27 Sep 2011

Dreaming is a Sticky Substance

No Comments DREAMS, Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

As I live and am a man, this is an unexaggerated tale – my dreams become the substances of my life.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This applies to you ladies, as well.

I used to think negative thoughts. Really nasty ones, actually. And I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my negative thoughts, the “what if’s” and “oh no’s.” Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these fears became reality.

I still have negative thoughts. I don’t believe they will ever cease to exist as a part of my IWS (Initial Warning System). However, the fear based thoughts that spray out of my IWS no longer dictate my reality. I have shifted from a state of reactivity to responsibility.

There was a time when I would dream in the night about something terrible and it would affect the rest of my day. My mood would grow heavy, my heart became closed and my eyes would dim. Until I stopped actively carrying the negative thoughts around with me. Again, the negative impulses never go away yet the ability to choose other, more supportive impulses are instituted by my conscious self.

I do not believe I am “enlightened” in the Buddha way or that I don’t have a significant amount of emotional work to do on myself in the Rick Perry way, and yet, I believe I have learned one of the most important lessons that human beings can learn on the planet.

I have a choice. I decide how my day will play out. No, I can’t decide if I’ll get a speeding ticket or if my 401K will tank, but I can surely decide my response. Our dreams, our emotional states, our intentions, become the realities of daily life because that is what we feed.

So, what choices are you making today?

27 Jun 2011

The Cosmology of DOG

6 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

In my experience, most things on this planet come with an ending.

I find that there is often some resistance within myself to prevent natural completions, terminations or transitions even though I am conscious that everything and everyone has an end, at least in this physical manifestation.

Sometimes it is holding on to a job simply because I don’t want to accept it is over or deal with the fact that I’m no longer stimulated or challenged by it.

Sometimes it is gripping hard to a relationship that has long served its purpose and only exists because I, or we, keep pumping life into it in fear of the alternatives or in laziness based on what is comfortable and familiar.

Then, there is the obvious and biggest example of this. Death. Yes, death. The big one. The end of ends. The Grand Farewell.

In my work and in my own experience, I find that our anxiety with regard to our own physical termination has a great deal to do with many of our often times silly obsessions, patterns and hang-ups. What is most notable, however, is that our anxiety about death tends to be largely unconscious as most of us simply do not wish to think about it let alone discuss it with others, lest we make it ever more real.

So, what are we so worried about? There are of course the obvious questions such as will it hurt… will we be scared when the plug is pulled… will our loved ones miss us…will we be judged for things we messed up while alive?

For some, adherence to particular spiritual or religious doctrines helps place death within the specific context of our belief system. Our cosmology, the map we create and nest in that explains our universe and extrapolates for us beyond the flat line, seems easier for those who believe in a clearly defined religion as most theologies inherently answer the matter of life and death as one of the foundational purposes.

Which brings me to my dog.

Chaco is now 15 ½ years old. He wobbles and hobbles, pees and poops wherever it moves him, eats when he feels like it and only that which appeals to him at the moment. We have to hide his incontinence pills in balls of Wonder Bread and cream cheese, otherwise, no go.

He stares at himself in the mirror for long periods of time as if lost in the picture of who he has become. He spends several hours in a day standing at my side, staring into my eyes, panting.

He is, by all intents and purposes, nearing the end of his dog life.

Some folks would have “put him down” by now, claiming it is just “humane.” Others discuss the notion of “quality of life,” asking questions about his ability to run and play, making assertions that a dog that can not catch a Frisbee any longer may not be in possession of a good enough quality of life.

However, Chaco lives.

I’m not sure if he enjoys a particular cosmology, if he is conscious of a life after death or if he believes he will just “STOP” when the ride ends.

I do know, that he melts when we pet him. I know that he loves some good wet food and tuna fish makes his heart sing. I know that there is still a gentle skip in his gait when we get to the dog park, even though he stumbles around and makes his mark by sometimes lifting the wrong leg. I know that my best friend for over 15 years, though mostly deaf, always knows when I am leaving for work and makes his way to the front door to peer his sweet head around and wish me a good day.

I know that Chaco is not finished with this life. I am basing this belief on the sense that he will let me know when it is no longer worth it. I am basing this on 15 years of history together that has proven that my dog communicates his needs pretty darn well.

And, I suppose, I’m basing this on my own cosmology. The way I perceive life and death is the way I move through my existence, making decisions and choosing paths along the journey. I believe that Chaco contracted with me long ago to walk this walk together, to enjoy the journey for as long as we decided it was working for us both. It’s a relationship, after all.

And relationships are a two way street.

20 Jun 2011

You Can Call Me Dad.

5 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

Even though I’m not a dad.

I do not have kids and there is a strong chance that I will die without children of my own. It’s not that I have anything against children or fear parenting, it is simply a result of a number of life circumstances that has led to my being, now over forty years old, a non-father.

Now hold on there. People wish me a “Happy Father’s Day” for days before and days after the June holiday as they “Merry Christmas” me silly in December. There is an interesting assumption people make about such things. I’m not a dad and I’m not a Christian, but it doesn’t stop folks from throwing their cheer my way.

It used to really irritate me about the Merry Christmas thing, and there aren’t many things that truly irritate me. Especially with the popular campaign to “put Christ back into Christmas” which does a wonderful job debunking those who wish to persuade me that Christmas is an American holiday and not a religious one. But I digress. Or, do I?

Why is it that people assume I have children? Perhaps it is because I’m a man over forty. Perhaps it is because I choose to grow my facial hair. Perhaps it is because I am a psychotherapist. Perhaps it is because I smile at other people’s kids (in a nice way, not creepy) and even strike up conversations with young people in a way that I believe not many adults have a tendency to do.

However, I’m thinking the answer has less to do with me and more to do with you.
Yes you.

Why do you feel the need to wish me a happy anything when you are not sure if that specific happiness applies to my life? I think the answer leads us back to that favorite topic of mine, projection. There were precious few women whom I dated in my life (or married for that matter) that didn’t stare at me with that look in their eyes and say, “You’re going to be such a good father.” I typically smiled, nodded and particularly enjoyed the sex that night.

I’m not sure there is any real basis for an extrapolation of current behavior, depth, compassion and general “good with kids-ness” that automatically leads one to being an exceptional father. There is, however, a very real projection from you to me that hopes I will be a good father because good fathers are like gold. What is most notable to me is that what I think so many project onto others when it comes to the “fatherly” vibe is just that, a vibe; an energy.

The Father Archetype is something I feel I have connected with for many years. It is an embodiment of kindness, patience, strength, understanding, wisdom, depth, presence and availability. In fact, it is not difficult to confuse the Father Archetype with simply the best of the MALE energy. Simply being a solid, self-realized man is what so many people hope to find in the man with whom they are in a relationship, studying with, learning from, working for, or, yes, co-parenting.

Which brings me back to Christmas. The realization I had about Christmas is the same that helped me relax about Father’s Day. When you wish me a happy anything, you are initiating a connection, offering kindness and most of all, you are attempting to place me inside of your utopic world of understanding and the way things should be.

You want to live in a world where everyone celebrates Christmas because you love it so much and want me to be a part of it. You wish me a Happy Father’s Day because you love being a father and want me to love it to. You want me to be the kind of father you think I would be because you want to be that kind of father or be connected to that kind of father.

Sure, some of you are just so self-absorbed that you fail to accept that not everyone believes what you believe or has chosen the same life choices you have chosen. I used to think that you all occupied this category but I see now that it isn’t that simple. In fact, at this point, I’m pretty honored that you feel I embody the qualities that make a good, strong, father figure.

So, wish me a Happy Father’s Day. In fact, you can call me Dad if you like. I’ll simply sit here and smile patiently, nodding and holding the space with a quiet strength that exudes FATHER.

23 May 2011

On Nothingness and Everythingness…

6 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

“I’m Sorry You Weren’t Saved in the Rapture.”

Thus reads the official blog for Judgment Day 2011. The automated blog post was intended to be an “I told you so” to survivors of Judgment Day and an attempt to have us left behind find our way to Jesus and save our souls before the second wave hits.

While Harold Camping, the retired civil engineer turned prophet, still has not officially emerged from seclusion there have been several pastors across the country asking for forgiveness from parishioners due to the misguided information.

Matt Ivers from Idaho offers this apology:

“I am very sorry for wrongly teaching that and it is my best and sincere interest to not mislead, frustrate, or lie to anyone. I hope that you can forgive me and that we can all grow spiritually from this lesson.”

I think it would be wonderful to all grow spiritually from this experience. For starters, I’d like us to become more conscious and responsible about the things we say.

One of the most fascinating things about this whole Rapture business is how many of us sat up and took notice. Like the prophets in the Old Testament, our contemporary prophets are not always dialed in to the exact truthiness of a thing. But, wow, do they have passion. When someone believes something with all of their being, it is hard not to stop and marvel at it, wonder how it came to be that they feel so strong about it and decide for myself if I, too, am of the same mind.

However, many of us push our way into the “fields” of other people and attempt to manipulate their organic decision making processes.

George W. Bush looked very sincere, even earnest, about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) but he wasn’t passionate. It was Colin Powell, who I actually trusted, that was most convincing because of his character. “Well, maybe they do have them,” said the part of me that wants to trust others…

Renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking, came out publicly last week and suggested that the only reason he is still alive today is due to science. It makes me wonder.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Hawking, the 69 year old physicist, is much like Albert Einstein in the latter years of his life, offering his $.02 about humanity, God and what, if anything, might come beyond this life.

What troubles me, however, is the arrogance that tends to accompany such declarations. Many of us believe that we think a certain way, therefore it must be so. There tends to be a dismissal of the possibility that I may be wrong, that I may be influenced by my emotions, my personal journey, and that, most important, others may believe and “know” things that directly conflict with things that I “know.” And what is more, it tends to be those already in the public eye that have the greatest impact on our beliefs. Yet, with the power of the Internet, we hear from all sorts of folks now.

There is a spiritual pride that many believers assume when they know something. There is also a pride that many non-believers assume when they know something. That pride tends to resemble straight arrogance when we assume that because I know it, you must know it as well. Even more, if you refuse to know it, you are either an idiot, ignorant, or going to burn in Hell.

Whether my computer will simply power down into nothingness at the end of my life or if I return to a conscious state of endless bliss and everythingness, my process of self-discovery and transformation is my own.

If I need you to believe what I believe in order to feel more assurance that what I believe is correct, then I don’t really know what I know.

As one of the old school prophets suggested, “Not By Might, Nor By Power, But By My Spirit – Zechariah 4:6.” Live and let live, people. Trust your heart and live the life you believe is yours to live, regardless of all the chatter that may surround you.

17 Apr 2011

Flashes of Enlightenment

1 Comment Humor, Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

One of my favorite places in Israel was the “Crusader Building” at Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. This was a spot I’d go most days in order to meditate. It remains one of my most favorite spots in the world. The Crusader Building is a building with three levels just outside the stone wall of the ancient city surrounding the Temple. At the basement exists a shrine for Jews where hundreds each day come to pray at King David’s tomb, chanting psalms and singing their hearts out. At the center of the building, thousands of Christian tourists pour out of tour buses to enter the room of the Last Supper. There is no long wooden table or scraps of bread and wine to be found, just a big, empty room where some believe Jesus shared his last meal, a Passover seder, with his nearest and dearest. Upstairs, beneath a great dome exists a mosque where the Turks erected a place of prayer when they took over the city several hundred years ago.

While no one ever really knows where anything took place two thousand years ago, the fact that at any one moment it is likely to find Jews, Christians and Muslims praying, visiting, and essentially existing in alignment with one another is enough a reason to frequent the place. I liked to come here when I was a young man focused on finding that deep, authentic place of love within myself. Lots of folks believed me to be a loving dude, for sure… I was nice to people, kind to strangers and I smiled a lot. I was a spiritual hippie, of sorts, open to the beliefs and practices of most everyone and moved through life ready to break bread in most anyone’s home.

Yet, I knew within myself that I felt like a spiritual fraud and worried that one day I might be found out. I felt a disconnect within that troubled me immensely. I felt like I did and said all the right things, however when it came to truly embodying unconditional love in a completely integrated, unconscious way, I felt like I had a lifetime of work to do before I reached that level. Over time I had become friendly with the regular guard who served as security for the Room of the Last Supper. Each afternoon, the room was closed for a couple hours during ” national nap time” in which tourists were not permitted entrance. My friend allowed me to stay in the space by myself for an hour where I could meditate in what felt like one of the only truly silent spots in the Old City. These opportunities seemed to do more for the deep unfolding of my authentic presence than praying at the wall, studying ancient texts or eating healthy food. Breathing mindfully into silence was the gold that filled my pockets to be shared with others well into the future.

On this particular afternoon, I slipped past frustrated tourists who had come too late to be admitted and assumed my usual spot on the floor at the center of the great room. I liked to chant at the start of these meditations as it seemed to create a certain vibration around me into which my silence could rest. I sat in my white raw silk clothes, a colorful hand knitted kipah covered part of my head while large curls of long hair sprung out from all sides of my Jew-fro. As I chanted a favorite mantra taken from one of David’s psalms about faith that I learned from a Sephardic Jew, I rocked back and forth over my crossed legs, gently swaying a little like Stevie Wonder.

I was gone.
Lost in my chanting, lost in the moment, enraptured by the sound of my heart passing through my lips, the rocking of my body like a boat on the Galilee, gone.

As my consciousness passed through portals and gates, through the pardes (garden) of enlightenment, across marble stairs that resembled the ocean and a gentle breeze that tasted like pomegranate, I began to experience waves of light, bursting through me like flares through my third eye. They seemed to burn my eyelids and crackle out through the back of my head as my breath disappeared and my thoughts ceased. I was surely gone or, perhaps, more present than I had ever been. Was it enlightenment? Nirvana? Transcendence?

As I sailed through time and space, beyond thought and feeling, a familiar sound called me back to the room from where I had launched myself. I began to hear clicks and murmurs, whispers and shuffling and soon, distinct voices. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes to find myself surrounded by dozens of German tourists flashing cameras at me, dumbfounded by my presence, attire and what must have seemed to be very strange behavior. I silently stared at them and said nothing. Was the profound light of my experience nothing more than flash bulbs from tourists’ cameras? How long had they been there? How long had I been “gone?” I stood up and the sea of Germans parted as I walked out the door.

Rabbis are literally translated as teachers. I learned (often the hard way) that I had a tendency to want my teachers to take me all the way rather than point me in the right direction and allow me to figure out the specifics, even if it meant getting lost along the way. I remember being a boy waiting for my dad to come home from work so he could “help” me with my math homework. It was all strategic as he’d be exhausted from a long day and not have the energy to “teach” so he’d simply fill in the answers out of frustration.

I sat in the Southwestern desert initially with the same desire that my teacher would simply fill in the blanks for me. He was not that kind of teacher. He left my ass in the middle of nowhere and knew that I had to struggle through a narrow passage in order to emerge a stronger, more confident young man. He was a spiritual midwife of sorts, like Shifra and Puah, the midwives who secretly saved the first born Hebrew slaves from instant murder, hiding babies or even sending them down the river in basket boats in hope that someone would take pity on them and rescue them from certain death.

Like Rabbi Moses, we all have to find our way to personal growth and enlightenment through a combination of grace, hard work, intention and focus. Like Rabbi Jesus, we all have to move through the world believing that transcendence is our birthright, that we are all children of the Breath of Life and that loving kindness is the bridge between here and there, inside and outside.

So, may you be blessed this holy week with the chutzpah to believe that you are both the leader AND the follower of many. May you trust from deep within your being that YOU are the resurrection and the life; there is no separation between some transcendent being and your essence, there is only the experience of being in this body at this time. And, if these words make you uncomfortable, I invite you to ask yourself what really makes you uncomfortable, the thought that it can’t be true or the thought that it just might be true?