Monthly Archives: May 2018

Perfectionism, Control, and Paradoxes

I remember when I was starting my path (well, was consciously doing so) that I had this idea that if I only reached a certain state, that I would be perfected.

That this was the end goal– a state of continual health, happiness, joy, peace, bliss, or love. That if I only tried hard enough I would not need to struggle, or would find my way beyond it to some sort of arbitrary and static perfected state.

When this illusion was shown to me to be an illusion about a decade in, I felt deceived. I began realizing how illusory the notion of a fixed state of perfection was… which then began an existential crisis about what the point of it all was, and feeling a certain level of meaninglessness.

I began seeing how people (including myself) held onto these fixed ideas that if they only got far enough (or wore a mask hard enough) that they would be all love, all the time.

That this was a “loop” in which a teacher would wear a mask pretending to be all love, or perfected, and both imperfect teacher and student would play the game (or participate in the loop) of this illusion.

We love this illusion, as the idea of this sort of perfected love reminds the wounded soul of the love that they did not receive from their mother or father. It is so easy to externalize this onto another– onto a teacher or healer or another who is more than willing to pretend to be this.

Because it gives them power, because it gets them students, and because they are as wounded as their students, often in the same way, and both are playing out a loop of wounded parental relations with one another from simply different sides.

If you go beyond the surface, you will see that the people that we prize in our culture for reaching such an attained state never reveal any type of nuance. They realize that they are playing a game, or are so wounded that they are desperate to not reveal who they truly are.

Mother Teresa’s journals reveal how disconnected and depressed she felt, Ramana Maharshi especially near the end of his life was often fatigued and could not take visitors, Krishnamurti suffered from grief and migraines, Gurdjieff shouted at his students and had many angry rants.

I am in no way disparaging those individuals, but merely pointing out their humanity. If we only know little about people, it is easy to imagine that they have reached a static, perfected state.

One of my favorite teachers was Nisragadatta (I Am That is still essential reading in my book) because he never pretended. He was the first teacher that I came across (although I have come across a few more by this point) who was deeply human, who would point out to students when they were not ready, when they were steeped in illusion, when they were being stupid.

His work would not likely translate to many modern seekers today because if they are still caught in the loop of idealized perfection or seeking the love they never found through their mothers and fathers, he would have broken through that illusion.

It is a rare student nowadays that is willing to move beyond the ego enough to not only take on a teacher, but to truly be a student. To have their blind spots shown, and to move beyond what they already know.

He also smoked and enjoyed sex, which the modern seeker who dislikes any type of embodiment and feels at odds at this world will point out as not being “perfected” and then move on to someone willing to play the role of external guru for them.

A whole host of teachers and healers who have pretended enlightenment and perfected states eventually show their shadow sides because in such states of pretending, the atavistic instincts, the shadow self, what is untended to within, screams in pain and will find a way to reveal itself.

The modern seeker looks for this type of perfection in their teachers, and will break down, discard, or disregard anyone that does not fit into their personal ideals of perfection. They will idealize and create a narrative around their teachers and when their teachers show to be human (which, you know, humans will) or deviate from the romanticized notions that are divorced from the reality of who that teacher is they will move onto the next teacher who is willing to wear a mask and pretend a perfected state to enact the loop again.

This is an especially vicious loop with individuals who are enacting difficulties with authority/parental issues onto their teachers, as the teacher will inevitably fail to become their projected parent.

Or even worse, the teacher will take on that role, and use it to abuse, control, or take power from their students who are seeking a teacher who wears such a mask. Often they will do this without awareness, as  they are not willing to look within at their own wounding (and would rather teach, which is an interesting and common method of resistance to personal healing/attainment).

As long as we are human, we are imperfect. Beyond that, the experience of higher consciousness states not only has a lot of nuance, but is deeply paradoxical and it must be directly experienced to understand those paradoxes.

We become enlightened by digging deep within ourselves and realizing our humanity. It is by sitting with our humanity and really embodying that we can transcend.

We cannot become “lightworkers” unless we have created space for that light by digging in the dirt of ourselves– by examining and sitting with our darkness. By healing it, by realizing it, by accepting it.

We can become “love” by deeply accepting all aspects of ourselves, by loving all aspects of ourselves. This is not by forcing things to become love, but by loving every vicious, atavistic, ugly, dirty, ashamed, wounded, monster-y aspect of ourselves for exactly who they are.

That we can only learn if we are willing to contend with what we do not know.

That we can only progress if we see how much further we can go.

That we can only move beyond knowledge if we educate ourselves.

That we can only move beyond illusion if we contend with the suffering within ourselves that causes for us to create illusions of power, attainment, and achievement.

To liberate oneself requires a lot of discipline. It requires education/study, physical and mental practices to create balance over many years.

You can give anyone some LSD and stick them into a sensory deprivation tank and they will come out talking about “cosmic” something or other, but to truly attain and remain consistently at expanded states of awareness/consciousness requires meditation/mental discipline, physical discipline, and daily practices over many years.

People really do not like to hear this one, and if you look at all of the illusion out there you can really tell it is illusion because it will allow people to remain lazy, uneducated, and unhealed. I realize that this sounds unkind, but the spiritual path traversed with any type of seriousness requires a great deal of effort, and is one of the hardest things that one can do with ones’ life.

It is so easy to break down, to spend our time discrediting, gossiping, or creating illusions. We can create such spectacular illusions about ourselves, and create so many beliefs that allow for us to remain exactly who we are (even if that is not a happy “who we are”) and those at the beginning of their path will always believe that they are at the end.

It is much easier to play the game of perfection and enlightenment, because it requires no effort. You can be an internet troll and share all the right memes, you can be incredibly wounded and create an illusion that you are special and powerful, you can spend all of your days gossiping and attempting to destroy others….and the real question at the end of the day is what the person brings of benefit into the world.

It is through our thoughts and actions that we show who we are. Continually and constantly.

People often ask me how I can manage to get so much done in my day, and I am quite busy. But it is because I question how I spend my time, who I spend my time with, and consider that the spiritual path allows one to express their Will– what they are meant to do in this world.

What is not typically understood without direct experience is that “losing the ego” or “losing an I” is paradoxically also about gaining that “I”. It is not a state of common disassociation– it is an uprising and realization of connection to divinity, to the Earth, to all that is, and that rising also allows a descending– a discovery of the “cosmic I” or the realization (as well as the creative energy) to fulfill purpose in this world.

The more that one heals, the more that one embodies, the more that one grounds, the higher one can go, the greater expansion and perspective one can have.

Paradoxically what happens when we move into states of higher consciousness is that we realize that the illusion of a static or perfected state is just that. An illusion.

That higher states of consciousness are flowing, and dynamic. You are not just one static thing, but many things at once. That anger has a purpose and a beauty and a flow and is as divine as bliss or joy. That you can (and do) feel pain and joy, bliss and depression, and paradoxically it is at the juncture of those, or where those paradoxes meet, that magic, creation, awakening, takes place.

We are just filled with so much backlogged trauma and create such illusions out of our pain that our experience of anger is not one of flow, and is not nuanced, and we have never received the education to understand the message of anger and how to experience it as a flowing state… one that can bring a lot of energy and dynamism if worked with well.

That we are not, nor will we ever be, static beings. That even bliss has nuance, it has darkness, and will flow into something else. That the more that we try to grasp onto such states the less that we experience them.

That we have spent so much time judging ourselves and the outer world according to personal and societal standards that nobody can live up to, including the people that we latch our ideas of perfection onto.

That such perfection has created a cage. That is a method of control, resistance, the wounded aspects of ourselves never measuring up.

We feel that we can control ourselves, the world, and the people in it, if we have rules. If we have models that we can follow. We spend our time judging others for not meeting those rules without understanding that they are our rules, and often come from wounding. That not only that, that they are rules that come from society… rules that are intended to keep us contained, to keep us within the models of conformity that cause for so many of us to feel so unworthy, and in such states of quiet desperation.

It is paradoxically by letting go of our need of perfection, and by continually looking within at what is not working in our lives, what is creating pain, what is not in an adult state (such as using my book, The Body Deva, which is a method of self-inquiry as well as covers emotional intelligence and how to work with emotions), what is not allowing for us to feel alive and joyous and free that we can awaken. It is by grounding deeply in our humanity, in our imperfections, that we can be free… to be the imperfect humans that we are.

Fear, Resistance, and Doing the Thing

It was probably about five or six years ago that I had an irrevocable moment of clarity where I saw a “loop”, or repeated pattern (in this case, a behavioral one) having to do with fear and resistance.

If you have read my work (or my blog) I talk about loops quite a bit. If we notice the loops in our lives, or the external world, we can begin to see when something is created out of trauma, or is based on illusion, rather than clarity/truth

We can see how trauma creates belief and organizes our realities, and we enact these loops again and again until we are willing to look straight at them and to realize what is at the bottom of that loop.

At the time, I was procrastinating by reading through conversations in an online group. This group was focused on magic/occult practices, and in this case, it was someone attempting to find support for actually doing magic.

This is quite common– whether it is a meditation practice, shamanic work, occult/magical workings, or any type of spiritual work– taking the first step into actually doing something is for many people like leaping off of a cliff.

They require support, they require a teacher or others to get over the fear and to actually do the damn thing. Because by looking at that fear again and again, and doing something anyway, despite that fear, is how someone becomes a competent spiritual practitioner… or can traverse the spiritual path beyond surface realizations of it.

What I noticed was that part of this loop were several people who were telling the person to be afraid, that the work was dangerous, that bad things would happen.

What I noticed in this moment was that the people who were responding with such fear were inserting their own fear, their own resistance.

What is more, that they had little to no experience of actually doing anything. They had never leapt off of that cliff, so to speak. They had never done any spiritual work, although some of them were quite versed intellectually.

It is quite easy to spot who has done the work, by the way, and doesn’t require any large degree of clairvoyance. It perhaps is quite similar to my piano teacher when I was young knowing that I had not practiced that week.

You go through specific thresholds through direct experience. Viewing those thresholds from the rearview mirror becomes rather clear when one has some distance from said threshold. 

What you will find in a lot of spiritual, shamanic, and magical type forums is a lot of people who like to discuss things. This is not a bad thing, although misinformation and Dunning-Kruger syndrome is certainly a thing.

But what it can result in is a lot of resistance being perpetuated, a lot of illusion created from people not yet ready to directly experience. If we are not careful, such fear will cling to our own, and our own resistance will be heightened as a result of our interactions.

Because here is what experienced people will tell you, those who have traversed the path, done the magic, studied tirelessly combined with directly experiencing the thing (whatever said thing may be):

Yes, they will laugh. You will get burned fingers (inserts story about accidentally flooding garden or basement, blowing up microwave, getting massive headache or blown out for several days after a ritual, feeling of huge energy rising within causing them to shake or do automatic movements) and that is part of the education.

Because it is. Because if you actually experience the thing, if you are that rare person that both educates yourself and does the work, two things will happen.

The first is that you will screw up. Often out of stupidity. This has absolutely nothing to do with being a beginner, but of traversing new terrain for the first time and not quite understanding the terrain enough to navigate it.

Each time who you are and what you know expands, you will find yourself in new terrain. You then jump off of that cliff again and deepen your practice, often burning your fingers in the process.

You get to the point where you can enjoy this, and will look for new depths to traverse, new terrains to explore, even while knowing that the burning of fingers is part of the process.

You actually want to burn your fingers in the process, by the way. Not for the “war” stories (in fact, don’t get hung up on those, or you will stop learning new things or jumping off of that cliff) but because they actually mean that you have put in effort.

We can create a lot of spectacular illusion for ourselves, a lot of formed from psychological projection and mental creation with little significance in any other reality (spiritual or physical).

These illusions may be pleasant distractions, and there is a place for fantasy in our lives. This is if we realize it is a fantasy, however.

In doing shadow work, you can even look right at that fantasy and see what is lurking underneath– there is always a reason why we need to feel different, powerful, special, victorious, superior– if we are willing to look at the wound that created such a need (through something like The Body Deva, my latest book) so we no longer need to enact such daydreams.

We can free ourselves to simply be ourselves, without needing to put on a show, either in our minds or in the outer world. We can free ourselves from needing to be anything other than what we are, and who we are currently.

Which brings us to the second thing. Any type of spiritual or magical work expands who you are– it makes you more conscious. This of course means reasonably well-done workings, but even the smaller ones can have a ripple effect (as in, do something, even if it is small!)

What happens when your consciousness expands, or you truly do anything that approaches the Other (interaction with the spirit realms) that creates a shift in consciousness, is that who you are changes. Your daily reality changes.

Whatever type of spiritual exploration or experience it is, it creates a ripple effect that uproots and quite clearly shows you what in your life isn’t working– what relationships are not working, career, lifestyle…you get my point– while that can be listed as a “byproduct” of spiritual awakening, of magical ritual, of shamanic work (or any type of spiritual work) this can be quite painful and we are highly resistant to it.

Even if it is helping us to move from some factors of our lives that are not working. Even if it is moving us forward towards self-realization.

We get used to our ruts, we get used to the known elements of our lives. Even if we do not have a happy known, or an educated known, we know the limitations of our minds, we know what we consider reality, and our ego-minds work through resistance.

Understand that fear is a tactic. It is resistance. It is the parts of ourselves (and others) that are too fearful to act, that are causing us to stay who we are and what we are. Others are enacting their fear in the outer world, and if you listen to them, you are listening to resistance.

Because here is what I, as well as others who have “done the thing” and continue to realize that our resistance is speaking and continue to “do the thing” anyway:

Any spiritual path, any spiritual experience, any shamanic, spiritual, occult (etc.) doing will change your reality. It will change who you dynamically are. But it does this by releasing what is illusion, by forcing you to look exactly at what isn’t working in your life.

It is quite evident who has “done the thing”. They develop a sense of magic around them, you can see it in their eyes and in their presence. It is quite palpable when someone has done the work.

But guess what, those burned fingers lead to beauty. They lead to large elements of your life changing, sure, but that allows for a clearing to occur, for what is right to come in, for authenticity to be realized, for depth, for nuance, for the ability to traverse depths that others rarely recognize are there.

So see the fear for what it is: resistance. Do not let others speak to your fear. Listen to knowledge, learn from your elders. Everyone needs a physical teacher– it is a sign of resistance that is preventing you from your potential if you do not have someone to reach out to, to show you your blind spots. If you walk any of these paths, I guarantee that there is someone more educated, more conscious, more experienced, who has done that exact thing that you are considering doing and can assist you in some small or large way, even if it is saying “yeah, I’ve done that thing”.

Fear is a tactic. It is a loop enacted from others who are mired in their own resistance. Take care that you are not externalizing your own fears and lack of knowledge, or that they do not become a mirror for you.

Do the thing. Do the magic, do the shamanic journey, educate yourself with someone who can speak with nuance, who looks at spiritual experiences and the spiritual journey and any spiritual path with curiosity, openness, and wonder. Who realizes the burned fingers from actual experience, but also the beauty and possibility of immense change.

Most of us keep our ego-minds satiated by staying within the parameters of what is our known universe. Anything else creates fear, which creates retreat, which creates lack of change, which keeps us who and what you are. If you are entirely happy with your existence, if you are blind to your inherent possibility, if you didn’t already sense that there were unknown depths or something Other out there, you wouldn’t be on a spiritual path. As much as we hunger for change, or can feel the possibility of it, we have a sophisticated system that creates immense resistance (the ego-mind).

Recognize that system for what it is, what its purpose is, and decide to change anyway.

Listen to logic, listen to experience, listen to your own intuition… and even with that resistance, that fear both inwardly and outwardly… do the thing, whatever it is.

You can find The Body Deva, a method of self-inquiry that allows for someone to see clearly what lies unhealed within, as well as tools to resolve mind-body-spirit through the physical form, through creating a relationship with the inherent consciousness of the body, through Amazon and other major booksellers.