The Next Step

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I was listening to an Enlightenext interview with evolutionary visionary Brian Swimme today, and he talked about the idea that the next phase of evolution will be when we learn to live in a society of “mutually enhancing relationships.”

What a beautiful vision.  This is an evolutionary understanding that can apply to every facet of our lives, from the way we interact with each other, to the way we interact with other species, and the ecosystems that surround us.

It means abandoning the position of always being a “taker,”  depleting the people around us as we try to get whatever we can from them, for ourselves, greedily moving through the world looking out for numero uno, with no regard for those around us.  We’ve been trained to act this way by consumer society, and it’s destroying the planet, and has torn a big gaping wound into the fabric of society.

On the other side of the scale, we also need to abandon always being a giver -someone who is always giving, giving, giving, always putting out and  never receiving.  The classic example of that is the mother who does everything for her children.   Or the martyr activist, who will give all they have to cause, even when they are running so low on internal reserves that they eventually hit a wall and burn out.  Strange as it may seen, it is possible to be too much of a giver – because we need to also learn to give to ourselves.  For some of us, it’s very difficult to receive.   Not being able to receive can block us from being able to love and be loved.

Mutually enhancing relationships are the relationships of the mature conscioussness.  In these kinds of dynamics, we respect the needs, the space, and the personshood of the other, while maintaining and respecting our own needs, space and personhood.  But we also give – we give what is needed, in the way it is wanted.  The golden rule is do unto others as they would do unto us.  But what if they don’t want done unto them, period?  The platinum rule is “do unto others as they want done unto them.”

Imagine a world of mutual respect, of mutual enhancement. This applies to our human relationships, and to our environmental relationships.  In this era, humans are suddenly faced with the enormous responsibility of the fate of the whole planet, and unless we learn to live with the envronment in such a way that we stop depleting it, we’re going be part of this massive wave of extinction that is sweeping the earth today.  We need to actually go beyond sustainability, to restoration.  We need to start looking at the eco battle zones, the man made deserts, the wastelands, the dead lakes, and start to restore them.  We need to look at our urban habitats, and transform them into urban edens.  It can be done! There are tremendous success stories everywhere we look.  The first one that pops into my mind is the story of the Hudson River, which was a dead polluted water way.  With years of dedication and committment, the river has been healed.

We can do it, we can create a new paradigm of human and eco  interrelationships, we just need the will.  It’s quite simple really:  if each one of us decided to leave this world, our friends, family and the people we meet a little happier, a littler healthier, a little more peaceful, than they were before, if each of us dared to open our hearts and let compassion in,  to let compassion out, drop by drop, heart by heart, we could transform this world.  It’s starting to happen – I’ve seen it all over the world.  I have hope, I have faith, despite the torrential downpour of bad news, that the sun is rising on a new paradigm, a paradigm of mutual transformation.

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REVOLUTIONARY LOVE

 

 “At the risk of sounding ridiculouslet me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”- Che Guevara

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It begins and ends with love.  If there is one lesson, one key to being all you can be – and I don’t mean being a soldier, I mean being a warrior – it’s learning to love.   But just what does that word, love, mean?  It has become so fraught and loaded with double meanings and empty promises that many are justifiably cynical at the mere mention of love.   I’m not talking sentimental love, I’m not talking hallmark love, I’m not talking ‘luv.’  I’m talking about a fierce love, a revolutionary love, a true love, a love beyond illusion, a love that is not afraid to freak you out with the truth, even when it hurts like hell.  This Big Love is agape love, it’s a universal love, and it is, I believe infused in all of creation.   

When I asked Archibishop Desmond Tutu one of my favourite questions,  “what is the meaning of life”, he replied, “The God in whose image we are created, is a God of love.  We are the result of a divine loving.  Ultimately we’re meant for love…we’re meant as those who will communicate love and make this world more hospitable to love.”   

You don’t need to believe in God to feel the power of this truth – somewhere deep inside us all, is a bonfire of love, that we are here to embody, to unleash, to liberate from captivity.

Take a moment and send your awareness down to your heart, and see if you can feel a little taste of this vast love which is hidden there, like a shining diamond – your diamond heart.   Can you feel it burning within?  Or do you find constriction? A little of both?

If you’re like most of us, there is a thick armour coating around the jewel of love at the heart of your heart.  We create this  shield in  an attempt to keep the pain away, but what it really does is keep the pain in.    If you could only release  this fiery love from it’s hiding place onto the world, your every word, your every action, would be a blessing and boon to all you encounter.  And all that love would come right back at you.

How do we unleash the vast reservoir of love from inside us?   Little by little, day by day, step by step we can open the gates.  Don’t expect it to happen all at once, but if you make a conscious decision to reverse the process – from building up that armour plating, to tearing it down – it will happen.

Sounds scary?  Of course it is!  What could be more frightening than loving and allowing love in!   But, what could be more rewarding?  Nothing on earth.   The love I’m talking about is not dependent on others – it’s not something that anyone has to give you. It is already alive, inside each and every one of us.   It is always there, just waiting for you to access it.  

Opening your heart does not mean giving away your freedom, it does not mean surrendering to every person who comes along and demands a piece of you.  The kind of love I’m talking about begins with loving yourself, and then radiates outwards.  If you do not love yourself, you cannot love others effectively. And sometimes, the most effective and compassionate way to love another is to say ‘no’, especially when they are hurting you, the planet, or other people.   

Do you love you?  Really?   Chances are, if you are like most of us, there’s at least a piece of yourself that you just do not Love. Maybe it’s even the whole package. You are not alone – there is an epidemic of self hatred in our society.  Not all cultures have been trained to dislike themselves in quite the same way those of us in the west have, though the disease is spreading, with a global, all pervasive media campaign that teaches us that we lack…something.  It doesn’t matter exactly what it is we are lacking, just a vague sense of lack is good enough to make us ripe for commercial exploitation.  We might be lacking the right clothes, the right car, the right brand of cigarettes, we might be lacking youth, the right butt, a big enough penis, an HD TV.  There’s always something that we need, and we’re never quite good enough. But we could be, if we only had the right appliances, the right deodorant, another hit of viagra.   

There are  many other sources for this pervasive sense that we are not good enough – or not good period. Parents, peers, friends and relatives can all be dampers, stomping out our spark. We each have our own personal moments when this feeling may have taken root, turning points in our life that become touchstones of self loathing.   It’s important to recognize them, see them, bring them into the light of your conscious mind, and release yourself from their hold.  Because you are worth it. You deserve to be loved, by the world, and by yourself.  You deserve to be loved, simply because of who you are.  Not because of what you do, what you have, what you look like, but simply, because of who you are.  You don’t need to be anything more than yourself.  Your true self.

Tibetan culture is one of the lucky ones – as a community, they’ve largely escaped the disease of self hatred.  Some years ago an interviewer was explaining to the Dalai Lama how we in the north suffer so much from self worth issues.  He was genuinely puzzled, “really?  You hate yourself?  How strange.  Very very strange.”  In Tibet, they love each other, and they love themselves. 

 It is very difficult to truly love others, if you do not first learn to love yourself.  If we all loved ourselves, we would soon find that conflict would disappear in the world.    If every tin pot dictator learned to truly love himself, if every general, every leader, every jailer, every gang member, every would be killer, were to learn self love, this would be a very different world.   We project our self hatred outwards, onto others, and onto the planet herself.  In the feature documentary, “The Age of Stupid”, a man from the future,  looking back at the mess we made of this beautiful world,  wonders how we could have let things go so wrong.  Why did we fail to save ourselves?  Perhaps, he suggests, the answer might be that we didn’t think we were worth saving.

But we are!  We are so very worth saving, each and every one of us.  We are part of an extraordinary wave of manifestation, an incredibly rare and precious pearl of self aware consciousness in a vast expanse of silent space, and we are so very beautiful.  You are so very beautiful.  This does not mean you are perfect. Neither am I.  You’re not here to be perfect. You are here to be human.  You are here to be perfectly imperfect.  It’s how the light gets in.   This doesn’t mean  rest on your laurels – keep growing, at all costs, keep growing, but do it with self love, not out of self hate. 

WARNING:  self love does not equal narcissism.   One of the major pitfalls on the road to true self love is the trap of narcissism.  It’s an important but sometimes confusing distinction.  Narcissism means seeing only yourself, loving only yourself, to the exclusion of all others.  Perversely, many of us are self hating narcissists, obsessed with ourselves, and unable to truly see others.   Hitler was a narcissist, and projected his extreme narcissism onto a public willing to be seduced by claims that they were the chosen ones, the Aryan race.   This is not self love – this is hatred disguised as self love.   

In order to distinguish between healthy love of the self, and unhealthy narcissism, ask yourself:  am I loving myself from a place of ego, or from the authentic self?  The authentic self is Love.  It only Loves.  It does not hate.  To hate is to be inauthentic.  At the same time, the authentic self Loves in an egoless manner, as it is by definition beyond the ego.  This kind of self love is true, deep and sustaining, and will never draw you into the trap of self obsession, a sad and depressing addiction in our society.   True self love is a window to loving others, not a doorway that shuts out the world.  

To serve the world, to truly be of service, we need to be very very conscious.   We need to look at old programs, and see if they are running the show, instead of our true heart.  For women, in particular, the old models of serving others have been put in place and maintained by the patriarchy.  All of us, men and women, have to take a good look at how we go about serving this planet. We are not meant to live on our knees, we are here to stand tall on our feet, to truly shine.  We serve best from a place of power, not from a place of submission.  Not patriarchal power, but true power, a more feminine power – a generous, compassionate, loving power, that has no desire to dominate, but refuses to be dominated.

This week we interviewed Shandra Alexandre, founder of the Sha’can Tradition, for the film Redvolution.  She described how,  in Hindu mythology, the goddess Kali is shown with four arms.  On the one side, her arms hold gifts and boons.  On the other, a sword and a severed head.  The sword is for severing the head of the ego.  Painful as this may be, it is also the path to true freedom.   Terrifying as those Kali moments might be in our life, they also can be much more powerful and transformative than all the cuddling and coddling in the world.  We tend to want the gifts and boons of life, and want to avoid the fierce rewards of truth, but we do so at the expense of our growth.   

Fierce Self Love is not about denying our shadow, it’s not about being lazy and settling for less.  It’s about loving your potential, and choosing to water that seed.  Believing that no matter where you are right now, at the bottom of the barrel, or the top of the heap, inside is a divine spark that can never be extinguished, a glowing ember beyond the vagaries of fame and misfortune.     A sense of fullness, of deep, radiating satisfaction.  Beyond the power of lack.    Love is indomitable, unquenchable, unstoppable.  It can be hidden, but never destroyed.  It is at the core of who you are.   

The Fierce Fire of Radical Authenticity

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“All of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart—perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakable public example—but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.” – Ken Wilber

Radical authenticity – isn’t it time?   Last night at the Fierce Light workshop I led in Toronto, there was a buzzing in the air.  Change is afoot, magic is alive, in the midst of the tremendous uncertainty of this era, in the wake of the Obama phenomena, we are experiencing a downpour of possibility.   This is a time when things are getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster. The change we need, as Obama repeatedly says, is not going to come from one leader. It’s going to come from us all. And it starts inside the human heart, not in the head.  We of course want to utilize these great weighty brains evolution has given us, but as an adjunct to our true source of wisdom, a soul level wisdom.  We stand on the threshold of a new era, an era in which each and everyone of us is called to our highest Self, our True Self.  Why settle for less?

Andrew Cohen teaches that if we can get to a place where we operate from what he calls the “Authentic Self” for 51% of the time, we no longer need to apply will power. It will just maintain itself, without continual effort.  Awakening is tangible, real and possible. Not a pie in sky ideal.  It happens right now, this very moment.  You don’t need to wait until you have succeeded in annihalating the ego.  For most of us, that ain’t gonna happen anyways.  So more realistically, all you have to do is choose to align yourself with your highest impulses, and disobey the cavetching fear mongering smalling of the ego.   Not that this is an easy thing to do – in fact, it’s nothing less than heroic.  But I believe we can do it – we can all become what Redvolution co-director Sera Beak calls a  “Spiritual Super Hero.”

I asked the room last night if people were familiar with the difference between the ego and the true self, if they noticed a distinction, if they were aware of this fracture.  Most said yes.  Then I asked, what percentage of the time are you operating from that True Self.  100 % of the time?  No one raised their hands.  70%?  50%?  40%?  20%? 5%?   The numbers were pretty low.  Not surprsing, given our enculturation, the teachings that the media and society instill in us of  fear, contraction, and a sense of lack.   We’re always lacking something.  The answers the corporations offer is – fill that lack with stuff.   

In the wake of economic uncertainty, those materialistic solutions are less and less appealing.  So where to do you turn?  Where do you find meaning?   What gets you out of bed in the morning?

A Ferocious Yes!

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I got a speeding ticket on my way to a spiritual retreat. Now, if this was a buddhist retreat I was heading to, the fact that I was going 80 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour zone would seem very unpeaceful – counter buddhistic you might say. But since I was heading to a retreat with evolutionary spirituality guru Andrew Cohen, it was somehow fitting. Peace? Forget peace! Cohen teaches that the evolutionary impulse wants creative friction, it wants to burn. Be a human bonfire, make trouble, get out and change the world. So the fact that I had a sense of urgency, that I was in a big hurry to get to the retreat, is very appropriate. Even if I have to pay a price…

I’ve read Cohen’s magazine, What is Enlightenment? (now EnlightenNEXT), listened to audio recordings of his teachings, and befriended some of his students, teachers in their own right like Carter Phipps, and I’ve always been inspired. I feel a natural and deep resonance with these teachings. They are contemporary, fiery and liberating in a way that few other teachings are. But coming here to Foxhollow in Massachusetts and listening to Andrew in person took it to a whole new level. It was a direct transmission.

By the end of the weekend retreat, called “Changing the World from the Inside Out”, I had the sense that my spiritual bonfire had a barrel of jet fuel poured onto it. Andrew teaches that all of us have, at the deepest level, an Authentic Self. This is our original face, and it is the evolutionary impulse which began some 14 billion years ago with the Big Bang, and continues to unfold to this day, in each and every one of us. We just need to wake up to this fact, and own it, and the tremendous responsibility it leaves us with – the responsibility to transcend the confines of our limiting ego, that seperate self sense, and step into the drivers seat, and start consciously evolving, co-creating the universe. When you really get this, that you are one of the many faces of God – yes You – at a deep, deep level, it is nothing less than awe inspiring. Inside you is a fiery force, a creative force, an emerging urgency to unfold, to blossom, to move through this world with uncompromising authenticity. Everything changes from this perspective. You have a limited amount of time here in the manifest realm, and there is no more time for procrastination, no more time for playing the victim, for licking your ego wounds, for whining your life away- your extraordinary life begins today.

Andrew doesn’t coddle his students, he urges us to step on the gas and go for it. One of the excercises he asked us to do was to imagine the ego from the perspective of the authentic self. What does it look like, what does it feel like? This simple exercise is quite profound when you really give it a go. First of all, it requires that you take the perspective of the authentic self. Far too often (for many of us, all of the time), we identify our “I” as the ego. Flip this around, and realize that your true “I” is your authentic self, your God self. Your original face. Then, from this perspective, have a look at your ego. What do you see?

I saw my ego as a huge, over inflated hot air balloon. Distended, taut and puffed up. And then it just popped – kaboom! – shrivelled up to it’s true size, a wrinkled little piece of rubber. A bit like a used condom. Not that it was gone – it’s still there, and most likely it will always still be there. The ego has a purpose, it emerged for a reason- that sense of seperation from the One, allows Us to step back, and see Ourselves, to celebrate creation, and to engage in a way that singularity can’t. One of the unique gifts of human consciousness, is that we “know that we know.” We are G-d seeing Herself. The ego helps to make this possible. But it isn’t the be all and end all – it’s just a small slice of who We are, a tool, and we’ve over inflated it, made it into our everything. Instead of allowing it to drive, what if you were to (as spiritual cowgirl Sera Beak suggests) give it one of those little toy steering wheels and a baby rattle, and put it in the back seat, where it belongs. Don’t let it drive!

Tommorrow producer Cher Hawrysh and I are going to interview Andrew for Fierce Light Films new feature documentary project, in the early stages of development, called “Evolve Dissolve: Another World is Here.” This is the very first shoot of the film, and a fitting launching pad as we set off on a new journey.

“Evolutionary enlightenment calls for egoless participation in the life-process for the sake of the evolution of consciousness itself. We are all desperately needed right now. For what? To truly awaken, to become enlightened, so that we can consciously participate, as liberated souls, in the life-process. What is the point of the experience of incarnation? To finally be able to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the life-process—to EVOLUTION—to conscious evolution, so that we can make a real difference in this crazy, divided, suffering world. Yes, enlightenment for the twenty-first century calls us all to participate wholeheartedly—that means with everything we’ve got—for everyone else’s sake, for the upliftment of all of life, RIGHT NOW, as liberated beings. Yes, we are all needed, by our very own Self. Desperately.” –Andrew Cohen

It’s an incredibly positive vision, in which the Big Bang, and everything that’s come since, including human consciousness, is seen a great big Yes!

So what about you? Are you ready to start living an extraordinary life? What does your authentic self look like, taste like, feel like? How about your ego? Who would you rather have in the drivers seat?

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