to see them. In the second case, the creative possibilities of something have been exhausted, but one perseverates on such saturated experiences in hopes of getting more – trying to get blood from a stone.

The world has nooks of unfettered creativity, which are collectively known as “art.” The wealthy know the value of art, to some degree, and will pay huge sums to possess someone’s dynamic bursts. However, the vast majority are looking for fomulaic pleasure stimuli, guaranteed to tickle – a paint-by-numbers approach to movies, books, visual art, dance, music, and spirituality. In such template “art,” anything that touches well-mapped pleasure centers is exploited and voraciously consumed. Building novel relationships to life is not something most know how to do, or even miss not doing. After having a pleasant experience, one simply wants to repeat it over and over.

Is washing dishes or brushing teeth boring? Only when one does these without conscious connection and is, instead, just lost in thought.

I am never bored. Direct awareness is never boring. In truth, nothing authentic is boring. Life is ever-evolving and unfolding at all scales, but we fixate on things in a way that precludes clear vision and ability to appreciate nuance. When we move our bodies or minds and connect to the truth of others, life is magical in the seemingly most common tasks. The moment itself is creation.

However, I view people’s efforts to transcribe the inherent wisdom of life as inherently boring. “Why are we here?” is an inspiring question, but someone’s explanations and quotes and memes about why we are here is – in fact – mostly trite limmerics or minds-on cleverness, lacking the depth needed. Repetitive (and limited) interpretations of age-old questions about existence trample the underlying inspiration that catalyzed wondernment in the first place.

How many study Descartes’ statement: “I think, therefore I am”? Not only is the phrase myopic, the words themselves are tired of carrying the weight of pedantism.

Philosophy is fertile for mind-oriented people who prefer metalife to actual life. They are stuck in grooves, and their words are heavily analytical, biopic, unoriginal, and filled with self-preoccupation. Philosophers debate facts and scenarios that are meaningless when these do not bring any new insights or awareness to what the world now needs.

The population often engages in activities that are masturbation of the various bodies – the emotional and mental bodies can be masturbated just like the physical. People arguing, making points, aligning vocabulary, and fashioning counterpoints. Unfortunately, the mental circuit is its own loop and is disconnected from direct awareness. Hence, one can’t transform using the mind.

Almost everything that has been said was said before – and countless times. Almost all actions are familiar to the point of being unconscious. Daily life, when viewed from this perspective, is a track on single-repeat. This is the distorted and mass-produced life, where I no longer set foot.

Boring people look for extreme experiences, lights, colors, and intensity, to hit their pleasure centers and un-numb themselves. So, they miss the possibilities that are unfamiliar and subtle – mostly veiled – to the casual observer.

If I were to speak to you, what would I hear? How you have loved and lost? How hard everything is? How unfair life can be? How brilliant you are? How unfortunate or happy you are? The human-race echo chambers ring with the collective conversations that are calcified and empty. In fact, people sacrifice true originality in the name of self-aggrandizing aches and pains, and identify more with their diseases and lacks than with the possibility of freedom. You don’t need to be your aches and pains, but people glom on to illness as an identity.

I spend very little time with humanity digesting and regurgitating the individual so-called ailments and confusion, unless I am working with teens. They need a great deal of support and lack sane role models to carry on more than the standard and usual conversations about work ethic and behaviors. No one asks how much past history they really need to know to create something new. So, they repeat all history and do not sufficiently push beyond its envelope.

I write because words are my paints and brushes. I write because it makes no difference to me if anybody reads me. I write. I also sing, speak to audiences, rap, and gesticulate. My being is my medium, and I work via this medium, full bodied.

Working primarily on the other planes of existence, while also multitasking with people here, leads me to choose actions that release me from this realm while, paradoxically, still allowing me to be here. No one needs to entertain me or get my laughs – although I laugh with people a lot. No one needs to understand me. I don’t listen too long to people making excuses or trying to convince me what they meant – I knew them at “hello.”

What catches my attention are the sparks of life who destroy their fabricated self-image as they create – like living sand mandalas. People tend to have a negative attitude to life (“I want to curl up and die”) and also too positive “Let’s go shopping and party!” – neither state is conducive to transformation. Both extremes are well-mapped and understood, and I cannot imagine being part if conversation with people in these states about specific situations. Few are capable of truly reflecting on their attitudes with greater depth.

I have no interest in people looking to further elaborate to me about the why’s and how’s of their blatant constriction, especially when they are constantly defending what they think they have attained. Their supposed freedom and happiness are partial and…to me…boring.

Why the Ego Is So Tough

The human ego is incredibly challenging to see in action. This mechanism has the ability to blind us to our behaviors and to mask the real intentions under what we project. The ego is so convincing because we think that it is who we are and that it is us who is deciding what to do. In fact, our true yearning remains something we can dismiss or rationalize away. Thus, it is incredibly difficult to transcend the ego.

Nearly every person has an ego whether the person accepts this or not. In fact, it is a rather pointless discussion to convince anyone of this fact. By its nature and function, the ego does not want to be seen – let alone dismantled as the primary driver. While it is more comfortable to believe that one’s ego is “gone,” premature claims just postpone further growth. A person who is ready to move into the work of dis-identifying with ego will know the truth of the situation on some level.

There is also a difference in transcending the ego and dissolving the ego. Transcending the ego relegates its status to a tool, rather than one’s identity-shaping mechanism on the lower planes of existence. Dissolving the ego invokes other processes to configure one’s relationship to life.

The ego is a lens through which we forge an identity that is separate from others. It can be a useful lens for developing oneself in the world. It is necessary to evolve one’s body and mind such that they integrate with the life day-to-day. Without a critical mass of this integration, one cannot feel the boundaries of one’s perception at all. Although our boundaries exist, these boundaries define who we are and we do not feel any calling to push through anything. The majority of the human race is at this stage of not recognizing that one’s entire perspective is custom-made to build a powerful identity.

People without a fully formed identity are seen as unsuccessful in the world – they don’t have good “luck” with earning an income, romantic relationships, and succumb to fear of real-world pressures. Ironically, one first needs to realize one’s ego to be prepared to transcend it. Enlightenment, even in the earliest stages, requires humility. If you think about it, one must be willing to be wrong to be capable of humility. The ego does not like to be wrong, to be “below,” or to be anything other than self-concerned and comparative.

Some common tactics of the ego include fear, hiding, making excuses, blindness to reality, defensive or offensive maneuvering, control of people or situations, and attempts to convince someone of something. These behaviors are so prevalent in humanity that it is easy to assume these behaviors to be “just human nature.” Only when the ego is close to being trascended can one see through it and engage with it on a different level. Then, the ego becomes truly obvious.

The ego is so custom tailored to each being that it must be “decoded” for each being individually. However, it cannot be “diagnosed” by the mind by matching specific behaviors to conclusions. An enlightened being may seem agressive, but the aggression is only the tip of the iceberg of what this being is doing in the moment. An enlightened being may counter a statement without being defensive. Only the intuition of a transcended being can see deep enough to understand the observable behavior, tone, or words. Even written words root down to the person’s core and the ego is visible.

What is a human being like beyond the ego? Open to what’s possible, comfortable with the unknown, both confident and self-questioning, strong, quiet or vivacious, creative without judgement that down-plays the creativity of others, or rational or intuitive. Just like with the egoic persona, it is hard to “see” an enlightened being. The difference is, an enlightened being isn’t bothered by this or any other projections on him or her.

Oddly, one does not need to dedicate hours to meditation, yoga, or chanting to let go of the ego. What happens is that attention becomes tuned to this device throughout the day – maybe on and off – until it is finally felt as something “other” and not oneself. This attention is incredibly difficult to sustain. Unless a teacher is helping to bring internal dynamics to the fore, people eventually convince themselves of a comfortable truth and move on. That is the dilemma.

The ego is not only localized to an individual consciousness, but operates on different scales. Groups have an ego. The human race has an ego. However, without seeing the personal ego, it can be difficult to imagine what is going on at these scales. Each person that is free can assist with global transformation in a way that can be described as one’s unique life, but without all the drama.

The Oldest Story Ever Told

You are this…

Are you looking at the reflection, or is the reflection looking at you? It’s not obvious.

You are the Milky Way reflected in the myriad spiral galaxies all around…Does this seem different from watching the world from atop a mountain? From inside a living cell? What are atoms, really?

Perhaps you think enlightenment looks like this…

But, that’s too limited a view. Stereotypes are too easy. There is no archetype for freedom.

We start keeping a journal at about this point. There are endless seeds and we think it all belongs to us.

Here is another way of saying the same thing…

The next is just another Fool, perhaps further down the path. Many Fools camp here for a grand old time, reveling in their ability to manipulate the unseen…. It’s a common rest stop and a trap, stalling further evolution.

The campground has many of these too…

The next guy looks cute… Got most of the anger out and stopped trying to “save” himself by trying to save and fix the world, whatever that is….

We might as well be aliens when there is a shift in relating to reality, seeing things with unfettered eyes.

Dirty Money?

There are people who view money as a bad influence, and others see money as the currency of life that guarantees involvement. With free will, we can and do choose how we relate to money. Deeper introspection is often needed to understand how to heal our relationship with whatever money signifies for our lives.

When I was little, my grandmother told me not to touch money – it was “dirty.” My mom carried forward the same message. True – money changed hands, some of which could have been laden with bacteria. However, I also got the message that money was something unclean. Because I grew up in poverty, I considered people who had money “dirty” – in my country of origin, it was unlikely that money was made in “clean” ways.

Then, there was my father – a stepdad who took us to America. He went to a computer programming bootcamp upon arriving in New York to retrain himself for a new career in the U.S,., took English classes, and persistently applied for jobs. I was told that he sent out hundreds of resumes and got the one interview that landed him his first job. Because of him, I was able to attend college. He raised us out of poverty.

My father liked his job a lot. He also taught me that supporting family was the most honorable thing one could do. We didn’t talk about it – he lived it. Family and education were the most important things to bring one out of poverty. People who have not experienced poverty have no idea how powerfully it can drive one to seek a better life.

For a long time, I resisted my father’s push to get a stable job. I wanted to help people and, without giving it much thought, still believed that helping people and money were diametrically opposed. At one point, I asked a guru to live in the ashram, and she said “No, you are needed in the world. You must be out there on the frontlines.

When I was a single mom with my first child, I quickly realized that we would not live well on a teacher’s salary. I listened to my dad and got a corporate job. I rapidly climbed up the “ladder” and eventually made a moderate income. However, I had not realized that – at the time – I also carried a great deal of unconscious fear regarding losing money and not having enough to support my family. Poverty leaves an impression.

Even while bringing home a substantial paycheck, I felt fear about losing my job, about spending too much, and about not having enough. Eventually, I realized that no matter how much money I made, I still had fear of not being able to provide for my family or losing my job. My fear-based relationship to money brought conflict into my household, where my perception was that nothing is enough and no amount of hard work is too much.

It has now been years since I had my high-paying job. I am making a teacher’s salary again and have my children, now as a single mom once more. Although I have come full circle, my perspective is not the same. Although I still have financial pressures, I realize that things can be made to work out for my kids – but not without my active involvement and work ethic. It is possible to work hard without becoming negative and jaded.

My older son started college this year and I am fighting to secure money for his education from his dad. My younger one is still in his formative years and needs stability. I will need to fight for his stability. And, I will pick up whatever worshop “gigs” and summer school that become available to help make ends meet.

It took me time to accept that our world is set up a certain way around a currency and “market demands.” But these are just overt signs of a more profound universal process at play. One thing became clear to me: The pursuit of decent living and helping people are not incompatible. Regadless of what else I was doing, I made myself available to people.

I have enough life experience to now plan ahead and adapt to what’s needed. To live, most of us must be practical and work hard enough, but without the baggage of fear. The world needs skills and dreams – such people will always make it.

As a teacher, I see about 150 students a day. Some come from wealthy homes, and others are homeless. Many are getting a free lunch because of their family’s low income. When I ask them what they want to do with their lives, many say “I want to make lots of money.” When I ask “What will you do with this money?” Many say “Pay off my parents’ mortage” and other statements regarding rising out of poverty. Of course some also dream of having wealth, and expensive and luxurious things. Our culture seems obsessive about having things. Yet, all unanimously want to have a job that they enjoy and one that also provides.

I was fortunate enough to be persistent in my education and learn skills that were in demand. Others were not so fortunate and had impractical college majors, which ensured that someone else would always have to support them.

It is easy to talk about careers that make money as being less than noble. It is easy to put down people who work hard to bring opportunities to their children and pay the bills. But practical reality shows how a lack of money leads to unhealthy living, addictions, depression, and even crime.

For the love of our families, some of us need multiple jobs just to make ends meet, living from paycheck to paycheck. This is where I am now. It is likely that I will need to attend a crash course in Data Science and Machine Learning to get a new career and to provide more opportunities for my kids. I seriously prefer not to put back groceries on the store shelf just to meet my budget. That is reality.

Fighting reality by calling money “dirty,” necessary hard work “workaholism,” and the pursuit of higher-paying jobs “ignoble” is rejecting what is needed in our world. While all these labels are possible for some people, they do not necessarily apply to most.

Money can and does help people. Those in the STEM fields have the capacity to create and invent for our future. Those in the service industry have the ability to bring people together.

I like financial independence – it felt great to not need child support from my older son’s dad because I made enough at the time. I prefer an honest job that holds my interest, uses my brain, and pays as much as I can get for my family.

I’ve learned that practical and grounded living is essential to being on this planet. I am not afraid anymore, but neither am I grabbing a begging bowl and stopping my own education that can improve the lives of my kids.

Life on Earth is set up to immerse us in life experiences. Money is just how we exchange opportunities. If it weren’t money, it would be something similar. Spiritual living is more grounded when a person can be deeply immersed in life and with people.

Certainly, our society can improve in how we motivate people to engage in life (and not just look for escape), but calling money “dirty” and hard work unnecessary laughs in the face of our real lives. Why not, instead, ask why life is set up this way, and explore the question with deeper insight? For this is indeed a setup for us….

Beginning the Journey of Ego Transcendence

When making the decision to step onto a spiritual path, it is quite normal to not know what the outcome will be. A transformed state is challenging to articulate because most people will try to interpret it from the untransformed point of view. One thing is certain – the irritating aspects of life cease to be irritating and an individual can navigate situations with greater ease. This is not all that transformation brings about, but it does address frequent life complaints and fluctuating life situations no longer impact our happiness.

The ego is a process that causes us to interpret all stimuli in the context of ourselves. With repeated interactions, life literally becomes about our perspective on life and our view of ourselves. A feedback loop is created, where every occurrence is about and for us as individuals. We filter most of life that does not appear to impact us directly.

If we didn’t have the ego, how would we see life and ourselves? We would see life with greater flexibility of perspective. We would know that not everything is about us. We would have more room to be aware of others and events that have no immediate impact on our situation, even while we are going through our own stuff.

Ego is like flypaper that attracts and glues stuff into a cluge of our identity. No ego? No glue. No stickiness. No self-absorption. An ego-less persona is paradoxically there while no one is there.

To dismantle the ego operation, it is helpful to engage in self-reflection. This is a deeply personal activity that has nothing to do with educating the mind about philosophy or others’ discoveries. The teacher is a sounding board for one’s reflections. The root cause of why someone is struggling is obvious to the teacher but maybe completely hidden from the student. The teacher will provide insights about this root cause and tie a person’s patterns of relationship and life engagement to this root. Then, more and more reflection follows.

Nothing special is needed here except living one’s life. No ceremonies. No incantations. Perhaps journaling and occasional conversations with a transformed being about personal struggles, but that is all.

At some point, the teacher will introduce the student to meditation. Unlike popularized meditation of relaxing the body and observing thoughts, this meditation may be quite different. It may cause some to have a peak experience or a realization immediately. It may also result in release. I won’t say more about this meditation because it’s not about words, but the direct connection that occurs on invisible levels. The teacher is a vehicle for this energy and models its integration and shining, but people mistake the teacher for a person. This, too, is normal.

In short, the path of ego transcendence can occur completely within the context of one’s life. It’s challenging for me to imagine another way. After all, are we not here to live our lives?

Some choices we make will set us back in our evolution, while other choices will propel us forward. But each choice is ours to make.

The teacher works with students predominantly on other planes of existence. It still amazes me how many people think they know what a teacher does without having reached that point themselves. How many myopic conclusions are drawn without having even a glimpse of such a life and existence? It is so foreign to everyday conceptions of life that it often frightens others, while simultaneously appearing interesting and inviting. But this is all normal too. People define their own value by having to have answers – even when the answers have no direct experience or knowledge as a basis.

Every life has value, regardless of the level of awareness. In these words is a great mystery…. The mind will try to analyze the meaning of a valuable life, but will fail eventually. Only direct knowledge of this value can reveal a different way of seeing human beings and has no need to compare and judge.

People mostly want validation and mistake that for love. They don’t realize that their constant search for validation is the ego – the very mechanism they wish to trascend. These characters are irritated or collapse into despair when no validation is forthcoming. Unconditional love has no need to play this game to lure someone in. The egoless state is far from a casual exercise in loving kindness.

People who do not recognize such transformed beings when they arrive on the scene will carry on doing what they do. Because they live as their identity, it is unlikely they will break free – it is not their time. Those who are hungry for transformation will recognize the teacher immediately with no second thoughts. If a teacher has not sought you out, you do not need one at this time. Even if one reached out, you may decide to pass by.

The ego does not go quietly. Its dismantling will bring up resistance, doubt, frustration, aggression, defensiveness, justifications, emotional outbursts, and a slew of its other trademark activities. One will either withstand the fire and burn off these faux-human layers, or give up and walk away – justifying their choice throughout. This is normal too.

The ego is not surprising, but highly predictable. It’s been done over and over. It is not unique or inspiring. The true creativity and individual uniqueness runs on a completely different circuit. It is no wonder that engaging creativity is such a powerful catalyst for ego transcendence. But even there are pitfalls. If it were easy to transcend the ego on one’s own, most people would have done it already.

I Live You Too

A friend texted me. We had a brief exchange about our classrooms – I had recently tried incorporating a few minutes for reflection into my classes by students on Costa’s Habits of Mind. My colleague was going to try this too. She signed off with “You know I love you. Right?!” I typed “I live you too.

It was a typo. But then the light tugged at me. I live you too. The light lives all of us. When the Identity is the light, I live you too and you live me.

This phrase struck me as Being itself interacting with Itself through all of us. Conscious relationship at this level is an incredibly powerful synergy.

After the ego mechanism untangles from identity – and ego is just a mechanism or process – the expression runs crystal clear as the light expresses itself through form. Expression of the light is not clear right away – it takes about a decade to get to that after the initial, stable opening.

I live you too.

The light is not an idea. It is living. It enters through the crown of the head and one can feel the pressure of it pouring in. We open to it, and it can enter – poised at the gateway until we are ready.

As it pours in, there is blissful restfulness and the Mind goes empty in a dynamic stillness. The top of the head feels “blown off.” One no longer feels that “I” is the thoughts, emotions, and the body sensations. It may take years to integrate this throughout the entire body, when even the body dissolves in the light.

I am not describing a fleeting experience – it is a permanent change felt throughout the body. Even further transformation may occur – the entry is just the beginning.

When the circuitry is ready, it just plugs in. Getting ready means being aware of what circuitry is blocking the entry. It is unusual and rare for human beings to transform on their own.

The cost of transformation is usually a requirement to change one’s life ways – food, job, relationships, and activities – although much of this work is better done prior to transformation. Life should align with the natural flow of one’s being as much as possible. If life is not congruent with our yearning to express, things just won’t work and changes are necessary.

After the shift stabilizes, touching life is so very different. It’s like seeing the world for the first time and with a new “eye.” I still remember that feeling vividly – the initial entry, where I was and what I was doing. I was riding in a car and looking at treetops.

I fixed the “typo” and signed off with my friend. I love you too.