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The Critical Mass and the Inner Revolution

By Scott Kiloby.

We live in a world that is largely unevolved still. We are showing at least the outer signs of evolution. Our mobile-friendly lives, social media connectivity, scientific breakthroughs and other worldly advances reveal an ever-changing human landscape that seems to be headed in a progressive direction. But, at least here in the West, we still experience a profound lack of connection to what we are and find many obstacles to true freedom, joy, creativity, contentment and peace. Many have not reached a place where they can truly soar, finding instead many of the same mental, emotional and spiritual limitations experienced by their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The generations keep generating. The surface keeps getting shinier. But the core issues tend to remain the same, no matter how many new faces are born into the species. In many ways, there is a kind of regression happening, with people so disconnected from themselves and with each other that they find themselves burying their faces in screens even when they are two feet away from each other or in the company of loved ones.

We still seem hell-bent on connecting from a place of deficiency, as if somewhere behind the face, in the deep caverns of the heart and soul, our real identity is “not enough.” This pervasive sense of “not enough” rears itself everywhere, in every relationship. Many have even given up the desire to recognize something greater than this inner sense of deficiency, reframing it instead as “just part of being human.” It’s as if the possibility of living from a more authentic, genuine, awakened, loving place feels so out of reach that they have resigned themselves to embracing, rather than investigating, this false mask.

The mask presents one thing to others, while deep down beyond the outer presentation, we lack the capacity to truly be ourselves, to show up exactly as we are, openly and unapologetically. We are largely out of touch with the basic insecurities that are fuelling the majority of our needs and wants. We are easily triggered emotionally, falling back into old childhood patterns of conflict, pouting, blaming, complaining or projecting. We remain out of touch with these basic emotions, having over-intellectualized and over-analysed ourselves and each other. In the age of political and spiritual correctness, we are so out of touch with our own bodies and feelings that we have placed a premium on not hurting other people’s feelings. And so, like mother bears, we are protecting each other from evolving beyond our limited mental and emotional patterns. This lack of connection with our deeper emotional landscape places us at risk of heading down the same path we have been on for thousands of years.

What seems important for many people is how they look or appear to others, whether they have enough likes on Facebook, whether they are smarter than the next guy, whether they are “right” or “getting it right” or whether they have accumulated enough money, fame, attention or acknowledgment from the faceless masses. Of course, not everyone is prone to these patterns. But there is some degree of it in most of us. We look on the outside for what we feel we lack within. And the promise to fill that void lies at every turn, in every TV commercial, job promotion, new relationship or addictive substance or activity. Even many modern forms of spirituality seem to focus a lot on these things. In some of those circles, it seems more important now to be part of a popular movement, to offer people a spiritual Neverland or to build up a fantastic set of spiritual promises rather than invite a deep and radical investigation of our experience. In some ways, the spiritual teachers become the replacements for parents who did not act as proper role models or did not give the necessary love and attention. Deficiency is the fuel of our lives and relationships and we never seem to run out of it. It has such a cunning and stunning ability to survive each generation and to hide itself so well in every story, feeling and relationship that we are only dimly aware of just how much it’s running the show. It’s much ado about nothing. And that’s exactly what the deficiency story gives us – nothing – nothing more than the appearance of advancement, acknowledgment or fulfilment.

There is a kind of scarcity in this way of life that leaves many feeling empty, lost and heartbroken, unable to actualize their true creativity and potential in life. We do not love ourselves. And our culture is sending all the wrong signals about how to love ourselves. It is focusing on what lies on the outside and what is presented on the surface. We continue to buy into that culture instead of dismantling it from the inside.

We ought not to stand for it anymore. But what it takes to rise above that is not more promises coming from the outside. It is not a new iPhone or a new lover. It is not about the future, for the future is always at least a step away, if not more. We never reach it. It is not a spiritual Neverland that holds itself out as a happy Hollywood movie ending. It is not the prospect that others do love, need and acknowledge us. What it takes is the courage to fully face these patterns of deficiency as they arise in the moment and to see through them, to immerse ourselves nakedly in the emotions we are trying so desperately to avoid. If we can take all that energy that is being projected outward onto others and onto the future and turn it in on ourselves with the power of mere observation, we have a chance at evolving in a much deeper and more transformative way.

But how we turn that looking towards our inner landscape makes all the difference, for we are prone to spiralling down into a kind of analysis paralysis as we look inward. There is this seductive pull towards over-conceptualizing ourselves, each other and our emotions. What I’m inviting here is not a reframing of our inner experience but rather a pure observing of it, of allowing it all to be exactly as it are. And along with that observation can come an investigation into these patterns, a dismantling of generations of false beliefs and patterns. There is a beautiful freedom in that, an embrace of everything. This embracing does not leave us merely complacently quoting pithy sayings like “I accept both my perfections and imperfections.” That’s the stuff of entry-level spirituality. It can go much deeper than that.

This investigation does not leave us in some blanked out, spaceless space of nirvana, for even that is a fleeting state. I’m not talking about nondual realization here either, for even that is merely a transient phase. No, this kind of looking, as long as there is no bypassing and there is a courage to be with absolutely everything, allows us to fully love and be ourselves. We leave behind attachments to past and future but also attachments to now and to all spiritual or special states and experiences. We come back into the world, realizing that we never left it. We love ourselves without being able to truly define ourselves. And this freedom which is no longer weighed down by concepts allows us to continue changing and evolving. Our hearts, minds and bodies remain pliable, able to adapt and move fluidly through all sorts of experiences – from love to heartache to grief or death. This can profoundly change how we see ourselves, each other and the world. It can unleash our creative potential so that it is no longer tied to wanting praise from others. Instead we become creative merely out of the pure and naked joy of creating – nothing more. We naturally leave behind the generations of pain and deficiency. Our relationships change. We are no longer tied to protecting other peoples’ feelings or getting love from others. We are no longer attached to each other in that old sticky way that feels stifling and needy. We love with a sense of maturity, clarity and open-heartedness. We come closer to one another, connecting more deeply with one another, by simply putting the masks down.

And that, my friends, is not a promise. Promises imply that there is something to give, something that comes from the outside or is found in the future. All of this is already within you. All that it takes is the courage to look in the right way. Let no one tell you that you need anything more than the act of pure observation and the organic acceptance of experience that comes with it. The key to life is not hidden away in a profound text. It is not something we add to ourselves. Human life is no mistake. There is no need to correct it from the outside. Our love is held within our pain, waiting to break free once the pain is faced. Our promised land is our present awareness of everything that is already unfolding naturally. The greatest realization is not that there is some wonderful future state waiting for us. It is in the moment by moment seeing of what truly lies at the core of our present experience. As we see that nothing lies there, everything is possible. We are then like an empty slate that allows for life to be completely full and to evolve in a profoundly different way. That’s how the generations of pain and deficiency fall away. That’s how we find connection with each other. That’s how we rediscover the pure joy of creating what we are here to create. That’s how we get our heads out of the screens. That’s how we set healthy boundaries. That’s how we open up new possibilities for our children. That’s how we end the wars. That’s how we let others be who they are. That’s how we find our own unique expression in the world. That’s how we stop looking on the outside for what cannot fulfil us within.

That’s how we become what we were always meant to be – ourselves.

This post is republished from the previous Living Inquiries website

Living Life with an Asterisk

By Paul Galewitz.   So there I was, lying on a gurney, my nose and mouth covered by an oxygen mask, unable to speak, while being subjected to an EKG. While I was in this position, I had a clear view of the treatment room in this small interior of British Columbia hospital. To my left, the nurses and doctor would come into the room occasionally to check on the EKG machine and to see if I was OK. To my right, my wife was sitting with a friend and having a conversation.

What I saw during that interval changed my life.

It was so clear to me as I was lying there, that the nurses and the doctor were acting. It was like a soap opera – their acting was that bad. Nothing they did or said was in any way authentic. It all seemed scripted, and they were doing an unconvincing job of reading their lines.

I was totally amazed and astonished by what I was seeing. I so desperately wanted to ask my wife, “Hey! Are you seeing this the way I am?” But with the oxygen mask over my mouth, I couldn’t speak. I just kept looking at this in wonder.

Meanwhile, to the right of me, my wife and friend were also acting, but they appeared much more genuine, much more convincing in their roles than the actors to the left of me. I could still see through the acting, but I believed them as they played their roles. The contrast was unmistakeable.

This happened almost ten years ago. The vividness of that awareness stayed with me for some weeks, and has shaped how I have looked at life from that point onward. It has allowed me to come to certain conclusions, as I have observed myself and others over the previous ten years.

We are all acting. We are literally giving the performances of our lives.

We are playing a character that has a name, a story, a life along a timeline, but that is not who we truly are. It is a role we are playing.

But this play we are engaged in is so convincing! It seems so real – the thoughts seem real, the feelings, emotions, sensations seem so real, all these other actors seem very real. Our stories are very persuasive in assuring us that the character we are playing is indeed real, has a history, a present, and a future.

Regardless of the degree of authenticity in our acting, and no matter how persuasive our storyline, one thing is certain. We are not the characters we are acting out. We are something far grander, and no words are up to the task of describing it.

That’s where the asterisk comes in.

What do I mean by living life with an asterisk? Whenever we come across an asterisk in whatever work we may be reading, we know that there is more to the story of what that particular sentence or paragraph is expressing. So we find the asterisk at the bottom of the page, and read the additional information that wasn’t expressed in the sentence in question.

In living our lives with an asterisk, the additional information always has the same theme. It reads something like this: *Remember who you really are, which is the Absolute, the I AM, the Oneness, what is beyond description. What your character is going through right now does not touch this Truth. You simply ARE, and the separate self doesn’t even exist here. This field of Oneness is never separate from you, no matter how much turmoil, emotional or physical pain, or seemingly unsolvable dilemmas your character is experiencing. Take a breath, take two or three seconds to rest in that Truth, and then be with whatever you are experiencing. Continue playing your role as best you can, knowing that it is a role, and not the ultimate Truth of who you are.”

Those are my words, but you can ascribe whatever words you want to the asterisk’s appearance. The asterisk doesn’t even need words – it can  be a reminder to simply stop for two or three seconds to remember the I AM, and to feel the total lack of attributes of pure consciousness.

The asterisk can be a reminder of this for you in whatever way works. I carry this asterisk around with me wherever I go and whatever I am doing, and at the very least it reminds me not to take my character too seriously. This isn’t always easy, especially when physical or emotional pain is seemingly present.

At the same time, it is also a reminder to play my role to the best of my ability. My character has been given certain attributes that I can use as I will. I can check in with my body as I go about my day, and see how it is reacting to how I am playing my role. My body will often react with certain sensations which can alert me to the fact that my character needs to pay attention to what is going on, and whether I am playing my role as authentically as possible.

The thoughts and feelings that come up are there to be noticed, and provide ample fodder for inquiry. This inquiring helps to expose the programming and patterns that have ruled our character’s behavior, and reminds us that there is no greater “technique” than simply noticing.

Just last week, I had a session with a fantastic facilitator, and as I watched the video recording of the session, I was taken with how authentic we were both being within the play of the facilitation. But there was a moment when I looked at myself and saw a thoroughly inauthentic reaction to something we were discussing. It was very humbling, and in fact, I even turned my head away from the screen. What terrible acting! My body felt acute embarrassment, and it gave me something to sit with, allow and inquire into.

Our thoughts can be so convincing. We have given them so much weight over the years, that it takes our focus and intent to remember not to buy into them. Where is it written that all our thoughts are to be believed? Where does it say that we are our thoughts? Are the thoughts even our own, or a combination of elements of our programming, or something else entirely? Do you notice how certain thoughts seem to always bring up certain feelings? Does that make those thoughts any more true simply because they produce a feeling? Where is your mind anyway? Can you even find it? (I lost mine about ten years ago.)

These thoughts are simply more variations in the play we find ourselves in. Nothing, not even our thoughts, are true in this play. It is simply a part of the play.

When we are going through a period where thoughts are nagging at us, or are particularly bothersome, remember the *. Let that remind you to take a few moments to stop and be with the I AM, the infinite oneness. (Really, words don’t do it, do they?)

Each time you do, the * can become more and more second nature, and even as you are in the busiest and most turbulent of times, you can just remember the * and know that nothing, nothing, nothing can effect what that points to. All else is part of the play in which you are engaged. Does this make your particular dilemma go away, or make it easier? Maybe, maybe not. But maybe you will be less identified with your circumstances.

Pretty soon it simply becomes automatic that nothing you are going through will be taken at face value, and the I AM will permeate your awareness as you play your part more and more authentically. For me, I don’t live in fear that some uncomfortable emotion will come up that will make my character unhappy or afraid. If and when I do feel that fear, or any other “negative” emotion, I just refer to the asterisk again, and I am reminded of my true home. This doesn’t mean the feelings immediately go away, it just means you can be noticing them from a different place than we are used to.

It is within our power as characters to remember that we are playing a role, and to find our inspiration, our refuge and the Truth of who we are in the field of I AM. Just look over your shoulder and notice the * just sitting there, reminding you of your true nature.