Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ego - Destruction and Repair

     "... the ego is a contraction. Love is expansion, a feeling of spaciousness.” Jean Klein

     I invite you to notice what emotions arise in you, as you read the following. When our ego feels threatened - and it doesn't take very much at all - we react as if our life were at risk! AND we externalize - project BLAME outside of ourselves - in this case, the authors of these quotes and or myself. One mark of spiritual maturation is, instead of projecting, examining what OUR contribution is to our frequent emotional 'tempests in a teapot.' We'll never be able to fully control our external environment, however, our internal environment is FAR more cooperative!

     “I define awakening as ‘an experience of clarity, revelation, and joy in which we become aware of a deeper (or higher) level of reality, perceive a sense of harmony and meaning, and transcend our normal sense of separateness from the world.’
     Awakening experiences occur when we temporarily transcend our normal state of being – or, more strictly speaking, our normal self-system. The structure of our normal self-system – with its strong sense of ego, firm boundaries, and automatic perception – dissolves away, like a tent swept away in a wind. This can happen in times of inner relaxation and stillness, when our normal thought-chatter fades away and there’s a higher level of energy inside us, infusing our perceptions and enabling us to perceive the world more vividly. This is why awakening experiences are often generated by contact with nature, meditation, watching or listening to arts performances, and other sedate, mind-quieting activities.
     Alternatively, our normal self-system may be temporarily swept away as a result of intense stress and psychological turmoil. In fact, my research shows that intense psychological turmoil – perhaps caused by loss, failure, divorce, or bereavement – is the most common trigger of awakening experiences (with contact with nature, meditation, and watching or listening to arts performances following closely behind). Turmoil and stress can be like an earthquake, breaking down the structure of the normal self and allowing a more expansive and intense state of being to unfold.

Taylor. “The Leap. The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening.” New World Library, 2017.

     “The loss of self is the essence of trauma.” Gabor Maté MD   


     As a consequence of trauma, a relatively healthy sense of self is lost and replaced by an armored "false self" or "noisy ego". Healing trauma involves carefully letting go of the heavily-defended, armored false self, leaving behind a more authentic sense of self or "quiet ego." This requires gentle patience, perseverance and ideally, expert professional help. (Dr. Gabor Maté Interview - The Tim Ferriss Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9B5mYfBPlY)

     Another term for awakening may be a genuinely revelatory mystical experience - "the revelation that the socialized ego, historical persona or religious identity is not all we are.” (Jeff Kripal) Most of us are so completely identified with - completely lost within - our own stories, that it usually takes something radical to at least briefly "part the veil" so we can have a brief peak at the way things actually are. Awakening experiences, as mentioned in a previous blog (http://www.johnlovas.com/2021/03/fascinating-overlap.html) can also be induced by entheogens - the fastest, most radical pathway to awakening. I personally have never tried any entheogens or other psychoactive substances. The specific effect of these powerful drugs is highly dependent on "set & setting": safe, supportive healing environment, medical expertise & healing intention.

     “There’s nothing wrong with the ego. The ego has been demonized by a lot of different new age communities and spiritual teachings. Just the phrasing, the association of the ego is quite negative. But the ego is just the construct that allows you to navigate in this realm. The ego is the vessel builder that actually allows you to engage in any particular way.
      But what’s happened as we move through life is that we experience some sort of painful experience, that isn’t allowed to complete its full cycle and properly discharge, as it would if it wasn’t inhibited, it gets stored in the system, and then we develop what’s called a compensatory action or behavior. And that’s what we build our personalities, our identities on top of. We’re actually armoring up so that we don’t need to go back to that sensation that was inherently overwhelming, which felt like if we felt that thing, we would die. And so we develop all these coping mechanisms to avoid these things that we carry inside of us. And that becomes our personality, that becomes our identity. And that’s what I call your consciousness structure.
     And so we have to actually disassemble that structure. And as we disassemble that structure, all of those suppressed and repressed aspects of ourselves actually come up - they surface to be felt, and to be expressed, and to be discharged. And then we’re left in kind of a fluid place, where we can now craft a new consciousness structure, a new vessel that can carry, guide and direct consciousness in a different, liberated way. And when you’re coming back from the non-dual space, it’s like you can witness the construct building itself again, block by block, very very rapidly, as the mind, and the emotion, and the armoring, all comes back and solidifies again back into a cohesive whole – maybe with a few pieces altered, with some energy released. And it’s in this discombobulated state that the integration really happens, because you come back a new person. ‘OK, how do I exist in the world now, from this new vantage point, without all of the armoring, defense mechanisms, and the coping strategies, and the behaviors that I had carried up until this point? How do I actually craft a new identity?’ And that’s really where the work begins
     As the ceremony comes to completion, the rest of the ceremony of life begins. And this is one of the main things that is important to communicate, which is tied to what we were describing before about the potential pitfalls of the ceremonial spaces, is that these realms – not just bufo or 5 MEO DMT, but with any psychedelic or plant medicine, they’re not meant to be separate from the rest of life. They’re actually meant to reveal us to ourselves, so that we can actually live in a more optimized, more holistic, more integrated, more whole state of being. They (plant medicines) are teachers that are teaching us how to be human. And they have existed on this planet far longer than we have. Mushrooms are actually our ancestors. (There’s an interesting documentary “Fantastic Fungi” on Netflix.) Mushrooms are revealing us to ourselves so we can live in an optimized state.
     It’s fascinating when you start observing this not only in yourself, but also in others. You come to see that every person’s identity is a construct, not just an idea, but as an actual reality. Every personality is actually just a construct. It’s just a combination of stories, which is one of the reasons why I respect the work that you do so much, about actually going into the mythos – the myths that actually generate and create and supplement the human experience. Because every single one of us is just a combination of stories. And these medicines really ask us to consider ‘Who am I, when I remove all of my stories? What is left?’”
A Psychedelic Guide to Healing Trauma - Deus Fortier (The Impeccable Man) The Mythic Masculine (1hr 50min podcast) : https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-mythic-masculine/id1487709630?i=1000532409278

The Storyteller - Inuit whalebone carving from: Donald Kalsched "Trauma and the Soul" 2013


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Ostriches, Chickens and Eagles

     “A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.
     All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
     Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.
     The old eagle looked up in awe. ‘Who’s that?’ he asked.
     ‘That’s the eagle, the king of birds,’ said his neighbor. So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.” Anthony de Mello SJ

     When women and children are rescued from an abusive home, and can choose between a safe shelter or returning "home", most choose the hell they know rather than face a freedom they've never experienced. It's so easy to rigidly imprison ourselves in nihilism, hoping that this tiny self-created prison (the hell we know) will protect us against possible disappointments (unknown freedom). Dark humor: 'No sense being pessimistic, it wouldn't work anyway!' Even false optimism has been shown to work better than pessimism. But by far the most effective, balanced & intelligent approach is "leaning in" with curiosity, into ALL aspects of our life, especially those we fear ***, to learn as deeply as possible about ALL that life has to offer.
      *** “Jung said that it is exactly where you feel most frightened and most in pain that your greatest opportunity lies for personal growth.”

     Robert A. Johnson. “Inner Work. Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth.” HarperOne, 1986. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

     "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." Marie Curie

     “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with those we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.” Gus Speth

     "Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry asleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know, all mystics – Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion – are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare."
     Anthony de Mello. “Awareness. The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.” Doubleday, 1992.

     “Ultimately, however, your path is unique to you, and it begins in the darkness of not knowing and the simple yearning of your own heart. As Nisargadatta Maharaj said, ‘You must find your own way. Unless you find it yourself, it will not be your own way and will take you nowhere.’ You need to be willing to sit in this darkness, recognizing that the truth is hidden here, without immediately leaping to claim easy answers or proven practices. ‘To live in the know is bondage,’ adds Nisargadatta. ‘To live in the unknown is liberation.”
     Stephan Bodian. “Wake Up Now. A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening.” McGraw-Hill, 2008.

“As we travel through life, we are all seekers
after something larger than ourselves
Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer PhD

Alysha Brilla "Immigrant"


Friday, August 20, 2021

Remembering Who We Really Are

     “Many people have intimations of their true nature in childhood – the sense of a benevolent presence guiding their life, a radiance that shines forth from all things, or a current of love that unites us all. …
     But we lose touch with this luminosity as we age … we forget who we really are and succumb to the way others see us until one day, perhaps, we have intimations of our immortality, our timeless spiritual nature, become seekers, and embark on the return journey home.

      Ultimately, your every desire – the desire for material things, relationships, career success, sexual gratification – is really the desire for the peace you experience for brief moments when you attain the object of your desire. Of course, such conditional peace is fleeting, and you move restlessly on to new objects and new desires in the hope of recapturing it. Until you know who you really are, know the freedom from desire that’s the true aim of every desire, you can never recognize the peace that can never be disturbed or lost.

      Our always already awakened true nature is our birthright, our inherent condition, our natural state, which we merely need to recognize, without effort or striving, in a moment out of time. … (this) echoed the teachings of the early Zen masters who were so revered (though not so often followed in practice) in the Buddhist tradition.

     As I’ve discovered, awakening doesn’t belong to one teaching or tradition, and in any case, once you wake up, you actually awaken out of traditional frameworks. After all, if you’re awakening to your true nature, the one you’ve always already been deep down inside, how could one tradition or approach have a monopoly on it? This precious spiritual nature has always belonged to you, and, like one version of the proverbial prodigal son, you’re merely discovering the diamond that’s been hidden in your pocket all along.
     In fact, more and more people appear to be awakening to their inherent spiritual nature, whether or not they’ve been practicing meditation or some other prescribed technique. Perhaps it’s just our technological times, when experiences are shared so much more globally through cell phones, e-mails, websites, and blogs, but awakening seems to have shed the garments of religion and revealed itself for what it is – a universal human experience available to everyone right here and now. Despite what you may have been led to believe, enlightenment is your birthright, your natural state – you merely need to reclaim and learn to embody it.

     Awakening is a fundamental recognition of the inherent insubstantiality or emptiness of the person you take yourself to be and a radical shift in your identity from being the suffering separate self to being the eternal witness, the limitless space or ground in which all experiences arise. In other words, you awaken from the dream of suffering and separation to the radiance and joy of your true nature. More than being merely one spiritual experience among many, this awakening (often called enlightenment) is the essential realization at the heart of the Eastern spiritual traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, and it can also be found as a more subterranean current in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – though mystics have been excommunicated, ostracized, or burned at the stake for making such pronouncements.”

     Stephan Bodian. “Wake Up Now. A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening.” McGraw-Hill, 2008. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Saturday, August 14, 2021

More Conscious Awareness

      Our health & quality of life depends on our becoming consciously aware of who we truly are, as well as what influences our behavior. Both of these require deep self-reflection & meditation. The former is profoundly helped by advanced meditation & self-inquiry practices; the latter by Jungian analysis (depth psychology), Internal Family Systems (IFS), Transpersonal Psychology etc.
     Sadly, our
current society, is not only ignorant about, but actively & passively discourages self-reflection, serious meditation, & sustained attention to anything of substance. 

               “For what is not available in our culture
                we are now obliged to find for ourselves.”         James Hollis

     “The mother complex, that is, the affectively (emotionally) charged idea of mother, is in us all. It is experienced as the longing for warmth, connection and nurturance.
one’s initial experience of life met these needs, or largely so, one feels that one belongs in life, that here is a place where one will be nurtured and protected. … the child will feel more grounded in his or her own reality and more trusting of the world around. As Freud once observed, the child who has the mother’s devotion will feel invincible.     

     Where the primal experience of the feminine was conditional or painful, one feels deracinated (uprooted from one's natural geographical, social, or cultural environment), disconnected. Such an ontological wound is felt in the body, burdens the soul and is frequently projected onto the world at large. One’s entire Weltanschauung (philosophy, view of life, worldview) can derive from this largely unconscious, phenomenological ‘reading’ of the world.

     I have seen a considerable number of men in therapy whose need for mothering is so extensive that they are doomed to be dissatisfied with their wives. While it is clear that women do not want to be mothers to their husbands, it is also clear that many men seek in their wives the sort of unconditional acceptance and nourishment associated with positive mothers. Indeed, I have seen many men stuck in marriages that were dreadful for various reasons but they were unable to countenance the idea of leaving. Departure held all the terrors of the child leaving home for the unknown. Sexuality, in particular, is freighted with the infantile need for bodily contact and nurturance. As women grow weary of taking care of little boys, so little boys find it harder and harder to leave home and grow up, since neither father nor the fathers are available to show the way.
     When men feel the push-pull of the mother complex they are apt to confuse that power with the outer woman in their life. Just as they often regress in intimate relationships, making a mother of their partner, unconsciously demanding she be ‘the good breast,’ so they fear and oppress women, as if by controlling them they might master the fear of their own undertow. The sorry history of men’s treatment of women is stark testimony to this. One oppresses what one fears. Fear is responsible for the oppression of women and for gay bashing, the latter most notably by young men insecure in their on psychological reality. The resistance President Clinton encountered in proposing to end the ban on homosexuals in the American military was not because there were no homosexuals already serving bravely and honorably, nor because regulations regarding sexual harassment were not already in place, but because of the macho man’s fear of his own feminine side.
     Machoism is in direct proportion to man’s fear, and the banding together of fearful men is the breeding ground of violence and the tacit admission of the power of the feminine in their lives. Vast bastions of macho mentality remain in contemporary society, perhaps none more regressive than the military. Possibly, in order to do the work of killing, a man has to override every principle of relatedness within him; he can ill afford to pay attention to doubt or to the eros principle. In his frightened heart he knows what the Greeks made clear long ago, that in the end Ares (Mars) was no match for Aphrodite (Venus). But he will fight her power because, sadly, he has not yet learned that to be a man is to feel comfortable with his feminine side as well. Because his fear is only partly conscious, it is projected onto women and gays, among others. In his unreasoning fear, the macho man remains a little boy just as much as the man who expects all women to mother him. Both of them have unwittingly succumbed to the power of the mother experience and denied that same large power within themselves.
     Surely the greatest tragedy for men in regard to the feminine principle is that their fear alienates them from their own anima, the principle of relatedness, feeling and connection to the life force. This alienation from self obliges alienation from other men as well. Often their only connection with each other comes through superficial talk about outer events, such as sports and politics.”
Hollis. “Under Saturn’s Shadow: The Wounding and Healing of Men.” Inner City Books, 1994. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

      Our task then is to become fully conscious of all the mostly unconscious material that so profoundly affects our life. Actively investigating all of this, mostly subconscious material, is best accomplished with the assistance of a trained Jungian analyst. The excerpt from Hollis' book points out how all of us need to balance assertiveness, competency & empowerment with relatedness, feeling & connection to the life force. Skillfully investigating & integrating this material allows us to become BALANCED enough to prioritize realizing how we are INFINITELY MORE than these neuroses, complexes & habits. SEE: http://healthyhealers.blogspot.com/2021/07/learning-to-rest-in-silence.html


Friday, August 6, 2021

Awakening, Simple Honesty and Humility

      Below are excerpts from an interview with Adyashanti, who imho is a wise meditation teacher.
     First, an insight into how awakened / awakening people can confidently proclaim that everything is perfect, even when we often find ourselves & our world in a sorry mess.

     “Look at the people that we all admire (I presume he's referring to people like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad
). They are people that have assumed immense responsibility for the well-being of all of us, because they don’t see themselves as being separate from the rest of life. And they may see the innate bottom-line perfection of existence.
     But it’s a tricky thing, once you see that (Here I presume he's referring to those of us on the awakening journey). It’s really seductive to get attached to it. Because you can go ‘I see that life’s just perfect, even when it’s a mess. It’s perfect. It’s all an expression of love.’ At the deepest dimension of being, that’s true. You see and you feel that, and it feels very, very real. And it’s seductive just to hold up in there. And if somebody is in pain you just stay with ‘It’s just perfect.’ Every state of realization has its own built-in illusions. They’re very easy to miss. They’re very easy to miss. You can see the perfection of everything. And it’s not that that’s not true and that’s not real. But that’s not the only thing that’s true and real. Existence is unimaginably paradoxical. It’s absolutely perfect and beautiful AND it’s a total disaster – it’s a bloody mess, at the same time, occupying the exact same space. And that’s why, at least historically, at least as far as I see it, the greatest realizers that have ever walked around this place, haven’t taken their realization, hidden in a cave, and gone ‘Well good for me. I’m in heaven and that’s what I’ll do.’ They’ve generally completely dedicated themselves to the well-being of the world that they see as perfect. But I think it’s because their vision is big enough that it can hold this paradoxical vision, that it’s perfect and complete AND it’s a bloody mess, with a lot of potential. Our minds don’t like those kinds of things. They want to know ‘Which is it?’ ‘Is it this or that?’ Both!"

     Many of us at times become enthused, excited, energized after discovering something, and we just have to tell everyone about it ("missionary zeal"). Our message can be as lofty as an insight into the meaning of life. More often, it's something like finding a decent toaster. Enlightenment or awakening belongs in the former category, but even this is a work in progress, among ordinary, easily deluded human beings, with very human limitations.

     "Even enlightenment itself is part of the game. Enlightenment doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re going to be good in intimate relationships; it doesn’t mean you’re not going to delude yourself; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not going to be seduced by power or desire. It doesn’t guarantee that. The more everybody admits that, then you can get on with business.
     Spiritual awakening is very, very transformative – it’s foundational, freedom stuff. But, that’s one of the high-level illusions, because you start to feel like everything’s totally OK eternally. Even to screw everything up is all OK, it’s all forgiven. And that’s true but if you attach to that, that truth starts to delude you. Because then you’re in unconscious denial of other parts or dimensions of your humanity which might be very underdeveloped. And to call it perfection, isn’t going to do it.
     The funny thing about bumping into these, what we often call ‘realizations of reality’ - it’s like the image of a diamond with many facets. One of the facets is everything is totally perfect. Another one is nothing exists, the world is an illusion. There are lots of these facets, they’re like perspectives of the deepest dimensions of consciousness. But each one feels 100% complete, each one. Because it’s a facet of a totality, you’re kind of experiencing a totality through that facet. But that’s the key. You’re experiencing the totality through a given facet of perception and the trick is, the danger is, that you will conclude because everything in you will feel that it’s complete, because you’re touching upon completeness. But there may be 50 other facets. Each facet has a high level of delusion. And one of the delusions, because it feels totally complete and all-encompassing, is that it is complete and all-encompassing. No, it just feels complete and all-encompassing.
     Like the metaphor of the blind men, feeling different parts of an elephant and from that, concluding the whole animal's appearance: (leg) like the trunk of a tree, (ear) like a huge leaf, (stomach) like a mountainside, etc. (Likewise), the world’s different enlightenment teachings are far from saying the same thing. One has this facet, or two or three facets, another one has another. And people get all confused about which is the right one. And then they usually decide based on their own biases. Nobody’s going to hold the whole diamond. I’ve never read it, I’ve never heard of it, I’ve never seen it.
     But the more of those facets we can touch upon, the bigger our view is. And then, quite apart from the facets of the diamond of reality, don’t let those facets delude you into thinking that you’ve got your entire human act together, or that if you don’t, that it doesn’t matter. Because it does matter. It does matter, because it’s going to affect the next person you meet. And of course if your life starts to play out on a bigger scale, it affects more, and more, and more, and more people. That’s the tricky thing, because enlightenment fills you with a kind of confidence. But that confidence can slip over into overconfidence, into a kind of delusion.
     When we have parts that are underdeveloped, we attract people around our incompleteness. And when you’re playing life out on a bigger scale, everything gets amplified. Those same things happen in a smaller, unamplified version in people’s lives all the time. Every once in a while, I try to scare people a little bit. I’ll say, ‘Well, you know this enlightenment thing comes with immense responsibility. It’s not just a freebee gift. You better realize that you become more and more and more and more responsible. And the consequences for not taking it on become greater and greater, not less and less.’ That’s why you can have these immense falls from grace, because the consequences go up for you as well as for others. I keep that in mind all the time. I don’t get nervous about it at all, because I don’t intentionally pretend to have every facet of the diamond, or that I’m totally perfect … If I did, then you’re darned well right I’d be nervous. One of the best protectors for any of us, forget about spirituality or enlightenment or all the rest, one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and each other is just be honest – just be a real human being. It’s boots on the ground simple.”
Adyashanti interview: https://play.acast.com/s/advaita/http%3A%2F%2Fpatrick.fm%2Fadvaita%2FAdyashanti.mp3 The ENTIRE 74min interview is well worth a listen!