Intimacy ~ “into-me-see”

Yesterday was the first really very good day I had in quite a while. In the evening, there was also an unexpected gathering that a friend put together, which was more than just a social event…. there were about 6 of us there, and we are all in a unique space of seeing the world differently, for lack of a better way to say it.

I think the general feeling I want to express is that there’s a shared understanding that “getting a grip” on our lives is no small accomplishment for those of us who have the courage to live according to our convictions. It’s something that no diploma will ever be awarded for; and it’s something very hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it.

Even “successful” people who “benefit” from the world as it is are having more and more of a difficult time financially, (just think about the ballooning of student debt), and are experiencing ever greater levels of stress and anxiety in their careers. The constant pull of busier and busier lives reinforces our emotional disconnect from each other, which has been in a state of dis-ease as a culture for generations. This is the American-made version of the Chinese Finger Trap. The more we fight against it, the more we get stuck.

All of my friends are ones who have opted out of “business as usual” and are asking “What the heck do we do instead?”

One of our friends, Allen Little, recently gave a Ted X talk in Chicago on “Self Talk” and is becoming a rather successful Life Coach. Knowing him is a real blessing and anchor for our group. I recently did an episode with him on the “Off the Spectrum,” podcast and we’re recording another one Wednesday.

So 6 of us got together last night, and gatherings like that remind me that I’m not crazy. Too frequently, I still wonder if my experience of being depressed & frustrated is all in my head. Why don’t other people seem to feel this way? Is it just me? Can’t be. Some people just don’t talk about it. Others just accept it. It’s the ones who have opted out who can see the culture we are living in more clearly.

I think a good metaphor is a goldfish swimming in a dirty bowl. Our environment is polluted with toxic emotions and unrealistic expectations in working environments. Meanwhile, the solutions that clean the water are connection, affection, love, intimacy, (phonetically “in-to-me-see”), and they are all being suffocated by lives that are far too busy, hectic and rushed. It’s rare pockets of humans who come together and actually feel safe being vulnerable with each other. It feels like taking a bubble bath. It’s a real blessing in a world where it should be normal.

With the lack of vulnerability present in many social interactions, even if we’re all spending time together, we’re not being nourished by one other. At worst, we’re actively abusing each other by connecting through sarcastic humor, insults meant as compliments and a very black-and-white approach to physical touch. We often rush into romantic partnerships because the needs for intimacy we feel go unfulfilled in our close friendships.

Intimacy is often taboo.

Lonliness is never more present than when we first take a step back and set good boundaries about who to let into our lives.
When we have healthy people in our lives, then we can take a few steps closer to creating healthy intimacy with boundaries that don’t neeed to be so cut and dry.

Equal with a sense of loneliness, a sense of hopelessness around what Buddhism calls “right livelihood” shows up when we truly think about what kinds of working environments are actually healthy and available. Society that has forgotten how to define itself through anything other than work which keeps us running ever faster on the hamster wheel. The wheel is going to fall off its gears at this rate.

The work we do is all based on production and consumption, which makes us not only emotionally unhappier but is causing our climate to destabilize. If we want to save the planet, and save ourselves, we’d all be much better off working far less and spending far more time simply … being with each other.

The depression I feel comes from seeing all of this, as well as frequently finding it a struggle to find people to spend time with, as so many of us fill our time with a mix of obligatory tasks and then the emotionally-avoidant ones.

Depression arises from realizing the truth and feeling powerless to communicate it. Spending time with a good group of friends last night was very emotionally therapeutic. A lot of this is what my book is about.

Pre-order now….

ANGER IS THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE

Fear is not the opposite of Love, despite the popularity of this belief. Fear and Love are only opposites in the sense that they are two sides of the same coin. When we Love & Fear something, it’s called “Respect.” For example, we respect fire. Anger, on the other hand, is the true antithesis of Love.

The expression “Fear is the opposite of Love” was popularized by Marianne Williamson in “A Course in Miracles,” and has been repeated so often, (including by Jim Carrey in his viral commencement address at Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa) that it has become a BELIEF in our society.

“Beliefs” are concepts we accept as Truths regardless of their validity. This belief isn’t as dangerous as some, but it’s incorrect nevertheless, and I’d like to see more of us critically question our beliefs and assumptions. Assumptions become Beliefs when we start acting on them.

Fear is not the opposite of Love.
This understanding is incomplete.
Anger is more accurately the opposite of Love.

WHAT IS ANGER?
Anger arises from being mistreated, being oppressed, bullied, etc. Fear is often manufactured by oppressors as a way of keeping the oppressed in line. Anger is what mass shooters feel, and they are really the very embodiment of the lack of love in our society. They weren’t raised with love, but rather with hate. I’d say they actually are in a state of reckless fearlessness (of consequences, etc.). They’ve truly gotten over any and all fear to act out of Anger, the opposite of Love.

There are some valid points Marianne Williamson makes, and I feel that her overall message is beneficial, but I would like to see her question some of her assumptions …. maybe realize that she is making some assumptions.

Synchronicity works in Mysterious Ways….

For the past week, there has been an Amazon Prime package sitting in my apartment building’s mailroom, addressed to my address but not to me. I marked “not at this address” on the package, but the mailman hasn’t taken it back. Either because Prime Packages aren’t forwarded, or because Prime is making its own deliveries in its own trucks nowadays. I don’t know why. It’s just been sitting there for a week. So today I decided to open it. I debated the morality of this, but it clearly wasn’t going anywhere. So I thought, hmmm….. a mysterious package, addressed to my address. Well …. what would Tom Hanks do? It could be a Volleyball. Or a gift from the Universe.

Well, I warmed up a plate of food the Hare Krisha’s had given me, remembering the conversation I had with the monks Saturday night where we disagreed about celibacy being the pathway to God, and snipped the tip off the package with my scissors.

It wasn’t a Volleyball.
It was the jumbo-size box of Trojan ultra thins!

It was just yesterday that I was writing about pills being a “condom for my emotions.” And look what ended up “manifesting” on my doorstep….

Maybe there is someone in my Vortex I didn’t know about …
I hope the synchronicities continue….

Because in the back of my mind, I was secretly worrying the Hare Krishnas were right.

But I doubt the Universe would give me a gift I couldn’t use.

Thanks for the gift, Universe. Much gratitude. I decided I’m going to keep them. If it’s ok with you, Universe, I’d prefer to use them all in the same place, if you know what I mean.

I hope this is a good omen.
Unless I’m going to Hell for opening someone else’s mail….

I’m sorry for the fellow who didn’t receive his delivery.
I hope that doesn’t mean his girlfriend broke up with him.

Stand in the corner until you achieve enlightenment!

Who else was “put in the corner” as a kid?
There were 2 reasons for this:1) as punishment for something we did wrong2) to “figure out” what we did wrong when we didn’t actually know
If we didn’t know, going into to corner to figure it our is the exact same as meditating to achieve enlightenment.
If we didn’t know what we did wrong, it’s because we didn’t understand out parent’s point of view as to why our actions were “bad.” If we didn’t know, we had to “reverse-engineer” what the rule was that we’d broken if we didn’t know there was a rule there in the first place.
Meditation, sitting on the cushion, ideally helps us, through silence and disconnetion from the world we came from, come to figure out what’s actually real in an environment where all the untruths we’ve been taught no longer apply.
It’s not impossible, but silent meditation is not really a very effective way to get there. We need more of a framework first. Silent meditation is a good time to reflect on the dharma.
But, if we misunderstand the dharma in the first place (understanding it through the frame of mind and lense of the society we come from), it’s mostly impossible for us to “reverse-engineer” what’s actually true. We have too many false conceptions in our way that we think are actually true.
Silent meditation retreats can help us uncondition our minds.
But unconditioning is just step one.
After unconditioning occurs, then we have to have a roadmap to what is actually true.
That is more than a spiritual roadmap.That’s a social roadmap, a behavior roadmap, an emotional roadmap.
We need to remember what’s really important. What values do we really hold?
And how do we live them in a world that rejects them?In a very backward world, where there is only a glimmer of light?
“Everything is impossible until it is done,” Nelson Mandella.

Being a spiritual teacher is a lot like being an alarm clock on a Monday morning.

We mostly live in our thoughts,
and our thoughts are mostly what we’ve been taught.

In other words, what we believe to be true that isn’t so
is worse than what we don’t know we don’t know.

“Savvy?” I think I need to call in Captain Jack after that tongue-twister.

It’s a little bit like confusing facts with opinions. The problem is “our” beliefs are manipulated by others ~ from politicians to toxic relationships partners ~ without our consent. Can we pick out which ones don’t belong? It’s like a game on Sesame Street.

REFRAIN:
We mostly live in our thoughts,
and our thoughts are mostly what we’ve been taught.

In other words, what we believe to be true that isn’t so
is worse than what we don’t know we don’t know.

Detangling what is actually true from the rest is stage 1 of awakening. Stage 2 is even harder: living a life that follows the truth, in a world bewitched by beliefs. Stage 3 is empathy & compassion for all of those who don’t know, others who don’t want to know, and others still who will get angry at those who do know. Where is Captain Jack when you need him?

It’s like the flu…

IT’S LIKE THE FLU…
I catch depression like most people catch the flu. And it’s pretty regularly flu season in my life. Pills, in my 2-decades of experience with them, are like condoms for my emotions. Some are ribbed, some are ultra-thin, but all are Trojan Horses: while they numb the bad feelings, they also dull the desire to do anything actually about the real causes of the emotional disease.
The main causes of it in my life have always been plain as day: loneliness and a lack of a purpose. No pill solves that. One researcher who studies aboriginal tribes calls depression “a disease of civilization” in his Ted Talk.

I also believe that a great many of us are too busy to notice what we are actually feeling. When I was a web developer, my job was stimulating mentally, and I enjoyed the challenges. It occupied my time and my mind. And while it was enjoyable, I believe it also served the purpose of keeping my mind off my feelings of meaninglessness and disconnection. I think that’s true for many of us. We not only work alot, but lead very, very busy lives.

When I slowed down, depression hit harder than ever. The immediate knee-jerk reaction is of course to keep busy.
But in addition to all the time we do have to spend working to earn a living, I believe we fill a lot of our other time to avoid feeling. We are very out of touch with our emotions and feelings.

If we slowed down a bit, I think what we’re feeling would be overwhelming. We can’t just slam the breaks on our busy lives.

But what would happen if we began to slow down, one day at a time?

What is Authentic Relating?

Done well, done in the way our society needs this work, Authentic Relating is not just fun and engaging interpersonal games, but an invitation to explore, in a safe way, the deepest parts of ourselves in a safe community, the parts of ourselves we otherwise have a habit of hiding. The parts of ourselves that are wounded, and holding us back from the lives we really want to be leading. To get to know ourselves, beyond our trauma-informed view of who we think we are. This can be especially tough in the Midwest, where there is a strong amount of cultural and emotional repression ~ more than in other places I have lived. Opening up to yourself can be really scary, emotionally.
I agree with Thomas Hubl that we are all living in a field of “collective trauma.” I didn’t know that before. Maybe none of us does, or realizes the full extent to which that is true. We are all a great deal more traumatized than we realize. Not just by specific childhood traumas (that too), but by social conditioning and the social/emotional environments we were raised in ~ including churches and schools where we were taught misinformation and gaslit for disagreeing, as well as television commercials and media that convinced us we were not good enough unless we purchased products.
The culture we were raised in forced us into keeping up with the fictitious Jones’, and also encouraged bigotry, sexism, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, favored a work-life over a love-life, and the list goes on.
Mr. Rogers is about the only saving grace from the 80s I can think of off the top of my head.
We’re all living in a lot deeper of a trauma-informed worldview than we ever realized. As far as most therapists and life coaches go, it’s the blind leading the blinder. This is troubling. But look around, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I see very few (if any) folks who are actually, truly, legitimately thriving and happy and content with our lives. We all tend to have tendencies to avoid the deeper parts of ourselves and each other. Unconditional Love is a scare resource, Purpose and Meaning rare, and empathy is in atrophy. All of that comes from trauma. It’s not normal, healthy human behavior. All of this is the social and cultural conditions we live in day-to-day.
Authentic Relating Games are more than games. They’re community building and transformational for the type of emotional healing we all need.