Archive for May, 2009

Comments on Watching for the Burden of Life

What follows is a long, but incredibly insightful dialogue that took on Facebook. This dialogue will be meaningless unless you read the post that is below. So do that first then check out these comments that are presented verbatim.
Irene: Oooooh Eric, I love this, it’s so clearly expressed. And it is humane. I will re-read…… thank you.
Patricia: I appreciate this, very much! Will re-read it also, it has interesting postulates.
In fact I was just about to write a piece that had the words hunger and void in it but stopped short when I read this as I didnt want to echo what you might have already said, it stands alone and is quite complete. Not sure my thought expressed the same thing, then again maybe it did, from another angle. Either way, well said, and its great, thanks!
Scott: 🙂 good stuff
Rene: Quote: “Get free by seeing every psychological need as a direct pointer to what is false about who you are. No exceptions.”

As a consequence of this statement, do you leave your premises about the invalidated psychological self now behind?
Me: No.
The purpose of my writing about invalidation is vital. Freedom from the false requires us to see with “eyes wide open”. The theory of invalidation shows how our eyes were shut as a direct consequence of invalidation. We were wounded and, as a result, a false Fear-based Self emerged. It is this self that is restless, needing to achieve, falls into despair, grasps onto life, etc.
Patricia – thank you – interesting that you were considering the same issues.
Rene: Your theory doesn’t seem to be coherent. If I understand you correctly, your wounded psychological self has a need for healing.

If I take that as a direct pointer about what’s false about who I am, as you suggest, who or what is the false then?

It looks irreconcilable to hold up that the invalidated self needs healing, and at the same time is false.
Me: Did I say this false self needs healing? I hope not. It just needs to be seen as false.
I wrote a book on this topic based on mountains of data, as well as personal participation in the Navajo Peacemaking Program. It’s about 300 pages long. Sometimes it’s tricky getting that much clarity into these little boxes.

Rene: The healing of the wounded, invalidated self is a psychological need.

So according to you this is pointing back to what’s false about who we are, as every psychological need is pointing to the false, right?

I’m confused now about what you see as the false within that frame. If being invalidated leaves us with a wound, then that indicates there is a psychological need for validation. So in which way is that psychological need for validation pointing to the false?

Me: Here’s a scenario:

For any number of reasons, the very young child gets the message that there is something wrong with him (beginning of individuation). That feeling evolves into the thought “I am deficient”. This is the wound. Because the wound is so painful, a compensating self that is adaptive evolves. I call this the Fear-Based self. So, let’ssay the child interprets their deficiency as “I am stupid.” This is a psychological interpretation on the presumed reality of the Wound. From that Core Belief there evolves an better adapted self that needs to proves to others (and himself) that he is smart. This striving Expert becomes the primary psychological identity. It is false. It is a compensation for the more powerful Wound that underlies it. Therefore, when it fails, (as it must), our Expert must live with persistent anxiety and doubt. When the Fear Self collapses (as it will from time to time), despair occurs. This is the general pattern. This is the TRANCE of the Fear Self.
We awaken from the trance through understanding of the pattern. We can see our Wound in action through how we compensate for it. If the Wound organizes itself around the ideation “I am weak” the forceful authoritarian is born. “I am physically unacceptable” becomes a body fanatic, etc. The Wound and the Fear-Self are porous – as is our ‘authentic self’, that explains how we will experience moments of our innate/pre wounded self even while under the trance of the false self. But until the Fear-self fully collapses into its dominating Wound, we are unlikely to awaken from the false striving self. This self is compulsive – it needs to achieve and uses its achievement to manipulate its world. The theory also operates quite well on the level of groups and even nations.
Rene: okay, I understand if our child develops a psychological need “I have to be clever” then this is pointing to the false. That’s not the part that is unclear to me in your theory.

What is unclear is that you imply *all* psychological needs are pointing to the false.

Let’s assume I have a need for company – which is a psychological need. To what false is this pointing?
In your theory, are there only compensatory psychological needs, and no genuine psychological need? What about the need for validation then, that seems to be so crucial in you system? To what false is that need pointing?

Me: do you need company or do you want company – there is a difference. A need is compulsive and if not met, will force the self into despair (contact with the hidden Wound. Wanting company is natural. We are social creatures. I often want ice cream. What is false in that?

Rene: Now you’re twisting things, Eric. You’re the one claiming all psychological needs are pointing to the false, not me.
Me: First, given the complexity of the subject and limitations of language, I’m not willing to define “Behavioral Laws”. There are exceptions. But if the need for validation occurs from the perspective of the compulsive Fear-Based self, then this is the falseness I was describing in the article above. Non compulsive desiring of validation would seem to be non-Fear Based. You see there is a continuum to all of this. Once we can identify the Fear-Based self, we can identify compulsive patterns that characterize that self.
I would like some company – where is the “problem” in that? If company arrives then good. If not, that’s okay too. But if company doesn’t arrive, I will collapse into despair, I will hate my life, I will be a perennial loser, that is a “horse of a different color.” Where’s the twist?

Rene: you wrote:

“Get free by seeing every psychological need as a direct pointer to what is false about who you are. No exceptions.”

Now I wonder if you’re going to own that or not? Please stop treating me as if I were holding that position. I don’t. That’s where you’re twisting things. It was your position, not mine.

I’m only following your premise by bringing up the need for company to see how you assert your statement. I can’t explain what’s false about the need for company, as I see nothing false in it.

And sorry, this is not a limitation of language. “every psychological need” and “no exceptions” are clear statements you made. So if you hold up “every psychological need” and “no exceptions” then it’s a legitimate question to what false the need for company is pointing, because I know you’re not one of those holding up the advaita stance of ‘no one there to have company’. That’s why I wonder how you’re going to solve that?
Me: I think I made this distinction clear above. I did overstate the claim in the article as you claim.
Rene: Does that mean you were in a trance when you wrote that article? 😉
Patricia: Are you two discussing the concept Eric is stating, or semantics, or battling over the distorted meaning that fractured continuity and disrupted paragraph flow can cause within these little disjointed print boxes?
Rene: Patricia, I hope you’re not asking me to repeat myself, don’t you? I think I was pretty clear what statement I questioned of his original article. It’s about doing reality checks, not about semantics.
Patricia: Sorry, Rene, I had to get to the store so couldnt answer you immediately.

It does appear to me that Eric refers to the “False self” as merely the label for the self that is “Not True”. Not True self being the self that believes in the ever present wound that was caused by a “false belief”. It is not the real self, as the real self can adapt to many things and many perspectives, rather it is sadly the part that is crippled by the wound into blindness. Therefore the illusion remains, and a prison develops, comprised of the “image” in the mind that is what we think we “are’ – or better yet, the sum of qualities that we think we have that make up who our “person”, our “me”. It is a form of “shadow self”, the one that earns our self loathing, yet has so much influence that we perceive it as all that we are. Since it is generally perceived to be “bad” and bad evokes so much conditioned mental pain response.
Then the emotional manuevering, defending what we fear we truly “are” spurs us on to overcompensate with other over-dramatized aspects of our “person” that make up what we think we lack in our mistaken image. Mistaken image = false self. Then again, I may have completely misunderstood what Eric is trying to say.

But it may be interesting to try to rethink “need” as perhaps “compulsion” or false self to indicate “mistaken self-concept”.

But I am not sure this aligns with Erics thinking, just offering a view point…. I dunno, just sayin… ya know… 😉
Rene: The debate about the ‘true self’ and ‘false self’ is a can of worms I’m not really want to open. ‘True self’ to me is an oxymoron, as we either have ‘true’, or we have ‘self’ but not both. But I can usually follow anyway what people mean when they use those terms, so I don’t really have any beef with Eric or you on that level.

When I read an article from Eric, then I try to process the things he is saying by applying them, and then reflect my findings back to him, as I assume he doesn’t want to preach only, but also to practice. That means I challenge him on his own claims, holding him accountable, testing if he is willing to eat his own dog food, to say it metaphorically.

That might be unpleasant at times, but I think it’s serving him more to refine his skills than just patting his shoulders. Maybe he sees that as a form of validation, maybe not. I hope he will let me know if it’s becoming too much for him. Eric, will you?

Me: Rene – I do really appreciate your insight, analysis and testing. I try to be quite rigorous myself. I taught research methods on the university level for many years and I really respect the approach. Everything I blabber about is tested and I question myself all of the time.
On the other hand, I really don’t care about validation. It’s “nice” to hear, but I actually prefer the criticism. The problem I’m having is with the challenge of asserting complex ideas in very small spaces. I wrote a book about this that is 369 pages long and that we edited down (thank goodness). It is not too much for me – but one proviso: realize that a lot data was collected supporting this theory, in addition, as any lawyer will tell you seeking to sharpen language into extremely high levels of precision reaches a point of diminishing returns. Thus there will always be some potential obfuscation, despite my best efforts. I prefer reaching to some middle ground where the reader can insert himself into the process.

Patricia: No, that is exactly what you challenged, Rene, the reference to “false” self and how the puzzle fits from there. And your belief that there is either a self or a true, but not a true self, may warrant analysis. A person can believe some very false things about his/her self as though they are complete fact. This is where the persons mental view comes into play and influences their reality. Batting about words and their definition does not change the fact that a person can believe they are not at all what they really are. False self can indeed be retermed as mistaken identity, to a very great degree… it is who we thought we were due to reflection from others. Our mirror was faulty and we thought we saw disfigurement, so to speak. By now Eric has replied but I am busy typing so again, I may be off mark completely. oh well…
AH, and the issue of definition has been discussed by Eric and I agree, too much precision and the latitude misses the longitudinal target. Ciao!

Rene: Sorry Eric, but this is a cop out. Even within the limitation of this space here, you could have said:

Get free by seeing how some psychological needs are pointers to what is false about who you are.

And leave out the ‘No exceptions.’

So you’re in no way restricted here. Either you were not aware of your over generalization, then this points to a lack of clarity, or you just used language sloppy, and this points to a lack of care. Both are okay – dialogs are for uncovering these things.

But bringing the complexity of ideas up here is a lame excuse, as no sharpening of language beyond measure is required here, as I hopefully demonstrated by rephrasing your quote.

Me: I agree with you – “no exceptions” overstated the case. But I don’t agree with you about space and complex ideas – or, perhaps, I’m just not capable of expressing these ideas in such short form. Do you reject books because they are longer than two paragraphs? Your comments about complexity and space are absurd.
Patricia – thanks about the comment regarding language and precision. It’s valid.

Rene: Patricia, there are not true beliefs and false beliefs. Either we see, and then we don’t need beliefs, or we don’t see and fill in the blank with a belief, if we can’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing. Someone who is holding false beliefs cannot be reached by telling his or her beliefs are false. All that can result from a process like that is that some beliefs are exchanged with other beliefs. So it’s about really looking, not about acquiring new beliefs.
Me. Exactly
Katie: Ya. Nicely put!
Truth starts where concepts stop.
Patricia: Rene, you are back to defining true and false beliefs when I already suggested re-labeling those earlier as “misinterpretation” in defining the “person” due to faulty feedback. There are “false” beliefs, and there are “true” beliefs. One is error, the other is fact. “The universe is infinite” is a belief, 2 apples plus 2 apples sums to 4 apples is a fact. To tell someone or show them that their beliefs are based on faulty data, or if they decide that their concept of self is in error, and discovers their faulty perception, the result effects the “false self” – their construct tends to dissolve, or diminish and allows more positive personality aspects to become dominant. It IS about acquiring new beliefs – based on more accurate (true) perceptions. This has a condition – the person must be able to embrace the new perception and allow the new belief to replace the old. Or at least integrate and accept all aspects, hopefully through self knowing.
A false belief is “I can never be anything other than garbage and I am unworthy of love or kindness” and a true belief is “I am, therefore I am acceptable”. I may not be acceptable to all in all situations, so it is simply a belief, but one that promotes a self-concept far different from the one that carried the original pain from the wound (the false one, based on an erroneous identity created from a false belief due to distorted reflection from others).

Rene: Patricia, all self concepts are beliefs. I’m also a bit familiar with that vast field of (pop)-psychology that is about exchanging negative beliefs with positive beliefs, and I see how that can be of limited benefit.

People do feel better initially when they change from ‘I am unworthy’ to ‘I’m lovable’.

Coming to ‘I’m lovable’ by changing a belief, may result – if done well – in a more functional ego.

Yet it indicates there is still a deeper belief operational, as we are in duality. Underneath is still the misery, the fear, the isolation, the separation. Positive beliefs are just strategies of the ego to keep that stuff out of sight. Take the sugarcoating away, and the same old shit surfaces. So we have to realize they are just defenses against the (ego) fear of non-existence.
Beliefs are working as filters for perception. They are preferences. If you want to see what’s true, you have to let go of your preferences, or you see only what you want to see. Beliefs are like finding the Easter eggs you hid in your own garden, and pretending to be surprised when you find them.

Letting go of preferences, of all beliefs, is a process that is deeply threatening and feels like being skinned alive.

But don’t believe a word. Instead, have a closer look into the functions of belief, and what it does to your mind.

To believe is not wanting to know the truth
Eric, back to you: for that particular idea you brought up in that paragraph, the space here was certainly sufficient. So lack of space was not part of the problem in regard to that single paragraph. And you know that, so don’t bullshit me by calling my comments absurd. Have a beer instead.

Patricia: Rene, your statements hold great authority and assume absolute precision. At best they are posturings that build a rebuttal on imagined proof. “People do feel better initially when they change from ‘I am unworthy’ to ‘I’m lovable’. Coming to ‘I’m lovable’ by changing a belief, may result – if done well – in a more functional ego.” You havent defined ego, (much less a perfect ego) and even if you did you would be stating your preference, as you will have defined ego according to what your beliefs are, through what you gathered through your own observation (though perhaps many others may agree and share same conclusion, this does not make them correct or true – just popular)
Entry 10:14 pm May 28… please re-read the second half of my entry so I dont have to repeat. You ingored it and presented argument as though it had not already been stated. There are differing levels of belief, or conviction, and your statements seem to describe them as though all are wimpish attempts to grab a psychological life preserver. In order for a belief to be embraced and become ingrained and hold solid conviction, releasing preferences and beliefs is necessary. But not all find that terrifying, rather some find it releaving and joyful. Then again, some are addicted to what they are harboring and refuse to relinquish, bad or good or pain or joy. Personality restructuring is indeed possible, but your belief in it may depend on the perspective of the author of the reports you read, and the preference the author had for supporting or negating the technique. But stripping down beliefs is indeed a part of successful restructuring.

Margrit: The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction however and heaven and earth are infinitely apart. Seng T San

Patricia: Also known as the middle way, difficult, and painful to walk as the razors edge. I know it well, but these discussions seem to ping pong back and forth between the uselessness of spiritual pursuits to the uselessness of psychology and then back to english lessons and perfect definition. All while claiming preference and beliefs are useless. Must sleep on it… brain is tired.

Rene: Patricia, I said there are no true or false beliefs, and in that post you think I’ve ignored you stated that I’m back in defining true and false beliefs, and I really don’t see based on what you came up with that conclusion, as it simply contradicted my statement.

What I’m saying is that when looking at the ego’s structure, there are more or less functional beliefs.

That of course can be rebutted as just stating my own preference, and to make the confusion complete, everyone here can operate with their own definitions about what the ego is and what beliefs are. It’s not unlikely this will end in the absurdity of a Monty Python sketch then.

To say that 2 + 2 = 4 is a true belief and stating a fact might be okay for those who hated math anyway and didn’t touch the subject anymore since school, but for a mathematician it is sloppy thinking. You need to define a context first with numbers, operators, rules and axioms.
By applying a defined procedure in that context, you can come up with a conclusion if 2 + 2 = 4 is true or not, *within that frame of reference*. Only those who don’t understand the necessary procedures need to believe in the outcome, the others who mastered them can verify it and they all arrive at the same conclusion independently.

We see a basic problem in that example: you can still stick to your true belief / facts theory and infer that the mathematicians operate just with beliefs and preferences like you do, because it looks like this from your vantage point.

Likewise you can claim no one can know more than you about beliefs, so all statements about beliefs have to be treated as equally valid and probable.
Therefore my authority must appear as presumptuous and I’m probably just an arrogant asshole … maybe your right? 🙂

I’m afraid you’re basically at your own to find out for yourself, like anyone else who feels tempted to finger point how I use beliefs myself, and thinks it’s an intelligent contribution to state everything is relative, just appearances, just as it is, just THIS, or whatever common places are floating around. Did I forget something? Ah yes, there is a big flaw in my argumentation, I didn’t explain yet how the universe came into existence – I mean that’s where everything started, so we should discuss that first, right?

I would like to move on and start discussing true vs false illusions … 😉 … and please forgive me if I can’t take that serious anymore … but I can reassure you all, I know the truth, it’s just the limitations of language that go in between … 😉

James: Beautifully explained Eric.
Patricia: Rene, you are now boring me.

Rene: Patricia, I know my stuff not only from reports from some authors I’ve read somewhere. I’m familiar with the NLP model of beliefs and applied it for myself and for clients.

You set me a trap: you complained I didn’t define ‘ego’, and in the next sentence, you say even if I would, it wouldn’t be correct but would just produce popular beliefs and preferences.

So no matter what I say, you process it as ‘beliefs only’.

I defined beliefs as filters that modulate perception.

Oh, did I state just another belief?

Sure I did, as this is how the thought process works. So you have a position that is always right, but uninteresting. It’s similar to constantly pointing out that I use letters to write sentences here. You are right, that’s what I do. It’s functional. Oops, I did it again, another belief, functional! This is silly. Wait – silly means I just have other preferences, right?

That was the structure of your critic, and it’s just going in circles. Boring, indeed.

James: Belief: Attachment to an opinion.
Rene: And opinion is … attachment to … what? Thought?
James: As far as i can tell.. what do you think?
Rene: I think beliefs are more deeply interwoven with the body, not just with thoughts, they hold an emotional charge and are the building blocks of identity. The related thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg of beliefs, but not the defining element.

Opinions I see more as thought forms that are fluid, and adapt quickly by selecting new thoughts.

Beliefs are more like meta-programs and pretty immune against the content of the mind. Insights and understanding arising in the mind don’t have much influence on beliefs.

Me: Beliefs are more persistent that wispier thoughts – but they are, also, of a piece. But a belief is linked to desire. I believe in jesus because I need to have an eternal life. I believe in the loving Buddha, because I need life to be loving. I believe that gays are deviant, because I was raised to hate them. They are thought clusters that are often adversarial to reason. They ARE the invalidated self.
Rene: Well said, Eric!
Me: Rene – I think what you’ve written on this post is incredibly powerful. Is that a belief? No – it is a reflection on my own living experience.


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Watching for the Burden of Life

The burden of life is “I” – “me” – “mine”.
This “I” comes in two flavors.
One, is he whose master is the mind. This one always needs something. This one is always trying to “get” something out of experience. This one is always one step behind. This one is coming from deficiency. More than anything else, this flavor needs to be … something – anything, something secure, something known, something safe. This self is utterly unreal. Just a hope built on a foundation of nothingness.
We don’t so much believe in an “I”, as we believe in a self that is deficienct. All psychological needs are rooted in a deeper belief in our innate deficiency. So we seek the loving father, the caring mother.

The other flavor of I is just THIS! Notice that when the drive to BE something ends; we are, ironically, everything … and nothing. Take your pick.
This I no longer needs to be anything.
In every experience there is no need for need! This can be easily seen and experienced.

The burden of life is the belief that we NEED something and we’re always on the hunt for it. This is the life of the Hungry Ghost. This person who needs is an illusory self – just a deeply embedded image in consciousness. We cling to this because it is all that we think we know. It is false knowledge pretending to be real.

Notice that without the belief in a separate “I”, life is without a burden of any kind. Even death is just one more happening to an object seen in awareness. Who needs to judge? Who needs to achieve? Who needs to know? All future projections of insecurity and desperation.

The “brand” of inadequacy is ancient in our lives. It is the LIE to whom we sacrifice our life.

Get free by seeing every psychological need as a direct pointer to what is false about who you are. No exceptions.

Now the gap opens.

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The Purpose of This Life

Ultimately, the purpose of our life is to love. But our love, that is innate to who we are, will be blocked by some personality cluster that is, to some extent, bounded by a fear impulse.
I can only speak from my own experience.
I needed to understand. That is neither good or bad. It just is. While a mixture of ingredients went into this “need”, one of the ingredients was fear. I needed to be heard. I needed to be respected. I needed to be thought of as wise. From my own fear-based perspective, I believed that my exploration would enable me to (ironically) better control my fears and doubts.
This was the ONLY journey I needed to take. The journey you are on is the ONLY journey you need to take. That journey is the treasure for the shore to which it leads, is that of love.
Today I saw through understanding and entered the world of life and love. I feel its tentativeness. I feel the draw to continue the intellectualization of experience. But I also feel the love that undergirds everything and is the light of awareness in this moment.

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Nonduality and Action in the World

For a philosophy – an approach to life – to thrive, it needs to be relevant. We need to consider if a spiritual philosophy matters to the quality of not only our personal sense of well being, but our place in the larger community. For this reason, we might ask ourselves if Advaita philosophy (nonduality) matters with respect to the world in which we live.
For nearly all of us, nonduality is esoteric. Unless you’ve been motivated to delve into the challenging writing about it, attended group sessions (called by their Indian name satsangs), or been following the growing number of nonduality youtube videos, you’re likely to know little if anything about this stream of thought.
The basic idea of nonduality is this: everything we experience is a manifestation of the single consciousness. We are, therefore, not our bodies or minds. In fact, identification with our bodies and minds is seen as a normal contraction of consciousness into the small self. Once this contraction is released, itself an expression of the one consciousness, we can live in the freer universe of the fully flowered consciousness, our larger and more expansive identity. We are everything we experience.
Like most Eastern philosophy, Advaita denies free will, since any action cannot be a consequence of personal will, but can only be of the one consciousness. Everything happens of itself. The freeness of life, as experienced within nonduality, is that of flowing with the immediacy of awareness. Thus we can even use more succinct language to describe its fundamental nature and that succinct approach would result in a single word: THIS!
This is all there is.
We are free to pursue political and environmental and social concerns realizing that no one is doing “it”, except for the single consciousness. Nothing is lost and nothing is gained, because there is only This. Any perception of gain or loss would be self-referential and thus an assessment from the perspective of the smaller self.
Thus, Advaita possesses no political or social agenda.
Or does it?
When the contraction of the personal “I” is released, which yields THIS, there is the understanding that we are “one” with whatever is arising in awareness. Thus there is an intimacy in Advaita that is lacking in the normative psychological self.
Let me give an example.
If I am walking my dog, there is the separate me walking with the separate dog. The dog is seen as a separate object. The process of walking may be experienced as a pleasant stroll in the neighborhood or an annoying chore, particularly if it’s snowing or raining or if I would prefer doing anything else.
But in Advaita there is no “I” walking a separate “dog”. There is, in fact, no dog. There is simply consciousness arising as This. The dog, her walker, and the environment (even the rain) arising as one flowing experience. Nothing is happening to anything, yet everything gets done. There are no separate objects, there is only a person (once thought of as “me”) and the appearance of consciousness (once seen as the dog named Shadow). It is all consciousness.
When it is experienced that we are not separate from anything, when, in fact, there is no we at all, there is just one entwined consciousness appearing as everything, the the underpinnings of conflict cease to exist, unless, of course, if they do. This is the fundamental line in the sand that divides nonduality (ironically) from the rest of normative human experience. As long as there are identities contracted into their apparent form and belief systems, there will be conflict. This is the play of consciousness taking any form that can potentially exist.
Thus Advaita is utterly irrelevant to the individual seeking answers to the many political, economic, environmental, and social concerns of his time. But since this person is ultimately seen as an appearance in consciousness, the issue, no longer matters.
Thus we are left with a kind of conundrum.
Here is a solution that is modestly offered by Liberation from the Lie. Explore nonduality. Challenge your most accepted beliefs. See if there is validity to its description of the world. The language used in Liberation from the Lie is quite distinct from mainstream Advaita. The emphasis in Liberation is connection. We are connected on every level. Thus the message, if I may use that term, in Liberation is very similar to that of Advaita and here is where I will make my best effort at a solution to the crisis of living in a complex world.
It is true (it seems) that consciousness IS. And, it is true that we exist only Now, but consciousness manifests as infinite potential. When we see that we are all connected within the one consciousness, we can free ourselves of the need to defend ourselves. We can relax! And, when we relax, we can explore what we love, even if we are tied to a job we might not love. We can challenge ourselves to express our connection in an infinite number of ways. It’s all up to the consciousness that you are. I believe that consciousness molds this universe to be expressive – to sing its song. How else could we explain the incredible diversity of life and experience. Consciousness is endlessly creative and we are its tools. So take the leap into what you love. You will be very happy you did. Express yourself. Sing your song. Dance – think – ponder – do – build. And however your dreams and doings unfold, that too will be the play of consciousness.
This is the ultimate paradox of living. Yes, there is only this one consciousness, but it expresses itself in a myriad of forms. Its actions are always creative. We can play the game of creation for its own sake. This is your invitation.


Learning from the Navajo Healer

What I loved about the story of the Navajo healer speaking to the tree was his modesty. Notice that he didn’t claim that the tree could understand his words. He didn’t claim that the tree could understand anything. All he said was that he was making the effort to be grateful and appreciative to a form of life that most people find utterly inaccessible to the human experience.

When we take from the world and keep on taking – without expressing our gratefulness and appreciation, we impoverish ourselves. As the Navajo healer said, if only people (he said white people) did that, the world would be transformed. He was speaking from the heart.

But I also want to attend to his modesty. He didn’t make any claims to any special ability on his part or that of the tree. He was just quietly doing what he believed to be loving and respectful. He was, as the Navajo people often say, “speaking in beauty.”

This is all we can do. We don’t need to be wise. We don’t need to be eloquent. We don’t need to be special. We don’t need to be enlightened. We don’t need unique understanding.

What we need is the realization of connection. When we are contracted from this realization, everyone suffers. When this connection is realized and actualized in our individual lives, everyone and the world rejoices.

This is the change that is needed. Let’s start now expressing our gratefulness and appreciation openly and quietly – in our own way.

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The Language of Connection

In the late 1990s I was working on the Navajo Nation as part of a research project I was managing that was designed to evaluated the effectiveness of Navajo Peacemaking to prevent and reduce interpersonal violence.
One day I was relaxing in the yard of a traditional healer and I noticed that he was speaking to a tree in Navajo. Navajo people heat their homes with dead limbs that they carefully remove from living trees.
The healer noticed that I was watching him and he asked me if I thought he was a “California New Ager who spoke to trees?” I was a little startled by this abrupt question, but I answered that I wasn’t thinking anything. He then asked me if I thought the tree could understand his words. Again, I answered that I didn’t know. To my surprise he said that he didn’t know either.
He then explained that he was asking permission from the tree to cut off several of its dead limbs so that he could heat his family’s home during the cold Northern Arizona winter. He also prayed to the tree. He further explained that although he couldn’t say if the tree could understand his words, that he was making the best effort to be grateful. This is reciprocity he explained. “If the white man did only this, the world would be transformed.”

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Enlightenment as Obstruction

We miss THIS life in the pursuit of enlightenment. The latter is ego, the former is truth; this ineffable now.


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