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This Year's (2012) Theme

I don’t remember the date but it was a spring day in the mid 1960’s when I decided to do the thought experiment that changed my life. I had been reading about General and Special Relativity and was curious about the idea that the Universe was finite. The way I thought Einstein portrayed it was that gravity curved light and a beam going straight out from my house would curve and come back to its source in something like a circle. I’m not sure why this was important to me but I began the experiment by laying down on my bed, closing my eyes and imagining that I was heading out into space as a point of light in a straight line. I imagined my direction beginning to curve under the influence of gravity but then I began to wonder what if I resist the curve, what would stop me from doing that? I imagined a brick wall that prevented me from turning and resisting the curve. Then I thought; why can’t I just break through the wall? I started to break through the wall and it just kept going, more and more bricks to break through until the idea came to me, the wall of bricks is infinite. Everything stopped, not because travel or space stopped but instantly there was nothing and everything all at once without any me, space, planets, bricks, movement or standing still. There was a perfectly clear but completely void sense of my identity with a space-less container of all space that was filled with a direct knowing of everything without any thing being distinguishable. This position-less position and identity-less identity knew it’s self to be the fundamental nature of the universe.

After an unknowable amount of time I spontaneously became aware of a falling through space, not from anywhere but just in a change of state. Now there was space and I existed as a point of awareness. I began to fall and to pass through structures shaped like funnels one after another. They each had a color of light that dominated the look of the funnel and there was a universe of things and creatures and worlds that I could see as I passed through each one. After I passed through several funnels I was suddenly back in my body, on my bed, in my room in Pasadena California. In this context I was aware of the same space-less space being the nature and substance of me and everything in my world but now I was present as my physical self in relationship with all the things, processes and perceptions of my just barely teenage life. The feeling of living with this awareness was love. This was just an obvious, unshakable awareness of the nature of existence. It was clear that everyone was the same as I was, there was nothing remarkable about this condition, it was just true in the same way a table, a dog or piece of fruit is true. It was also obvious that people were ignoring awareness of their very nature, which was the nature of our universal reality and that this was the root cause of their suffering. This experience lasted for several weeks. I saw everyone’s suffering directly. I stayed aware of our common self nature just by being who we truly are, that seemed to help others see who they truly are. There was a deep feeling of compassion and connection with other people in this process I could only call love. Gradually effortlessly being aware of our true nature in this intense way began to fade into the background where it remained as a dimmed sense of connection, ease, humor and compassion. I was somewhere between 11 and 13 years old at the time.

My adoptive parents didn’t have a strong religious tradition; both had rejected the Southern Baptist religion they had grown up with, so I did not have any social queues that prompted me to interpret this experience from any particular religious point of view. Later in life I discovered that experiences similar to mine were described primarily in religions and spiritual literature but in the immediacy of my early teen years I just thought of my experience as the obvious reality of being human. I became convinced that understanding human nature was the most important thing I could do. From that point I looked at life from a dual perspective of having this deep insight that seemed undeniably true and a need to understand why we, for the most part, turn away from what we obviously are. All human suffering and cruelty seemed to emanate from this refusal to know and accept who we really are. Why do we do this? I could see no necessity to turn away from our essential nature but it was clear that we all do. I felt I had to find the answer to this contradiction. If I could find out why we do this then I thought I could find a solution to the problem.

Through my teens and twenties I explored what I could find in psychology, physical sciences and sociology that related to human nature and identity. I found that the people who were talking about experiences similar to mine were in the humanistic psychology, the human potential movement and in Eastern Religious traditions. When I found experiences similar to mine described they often were the result of spiritual practices and were portrayed as valuable attainments of spiritual discipline. Individuals who had potent versions of these experiences seemed to be held in high regard in their traditions and were often related to as spiritual teachers of one kind or another. This was confusing to me because I had not made any efforts toward the state of awareness I experienced and the main realization in terms of my personal status relative to other people was that we are equal when perceived from the point of view of our true self. Contrary to striving and attaining a spiritual experience that conferred status in a hierarchy of spiritual attainment I had no striving and perceived no relative attainment in a hierarchy of spiritual states of being. Buddhism came closest to resonating with what I had experienced in that there was an ordinariness that comes along with the realization of your true nature and status seeking was derided because it was a barrier to enlightenment.

I never pursued Buddhism but I participated in other spiritual practices and communities through my 20’s to early 30’s. This felt like the only way available in my cultural circumstances that I could continue to explore the question of why we abandon this simple, direct knowledge of our true nature and how we can reconnect with that awareness once we have abandoned it.  I enjoyed this period of my life. I worked in a mental hospital and new age book retailing to support myself and pursued my quest for truth with other similarly motivated people. I learned a lot about what was available in the realm of organized spiritual practice and how various practices affected my state of awareness. One of the real bonuses of this period was that I experienced a real sense of shared community when I participated in intense full immersion disciplines. But eventually I abandoned those efforts in favor of participating more fully in the implied plan of our culture at large, go to school, get a better job, get married and have a family. I dropped what had become my spiritual quest and regarded it as a developmental phase of my youth.

Once marriage, children and career had taken hold of my attention and developed to a certain point, the implications of living my life based on the assumptions of the dominant culture of my time became clear.  Continuing to use the norms of my contemporary culture as my life roadmap would require a continual deadening of my deep appreciation of and participation in my full human potential. This seemed a steep price to pay for the comfort of frictionless cultural fit and the implied promise of greater material prosperity. The real benefit of this period had been achieved; I now had a deep understanding of the creative struggle involved in being responsible for starting a family and raising children in the context of the cultural assumptions of my time. I also learned more about how business enterprises work and I completed education that I had previously avoided, earning a BS in Business Management and a MS in Health Care Administration.

It was clear that I could not live a life that seemed right to me without finding a way to continue honoring the powerful discoveries I happened upon in my youth. The first steps seemed obvious; I would reconnect with the most important of my influences from the previous period of active spiritual practice. Although I had many significant influences through my teens and 20’s three spiritual teachers and their communities stood out as primary, Franklyn Merrell-Wolff (Consciousness without an Object), Baba Muktananda (Siddha Yoga) and Da Free John (Adidam).

One by one I began to reconnect with these three spiritual communities and one by one I discovered that I was no longer a good fit with their way of viewing self and world. My needs now seemed less focused on recapturing the easeful immersion in the direct experience of my true self and more focused on the larger systems that influence our ability to live together based on recognition of our deeper common identity. At this point I began to develop my own methods of honoring my impulse toward deeper personal, cultural growth. The primary insight at this stage of my life was that I had to learn to trust myself. I began to strengthen my ability to listen to and trust what was most important to me. I began to act on what was most meaningful to me and follow that to the place it was leading.

This process was difficult in two main respects. The first issue was that the direction and goal of the process is not defined up front. I have been socialized to think in terms of concrete objectives that can be identified and then to use analytic and planning skills to create a way to achieve the objective. When honoring the human growth impulse in the context of a spiritual discipline and community the superstructure of that context guides a person. I had decided to abandon that framework and encounter my process on its own terms without obvious cultural support.

The second issue was that I began to clearly see how the culture I live in has a taboo against trusting yourself. A book by Elaine Pagels, “Beyond Belief; The Secret Gospel of Thomas”, provided great support in understanding the deep roots of self distrust in western culture.  Prior to the formation of the first Catholic Church 300 years ACE, Christian practice was characterized by a wide variety of approaches. Pagels thinks that one of the early conflicts in the schools of practice that developed was between the gospel of John and the recently discovered gospel of Thomas. Thomas was promoting a vision of Christian practice based on the idea that people could realize their identity with God directly as Jesus had. From Thomas we hear; “Jesus said: If you bring forth what is within you, what you will bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” John was promoting a vision where the spiritual awakening that Jesus experienced was unique to him alone and that people should believe in that (but never be able to attain it) and believe in the Church and the Bishops. John’s vision won favor in the formation of the first Catholic Church and the writings of Thomas and other Gnostics were defined as heretical. Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire shortly thereafter and this formed much of the core cultural context of western culture. By removing the validity of spiritual awakening from the self authenticating awareness of the individual and placing it exclusively in Jesus, the Church and the Bishops, the spiritual core of western culture became dominated by an alienation from the inherent validity of self experience. This void was then filled by the distant authority of Jesus, the Church and the Bishops.

My new method of self trust proved to be remarkably affective. This process developed spontaneously in both inward and outward oriented directions. In both dimensions I was lead by a quiet sense of simultaneous wholeness and disturbance that presented hooks of interest that seemed tied to large important issues that were initially mostly invisible. I could sense the large areas as non defined shape associated with an intuitive feel for the nature of the whole. As I trusted the hook of interest that presented to me and followed it with action the underlying shape would begin to come into awareness bit by bit or sometimes in sudden moments of insight until the whole thing was complete.

A good example of this on the inner side was listening to my sadness preceding my birthday each year. My traditional response to this feeling had been to fight it off by doing various things that would distract me from it until the whole process would abate. I considered this the functional and mature way to handle my moodiness. When I decided to trust the rightness of this feeling and honor it by paying attention to it, I received a life changing surprise that launched 5 years of deep personal transformation. I began a process of inner dialog with this feeling and discovered that this feeling was a very young sad boy. This boy wanted his mother and was asking for me to help him find her. This little boy turned out to be the part of me that was abandoned when I was separated from my biological mother and adopted by the parents who raised me from the age of 3 months old. Following this little voice I found Nancy Verrier’s book “The Primal Wound” that describes the experience of adopted children from the child’s perspective. Coincidentally she lived about 10 miles away from me and was still actively doing psychotherapy and I did therapy with her for about 6 months. She helped me locate my biological family, my mom died a month before I found her, I think that was part of the reason for the intensity of my little lost boy voice presenting as a hook of interest, and that launched a 5 year process of healing my “Primal Wound”.

On the external side of the process I trusted the hooks of interest that emerged and intuitively seemed attached to a shape that felt right. I forget the exact phrase I heard on the radio several years ago but it was a piece of business ideology like “America’s business is business” and I thought “this is limiting how we understand who we are and causing great harm”. It felt important to me and it was tied to something large I couldn’t see but could feel the shape of it. I began to write about politics from a perspective of the deeper psyche. This eventually led to an idea that I should look at the deeper underpinnings of our current social, economic and political systems and try to construct a new system based on a different set of assumptions. My hope was that revision in deep system assumptions prior to designing new systems would result in better outcomes in the social and economic justice domain of human living and the environmental vibrancy and sustainability and a way of living that would enhance the ability of people to live more deeply and happily. This impulse drove me for several years of intense learning and writing. This didn’t change the world but I was able to become very clear about how I see the world, how I would like it to change. I also learned many other people were interested in and working on this too. I began to find a sense of community with people interested in understanding and changing our systems and psyche’s.

 The process of learning self trust continues with new challenges, discoveries and surprises. This is the first year since discovering the inner voice of my little abandoned boy that a developmental process related to integrating and maturing that part of me did not happen in the two months leading up to my birthday. This year’s pre-birthday process instead began to take me back directly to the experience of the spaceless space and the funnels. As I follow this hook of interest I am seeing the experience it in a different light. The meaning I take now is that I have an opportunity to learn to live the funnels with the awareness of the space beyond space. That process can be painful and confusing as well as pleasant and clarifying. I am also finding that the purpose of having this experience is to contribute to the healing of the funnels, their realms and their creatures.

So why not just live it? Not as a problem, a solution or an attainment but as a passionate duty for the good of the funnels and the forceless force and spaceless space of which they are an integral part. There is no separation. All the boundaries are just like the brick wall at the end of the universe, powerless to obstruct awareness of the presence of the mysterious and beautiful wholeness that is felt as Love. So the skin, gut, eyes, economic systems, industrial pollution, organizational charts, marriages, governments, mountains, races, genders and history are just more boundaries like the funnels that make the forms of the worlds. They give way to the nature of the whole because that is the nature of the parts when added together.

What does this mean about human nature and the world we live in? The meanings I take are many but here are a few that stand out to me.

What we call spiritual experience and develop into systems of life practice are experiences that are inherent in the nature of our existence. Without acknowledging this inherent human capability we impoverish our individual and collective living. Acknowledging this aspect of our nature and attaching it to human hierarchical competition between individuals (who’s the greatest and the best) or between collective human enterprises (which one is the true faith) destroys it just as surely as the denial of it. Living this awareness directly and sharing it in relationship, without perverting it into hierarchical modes of positional competition, always advances what makes life most worth living, love.

The self authenticating process of being alive can be trusted to guide each person to and through the processes necessary for their full development. This is a never ending process, there is no perfect end state and you cannot know exactly where it will take you. Regardless, we live in a world and are of a nature where our living systems are interconnected and trust of the rightness of self leads to trust of others and the rest of the world. Without trust in the validity of self the world appears to take a shape where everything is wrong, this does great harm to us all.

We are co-participating and fully interconnected with everything; we are aware of some of it but there is a wide range of very important processes, things and relationships of which we are completely or partially unaware. Acceptance of the mystery of the unknown and developing a sense of how to trust the unknown helps people live in harmony with what is and to initiate action that can affect positive alignment with the unknown.

Change in our awareness is a very important leverage point for making significant change in the world but it is not sufficient in its self to change human living on a large scale. For large scale change both awareness and the systems humans use to manage our living need to change. Transformational initiatives focused on changing human living must address both change of awareness and change of larger system, structures and processes to be truly affective.

Comments

I love you daddy. Thanks for not giving me
Up for adoption. My birthdays are mostly easy, except for feeling very old at a
Very young age.
I love your purpose in life... I don't think that everyone needs to strive for spiritual growth, and I'm happy that you do. I am delighted that I do. Sometimes I question my drama and think its my ego pushing me foreward. Whatever my motivation is I feel a deep drive to know love, and truth in myself.

and an amazing young woman. I see the very old at a young age in you. I also see the deep drive to know love and truth, it's one of the many ways you are unique and wonderful. Never, ever thought of giving you or your bro & sis up for adoption. Love ya too.

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