Posts tagged #surrender

What a Year of Awesoming Does to One's Life

It's been just about a year since I started this blog.

... and I'm stunned every day now by how awesome my life has indeed become.

Just for the record, here's a quick survey of some grand things that awesoming brought me this year:

  1. Friends who like me so much they sing songs about it (I truly never imagined this would ever happen).
  2. The relatively painless finishing of my PhD (also something I feared could never happen). Here's the dissertation I wrote, in case you're curious.
  3. The presence of mind and persistence to write my first ever subversive comic metaphysical novel.
  4. The willingness to record my own tiny little album with just me singing.
  5. The great good fortune to have a severe case of mutual falling-in-love with a very handsome mad genius from another dimension.

Yet despite the fact that things are INCREDIBLE right now, in the past year I managed to accomplish a lot of suffering.  So much suffering that on some days I felt down-right embarrassed that I had a blog and a book on awesoming.

The source of my suffering? I was staying in a situation that obviously wasn't working because I feared change.  It's a lesson that I wrote about in the first chapter of my book: we have to always be willing to let go of what worked in the past and open up to what is needed in the present if we want to experience joy and flow.

Clinging to comforting-but-stultifying set-ups is a deadly path. Last year at this time I knew this well enough to write about it but throughout the year I had to go through another cycle in the continuing spiral that it takes to really learn these kind of things.

Thankfully I now have a bit of a rest from that part of the spiral - I'm enjoying the flow and freedom and awesomeness that have come out of my willingness to confront the painful truth of the situation and to take action to change it from a place of love, surrender and acceptance.

It's my experience that spiritual awakening (or awesoming your life, as I like to call it) is an ever-deepening process of letting go of control and learning to trust in the creative movement of the world - the Tao, or God, or the Universe.  Whatever you want to call it: it's the sweet spot.

It's the thing that can't be talked about but which can be accessed via intuition and reverence.   I can so easily keep myself from receiving the gifts of that power just by getting wrapped up in my beliefs about "how life should be" and "what I should do."  I invest these beliefs with all the sticky power of my ego and end up using them to bully myself.  The more I do this, the less free I feel - until! - the pain of clinging to my beliefs exceeds my tolerance.  Then, only then, I become open minded. "Maybe my life doesn't have to be this way - maybe this isn't what I have to do."

But even once I'm open-minded I still don't know what the hell to do with myself.  At that point, I have to call directly on powers greater than me.  I rely on a wonderful quote from Jung's The Archetypes and the Unconscious to remind me how to do that:

“There are problems which one simply cannot solve on one's own resources. Such an admission has the advantage of being honest, truthful, and in accord with reality, and this prepares the ground for a compensatory reaction from the collective unconscious... If you have an attitude of this kind, then the helpful powers slumbering in the deeper strata of one's nature can come awake and intervene, for helplessness and weakness are the eternal experience and the eternal problem of humankind. To this problem there is also an eternal answer, otherwise it would have been all up with humanity long ago. ... The necessary and needful reaction from the collective unconscious expresses itself in archetypally formed ideas.”

It's rather pagan of me: lately when I pray I like to pray directly to the archetypes within my own soul.

"Dear Archetypes," I begin, "I have abso-zero-fucking-lutely idea what to do about the conflict I feel within myself between wanting to (stay in / leave this relationship; achieve more / have more free time; eat endless piles of chocolate / enjoy better health). I've tried everything I can come up with to solve this problem and I just can't through my own power. I need your help, I need you to do it for me."

This is an embarrassing prayer to have to make.  It means admitting that I'm really not all that capable.  It means humbly putting myself at the mercy of larger forces - coming to the honest recognition that I don't know and not moving from that stark recognition, not rushing to fill in the void with a mind-created "solution" of my own.  That staying within the humble not-knowing is the most subtle and difficult thing of all.

But I find when I'm able to do it that Jung is exactly right: in a few days, something "slumbering in the deeper strata" of my nature wakes up.  Something moves and shifts within me.  I get inspiration; I see possibility; I'm no longer stuck. The archetypes within me float me an idea.  I apply the idea.  The idea works.

I like to think of this as the work of becoming obedient to my own soul (being as the archetypes are aspects, or faces, of the soul).  D.H. Lawrence liked to say that that's what real freedom is: not the freedom to do whatever you want (since most of what we want to do is rather silly ego-stuff) but rather the freedom to obey the dictates of your own soul.  D.H. Lawrence was cool like that.

So anyways - yes.  I'm happy to offer at least my own anecdotal testimony that the principles espoused throughout this blog and my book work as advertised.  I wake up in the morning feeling sweet and happy, have some moments of sheer ecstatic effulgence throughout the day and go to bed satisfied and grateful.

Since I know myself, I know that sooner or later I'll get myself into another sticky situation and have to do more of that difficult deepening surrender work in order to experience this kind of ease and flow again - but that's okay.  Awesoming is a dynamic process.   And this year, I think I'd like to write more about that dynamism as it happens, to share my process more vividly with you as it unfolds.

And now I'm curious about you.  What have your own awesoming processes brought you lately in terms of pains and joys, insights and gifts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image: [scrappy annie]

Posted on May 31, 2012 and filed under Guide to Awesome.

Radical Innocence

 

Ever experience the negative voice in your head as not at "voice" at all but rather as an instant, visceral wincing?  Like, something happens not-according-to-plan and your internal response is just to feel kinda squingingly weak and hopeless and desperate to hide?

Yeah, me too.

Lately I'd been circling around in the same old dance with self-rejection, fear and shame.  I've come a long way from where I used to be, but alas— spiritual growth tends to be a spiral and not a straight-shot to infinite beatitude. Unless, of course, it is for you.  In which case, you better hurry up your bodhisattva work and help me join you on your enlightenment train.  That is, please?

What's been helping me lately is to remember my all-too-easy to forget commitment to radical innocence.  I sometimes hesitate to speak about it, because I know when I spell it out it can sound like straight-up denial or lunacy.  But I think it's far from it. Allow me to explain.

Radical innocence means letting go of my judgment that anything is wrong with the world, at all.  Ever.

I find it's the only attitude that truly helps me let go of self-rejection.  Why is that? Well, it has something to do with the world being a precise mirror for the self.  Any attitude I project onto the world, I will simultaneously project onto myself, and vice-versa.  So if I'm inwardly rejecting, hating, saying "no" to anything "out there" — another person's behavior, global economic inequity, the fact that I myself am far from wealthy, anything — I'm also rejecting, hating, saying "no" to something inside myself.

In other words, if I was completely, 100%, fully okay with myself — I would be fully okay with the world.  My antsy, demanding, insistent need to fix, secure, and figure out comes from my own sense of not-okayness.  When I'm in that not-okayness, I need the world to fit into a nice arrangement so it won't poke any of my wounds and make me hurt.  When I feel really frustrated that things in my life aren't the way I want them to be, it's because I'm holding on to the belief that it would be easier to make the world conform to my will than actually practice love and acceptance.

It occurs to me that radical innocence boils down to just the old adage, "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." Which doesn't mean willful ignorance.  Instead, it means refusing to interpret anything that appears as evil, terrible, wrong.  There are plenty of things in the world that we'd all like to see eradicated — hunger, war, abuse — but my reactive rejection of that stuff doesn't do anything to heal it at a fundamental level.  It just perpetuates reactive rejection inside me.

Radical innocence isn't anything I made up, of course.  It's the message of A Course in Miracles, The Four Agreements, Loving What Is and all those other metaphysical heavy-hitters that I love so much. It can be a real bitch to practice, though.  Being truly vigilant about it means paying close attention to my inner monologue and challenging myself to not insult or disrespect anyone or anything — not out of weird New Age piety but out of a genuine sense of humility.  This gets really tough when reading about politicians.

Which reminds me - excuse me while I close my eyes and send love to Mitt Romney.  Bless you, Mitt, you're human, too.

Anyway — if you're feeling awful lately, I suggest you join me in the practice of radical innocence.   Decide that you don't have to reject anything that exists.  Trust that your heart and intuition will help you navigate life with discernment rather than judgment.  Open up and relax.

 

 

 

 

 

The poetics of occupation: pressing reasons we need to "occupy" our own cities

The Poetics of Occupation

I've been thrilled and privileged to participate in the Occupy movement via Occupy Pittsburgh. While sitting out in the cold and rain, I got to having some deep thoughts about the poetics of the occupation and I figured I'd share them here with you.

 

 

The term "occupy" has obvious military connotations.  The poetic use of the term as a metaphor to describe a peaceful protest demands some reflection.

 

Currently, the U.S. military is just winding down a massive, costly and controversial occupation of Iraq. This occupation of Iraq is the  prominent cultural back drop in the minds of most Americans when we hear the term "occupy." "Occupy" in this sense suggests going on to foreign soil where we're not particularly wanted or welcome and ensuring that our interests are protected there.

 

Thus, the notion that we would need to Occupy Wall Street, for example, frames "Wall Street" as a kind of hostile foreign nation, a place where we need to send "troops" (of peaceful protesters) in order to control the situation there and to protect our interests.

 

But Wall Street IS American soil, right? Why should we feel we need to "occupy" it?

 

How Wall Street Made Itself a Foreign Land: Usury

The answer to this, I believe, lies in the spiritual dimension of our financial institutions and failing economy. The spiritual malaise of Wall Street, the banking industry, and the corporations has created a sense of alienation and violation so potent that those institutions can no longer be perceived by Americans as even belonging to their country. There's a sense of these institutions and corporations as alien and hostile.  This sense is not imaginary or paranoid.  It's completely correct, and it has its root in the alienating and hostile actions of those institutions towards the American people.

 

In order to make my point clear, I need to explain a few rather arcane (but fascinating!) points which I first learned from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

 

To begin, the banking industry's practice of usury is a practice that was recognized in spiritual traditions throughout the ancient world as an act which promoted division, suspicion, and alienation within a community. I think we need to reconsider ancient and indigenous attitudes towards usury in order to understand the extent to the unity and spiritual virtue of the United States has been violated by Wall Street.

 

Today, "usury" means "lending at unbearably high interest." In the ancient world, usury just meant charging any interest at all on a loan.

 

Lending at interest itself is now widely accepted and taken for granted as perfectly acceptable and normal.  Loan-sharking, or lending at really high and outrageous interest, is the only stuff that raises eyebrows now.  Loan-sharking on the part of the banks is a large part of what created the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

 

We can keep in mind that the banks have practiced the intense form of usury-as-loan-sharking and that this practice has led to the current widespread poverty and outrage, but in order to understand the severity of loan-sharking, I want to start by discussing the problematic spiritual dimensions of usury, period.

 

In order to understand why usury (which is now so widely accepted) would be seen as a spiritual problem, we first need to understand a little bit about the way gifts work.

 

The Increase of the Gift

An interest-free loan is a form of a gift. For example: if I give you an interest-free loan of $1000 dollars, and you are able to use that loan to invest in a business which then makes you money. A year later, you return to me $1000, but you've still been able to create an "increase" out of the loan that I gave you, an increase that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy if I hadn't loaned you the $1000 to begin with.  So the increase that you make on account of me loaning you $1000 is a kind of gift from me to you.  Theoretically, if I had held on to my $1000 and not given it to you, I could have used the $1000 to invest and thereby enjoyed the increase myself.

 

Gifts are really cool because they create relationships of community and connection.  There's something magical and in harmony with the natural growth and decay of nature in the increase that properly treated gifts can create.

 

In indigenous cultures which maintained gift economies, it was always considered imperative that the increase generated by a gift  be passed on or used up, and never hoarded or used as capital itself. This passing-on or "paying it forward" was thought to be necessary in order to keep the "spirit of the gift" moving. So, for example, if you were able to make $2000 out of the $1000 interest-free loan I had given you, it would be good form for you to spend that $2000 on necessities for you and your family or to throw a big party and share the wealth. It would be very bad form for you to keep that $2000 to invest as capital or to hoard in savings.

 

The idea behind this is that gifts in a community should be kept in circulation and not used to unduly benefit or to create an unfair advantage for any one individual. When gifts are hoarded or used to create only private benefit, the spirit of the gift dies and the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness and isolation arises. This nihilism of separation creates a general atmosphere of cruelty. It's the atmosphere we're living in now.  It's the atmosphere that the Occupy movement has arisen to protest.

 

The Spirit of the Gift

We can think of the "spirit of the gift" as a sense of gratitude that puts human beings in an attitude of reverence and love for each other, nature, and divinity.  When gifts are kept moving and circulating, no one person has giant storehouses of money or goods to use as "security." The "security" and "prosperity" of an individual is instead intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the community, and thus to relationships of good will, love, and interdependency. Furthermore, a person who is living in the spirit of the gift, rather than seeking to extract and hoard the riches of the earth in warehouses instead respectfully fosters and tends for the earth so as to continue to enjoy the bounty of her gifts in a sustainable fashion.

 

Living in the spirit of the gift is an act of faith.  It involves a surrender of control.  This surrender entails two spiritual attitudes that are largely unknown to our control-obsessed modern world: 1) A general trust that the community / nature / divinity will continue to provide and 2) A graceful willingness to accept death and suffering in the event that the community / nature / divinity does not provide.

 

The act of living in the spirit of the gift is something which my favorite poet and all-around-awesome dude, Jesus, pointed to many times, perhaps most memorably in his Sermon on the Mount, when he suggested that everyone live "like the lilies of the field."  The lilies of the field, J.C. pointed out, don't do any work or save for rainy days, and yet they're gorgeous and happy. The lilies live in the spirit of the gift, accepting the nourishment of the sun and earth and giving forth radiant beauty.  Then they gracefully die when it gets cold and they don't whine about it. They don't control or hoard anything.

 

The Nihilism of Usury and the Control Freaks of Wall Street

Usury, in essence, is an expression of fear and clinging to material existence.  It's a refusal to surrender control. Usury hears about the notion of living like the lilies of the field and says "screw that!"

 

Usury seeks to maintain control over the increase generated by a gift.  It thus kills the spirit of the gift and creates disconnection.

 

When I give you that $1000 interest-free loan, I'm letting go of my say over that money. I'm letting you "use" it.  In turn, in our little gift society, I trust that you will put your "use" of the gift (the increase you accrue from investing it) to benefit all of us.  But I'm trusting. I've surrendered control of the "use" of the gift.  Through my trust, I'm making space for the spirit of the gift to live and breathe.

 

When I give you a $1000 dollar loan with 20% interest, I'm not letting go of my say over that money. I'm not trusting that you will use the increase of the gift to ultimately benefit our community and thus me. I'm demanding that you put the increase that you generate through your "use" of the gift back in my pocket. Thus I am controlling the "use-stuff" or "use-ury" or of the gift. In my control, I don't trust you and I certainly don't love you.

 

Usury = commerce between foreigners

Lewis Hyde explains:

 To ask for interest on loaned wealth is to reckon, articulate, and charge its increase.  The idea of usury therefore appears when spiritual, moral, and economic life begins to be separated from one another, probably at the time when foreign trade, exchange with strangers, begins. As we saw in an earlier chapter, wherever property circulates as a gift, the increase that accompanies that circulation is simultaneously material, social, and spiritual; where wealth moves as a gift, any increase in material wealth is automatically accompanied by the increased conviviality of the group and the strengthening of the hau, the spirit of the gift.  But when foreign trade begins, the tendency is to differentiate the material increase from the social and spiritual increase, and a commercial language appears to articulate the difference.  When exchange no longer connects one person to another, when the spirit of the gift is absent, then increase does not appear between gift partners, usury appears between debtors and creditors. (144-145 The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)

 

The key point that Hyde makes here is that usury begins when foreign trade begins.  It's an economic relationship forged between groups of people who have no necessary bonds to each other communally or spiritually and who do not trust each other.  It's a relationship of outsider to outsider.

 

Think about this: usury now colors every exchange in our financial institutions.  The banks lend to us, the people, at interest-- and in the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis at insanely high, loan-sharking interest.  They might call themselves things like "Bank of America" but to them, we, their debtors, are obviously foreigners.

 

The Occupy Movement as a Gift Society

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the movement against the banks, against our financial institutions and corrupt government and corporations calls itself an "Occupation" and takes the form of physical encampments.

 

We are occupying Wall Street and occupying symbolic squares and parks in our hometowns because the banks have made themselves foreigners to us through their usury.  We have no fellow-feeling and good-will for them because we have no trace of a gift relationship with them. They've destroyed the spirit of the gift through their rapacious lust to control and their absolute unwillingness to trust.

 

They've treated us, the people, their fellow citizens, like strangers.

 

To speak in biblical terms, our financial institutions have committed grave sins and the consequences of those sins are alienation and disunity.

 

It is absolutely no accident that the Occupy encampments in NYC and throughout the world are operating as communal gift economies with free healthcare (in the form of medic tents), free education (in the form of teach-ins, speakers, and lending libraries), free food, free shelter (in the form of donated tents, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.), and free entertainment (as people share their musical and artistic skills).

 

The Occupy encampments are modeling the living power of the spirit of the gift which the banks, corporations, and corrupt government of the United States had sought to destroy through usury, among other means.

 

Debts create suspicion, scarcity, distrust and death.  Gifts create love, abundance, trust and life.

 

Why doesn't Occupy need to articulate demands?

In the Occupy movement, the spirit of the gift is rising up and roaring through the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. This is what makes it enormously powerful and wonderful.

 

This is why it doesn't need to "articulate demands." The demand of the movement is implicit in its very existence.  The medium is the message.  Gifts, not debts. Consensus, not tyranny. Community, not commodity. The time has come. The spirit will prevail.

 

Check out this tour of the gift community at the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment, given by yours truly:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTMvFWhjNq8

 

Love!

Carolyn

Letters to a Young Dream Warrior - Letter #2

 

[Read the first letter here.]

 

Dear X,

 

So it seems to you that either you win over the gatekeepers or you fall flat.  You win or you lose. I offered to you that there's a third possibility: surrender. Leave the game.

 

What does this leaving entail? First, it requires a clear recognition that you cannot "win" the gatekeeper's game.

 

How is this true? It's true because even if you bluffed incredibly well for many years, even if you got through the initial hurdles and mastered the whole act, the prize that you would ultimately earn would be this: a life of quiet desperation, hiding your great light, becoming a gatekeeper yourself-- becoming someone so personally invested in the system that he defends it vigilantly, even in the face of its evident wrongs. Is this what you really want? Is this outcome made fully palatable because it comes with a garnish of social respectability and prestige?

 

Second, leaving the game entails recognizing the fact that any failures you've had thus far in the gatekeeper's game do not mean that you are valueless or a "loser."  In fact, they signify that your value exceeds the ordinary.  You have something to offer that exceeds calculable commodities and quantities. This excess of your being is sacred; it is precious-- it's also incredibly disturbing to people and to institutions who have built themselves up on a foundation of measurement and control.  Why? Because what is sacred about you can't be measured; can't be controlled; can't be quantified; can't be commodified.  It isn't predictable or mechanical.  It's disruptive and potent and beautiful.

 

In other words, if you have a powerful soul, gatekeepers won't like you because they can sense that there's something about you which puts their methods and their smallness to shame.

 

At this moment, monetary wealth is concentrated in the hands of these people and institutions who value control, measurement, security, debt.  You're not wrong in the recognition that you might have to do without monetary wealth for a time if you choose not to pursue the acceptance and approval of the gatekeepers. You're not wrong to see that you might have to live very frugally and without the comforts and safety nets of someone who's playing by the rulebook. This thought might frighten you; this thought might frighten your family and your friends.  But let's think through it in earnest; let's think about what it means to risk living a life of truth rather than a life of begging for approval.

 

We mistakenly tend to imagine that our work in this life is to fulfill our ego's goals and demands: become important, secure, powerful, insulated from possible harm.  But this is a way of spiritual stagnation and death.  It's a fear-driven and control-obsessed path.  Follow it and you'll find yourself one day depressed, sick, filled with anxiety and loneliness.  It's the modern dilemma and the modern mistake.

 

In truth, our real work in this life is to fulfill the aims of our soul, not our ego.  The soul asks that we become humble, vulnerable, intimate and connected-- it asks that we always be open and available to express love, that we give our gifts freely and receive freely from others.

 

In my own exit from the game (which has been a slow process), I decided that I would never again insult my soul by pretending to believe something I did not or by doing work that did not resonate with me as deeply important.  I decided I would stop lying, even if it meant losing all respectability and support from the people who had previously respected and supported me as long as I went along with their game.  I decided that I would devote my energy to creating stuff which would give to others something that I truly wanted to give.  And then I started giving it away. And since then I've been enriched immeasurably with friendship; with gratitude; with community; with love.

 

So that, Dear X, is my suggestion to you.  Don't ask yourself, "What can I do to be respectable and secure?" because in a world where the reigning institutions and people are corrupt and petty, respectability and security are for souls too timid to tell the truth loudly.  Ask instead, "What would it most thrill me to give?" and then get to work on giving that.

 

If you are fully honest with yourself about the answer to this question you'll find that gates will fly open in front of you.  The universe will stop at nothing to help you bring forth the gift it most truly delights you to give.

 

Many of us get so confused about this because we've been hypnotized by the myths of specialization and professionalization.  For instance, I always knew that it most thrilled me to give to others the gifts of knowledge and empowerment through writing and teaching.  For years, though, I was gravely confused-- I thought I needed a very specialized degree and approval from hard-to-please gatekeepers in order to give this gift.  What I finally realized was that I needed no authority to make me a writer and a teacher apart from the authority of my own soul; I didn't need to appeal to gatekeepers, I needed to appeal to other people who hungered for beauty and truth as I did. As soon as I took full responsibility for my inner authority, the opportunity to publish on a wide scale came to me.

 

As you do the labor of readying your gift; as you give forth your gift; as you do it day after day with great love-- you may find that all your needs are being met, but that you receive this need-meeting indirectly.  In other words, people may not pay you directly for the gift you're offering, but support comes to you in other ways. This happens because our society only knows how to pay directly for quantifiable commodities, and the gifts of the soul can't be quantified. Still, as you give support comes to you-- in ways you can't control or predict-- in ways that are more perfect than you could arrange for.

 

The support comes because by choosing to give your deep gift loudly and fearlessly without asking for permission or approval, you're living in the gift, you're living in grace.  You've surrendered.  You're no longer living by the sensible and measurable but by the magical and synchronistic.

 

Perhaps this answer raises more questions for you. Let me know what they are and I'll endeavor to meet them.

 

Love,

Carolyn

 

 

Like the essay? Put your name and email in the form below to receive the Genius Updates letter, which is more of the goodness, straight to your inbox.

Name:

Letters to a Young Dream Warrior - Letter #1

 

Dear X,

 

You want to know: how do I thrive in the world while also realizing the deep potentials of my being which seem to have nothing to do with money-making and being respectable out there in the fray?

 

These are deep questions whose answers take us into the heart of what it means to be a dream warrior, to be one who works to realize the truths of the heart and the beauty of the imaginal realm on this physical plane even in the face of onslaughts from materialism, mechanistic science, and the whole paradigm of separation (a conglomeration of devouring joylessness which I like to call the Nothing).

 

First, let's consider your dilemma.

 

Everywhere you turn you find there are gatekeepers: for employment, for education, for anything.  The main thing the gatekeepers seem to want from you is that you agree with them and the world they've created-- and not just a token agreement, but a permeated, soaked-through agreement.  They want you to be as saturated with their ideology as the balls of dough in gulab juman are saturated with sugar syrup. They want to see evidence that your whole life and soul is devoted to it, to them, to the Nothing.

 

At interviews, in applications, the gatekeepers come up close and breathe you in deep.  They are smelling out how much of you is theirs.  If they find an off-note, a fragrance of dissent or noncompliance in your being, you see yourself shut out from the shelter of their institutions and their money.  If you are a dream warrior, as you are, they certainly detect it and recoil in fear.

 

So they've sniffed you and you didn't pass the test.  They could sense the stirring of wakefulness in you, the aura of resistance and questioning that you've tried to repress.  They rejected you despite your best efforts to fit in. Now you don't have access to their credentials; their money; their approval.

 

Is this terrifying? Yes.  But less so if you remember that the institutions and the money are losing power anyway.  The gatekeepers can't even afford now to shelter the ones who have soaked themselves completely in compliance.  There are people being turned down for work and education who have denuded their lives and souls of everything but what the gatekeepers said they wanted-- and now these people, too, are turned out into the cold.

 

At least you have not done this great violence to yourself.  At least you kept the truth and beauty alive in you, you have fostered it and nurtured it-- so you are not the most unlucky.  You still have this wealth, and this -- though it may not appear so at the moment -- is very great wealth indeed.  Perhaps most valuable of all is your love.  Your love which is not sentiment or romance but rather a form of wise vision, the perception of your heart.

 

The intimations you have of magic and loveliness, of wonder and agonies, these are precious and these will fuel your life in the new world that you are about to help bring forth.

 

Right now this is hard to see.  Right now you are full of bitterness.  "I wanted a job," you think. "I wanted to support myself. To contribute.  Now what do I have? What can my perception of loveliness yield me but a handful of poems that no one will want to read? What will magic get me but more scorn and abuse?"

 

More than anything, though, it astounds you that the people of our world do this to themselves: that they demand of each other and of us only the boring, the utilitarian, the violent, or the prurient.  Not given to violence or extremes of lust, you sought to cooperate by offering the utilitarian.  But you could only go along with it for so long: leaping through the hoops they set up-- and now you find yourself unable to leap anymore.  Your leap failed.  It failed not because of your vice but because of your virtue: your soul is too thrilling, too rich, too deep and too broad to be limited to the prescribed tasks of business as usual.

 

Now you have a choice of what to do. It seems to you like you only have two choices: Try again to please the gatekeepers and win this time or just be a failure and a burden, someone who lives on the edges of society, someone who goes mad.

 

It seems like winning or losing are the only possibilities.  You either fool the gatekeepers and reap their rewards or you land flat on your face and get nothing.

 

But there's a third choice open to you.  You could choose neither to win nor to lose but to surrender completely.

 

What does surrender look like?  It looks like leaving the game altogether. And what does that mean? It primarily means to stop understanding yourself in the terms of the game.  This is internal work.  This is dream warrior work.  It is very far from being easy and it takes constant vigilance.  But it is work which from the first day you undertake it ignites an enormous shift in your experience of the external world, a shift which only snowballs more and more rapidly.

 

In order to stop understanding yourself in the terms of the game, you have to give up feeling the least bit of shame, self-pity, or resentment for your present condition.  You must learn to take your sense of self-worth not from success or loss within the game but from your own sense of the strength of your heart. You must become willing to offer love and celebration to everything that seems to oppose you or confound you.

 

Does this sound easy? Are you ready to say to me, "But I already am proud of who I am; I already know that I am right and that the system and the Nothing are wrong." Dear brother, I would reply that you have not truly let yourself know this if you are still suffering, if you ever feel low or conflicted.

 

When you are fully in your power, when you are replete with joy for the truth that you are, you will feel no trace of this doubt or reservation about yourself.  You will not worry that your inability to garner success in the external world up to this point reflects some secret defect of your own being.  Instead you will see with crystalline clarity the fact that any difficulty you've experienced up to this point has not been your fault at all but the fault of the nightmare that all the sleepers are projecting, the nightmare of separation and scarcity.

 

When next I write, I will tell you my own methods for reaching and maintaining this condition of repletion.  In the mean time, I ask you to begin by hurling a strong refusal against all the voices that tell you that you have failed and you are wrong.

 

Refuse to accept any judgment which would say to you that the gatekeepers' rejection of you signified that you did not try hard enough or did not do well enough.  You did exceedingly well. You preserved the fragrance of beauty and truth in your being.  You are our hope for a future that is truly, radically different from the present.  You are winning at a level that those who are still asleep in the nightmare cannot comprehend.  You, O Dreamer, are perfect.

 

Love, Carolyn

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift World vs. the Mad World

Dear Reader, As I began discussing in my last post, the gift world is a subjective experience of life in which your genius is fully supported and welcomed in its expression, and in which your needs and authentic preferences are joyously met by a provident universe.

I might elaborate on that by saying it's also a condition in which you don't need to control or manipulate anything, nor are you subject to any control or manipulation.  It's a state wherein you offer yourself fully as a gift and experience yourself likewise fully supplied with everything-- also as a gift.  The gifts which supply you come to you through a variety of people and circumstances, but they simply come.  There's no struggling and striving involved, no need to force yourself to do work you don't want to do, no sense of barrier or disconnection between you and other people.  In other words, the gift world is a lot different than the mad world we currently live in.

What's the mad world? It's the state in which we apparently need to strive and do drudge work in order to support ourselves, or, conversely, we need to manipulate, lie to, and exploit others in order to spare ourselves from drudgery (i.e., do business).  It's a world in which we must exert control and force over ourselves (how else do you get yourself to go to work in an ugly office other than through forcing?), where we feel painfully alone and disconnected from our own vital souls and from the other people that surround us.  It's something wrought upon us from the time we're very young and made to go to school in a thoroughly corrupt and increasingly pointless educational system. I think Gary Jules' cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" in Donnie Darko sums it up pretty well. But then again, the original Tears for Fears version is way easier to dance to:

 

The mad world is a condition in which we're desperately trying to control ourselves, other people, and all the factors which surround us out of an intense survival anxiety.  Charles Eisenstein sums it up very well, blow by blow, in his book The Ascent of Humanity (which is available online in its entirety-- as a gift, because Mr. Eisenstein knows what's up). The mad world is a world in which technology and science, surveillance and laws, discipline and punishment are used to maximum effect in order to produce a very tenuous and unsustainable version of security in which we're not only not actually safe, but we're also now bored and depressed.

In the gift world, since you have no need to control, there's no fear.  As the teacher Adyashanti has observed, fear is just a by-product of frustrated control. In the gift world, you do things, but nothing you do is "work" in the sense that we've come to think of it, because your security and your identity don't come from what you accumulate as a result of your effort.  Instead, you give your efforts freely, accruing no obvious security or bolstering to your seperate ego-self.  As you give in this manner, your wants and needs are subsequently mysteriously met in delightful and miraculous ways by the universe.

This miraculous movement happens because, as Lewis Hyde observed in his seminal work The Gift, when gifts received are consumed or passed on, the spiritual power at work in the gift grows-- more is drawn forth, more gifts flow to you. When gifts received are hoarded, stored up, or used only to accrue individual gain, the spiritual power at work in the gift departs-- it dries up, and no more gifts come to you. The gift spirit as it moves creates connection and joy, satisfaction and fulfillment among a circle of givers and receivers.  The gift as it is hoarded creates disconnection and ennui, alienation and discontent.

Our genius (talent, intelligence, creativity, soul-- whatever you want to call it) is clearly a gift given to us by the source.  We didn't manufacture our genius deliberately, of our own clever device.  We didn't make it out of duct-tape and cardboard. It came to us freely, from outside our own will and effort. When we use our gift of genius only promote ourselves, only to make ourselves as individual egos more secure and safe in a seemingly threatening universe-- we then betray the spirit of the gift. We become hoarders. The genius then stops giving us ideas and inspirations and means to carry those out because we've proven ourselves ungrateful.  When we wrongly use gifts graciously bestowed upon us as possessions to which we are entitled,  the spirit of the gift dies.

It was a revelation to me when I learned from Lewis Hyde about the need of the gift to move.  While it made deep sense to me on one level, on another it contradicted the perverse notions of gift reception that I'd learned in childhood: gifts are given to me on my birthday and at Christmas and they are MINE all MINE.  I was taught that to give away a gift that I received as a birthday or a Christmas present was rude. Not only this, but I was prevented from actually formally reciprocating the gifts given to me. When I was invited as a guest to the birthday parties of other children,  the birthday gifts bestowed on my friends by "me"  were toys bought by my mother. I was not allowed to give the pine cones and twigs, the flowers and quartz pebbles I really wanted to give.  The toys my mother presented did not come from me-- they had nothing to do with me. I was deluged with gifts and yet kept out of the circle of giving-- and perhaps unsurprisingly, the gifts I was given in this fashion meant nothing to me on a deep level. They represented nothing to me but a hoard of "my" toys.  The ethos of giving and receiving taught to me thus denied the  actual spirit of the gift.

As I practice the path of virtualizing a great universe and surrendering into my innocence, I can more and more clearly perceive that what I'm virtualizing is the gift world-- and as the gift world is more and more  coming to be my reality,I'm growing increasingly excited.  In the coming days, I'll be sharing more regarding what it takes to move from the mad world to the gift world.

 

Love, Carolyn

Image Attribution: Photo "Presents under the tree" by VancityAllie, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

How to Dwell in Possibility

Dear Reader, Yesterday I discussed the importance of shifting to poetic perception in order to clearly see where in our lives we're holding on to kitschy denial that keeps us in patterns that no longer serve us.

Today I want to offer a specific suggestion for moving into poetic perception-- or dwelling in Possibility, as I like to call it.

Dwelling in Possibility, we should note, has a lot in common with the practice that the poet John Keats called "negative capability." Negative capability, according to Keats, was the distinguishing trait of geniuses like Shakespeare, and it consists in the ability to remain in "uncertainties, Mysteries, and doubts without any irritable reaching after fact or reason."

So try this:

1. Sit somewhere comfortable. Take a few deep breaths.

2. Decide to agree with reality for the next five minutes. Whatever it is, you'll offer no argument, no resistance, and no attempt to control it.

3. Let yourself soften.

4. Admit to yourself and to the universe that you don't really know exactly what's up with the world or exactly what you should do today with your life.

5. Allow that not-knowing to just be there with you. Allow yourself to not demand an answer or a solution to all the things you feel like you should fix and resolve.

6. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I find that when I do this for five minutes and then go about my business-- especially in the midst of times that I'm feeling frantic and crazed -- big, real solutions will pop into my head at weird moments, like when I'm climbing the stairs to get to the gym.

Also, when I do this on a regular basis I develop a greater and greater sensitivity to my own kitsch.  Since my shit solutions are all arise from a desire to control what's not mine to control and a refusal to trust that the universe has a real and great solution in store for me, surrendering my management for just a few moments allows more sane and honest perception to drip into my murky mind.

Over time, these little drips of sanity expand into a pool that's great for splashing about.

In other words, the poetic perception of dwelling in Possibility slowly lets me stop seeing myself as an isolated little fragment at war with the whole and allows me to feel the way in which I contain and am contained by everything that is.

Which feels pretty darn great.

Love,

Carolyn

Image Credit: Photo by Lawrence OP from flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

The Dance of Faith

Dear Reader, Are you busily working with our 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life? I hope so, because I, for one, am having a blast with my Truth and Beauty Pages, Throbbing Extra-Rational Optimism, hops, and 5 Minutes Towards Beauty.

Questioning Desire

My razor-sharp friend Tait McKenzie Johnson over at The Absent Narrative wrote an insightful reply to yesterday's post on How to Desire, which can be found just under that post on this very blog and also here.

To briefly summarize, Johnson raises a fantastic question, "are desires necessarily a good thing to fulfill?" and then goes on to outline the ways in which desiring can be potentially deleterious to the soul.  He also notes that most of the things I listed as things I "Really, Really Want" are material objects, and offers his skepticism that material objects can really do all that much to promote happiness, observing that "there's a difference between having goals and wanting stuff."

I fully agree.  And while I don't myself subscribe to the practice of releasing all desires, I do think it's incredibly important to release all of what the pioneering human potential author Ken Keyes Jr. called "emotion-backed addictions"-- otherwise known as attachments to having things a certain way which cause us to get upset when things don't turn out as we wanted. These things have been called "desires" in certain contexts.  Keyes advocated that we focus on "upleveling" all of our attachments / emotion-backed addictions to "preferences." I highly recommend that everyone on earth read all about it in his 1970s classic, The Handbook to Higher Consciousness, which is invaluably wise and available in its entirety here online. To me, Keyes' distinction between attachments / addictions and preferences is very important.

The Dance of Faith

I think in order to have a life that burns well, one needs to not only release one's addictions to having things a certain way (i.e., surrender, let go) but also fully embrace, hope for and pursue the fulfillment of one's preferences. As you might imagine, this is a bit of a difficult dance to do.  Executed at its highest level, it's what the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called "the dance of faith" and elaborated in the brilliant treatise Fear and Trembling.  According to Kierkegaard, one who executes the dance of faith may be called a "knight of faith" and thereby distinguished from someone who succeeds in surrendering but not also hoping for finite fulfillment-- whom he calls a "knight of infinite resignation."

Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling has such a scary title because it's mostly about the adventures of one particular knight of faith, Abraham, who had a rough going of it, what with the Lord ordering him to sacrifice his only son Isaac and all. Kierkegaard uses the story of Abraham and Isaac to highlight that in order to be a knight of faith, one must first fully and completely surrender (i.e., drop one's addiction to having things a certain way).  Abraham had to completely surrender his very normal and natural attachment to not murdering his own son with his own hand.  But according to Kierkegaard, Abraham didn't stop there with his surrender-- he also had an intense dose of Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism in which he trusted that even though he was killing his own son, things would still turn out okay. Of course we all know that Abraham's faith was rewarded-- an angel appeared and stopped him from killing Isaac at the last second. Whew!

So you see, there was a lot of fear and trembling in all of that.

But Kierkegaard also relates that there doesn't necessarily need to be a giant Old Testament tribulation in place in order for one to become a knight of faith, and emphasizes that knights of faith are not apparent to the eye.  They can be completely indistinguishable, in fact, from a sort of person that Kierkegaard quite loathed-- materialistic philistines like me. Kierkegaard imagines a scenario in which he is introduced to an utterly ordinary-seeming person ("Good Lord! that person? Is it really he—why, he looks like a parish‑beadle!") who likes to eat and drink and putter around and hope passionately that his wife has prepared his favorite dish for dinner and yet who is not at all disappointed when he finds she has not-- in short, who is actually a knight of faith.

I may not have my head quite wrapped around the whole Abraham-as-a-knight-of-faith thing, but I think I do grasp the philistine-as-a-knight-of-faith idea. It makes sense to me after having read Keyes' book and Byron Katie's book A Thousand Names for Joy.

In short, the Philistine Knight of Faith is a person who has managed the amazing feat of fully surrendering attachment while also zestfully embracing and pursuing her preferences.  This non-attached zestful pursuit has rather dazzling results. Witness Byron Katie, who is so non-attached to her continued earthly existence that she doesn't bat an eyelash when a dude holds a loaded gun to her belly and says "I'm going to kill you" but who also surrounds herself with lovely stuff and has a wildly successful metaphysical self-help business with her partner, the brilliant translator Stephen Mitchell.

As Kierkegaard points out, knights of faith are rather rare.  I myself am nowhere near that degree of profound surrender and simultaneous hope.  I am, however, deeply involved in practicing its movements to the best of my ability.

Something that I didn't get around to fully discussing when I wrote about Throbbing, Extra-rational Optimism in my 4 Tools to Awesome Your Life post wherein I described the amazing story of how I manifested my dream lover, Dey, is that while I worked on practicing total optimism that my true love would show up (and fast!) I also worked on surrendering my attachment to having that relationship at all.  In other words, I practiced the dance of faith.  Paradoxically, though-- I'd been trying to surrender my attachment to having a relationship for years without any success (I remained riddled with attachment! Just riddled!).  It was only when I began to practice Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism that I would get the wonderful relationship that I longed for that I became capable of surrendering my attachment to it, my frantic seeking of it.  Doesn't that just sound immensely complicated and weird? Just describing it -- I'm like, whoah, how the heck did I do that? It sounds impossible-- but that's my experience.

I want to break down and explain for you exactly how I did that, because I think it's an immensely valuable and awesome thing to do.

And, frankly, it is a little complicated and tough to explain and easy to misunderstand. It's also what I think is actually the way the whole law of attraction thing works.  So keep tuning in right here, folks, as I endeavor in the future to lead us through the dance of faith! In the mean-time...

What to Do With that List of Desires

Well, that was an interesting jaunt through existential theology, wasn't it? Now, you will ask, "What should I do with this damn list of 25 things I want?"

1. Notice Your Attachments / Addictions

Go through the list and make notes about what things on it you're especially attached or addicted to.  In other words, what things on that list are you totally bummed and resentful that you don't currently have? For example, I am amazingly resentful that my poetry hasn't been published yet by any of the magazines or book contests I've sent it to.  It also continually bugs me that I do not have absolutely gazillions of gold coins to swim in, and that no one has yet seen fit to award my unpublished manuscripts of poetry The Nobel Prize in Literature.  Of course, since I if I had gazillions of gold coins to swim in, I would also have a house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way and a gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it, not to mention a pug puppy-- it stands to reason that I am fairly resentful about my lack of these things as well.

And that resentment and attachment, friends, is not just something that pollutes my current life, it's also something which stands in the way of me actually attaining those desires or dreams in the future.  Why? Because resentment and attachment create an inertia that affixes me to a negative and lacking self-image, drain me of energy, excite paralyzing fear, and cause me to grasp desperately at things that seem to offer what I truly desire, but actually do not. It's bad ju-ju. In other words, my resentment and attachment make me vulnerable to being self-deluded and deluded by all the dazzling lies of our consumer culture. Which, as perhaps you've noticed, sucks.

2. Ask Yourself a Very Deep Question

The question is this: what among these things would I still like or much prefer to have, even if I felt a constant inner state of fulfillment, peace, and bliss?

This question can be helpful in discerning your authentic preferences from ones that are largely false and fear-driven attachments. After we've done this work of discernment, we can get down to the nitty gritty of practicing surrender around the things that truly matter to us.

For example, if I were blissed out, I wouldn't really give a fig anymore about winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Those Swedish snobs could kiss my enlightened ass. Noticing this clues me in that my desire for a Nobel Prize is a conditioned or false desire-- not part of an intrinsic shape or Urpflanz model that my soul longs to blossom into, but a side accessory to bolster my oft-faltering writerly ego.

However, if I was totally blissed out, I would still like a house that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker sheet exploded all over it, in a really good way and a gypsy caravan that is so rad I can hardly stand it.  Of course, I wouldn't need these things-- I'd be blissed out! But I would like and prefer to have them-- whereas all that Nobel Prize riggamarole would just be an annoyance.

3. Take the Weeds of Resentment out of the Garden of Desire

Yes, even blissed-out me would still like the caravan and the crazy color house. Also the pug puppy and the gazillions of gold coins to swim in.

But! One might say. Carolyn! You should let go of those desires! You just said you feel all kinds of nasty attachment and resentment surrounding them. How can they be good things for your soul when you feel all that mucky yucky stuff surrounding them?

Well, let me tell you about that.  I used to use the same argument on myself in regards to my desire for a truly wonderful relationship.  I'd recognize that wanting it so much hurt (because I seemed to be constantly frustrated in my attempts to fulfill that want) so I'd try to talk myself out of wanting it.  This never worked because my desire for a wonderful relationship was an authentic preference-- it passed the "bliss" test. I could honestly say yes, if I was completely blissed out I would still prefer to have a fantastically awesome romantic partner in my life, just like Byron Katie has her "dear Stephen." Once I recognized that my longing for true love was an authentic preference, an intrinsic part of the design my soul wanted to blossom into in my life, I was able to give myself permission to fully, innocently, soaringly hope for it with a totally open heart, as I had never hoped for anything before.

As I previously noted, by some mind-boggling paradox, the very act of this Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism helped me to surrender my attachment and resentment surrounding the lack of an awesome relationship in my life.

And then, zooooooom! It worked!

So, concerned reader, I understand I still need to do a lot of work surrendering my attachment to gazillions of gold coins and the gazillions of pug puppies such gold coins could pay for-- or, as dear Mr. Keyes would say "upleveling" my emotion-backed addictions to them to preferences. But since I have now identified those as authentic preferences, I am prepared to begin practicing the magic of my Throbbing, Extra-Rational Optimism on them.  More on that tomorrow!