Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The beloved arrives as an electrifying mirror

Why is intimate relationship such an alchemical vessel for growth, healing, and transformation? One of the reasons is that in intimate relationship there is nowhere to hide. All of our early trauma and wounding arose in an interpersonal context and must likewise be unwound within a relational field. If we have a partner who knows our early history, who is intimately familiar with our core vulnerabilities, and is compassionately attuned to its unfolding and illumination, we are in an interesting predicament: On the one hand, this partner has appeared as a guide from beyond, as a mirror into our own hearts. What a precious situation.  

On the other hand, we have entered the realm of the terrifying and the unknown. It is vast here, but there is no ground; we are being held, but it is a holding that is unbearably vulnerable and without history. We stand totally unclothed in their presence, unable to fool them like we fool so many others, unable to pretend we’re running around in some mythic awakened reality, safe and secure and tucked away from the uncontrollable burning fires of intimacy and its revelations. The beloved sees all, but is this what we really want? This is not the almighty guru from afar, or the friends and spiritual brothers and sisters that know us only in context. Something more electrifying has come onto the scene. And it seeks to re-order *everything*. 

The beloved appears as grace, but it is not always a sweet grace, or a grace that supports egoic process or our spiritual identity-accomplishment projects and fantasies; at times it is unrelenting, uncompromising, and fierce; for it is the grace that reveals the deepest mysteries and qualities of your own heart. It is the grace that your cells and DNA are made of; yes, it is that intimate. Love has appeared in the form of this beloved not to provide certainty, comfort, safety, and awakening fantasies of a life of invulnerability. Fortunately, though, this was not what you were after anyway; for you are being called to something much more majestic, much wilder, much more creative. It can be incredibly anxiety-provoking to realize you will never have a day off again, there will be no more retreats, no more vacations, no more hiding out in the transcendent: for the beloved has come and she wants to show you something… everything. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A vessel for your burning

It is possible the most radical commitment we could ever make is to the reality of our immediate, embodied experience, as it is. When we set aside the habitual movement to heal, transform, transcend, or change our experience, a majestic energy is released. It is an energy that is new, unbearably creative, wild, untamed, and utterly unprecedented; it is the energy of the unknown. It has come to deliver just one message: everything is valid here. Inside every feeling, in the center of every emotion, at the core of every bodily sensation, love is trying to reach you, to undress you, to enter you, so that it may reveal new pathways of grace inside your body. 
In this uncompromising sort of holding environment, everything that appears does so as a guide from beyond; all is path; everything is the beloved in disguise. Even your most raging neurosis is seen to be an expression of luminous, creative, particles of wisdom, sent to unfold within your body. Love calls out – please do not send away these experiences; I plead with you not to subject your spiritual processes to them. Sadness, “problems,” “ego,” mind, body, longing, fear, sexuality, the terrifying realities of intimacy:  these are portals through which I will do anything to find you. 

There is no grace that comes in the future; there is no “high” “divine” state of consciousness waiting around the corner, there are no special accomplishments waiting to be bestowed upon you. For love is alive! It has come to show you that its purpose in your life is not to provide respite, surety, and safety from the breaking open of your heart – or some awakened landing place to rest in, free from it all – but only to provide a vessel for your burning. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Love is pouring out of the sky, the ground, and the stars

It is unfathomable, really, to let in the reality that another day has been given. It is so easy to take for granted that we have been offered a precious human body, with all our sensitivities, rawness, tenderness, vulnerability, able to just look up into the sky or into the eyes of a sweet little baby - it is so awesome, really. What will this day bring? Will we allow another person fully into our hearts? Will we take the risk that love always requires? Are we willing to fall apart and never be put back together again? What about anxiety, fear, shame; what about that deep sense that maybe we aren’t loveable after all? Will there be room in our experience for even these old friends, who have returned as cloaked pieces of our own hearts?

There is a part of us that knows that in such a meeting something will be shattered. Our images? Our dreams? Our hopes? Our deep need to be seen? Our strategies to avoid the risk of intimacy? Our fantasies that we will never break open again? It seems we are also simultaneously aware of a call from beyond, whispering to us that in this shattering something will be reborn, reconstituted out of the dust-heap of the broken pieces of our tender hearts and faded dreams. Maybe it was only love after all, taking whatever form required to re-introduce us to ourselves. Things may not be quite what they seem here. Love is pouring out of the sky, the ground, the stars, the trees, and the butterflies around you. It is coming to find you. But it may come in disguise. Please keep your eyes wide open. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The golden chain of spirituality

Like any activity, spiritual practice can be used as a means to unfold and illuminate the mysteries of the sacred world, and it can also be used to avoid emotional pain, to shield oneself from unresolved feelings of all kinds, and as a way to stay safe from the unyielding realities of intimacy. Ironically, spiritual belief and practice can provide fertile ground in which we can escape the wild, untamed dimension of immediate embodied experience. This is not to suggest that you discard your most sacred spiritual beliefs and practices, but only to encourage you to engage in them with eyes wide open. There are an infinite number of ways that spiritual beliefs and practices can be used to secure ground for the ego, and endless, very subtle ways that ego can and does co-opt even the most sacred teachings and practices to fortify itself, to make up for early developmental failures, misattunements, and unresolved trauma, especially for those who lacked a holding environment where their emotional world could be mirrored and allowed to unfold. 

Of course, many spiritually-oriented people dismiss the somatic-emotional world altogether, believing they are manifesting some sort of pure, transcendent, awakened reality rather than merely expressing their own unresolved trauma and organization. As a result, what is then transmitted, through these practitioners as well as their enlightened gurus and in the name of awakening and enlightenment, is simply more traumatic organization, and half-baked realization. It is not that difficult to look out into the contemporary spiritual landscape to see these dynamics in full force. The spiritual path has become a commodity, bought and sold on the open marketplace, with its endless fantastical promises and alluring siren songs of specialness. 

It requires tremendous courage to look carefully at the subtleties of your relationship with spirituality as doing so often takes you directly into the end of your world, where a cosmic house of cards stands ready to crumble, taking down everything around you, including your most precious spiritual identities. In the wake of this revelation, many find themselves in profound disillusionment. But this is a most sacred disillusionment and it is none other than love breaking through, coming alive to restructure your reality with its movement. For many spiritual practitioners, to see the ways that the path has become yet another means by which to fortify a separate sense of self (all in the name of “having no self,” of course) is just well, not very fun, and is just not that interesting to many; there are just too many ego-level needs being met to allow this in. It is, in my experience, however, the most radical act of kindness, to yourself and others, to take the risk to see how these dynamics may be operating in you (as well as very much alive in your gurus). The path is endlessly seductive, can so easily and unconsciously support egoic process, and can be used to meet important developmental needs which were not able to be met in our early years. None of this is “bad” or inherently problematic; nor is it something that needs to be judged or something we need to become aggressive toward; again, it can be held and explored with compassion, care, and an open curiosity – fueled by the call to know what is true, what is real, more than *anything*. This holding, this kindness, this love, this awareness, can be and often is curative in and of itself. 

Of course, what I’m suggesting here is not new. Many of the great siddhas, yogis, researchers, and clinicians have reported on this phenomenon for many years. As Chogyam Trungpa warned a few decades ago, guidance I believe worthy of frequent re-consideration, and in his ever-poetic style: “As long as we follow a spiritual approach promising salvation, miracles, liberation, then we are bound by the ‘golden chain of spirituality.’ Such a chain might be beautiful to wear, with its inlaid jewels and intricate carvings, but nevertheless, it imprisons us. People think they can wear the golden chain for decoration without being imprisoned by it, but they are deceiving themselves. As long as one’s approach to spirituality is based upon enriching ego, then it is spiritual materialism, a suicidal process rather than a creative one.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The ever sticky, gooey, messy mandala of your own heart

The spiritual journey is often viewed as a movement upward: higher and higher, into the light, more divine, more cosmic, less and less yuckies and more and more yummies. It is also often organized around accomplishment, things that will never have to be felt again, and a fascination with power: I am awakened now, I have made it, I will never have a problem again, I will never feel fear again, there is “nobody here,” I had the most “powerful” experience, he is the most “powerful” teacher, and so forth. This archetypal orientation to spirituality has been around for thousands of years, emerging for the most part out of pre-mythic, male-oriented cultures and ways of organizing experience. 
There is another view of spirituality that is organized more around the energy of descent: into the untamed intelligence of the body, into the earth, into the uniqueness of the human being, into sexuality, into intimate relational messiness, and into the sacredness of the relative world. It is gooey here, uncertain, unknown, and luminous. It has absolutely nothing to do with either accomplishment or power. It is not interested in “other,” “higher” states of consciousness, for there is only one state of consciousness that could ever exist, and it has been given to you right here and right now as a raging expression of love. Rather, to turn away from this state for another is seen to be the ultimate act of ingratitude. This path does not seek to remove “problems,” the “ego,” the “self,” the mind, “unspiritual” thoughts and emotions, or the messiness of the relative, for it knows these energies to be none other than innovative expressions of informational grace, and potential pathways of skillful means to help others. And it is not interested in fables of the completion of some mythical journey, or luring others into agenda-driven fantasies for the right price; for this would be deeply unkind. 

Of course these distinctions are relative in and of themselves, can be seen as merely consciousness at play, and just fingers pointing at the moon within your own heart. There is no need to take them all that seriously. Many of the tantric oriented paths, in fact, integrate these primordial movements of ascent and descent, where it is always messy and gooey and naked and sticky and yummy and yucky and utterly unresolvable. It is like falling into a pot of the gooiest love-honey where we are sure to get tangled up, caught, and stuck for a while, but it is a divine, cosmic sort of stickiness – you become stuck to the beloved, she releases you, and then she lures you back in again. But this dance will never be resolved, there will *always* be the risk of further heart break, further sadness, more sensitivity, more feeling, more opening the body, more “problems,” more “self,” more cracks in the armor of spiritual identity – for this is how love can reach you. 

It may be seen that in the end there is no “making it,” no mythical journey to take and complete, no ground or reference point to rest in, no support for egoic spiritual identity projects, no certainty, and no assurance that the beloved will not use *any* experience to break you open and to show you something she wishes for you to see. But, friends, this is extremely good news: for the radiance that you are is only limited by these things, and is ever expressing the limitless; what you are is the totality, is the expression of the whole, and it is through embracing your wholeness that you will become a transparent vessel through which love may pour through the relative world.