Saturday, November 17, 2012

Please declare me ordinary... is 2012 over yet?

*Please understand that it is not my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings here or to denigrate a particular person’s faith or spiritual beliefs. Rather, it is my intention to share my experience in speaking with hundreds about these matters on a regular basis – often in the context of the profound confusion (and suffering) that seems to be swirling around within contemporary spirituality around concepts such as "awakening," "enlightenment," and other modern spiritualities of specialness. But mostly, my intention is to encourage my friends to take the time to really look deeply into their hearts to discover what is true, what is real, what they really want, and to be willing to stay open to the possibility that perhaps things are not what they seem. If, however, my writing has offended you personally, please accept my heartfelt apology; it was never my intention to do so. Of course, the truth never needs defending; that which is false will always fall away, in time.

There is a deeply-rooted desire in us to somehow resolve this life, to get into some “state” of consciousness where we no longer feel conflict, where things are “fully,” “finally,” and “permanently” tidied up into some nice and neat awakening package. It’s as if our lives have become modeled after some sort of avataric super-hero with miraculous powers, repelling the yucky sticky gooey world of human, non-divine feelings, emotions, fear, intimacy, sexuality, conflict, the mind, thoughts – armed with our evil-eye gazing blessings and Frankensteinian brainwave conversion projects. Somehow, we must find a way to escape the yucky, messy, muddled, confused, uncertain, sometimes-terrifying, groundless nature of this life as it is. Maybe if I practice the right ancient rituals, take on the craziest superstitious beliefs from another culture, tell the right stories about myself (using all the right spiritual code words), and construct the most fabulously “powerful” conditioned spiritual experiences – perhaps then I can transcend it all, I can somehow avoid the raging fires of love and all that it truly demands.

There is a part of us that knows that if we give ourselves to love that we will be required to set aside our spiritualities of specialness and our messianic complexes about saving the world through having others gaze into our eyes while magically assimilating our brainwaves of awesomeness. We know we will have to face the unresolved wounding inside us. What is it that we really believe we are transmitting to another? Have we actually thought this through? Have we spent some time using our own intelligence and discernment? Are we sure of the source who is telling us these things? Are we clear on what his or her intention might actually be? Are we sure we are not being used for someone else’s agenda? How much do we genuinely care for the other we are “transmitting” our “state” to – and how much of this is being dictated by some unseen narcissistic organization or unconscious need? Are we sure we want to transfer our unresolved trauma to another? Faced with this confrontation between me as the great “awakened one” on the one side and the reality of our unmetabolized wounding on the other, the most common response, the safest response will *always* be to run straight back to our fables of awakening and enlightenment. It’s cozier there. It’s way safer and just, let’s be honest, a lot more fun. But what this actually has to do with anything that might reasonably be called “awakening” just may be an entirely different matter.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course; in a way it’s so very natural.  We climb up onto the stage, wearing white, sitting cross-legged, draped with an Indian shawl, cue the soft non-florescent backlighting, maybe donning an OM t-shirt, slightly teary, nodding affirmatively, gazing out into the desperate eyes of those in the audience who are not yet awakened… we feel into them: they want what we have, they will do anything, we will help them, we have arrived, we are the ones the world has been waiting for, and so forth. Very soon, we remind them, you will not have a self like me, or a personality - you will never ever ever ever experience conflict again; promise. Pinky swear. Don’t worry, we assure them, assimilate my presence and you, too, will be there soon. It’s like some cosmic sort of Grace-Borg. Just hang in there, we remind them, December 21st is right around the corner. You will be fabulous like me soon enough, and I know that your stories about yourself will be amazing, too, just like mine (though mine will likely be a bit specialer). Just close your eyes, allow the grace to fill you, attune yourself to my “state,” and just repeat, “I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am special. I am amazing. I am utterly awakened – fully, finally, and permanently. I have made it.” (repeat 108 times, or 54 if you get tired; or 27 if you’re short on time; or 13.5 if you gotta get the kids off to school; or  just once, it’s 2012 after all, that should do it).  

Of course, life has no interest in any of this (as if this is not obvious). Love could not be any less interested in the dream of me and my awakening, in my “very” powerful presence during my fabulously influential Skype sessions, and canned, parroted, robot-like teleconferences of how special I’ve become after the last “very very very” powerful process when the “self fell away,” etc. It cares not for facebook posts letting our friends know we’ve been “declared” awakened (really, this is happening) during our last day in India or how many thousands of dollars we must pay if we, too, wish to be so declared, finally able to wear white, get the Skypes and teleconferences going, all the while embodying the gaze of the all-knowing one, ready to zap all who come near, with our “very very very” “powerful” states, etc. blah etc. (pardon me while I hurl myself out the window… okay, I’m back). Many have shared with me how they are hurt or angry or just plain sad that such a mockery is being made here of the most precious journey of love, of human unfolding. One even shared, “It’s like we’ve become the Saturday Night Live of spirituality.” She chuckled when she said it, I just listened as she seemed really raw at the time, but then she got really quiet as it was just not really that funny after all. But of course if these ones were “permanently” and “fully” awakened, etc. they would no longer be hurt, angry, sad, etc. – they would live forever in a state where there would never be conflict again, etc. etc. blah. Yes, yes, I know, they are “in their minds,” “lost in the ‘lower consciousness’,” “haven’t fully surrendered yet,” “are ‘in their egos’,” etc. etc. etc. (cue vomiting here)

But for many, more and more each day, there is a burning realization in the heart that the narcissistic circus of awakening just really isn’t all that interesting – and is in fact incredibly flimsy and transparent. It’s not really that difficult – from the outside anyway – to see through it pretty quickly, as I’m hearing from many around the world, including respected spiritual teachers. Is 2012 over yet? Please? Rather, many of you are seeing that life only wants to break you open – to expose your wild, naked, vulnerable heart to the raging furnace of love and its movement. In this love, there is no longer any childish chase for bliss, some fabricated state of “no conflict,” or any other “high” state of consciousness; no compulsive need to tell everyone how the “self has gone” or the “personality has vanished”; no downright embarrassing nonsense that “I’m level 14.3 on the enlightenment scale and she’s 13.9, I should be up to 15.9, though, as soon as Dec. 21, 2012 comes!, - are you still at 11.932? I was told I’ll be at 16.3 by Dec. 22 (that’s higher than you, right? But less than Buddha and Christ- damn!)”; no narcissistic drive to tell others about your “shift” and how if they just spend time with you, they are soon to “pop” also. Life is not interested in this sort of subtle aggression toward others and the great confusion this half-baked understanding is producing (trust me, it’s obvious in the many notes I receive, including from ones who have been “declared” “awakened,” as if you needed to hear that from me). It has no interest in some cultish 2012 dream fantasy, or its accompanying multi-thousand dollar “new” magical processes. A brilliant marketing strategy, yes, quite impressive, actually… but do we really believe this has anything to do with anything that could be called “awakening?" Really? Like, seriously? C’mon, really? No, really!? Amazing… 

Never, ever, I’m reminded, bet against Maya.

In just one moment of caring enough to know what is true, to touch what is real, this sideshow can be exposed for what it is – Maya’s carnival. It is Maya who is pulling the levers behind the curtain here. You can rest assured it is her all-knowing smile beaming through the faces of the special ones on the lighted stage, with the sweet relaxation music playing in the background, “shhhhhh, sacred silence” signs filling the hall, white clothed couches, infant-like giggles and glowing rounds of namastes. The declarations of awakening and enlightenment, and the messianic project of the special me - her final level of deception. Again, I find myself in awe of you, Maya. How do you do it? As usual, she refuses to answer, leaving behind only her signature seductive smile and forever-enticing scent. I reach out toward her, confident this time she will let me touch her but, alas, she is gone. Maya, how do you make use of even the most sacred spiritual journey as a vehicle through which the ego can co-opt the whole thing for its own agenda, fooling millions in the process? No, really, how do you do it?

And then, very soon (god, really, is 2012 over yet?), we will wake up on January 1, 2013 – from the dream of me and my specialness (god willing), and how I’m going to save the world via my special story of awakening, magical dates of my enlightenment "hidden in the Akashic Records," my fantastic tale of enlightenment levels and cosmic morphogenetic fields and “never experiencing conflict again” ad nauseum. We'll believe just about anything if it means we get to be special. Kind of ironic when it comes to the path of awakening, but that irony just sort of seems to pass the circus by... Maybe, at least many of us pray anyway, this chapter of messianic spirituality-as-fear will finally come to a close (but somehow I don’t think we’ll be so lucky as the next round of magical dates and processes and multi-thousand dollar courses will likely be announced soon enough). And then we can rest, knowing that when all is said and done, that it’s just us, here, together, totally non-separate from one another - simple, ordinary, with hearts wide open; tender, raw, and vulnerable, curious as to what love has in store next, how love wishes to make use of these senses, this unbelievable heart and mind, and this gorgeously precious human body. How will the actual pour out through us and touch another with kindness and compassion – careful not to lead our friends and those we care about into mirages of delusion, right into Maya’s wide-open embrace.

The pressure is finally off. We are not special, we are not here to save humanity, we are not “finally,” “fully,” “permanently” - or whatever other adjective is the sexiest and most alluring of the day (and capable of raising the most money) – “awakened” or “enlightened,” “Self realized,” or “God realized” (or whatever state is the sexiest and most alluring, and capable of raising the most money) – and never were. We can just go back to being ourselves, thank God, trying our best to open our hearts, to love others and ourselves as we are - finally off the enlightenment merry-go-round of Maya’s carnival. It’s bound to be a letdown, a profound disappointment, that we’re only ourselves after all. What a drag. But, no, what about mmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee? Me me me me me me me me me me me me me! You told me I was awakened! I paid thousands of dollars to take the class where you would declare me! What about my all-white outfit and white cloth-draped chair! And my all knowing gaze? And my fabulous brainwaves! Nooooooooooooooo! You can’t do this! Give it back! But, alas, fortunately, love does not need you to be “awakened” or “fully” this or “permanently” that or any of the rest of it; it never did. Life cares nothing for this silliness, never did, and never will. Come January 1, 2013, hopefully you can rest now – the fable of 2012 is over, the me project of my fabulous state of consciousness has fallen away, dissolved into love forever.

And in this rousing from the mythology of the “awakening” that “must be given to you” (for the right price), the only prayer left that has any meaning: Thank you. I’ll take *this* life as it is, right here and right now. I will set aside my fantasies of the future and my superstitions of a spirituality of specialness and fully embody what is right here, what has already been given, what no magical mythical being could ever be capable of “giving to me.” I am willing to set aside these messianic fantasies and go back to the hard, difficult, demanding, yummy, gooey, yucky, messy work of the heart and opening myself to care deeply about those around me.

If I am to be “declared” anything, please declare me ordinary. Please declare me the one that is unbearably grateful for this reality as it is. 


  1. Thanks a lot! Hahaha you won't believe how close you hit the mark on many occasions throughout that text!

    I've been having this feeling that people should drown in my gaze of awesomeness and realize the truths and love that i have realized (at least will realize soon, in the course of 2012), for a while now.

    Underneath that, there has been a vague feeling that this is all wrong.. despite that, i haven't been able to shake off my "messiah complex" / "superior-spirituality complex"; I haven't been really aware it was there, until now. Maybe it will go away now that i'm aware of it.

    I want to ask you one thing though: Why so sarcastic? Why all the vomiting and hurling out the window? My need to save the world and help people realize my - and their - awesomeness is rooted in fear, pain, lack and love. ALthough it seems a bit pathetic and ridiculous (and crazy!) now that i'm aware of it, it also seems innocent, vulnerable, beautiful and sad.

    1. Thank you for sharing here, unknown friend. Very fair question, thank you for raising it... i fully agree with you, in observing myself and those I speak with, much of this movement arises out of the wounds of love, fear, and pain, as you point out. In so many ways, it is so innocent, vulnerable, and beautiful! Thank you for reminding me... what i have noticed is that while I am with you much of the time on this, lately i have been speaking with more than a handful of friends who seem to be really suffering around all of this, so hard on themselves, aggressive toward their own lived experience... and it has made me sad a bit and also a bit angry and frustrated. My sense is that the sarcasm, at least in part, is arising from that place; perhaps as a reaction or defense against those feelings... i appreciate you reflecting this back, though, friend... i will also reflect upon it! lots of love

    2. I posted with my google account, but ended up as anonymous anyways. My name is Jardar, although when thinking about it that doesn't make me more "known", i guess=) But in many ways you know me very well already, as evident from the post in question!

      Thank you for your good answer, too! Reflect away, friend=)
      Yet, if I might offend a bit back at you: Who is being hard on your friends and aggressive towards their experiences...? ;)

    3. Oh yes, i forgot to say: I was a bit offended by your post - but it was a most welcome offence! Thanks! =)

    4. lol, hi Jardar, good to connect with you here, friend. I really appreciate you sharing your perspective and i recognize that this sort of dialogue has a way of touching something deeply in all of us. and thank you for sharing that you were welcome-ly offended :) I'm often offended by myself, too :) and thank you for yet another point for reflection. you may be onto something.

  2. Haha, oh Matt, you will drive me straight back to my messiah complex with your excellent handling of criticism and way of turning it back to me as compliments;)

    If you think I have a point, it arose out of your own post, and any insight you may gain is entirely your own fault.

    Let's leave it at that and go get drunk instead.

    1. lol you got it, friend... sign me up.

    2. WOW thanks for post Matt and both you and Jardar for this exchange. Dry red for me!

    3. You're welcome, Cheryl - thank you for stopping by, friend... lots of love.

  3. Hello Matt!

    I appreciate what you write. I had no idea there was such a circus surrounding the enlightenment game going on. As for me it seems as though I'm always swept up in "The Next Big Thing," whatever it is, and this seeking of enlightenment seems to be "IT!" My seeking has evolved from Catholicism, Fundamental Christianity, Paganism, Wicca, Eastern Spirituality and now "Zen" Buddhism and Contemplative Christianity.

    I'm very grateful I've recently found teachers who have told me they can't give me anything, that what I seek I already am. It simply comes with the package of being human. It's just that our conditioning as humans clouds our perception of that fact (as well as a great many other things). You and my other spiritual teachers have instructed me to be a lover of what is. That I need to be aware of what comes up and be willing to address it rather than resist, deny or justify it.

    This life is vast! My personal circumstances are challenging and I fear my perception may be clouded to where I cannot clearly see what is, nor what "comes up." I know there is much I don't know. But my Zen Roshi has helped me to see that there is a difference between Thinking and Awareness. Gosh, I never knew so directly that my Thinking was so messy! At least now I have the awareness to see a lot of it and dismiss it as irrelevant, crazy or conditioned, and also to try and discern if it is something in my life that needs to be directly addressed!

    So, yes, I've been drawn in by this current hyper-awareness of Enlightenment! I fear I'm being sucked into the Next Big Thing, but I truly want to know what is real! I know the difference between Thinking and Awareness.

    I've begun reading "Thinking Fast and Slow," and also "Black Swan." I realize my thinking may be biased in ways I may not even be aware of. So I'm left with the same question I started with. Is Enlightenment real? Can "this" consciousness realize it's source?

    I love your writing Matt. Thanks for this post, and thank you for helping me to question my own beliefs to discern the truth. ~ John

    1. Hi John, lovely to hear from you. Friend, what a humble, honest, open note... makes me very happy. I think you might be much closer than you think :)

      It is my belief that this journey is utterly sacred and precious, and requires everything from us. But most of all love demands that we be willing to stay vulnerable, to see that love and life is uncertain, unknown, groundless, and in this uncertainty is a doorway into your heart. You seem to be heading there, friend.

      Whether or not enlightenment is real... oh, friend. I love you too much to answer that for you. You figure it out and let me know. I'll be waiting.

      I wish you the very best on your journey, John... please stay in touch.


      p.s. I just published a lovely book in the area of contemplative christianity, on centering prayer, by David Frenette, who has spent the last 30 years with Fr. Thomas. If you're still inspired by that path, i'd really recommend it. You could find it at

    2. Thanks Matt!

      I guess I wasn't really expecting an affirmative answer, but the question allowed me to express what I'm feeling and where I am right now. I'll continue to practice with what I know is there and be open to what presents itself.

      Your posts are a breath of fresh air as practice can be quite sterile at times. I think willingly being vulnerable has a way of "breaking one's heart." I know that I don't know but I'm willing to see what's there without latching on to it or pushing it away.

      I'm currently reading Thomas Merton's "Seeds of Contemplation." I'll look for the book you recommend too. My path has brought me back to the point where I can talk with my mother about spiritual things again without being so negative or averse to the dogmatic beliefs of the religion. If all is truly one, then all is God.

      Thanks for the Love Matt!

  4. I'm sorry, I am laughing my ass off at this post. I am laughing and laughing and laughing! OMG! This is utterly brilliant. I want to say, first off, I am eternally grateful for the incredible journey I have been gifted on this path. Without gratitude, I don't seem to grow very much. And I must admit, I went from flowing white clothes, medicine bags around my neck, the right stone necklace to balance my chakras, and a morning shower to clear my aura, to sweat pants, a stained sweatshirt, flat hair and no holy trinkets, realizing how tiring it was being 'spiritual.' God doesn't care. You are loved no matter what. I've enjoyed some wonderful 'states' of happiness. And I do think that having a daily practice helps me enjoy both the happiness, and the utter despair that is no less remarkable. But the bliss, as you say Matt, is being utterly ordinary in pain, judgment, and still getting bummed out when the dog poops on the floor. I say the words 'I am enlightened' and cannot resist laughing...what on earth does that mean? There is breaking open to see the the light, moving to it, and breaking open again, and again, and again. I am a bumbling, ordinary person and I thank you for this fabulous post to be able to shout it out.

  5. ...and bless, oh, bless all those who follow their own sacred path to ordinary.

    1. Hey Tara, lovely to hear from you - it's been a while. I'm happy to hear my post gave you a chuckle... I appreciate you sharing a bit about your own experience (you have me laughing here) and am thrilled to hear you have discovered your ordinariness :) I hope that you were able to determine the right stone to balance your chakras - that can entail quite a journey, but I trust all is well. Oh yeah, and the stained sweatshirt :) Please keep breaking open again and again... i'll break with you. Sending lots of love, m

  6. Visited Mt Madonna after a 15 year lapse, where Baba Hari Dass has guided a community for round 40 years without any grandstanding or star-student creation. Just decades of steady sadhana and his sterling Elder mystical grace. So many humble yet profound folks, many living there since early their 20s or teens ! Just to say, there are a few real saintly attained gurus whose followers have matured wonderfully, with families, a k-12 school, 2 orphanages, numerous theatrical plays, etc, etc. Perhaps the only continuous success story since The Sixties when we was all fab.... Worth some in depth study, the gold standard of spiritual awakening perhaps... imho...

    1. Hey Stuart, i think we are both fortunate to have met a small number of deeply realized men and women over the last couple decades (three or four for you :)) who in a very quiet, simple, humble, mature, non-messianic, yet revolutionary way, demonstrated the power of love to flow through this precious human vehicle...

    2. Hi Matt,

      I am glad to see you finally coming to your conclusion of accepting life just as it is in this post. I couldn't agree more that this life, just as it is, is worth being here and present for.
      I too, as the first post in this string wondered about all the contraction about so called "others" beliefs.
      In my experience, we all start out wanting something (lots of things) to be different than it is. Later, if we're lucky, we find that doesn't really work so well and start questioning that basic assumption, that things will be better if they change. For me, this is where real uncontrived compassion for suffering comes in, we all have been deceived, innocently, by our thoughts and what we have learned to conclude about them.
      I suspect being at the forefront, with Sounds True, of so many conflicting ideas and concepts about life is not easy for you. It may be a projection on my part but I can say that honestly that it would be difficult for me to try and put all of that information into some kind of coherency. That is w/out realizing that no thoughts about anything adequately describes the amazing and immediate vibrancy of life as it is.
      Good for you for making yourself so transparent and willing to rant a little bit to see where the truth really lies. It's a worthwhile conversation to publicly have. Thanks for the willingness to bring it uncomfortably up for all of us to look at.
      Lots of love to you dear Matt, and as Bruce Cockburn so eloquently said in Lovers in a Dangerous Time "sometimes you have kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight", not that anything is truly dark here, that's just another illusion, perhaps the greatest one of all that Maya has up her sleeve!
      Pat Dorsey

    3. Dear Pat, lovely to hear from you and thank you for taking the time to share your heart here. I look forward to continuing on this journey of love with you, and for our meetings with Maya along the way :) lots of love, matt