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Category: Philosophy

Why I Chose Mysticism Over Religion

Why I Chose Mysticism over Religion

I’m sure you’ve had mystical experiences, whether it was through yoga, meditation, and fasting; or perhaps even through sex, drugs, or amazing music. You’ve at least accepted that these mystical experiences are valid – yet, perhaps, incredibly wondrous and maybe confusing part of the human experience. Maybe you’ve gained clarity about the experience, or maybe you’ve chalked it up to “just one of those things” and have moved on down the dusty road.

If you’ve never had a mystical experience, then this post won’t make much sense…this blog is mostly for people who are awakening spiritually or already self-identify as spiritually awakened, so there’s no worries here. By the way, I hate the term “spiritual”. It has such a hegemonic feel to it – like those who identify as spiritual are somehow better than those who do not. For the record: I believe everyone is spiritual because everyone and everything is of spirit. All religions point back to an origin or source from whence we emanated. Sure, the details are filtered through varying respective cultural lenses, but this origin is something most religions agree upon.

I chose mysticism over religion for a couple reasons. #1 is it fits my personality: I tend to thrive on my own, thinking for myself, as the sovereign ruler of my space. I love people! Don’t get me wrong. I just love the benefit of my own space more than sharing it unendingly. I’ve had to get to the point where i either plan something for 1-2 hours after a guest arrives, or flat out tell them (in the nicest way possible) that it’s time to go.  #2 is that i had a life-altering experience with religion in my early childhood, a story that merits some discourse:

My Religious Backstory

Growing up in an Orthodox Christian church and school (I was there 1-3 times per week from age 1-4, then 5-7 days a week for the next 6 years), I was inundated with certain beliefs about the world around me, passed down to me from the priests, parents, and teachers. This transfer of information was usually a one way street that lent little room for philosophical discourse or questioning. At age 7, when questioning whether or not my Catholic and Protestant friends could get into heaven, I was told that Orthodox Christianity was the “One True Religion”. I interpreted this to mean that Orthodox Christianity would not allow them into heaven. This sparked massive cognitive dissonance. I am very grateful that my questioning mind and the sovereignty of my mental space, accompanied by a quiet stubbornness, allowed me to formulate my own opinion based on both my emotional and logical beliefs. The main belief here was that any loving sovereign being could not possibly damn an innocent child to hell who had no choice in their religious affiliation.

When I left my parents stewardship at the age of 17, I began to explore different religions. Hinduism was interesting to me because I had recently found yoga, but I couldn’t get past the difference in cultural upbringing. I knew Christianity as I knew it wasn’t for me, and after some soul searching, neither was Hinduism. I was at U.T. Knoxville studying music, and I understood that is was not unusual for a musician – especially a jazz musician – to adopt another culture’s spiritual practices. Still, it felt strange adopting the religious aspects of Hinduism without it being culturally ingrained. I just knew that Orthodox Christianity was about as appealing to me as being force fed carrots and being told it was cookies.

I began practicing yoga for 1-3 hours per day, and got into a very interesting energetic space: I had mystical experiences where I was precient of events, and others where I could bless people with intense divine energy by directing my attention. It was not sustainable, however, because I was still a college student who played in bands, and I was partying too much and not getting enough sleep.

My mystical practices superseded my studies in a way that felt unbalanced. Also I was faced with an unexpected consequence of my yoga practice, this: the body stores energy and emotion, and when that energy and emotion is released through physical practice (yoga, in my case), it can bring this energy and emotion to the surface, sometimes violently. Unless dealt with carefully and gently, these emotions and energies can cause major disruptions in your day-to-day activities. Emotions and energies of unexpressed boundaries and unprecedented rage came to the surface unexpectedly in a way I was underprepared for. In Reiki this is often referred to as a “healing crisis”. About 10-15% of my Reiki clients experience this, so it’s to be expected. Rest, relaxation, water, and being gentle with oneself is the usual routine to navigate a healing crisis. I’m sure you can imagine how a college student would find this difficult!

The Pendulum Swings.

I believe that any extreme discipline is unsustainable unless tempered with a time of un-discipline. Over the last year I’ve learned the value of exercising the discipline to discipline discipline. (I can’t remember whose quote/term this is, but I love it! Google search came up blank, so If you know who first said this, let me know!).

Unless you have chosen the path of the saint, religious or spiritual discipline does you no good if you do not apply the lessons therein to everyday life. The practical. The Taoists call this grounding the “celestial” in the “mundane”. If you self-identify as a being of higher consciousness, your mission is to find out (or create) a way to ground this higher consciousness into the mundane plane of existence. Get over your spiritual bypassing as quickly as possible. I get it – I exercised spiritual bypassing for years because I could not deal with or handle the repercussions of my father’s immaturity or my mother’s covert emotional incest. Sometimes spiritual bypassing is necessary. Just notice if your spiritual practices are getting in the way of basic human kindness and compassion. Just notice, and balance it, please?

The Yogic Perspective.

In the traditional 7 Chakra system there are “Upper” chakras (Throat, Third Eye, Crown) and “Lower” Chakras (Solar Plexus, Sacral, Root). The Heart Chakra is the center. The trap is to value “Upper” Chakras over “Lower” Chakras. Initially, when experiencing the first spiritual awakening through yoga, temperance of the “Lower” chakras is beneficial to rise above and experience the unity and love of the upper chakras, yet do not lose focus of the idea that you are a whole being, worthy of loving all your chakras. In fact, some teachers would say that to truly balance the chakras is to make them disappear entirely.

The Christian Perspective.

If you were raised Christian, you may run into this trap of thinking: The challenge here is that many (not all) Christian sects – and the social constructs thereof – use fear, guilt, and shame to keep people docile and obedient. A.K.A. unquestioning. This has nothing to do with the message of Christ; it has more to do with the conquering rulers such as Emperor Constantine who used Christianity as a social control mechanism.

It’s one thing to have faith in a higher power. It’s one thing to surrender your will to someone whom you love and trust unconditionally. It’s another – very dangerous – thing to surrender your will to a political or dubious religious leader. I’ve always found this difficult due to the mind-numbing environment of that Orthodox Church in Allston, MA. I learned six years after my family relocated to Memphis, TN that the Metropolitan (patriarch) of the Orthodox Church that I grew up in was exposed as a pedophile. I was angry at my parents for blindly following a religion in which I found so many red flags (even in my young age), and expecting me to blindly follow them in kind. Sometimes in life one’s own will to make choices and decisions that go against the grain can be the one thing that keeps you from blindly following someone off of a cliff. I’ve never been a lemming, and the toxic culture of that church and my childhood home is why I learned to think for myself.

True Christians follow the teachings of Jesus, not of any one religious leader. If you’re Christian and questioning things #1 Great, I’ve done my job #2 I kindly invite you to ask yourself this: does your pastor teach the gospel of fear, or the gospel of love? Answer this question. Let them show you. If they spread fear, they are manipulating the congregation and undeserving of your faith and trust. Move on.

Delving Into Mysticism

Planned Mystical Experiences
Yes, one can plan their mystical experiences. By giving a mystical experience the proper time, we can honor it and maintain a degree of sacredness often reserved for such experiences. Don’t rush. If you can maintain a level of calmness then you can really divulge yourself into the non-ordinary reality of such an experience. The minute you rush what can happen is the adrenal glands will be activated, flooding the body with the energy of self-preservation. Mystical experiences often require the temporary suspension of self-preservation mechanisms in order to “rise above” the experience of separateness. Also, remember to give yourself time to “towel off” and integrate whatever experience you are blessed with. This is all with regards to a planned or self-generated mystical experience.


Unplanned Mystical Experiences
What if it’s unplanned? Then you are on your own my friend! Life has interesting ways of giving us what we need, even if it’s what we think we don’t want. Having a vision in the middle of the grocery store? Cool 🙂 The worst thing that can happen is that some people might think you look crazy.

If looking crazy is the worst thing that can happen, then all-in-all I’d say you have nothing to fear.

Just as no religion has a monopoly on spirit, so too does no spiritual path has a competitive advantage over the other. Mahatma Ghandi is often quoted to say that there are as many religions are there are people on this planet, which holds true if we honor everyone’s right to practice their own way of being. We are blessed in the United States of America to be given the right to practice whatever religion we choose, freely. In this capacity I exercise my sovereign right to practice experiential mysticism for no other reason than it is what i prefer, what I feel is right for me, and what I choose.

 






 

 

Holding The Paradox

*NEW Audio Version available now:

Holding the Paradox.

I can help you solve all your problems. The answer is simple; deceptively simple. It speaks volumes not only about the nature of life (and dealing with problems) but it also speaks intimate volumes about who we are and what consciousness actually is.

Are you ready? I’m glad that you’re reading this on your computer or phone, because if we were sitting together in person, over a cup of coffee (of course), you may reach out, slap me, and spill the coffee. And while I don’t, particularly, enjoy being slapped, that was some really, really good coffee.

The answer is you must learn to hold the paradox. It means accepting creative and cognitive dissonance. It means learning to be ok with not being ok. It means learning to identify friction; and learning to understand that this is all a natural part of the creative unfoldment of life.

Cognitive or Creative Dissonance is a state of growth, in which the one experiencing the cognitive dissonance often feels uncomfortable. So, if you are reading this article hoping to find comfort, I invite you to consider perhaps another definition of comfort: it’s not a comfort like a tuning out the world and being taken care of kind of comfort…that’s not really my message. My message is that the comfort at the end of cognitive dissonance is one of empowered growth. It’s the confidence that can arise from taking the necessary steps to work through your pain, suffering, or problems instead of running away from them.
Relax. It comes one step at a time – one day at a time.
This doesn’t mean wallow in painful experiences, just work through it. If you’re stuck in the mud, sometimes it’s really hard to get going. I know. I get it. I’ve struggled with crippling depression, anxiety, and could be considered high-functioning autistic due to my empathy and the codependant environment I experienced in my early childhood . It took me a lot of pain to finally take steps to get help, and to learn to first walk, then run myself. But if I hadn’t taken action, then I may have sunk.
So what kept me from sinking? I got upset. I got angry. And these emotions are motivating! Have you ever read the story of the 2 frogs that fell into the jar of buttermilk? One looked up at the opening of the jar, out of reach, and said “We’ll never jump up there! We might as well give up now.” That frog rolled over and drowned. The other frog, noticing that if she didn’t kick then she would drown, started kicking. She kicked and kicked and kicked until that buttermilk around her churned into butter. Resting a bit, she was overwhelmed with joy that her ferocious will to live turned into her way out of her buttermilk jar. She hopped out.

This fire is what is necessary to get out of the buttermilk jar. Keep taking action, keep moving, and your life will respond positively.

Cognitive Dissonance is feeling the cosmic pull between a version of you in the past, and who you are now. It also means feeling the cosmic pull between who you are now and who you are becoming. If you’re a growth-oriented human being, like me!, you must get used to this experience. In fact, I’ve learned to love this maddening in-between world.

Learning To Be Ok with Not Being Ok

It’s strange. There is a certain toxic rigidity in today’s positivity culture that is dangerous. Yes, there is something to be said about getting your mind right and thinking and saying positive things. But this also means that you need to take care of yourself by choosing a healthy outlet in which you can say whatever it is you need to say in order to express your emotions. Believe me; by delaying this natural emotional expression you are giving these emotions MORE weight than they need. They don’t just go away. They need an out.

Learning to be ok with not being ok is comes down to one word: Acceptance. The Paradox here is that Acceptance is the first step to change. If you want to change something, first you have to accept it for what it is. That means letting go of denial, or trying to paint over your problems. Realize that life has ups and downs. If you put on the brakes when you’re going downhill emotionally, you miss out on the momentum you’d receive from that experience that will end up propelling you forward.

It’s all part of the natural creative unfoldment of life

Life must have paradox in order to exist. Think about this: The fact that we are spiritual, limitless beings, experiencing limitation, is a profound paradox. Perhaps the most logical choice of a limitless being is to experience limitation. What else would an infinite being have to do with unlimited time?
How to detect paradox
As a fun excercise, keep an eye out for paradox: contradictions, contrast, juxtaposition. If you attune your mind to look for these things, you will begin to notice more and more in your world. Things that don’t seem like they go together, nevertheless going together. It’s a way that you can challenge your mind and stretch it. It is beneficial to stretch the mind like stretching a muscle, so that we can remain calm and pliable when the paradox approaches.
Phyliss Furumoto, Current Grandmaster of Usui Reiki, spoke about this experience. I had the rare privilege of training with her in San Francisco in May 2016. It was a beautiful workshop, the weather was sunny with a chill Pacific breeze. The workshop was mostly women, and I learned a lot about myself and how I fit into the world of Reiki. One of the things that stood out to me was that she focused on what she referred to as “creative dissonance”. The Reiki Grandmaster went on to speak specifically about using this in-between experience as a teacher for our own spiritual development. I was particularly impressed with the power with which she spoke about the very metaphysical subject of Reiki

Holding the paradox is the act of embracing the state of creative dissonance. Maybe it’s this grit, this grind (yes, I’m from Memphis), that is the grist for the mill of growth.

The paradox of being and becoming
Simply being a human being IS a paradox! We are spiritual beings – we are souls – AND we are also bodies. It’s not “i am my body” or “I am a soul, not a body” it’s BOTH. In Plato’s “Timeaus”, the speaker talks about being and becoming – a recommended read (warning: it gets OUT THERE).

Toaism and Paradox
The Toaist text the I Ching outlines that there are only really two energies – Yin, and Yang. However, life is often more complicated than this. You can have Yin within Yin. You can have Yang within Yin. You can also have Yin within Yang, and Yang within Yang. Make sense?

Without going into too much complicated detail (I’ll leave that to you if you feel like diving in on your own time), the ancient chinese described 62 archetypal states of consciousness that exist between the two absolute polarities Yin and Yang. These are the 64 states of being outlined by 64 hexagrams (symbols)

Contained in between total Yin and total Yang – are 62 shades of grey. These are the wonders, hopes, dreams, fears, and failures of human experience.

The Toaist seeks to understand that every human experience outlined by the symbolism of the 64 hexagrams is another way of observing the paradox. If we observe the unfoldment of the universal flow, we have a choice. We can look at it with disdain, perturbed and judgemental; we can look at it neutrally, objective and aloof, or we can look at it with love, smiling and grateful.

To hold the paradox is to understand that, while a problem may seem overwhelming, you can work towards a better tomorrow without leaving the problem or checking out completely. And remember: it’s healthy to be able to experience your emotions as you work through a problem.

Throughout this journey of understanding the value of holding the paradox, remember to go easy on yourself. Life should, and often is, easy. It is in trying to do too much, be too much, or control too much that we can trip ourselves up. Remember that paradox is a part of life, and the more we can accept this, the more we can align ourselves with it, and the more we can understand about ourselves and conscoiusness itself.

Until Next Time,

Much Love,

Tim

On the Road with GTBB…How’d I Get Here?

Hey! Yoooooooo what just happened….what is happening in my life?

In the month of May alone, I’ve signed hundreds of autographs, washed myself in both the waters of Lake Huron Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and now we’re driving from Silver City New Mexico through the night to Las Vegas to hit a soundcheck at noon tomorrow. How did I get here?

It’s been a blur since I decided to come on board with The Ghost Town Blues Band, but it’s the best kind of blur – a busy, creative, hustle-now kind of blur. A traveling band – a mythical group of heyoka riding into your town to shake your blues away – it seems like a thing out of a dream. But this is exactly what we do! I get to shake people out of their tired routine by providing my best musical performance with a group of cool musicians.

Again, how did I get here?

To make a long story short, it’s come down to three things for me:

1) Be Patient

I ran into Matt Isbell, the lead singer and guitar player of Ghost Town Blues Band when I was at the post office, of all places. We had played together maybe once or twice before (A common experience in Memphis TN, as most everybody plays with everybody), but it had been a while since that day. He was shipping something for his Cigar Box Guitar business, and I was trying to arrange a PO box so I can get my Retirement Home gigs checks mailed to a business address. This was my third visit to the post office that day, and I was just hearing (from the same people) that I needed yet another sheet of paper. I’m usually very patient, but at this point I was absolutely appalled by their egregious incompetence (if it wasn’t downright dissidence for common decency!)

I was at the point where any normal human being would have been totally justified in yelling at these post office workers, I decided it wasn’t worth it and said something curteus, and stepped away.

I played with them after a while – I liked the group and they liked me too.

But it was only later that I found out that my display of patience at the post office was a top reason why I was called upon to play keys with this group. (Another reason is that my criminal record is spotless and Canada requires spotless records for entry, and for some reason it’s rare to find a keys player in Memphis whose record is as such. Ha – what does that say about keys players, i wonder?)

2) Taking an inventory of all my opportunities

My homie Jack Simon swears by magic boards. What are magic boards? It’s showerboard from Homedepot, cut or uncut. Add 2 or 3 dry erase markers, and a rich imagination. Viola!

I use magic boards to keep track of my ideas, and one night when I was feeling overwhelmed (by the pressure i often put on myself), I wrote out all of my opportunities.

This is recommended – often times we can take for granted the opportunities that life presents us. It is up to us, though, to tune out perception to see the opportunities available to us. Ask yourself:

How can i contribute? How can i better serve with my gifts? What service can i perform that brings me the most happiness?

and lastly… What opportunities are available to me right now?

I’ve learned that sometimes life doesn’t let you wait…sometimes life rewards the go-getters and the red-veined adventurers who live for risk and glory.

I wish I was this type of person. i really wish i was! But I’m not. I’m cautious, and I approach inter-personal relationships very gingerly.

But sometimes life will wait for you to decide what you want and who you are, and equip you with the confidence to take advantage of your best opportunities.

And how will you know what your opportunities are if you don’t write them down? Just do it – once you have 5 you’ll probably remember even more.

I wrote down 5 or 6 income opportunities on my magic board that cold day in April. I was working 10-14 hour days at the Juice Bar and on my own hustles…I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it was hard. I was hoping to start a Facebook Ads agency – I was so hooked on the implicit promises of wealth from expert internet marketers that Matt Isbell’s invitation to jam was the last thing on my mind. But i still wrote it out.

Over the next several days I would look up at these opportunities casually, thinking little of them.

But I was over at Jack’s again, and Preston (of Ghost Town Blues Band) called Jack to chat about something. I asked to speak with Preston, and the rest is history: we secured a time when i could sit it in on a gig in Memphis. Interestingly enough, this was the same place where i played a gig with them about 7 years ago!

3) Consistent playing and practice

Musicians! Just do it. I know I’m a terrible example…I’m super (perhaps overly) consistent for some time periods, while others I have to check out and NOT play and practice consistently. I’ve been in bands for more than half of my life, and it’s always been this way. Be consistent, but be flexible. The bottom lines are this: You have to practice and play to get better, and you need to balance that consistent playing and practice with period of rest. Why? Because this isn’t a goddamn cog-in-the-machine, mindless, worker-bee occupation. You are a human being that the music and the audience benefits when you take time to be and grow your soul. This isn’t a “hustle now and relax later” kind of job. This is life. Playing music is the kind of thing that retired millionaires spend all their time trying to learn, only to (sometimes) learn that it’s not as easy as it looks.  You have to be good, so practice!

My consistent playing and practice has made me a good musician. Maybe not great, but good. How to get to the next level? Woah, i’m not getting ahead of myself here…My good friend who is a martial artist and dances and performs with the Memphis Ballet Ensemble says this: Learn the form. Master the form. Forget the form.

Right now with The Ghost Town Blues Band I am learning the form. It’s humbling, but I know that it’ll be worth it.

Opportunities. The more you learn to look for them, the more you’ll receive. Or perhaps the very act of looking for them is what creates them! Either way, you won’t know unless you do it. Make a list of your opportunities, and be grateful. This is clutch! Do it, my friends – you won’t regret it.

Until next time,

Tim

P.S. I’m on the tourbus on the way to Las Vegas right now. Haha – cool.

The Rules of The Game Blogpost

The rules of the game
This life is a game. We can laugh and play, and there may or may not be a point, depending on how you play. We are all from divinity, a whole, conscious entity of some sort. In this phase of the evolution of divinity, divinity has deemed it integral to place pieces of itself within each one of us. This is true creative potential, and we may use it however we choose.

It is up to us, however, to also figure out what the rules are! So what are the rules?
Depending on what your world view is, you may have different answers. The ten commandments, the laws of the Torah, different spiritual principles, etc. But since you’re reading my blog post, you’re probably already an open minded person (or you haven’t found my left field stuff yet – keep looking 😉 ) and relate more to the “spiritual but not religious” approach.

I know I do.
But spirituality isn’t a goal that is achieved – it is consciousness, in this moment, right now, and this consciousness is spirituality itself. There are many traditions of spiritual practices that are performed as a way of life, and many people confuse spirituality with spiritual practices. Both are valid, but this distinction must be recognized.

Spirituality is a state of being, of connection, of oneness. Union.
Spiritual practices are culturally and sociologically influenced practices surrounding spirituality, the most effective among them creating space for awareness of spirituality to occur.
Are you awakened to your true spiritual nature?
Many people go through their lives without questioning anything. Are they wrong? It’s not up to me to say. Sometimes I envy such a person because it seems like, from the outside, that their life is easier than mine. But I have to question; I question everything. Why? Because from an early age, my experience of reality was different from the one that my environmentally imposed religious practices suggested.

For example: I had a lucid dream at the age of 4, and I knew that it was different from a regular dream. This dream was terribly frightening to me, and that fear brought me to what some might call the astral plane: I had an out of body experience (OBE). My parents could not or did not want to explain this to me. My environmentally imposed religion suggested that such things happened, but only in stories; so my reality changed. I had this experience that was quite mystical to me – even at a very young age – and I had these messages coming in about life that seemed in congruent with my experience of reality.

I began to question! I questioned my parents; whom, in my innocence, I revered like gods. I asked them my existential questions of the nature of the universe and was met with confusing responses, often insinuating that I shouldn’t question things in the first place. This created instances of imposing their beliefs onto me, or, in the worst cases, breaking my will. I am grateful now that I was a stubborn and while, yes, my will was broken many times, I’ve still retained the value of the experiencing the truth of my own experience.
You may have had a similar experience – you have a mystical awakening somehow, whether through dreams, creativity, yoga, with a lover, at a music festival, etc, and you need to tell someone. While those around you may support you and encourage you, if the haven’t had a similar experience to what you are describing, they can’t validate it for you. So, you need to seek out those who have, indeed, had similar experiences.
Awakening to your true spiritual nature.
Spiritual awakenings are commonplace these days, yet that doesn’t negate the amazing power they posses to impact and drastically change ones life.
So, now that you are awaken(ed/ing) to your true spiritual nature, what do you do? “Now that you’ve found out who you are, what do you want to be?” *
This isn’t up to me to answer, but I can give some suggestions for what to do after you’ve had a spiritual awakening, most of this based on my own life experience.

Heal – If you’re like me, it’s likely that, due to circumstances beyond your control, you have been placed in trying situations from which is seems difficult to escape. My family life was like that – so many cords of codependency pulling at me (in total fairness, I was co dependently pulling at them as well – that’s how it works!). It was such a journey to save up enough to move out of that environment. Once I did, I realized that I needed to heal many untouched patterns of behavior that were doing me more harm than good. I made space in my life to heal. So make space in your life for you to heal! Do yoga, meditate, clean up your diet, exercise more, build your support network, and educate yourself on how to change behavioral patterns. Its fascinating stuff! If you’re having a tough time, hire a coach to help you out. I’m considering creating a course or mentorship program in which I can help people do just that. (let me know in the comments if you are interested).
Regroup – After you’ve gone through the bulk of your healing, it’s time to regroup. It’s a funny way of describing it, but regrouping is like reevaluating. Healing will put you in contact with your heart, and your heart can often tell you where you need to go, if you know how to listen. Your heart has a wisdom of its own. For me, it was writing an inspiring work of fiction that’s enjoyable, fun, funny, that also includes lessons in lucid dreaming and spiritual growth and development. The re-grouping phase is a time to set new intentions based on what you learned in your healing.

Refresh – experience the joy and beauty of being an entirely new person based on your growth and development!

Teach – now it’s time to level up – you need to teach what you know, or chronicle it, or journal it somehow. I truly believe that spiritual lessons are made more valuable once we teach them. This could be a mystical process, or a marketing process. In my case, I’m looking for a way to combine both so that I can reach more people with my message.

Combined approach
These lessons can come one after another, sequentially, or it can be a grab-bag. I think that how I prefer to ingest them has a bit to do with the order in which they arrive, yet it seems that often they’ll surprise me. There’s no telling what the future holds, but I know and trust that that I put into it is what I will get out of it.

I will invest in myself and in growing my soul for the divine benefit of all humanity. That’s my tip for today.

Love, Tim

P.S. Comment! Let me know what you think, how you are doing, and what you ate for breakfast. I had a smoothie 🙂
* quote a song by a group that ushered in a new age of spiritual practices to the world back in the 60s, The Beatles.

Defining Identity, Flexibly Part II

Greetings Friends!

For this post I am drawing on a few ideas I wrote about in Defining Identity, Flexibly Part I. (In which I talked about the difference between permanent and impermanent identities, and also the difference between national and galactic identities. I was going through a time where I was very interested in understanding how different national identities influences the politics and ethos of different regions of the united states, so most of my time was spent explaining that, and applying it as a metaphor for inner thoughts and beliefs.)

This leads me to question to what extent we are a result of our surroundings and to what extent we control our conscious evolution.

My Story
I was given the rare opportunity to be born on the east coast, the son of two New Yorkers and then, when I was 10, relocating with my family to Memphis, TN. I specifically remember the day when my first buddy down here convinced me to wear my hair down and stop slicking it back the Sicilian way that my grandfather had taught me. After that I played a long game of trying to fit into Southern culture. I found music, which was quite liberating given the nature of the open-minded people who frequented the local jam-band scene.

But when I really wanted to follow my natural creative tendencies, I hit resistance. My band mates kept wanting to play the more traditional Southern rock tunes that I never really resonated with. At the time I also heard Dubstep for the first time, and wanted to incorporate more electronic elements into our music, but my band mates resisted. I spent many, many years clinging to the idea that I could change them somehow, when really I was simply too frightened to let go of a creative relationship that no longer served me.

I remember back in 2010 I was coming back from a gig with Mojo Possum (one of my “possum” bands: the other was called “Copper Possum”). It must have been past three in the morning; so I was playing in bars til past three and getting up for school the next morning – looking back I let myself indulge this poor self-care routine because I thought it was cool to “burn the candles at both ends”. This was at a time when I knew that I had stopped enjoying playing in Mojo Possum, yet I was clinging onto our weekly thursday gig at Newby’s because I didn’t know of another way to make money. Earlier that week I had found a walking stick that terminated in a “Y” shape and leant it up against the side of my rental apartment; I thought it looked cool and intuitively felt like it was spiritually significant somehow. When i arrived at my house, lo and behold, situated squarely between the two branches of the “Y” was a large American Opossum aka “Possum”. This was no ordinary Possum though; most Possums will hiss and defend themselves if approached. No, this one just hung out there, looking around like a buddhist monk, seemingly content to hang out on the stick. When I approached it, though, I could see that it was very sick. I stood there with the Possum for a while, wishing that I didn’t have to experience such an obvious sign from the universe that my time with Mojo Possum was coming to an end.

Permanent vs Impermanent Identities.
My time as a blues musician is what i consider an impermanent identity, but I can still play the blues. My time as a student was an impermanent identity, yet i still retain a good amount of the information that I absorbed in that time. The only permanence that I feel like I experience in this case is the permanence of being myself as a changing and evolving being – which, paradoxically needs to include what I’ve learned from previous identities.

It’s almost that, in order to get the lessons from an impermanent identity, we need to pretend like it is permanent in order to let it sink in. We must fully commit to playing that part, like an actor in a movie. In order to play the part well, we need to be convincing. By the way, only choose parts that you are interested in and that you know you can do well. Sometimes it can be hard to see for sure which one that will be, but trust your gut – trust your intuition. You can do it! You can make the right choices for you! But when it becomes time to let it go, don’t cling to it. Just get the lessons and move on.

Nature Vs. Self Nurture in Identity
I use the term “self-nurture” to imply that as a conscious adult one has the ability to nurture oneself (not implying only self-care, but also consciously seeking out the nurturing of others in a self-directed kind of way). Our nature, one could say, is our roots and learned programming. Most people go through their entire lives without questioning who they are, or why they do the things they do. Behavior is learned, and so many want to take advantage of that process through self-directed learning.

I would put forth the idea that by combining nature AND self nurture, we can be a more complete human being: ourselves.

Here’s the gist of it: until you take control of your life, of your growth, of your habits, then you will be operating based on your conditioning: whether it be familial, societal, or something else. You will grow up thinking that you are just a cog in a machine that wants you to do something. True, there will be many ideas and paradigms imposed upon you. You have the choice to accept or reject these paradigms, but most, especially as children, decide to accept it. Where growth stops is when, as a conscious adult, we choose to continue to blindly accept the story that is imposed upon us. It can be a conscious choice, in which case I totally respect the choice of that individual. It just saddens me to see people give up their divine creative gifts to become what society, or family wants them to be.

Here’s a wake up call: YOU  have the power to make a choice and start living life more consciously. Grow. Educate yourself. Improve your skills, happiness, and awareness. Surround yourself not just with positive people, but with people that are real with you and, when asked, can tell you what they see, both positive and negative. It can be hard once you start questioning things that you may have built dreams upon – such as a car, house, a spouse, and a couple kids maybe. You can still have those things if that’s what you really want, but let it be your well-informed choice, not just a default.

I think that many people, myself included, have fallen into the trap of thinking “Oh, here’s what society/my parents/my culture wants me to be, so I’ll be that.” and then wonder why they feel unfulfilled. Again, I’m not speaking to the people who have found fulfillment in following these paths – I am speaking to those who feel like there’s something more that they are missing. And what is it that is missing from the equation? YOU are! You, as a fully realized human being, resplendent in your full potential. YOU, as a spirit in a body, creating a unique signature in all that you do. YOU, living happily, taking responsibility for your life, and realizing your dreams.

So where do you start? You have to want it. You have to realize that, in order to grow and develop yourself – your soul – you will have to stand up for who you are. Stop surrounding yourself with people who hammer you into something smaller than you are. Stop agreeing to someone else’s dream for you, if that’s not what you want. 

If you’ll join me in this journey of self-discovery, I can help you to deal with the consequences – which is a greater self-understanding, and taking more responsibility for every aspect of your life. Complaining only helps in that it helps us to identify the parts of our lives that we need to be taking more responsibility for. This isn’t just a short-term goal or mission – although it can include short term goals. I’m in it for the long game. I’m in it for the self-enrichment with ideas, knowledge, understanding, so that I can cultivate my soul and create myself as a divine being here on earth.

What are the tools, what are the rules of this game? Essentially, if it works, it is true, and the rules are that you must be in integrity with all life. I wish I could more clearly define the “rules”; maybe that’s another post for another time! But suffice it to say that most spiritual practices agree on a few different aspects of what divinity is – it’s likely that the “rules” (or guidelines 😉 ) that span cultural and continental divides are the ones that will take guide you to your true self.

As always, efficacy is the measure of truth.

Much Love,

Tim

Defining Identity, Flexibly.

Because the universe is measurably expanding (not contracting), and we are moving forward in time (not backwards), I too must be expanding and moving forward in time. I observe this through the phenomenon of growth and development, or evolution and expansion. My identity, therefor, must include the capacity for growth and expansion. 

When I define myself as a 27 year old man, this identity is temporary. When I turn 28, this identity will no longer apply to me. If I define myself as a young adult, it will last a bit longer, but still, it is a temporary identity.

Are there any permanent identities?

For the sake of clarity, yes, but keep in mind that I am choosing to frame the answer within a context of being helpful and understandable. In exploring thoughts such as these, it’s helpful to draw the lines around the context that we are examining. Without context, there are no permanent identities. Perhaps “permanence” itself is a human-made idea. There are identities that are much more permanent than others…but you can always zoom your perspective out to the point where we are looking at our entire universe as a speck of dust on the eyebrow of some giant sleeping space orca…or however you conceptualize eternity.

National Identity

What is important in examining the concept of identity is where we draw the boundaries.
In a national sense, my blood is of the nations of Sicily, Israel, Slovakia, and Poland. Note: A nation is a shared identity of people based on cultural norms and ways of being. It is not necessarily that which is contained within country boundaries. For example, the United States of America was founded initially by eleven distinct nations, each with very different customs and ways of life. This is why different regions possess strikingly different ways of life and political views.

Source: American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America Woodard, Colin.

Genetically, the peoples of the world hold no identifiable distinction in our genetic makeup. In other words, the human genetic makeup is the same in Asia as it is in Africa as it is in Europe as it is everywhere. There is a genetic difference in men and women however! (X and Y Chromosomes).

Global Identity

I believe that collectively we are birthing a global identity. Through the exponential advancement of technology, different cultural and national ideas are being released into the global soup, and, to use an Altucherian metaphor, they have idea sex.

Idea sex is based off of James Altucher’s method of consuming various seemingly disparate ideas and working towards the birthing of new ideas that would not have been possible without the idea sex.

I will expand the metaphor: in this example, cultural practices and ways of life are the differing ideas. When two seemingly disparate cultural practices meet in the global exchange (which, one could imagine, as an international lovers hotel), these cultural ideas mix, mingle, and if the mood is right, make love with each other. Naturally, some ideas get along better than others! Regrettably, as we’ve seen time and time again, some cultures rape and pillage other cultures (read: colonialism, slavery, genocide, etc).

So what is a more conscious approach? Take, for example, the culture of the Metis people in Acadia (Northern Maine and French Canada). When the area was colonized in the early 17th century by the French, the French officials established peaceful relations with the Algonquin, Mi’kmaq, and other native tribes. A cultural exchange was established in respectful terms, as desired by both parties. The resultant culture of Metis (literally “something that is half of one thing and half of another” in French) is the result of French trappers and hunters marrying and making love with Algonquin, Mi’kmaq women. Their culture is unique one, built on mutual trust and respect.

When two cultures come together in mutually trusting and respectful terms, then we often see the birth of identities that may have never existed before!

The Inner World

Now consider your inner world – your unconscious self. Inside, swirling just below the crest of awareness, are myriad untouched archetypes, existing continually until they bubble up or we call up on them. You are the world. What sort of world do you want to create? What are the nations (archetypes, ideas, etc) that exist inside of you? How can these cultures have sex and birth something new, exiting, and uniquely you? Furthermore, do you want to be a colonist, a slaver, or a murderer? Or do you want to allow the valid parts of your subconscious self the time, space, and respect that is necessary to birth a truly awesome, vibrant, aligned identity?

Galactic Identity

Woah, we just flew into outer space. This is getting way out there. If this is outside your comfort zone, skip this part. Is it possible that our galaxy is just one of many galaxies that house conscious beings? If so, how will we decide how to show up in the galactic stage? Right now I’d like to imagine that we are being watched and encouraged like young children learning to walk and talk. Once we get a few things straightened out, then maybe we will grow to the point where we will be ready to handle a galactic-sized exchange of ideas. Until then, let’s focus on our personal, local, and global identities with time, space, and respect, as new ideas birth, moving always towards respectful and mutually desirable exchanges with others.

Furthermore, let’s be flexible with our identities. Let’s allow who we are to grow and change and evolve. If you’re having trouble picturing this, look at who you were a year ago. Were you doing the same things? Thinking the same thoughts? Did you act the same way that you do now? If so, maybe you have some growing up to do! If you are acting differently, if you have grown, then acknowledge this growth. Give yourself some credit for how far you’ve come in a year. This isn’t a race, it’s a dance. Let’s move forward lovingly, respectfully, always open to the possibility of exchanging and growing. Even though the ego can get attached to an identity, remember, we are not the ego! Don’t fear the natural crystallization and dissolution of identity cycles. It’s part of the cool, forward-moving experience of being a human being.

 

What is an Awakened Soul?

Today’s question is just this: What is an awaken(ed/ing) soul? Disclaimer: while many of my blog posts will have research and verified conclusive evidence to support my claims, this one will have nothing more than “my own meandering experience” as evidence. Let the reader be ware! (edit: I do cite a small case study I did with about 10 people – but the rest is opinion)

Let us first examine the difference between the words”awakened” and “awakening”.
“Awakened” implies the process or event of awakening happened in the past. There is a sense of conclusiveness, of finality. “Awakened” describes the present moment, now, as living in the wake of the awakening process or event. Of the future, it speaks that we may also experience the wake of awakening – the latent effects of awakening.

The word “awakening”, on the other hand, implies that the process or event is ongoing; continuous; ever-unfolding. “awakening” means that something is happening in the present – the now moment. Of the future, it also speaks that we may experience the wake of awakening, but only if the “awakening” stops! If it doesn’t stop, then we won’t be experiencing the wake of awakening, we will be experiencing the awakening itself!

Make sense?

I conducted a small, informal survey of about 10 people in a yoga community, in a group of self-proclaimed empaths. I asked if they had always been this way, or if they had an “awakening moment”. The results? 25% said they had an awakening moment, while the other 75% claimed they had always been that way.

So what does that say about the difference between “awakened” and “awakening”?

It means that for some people, an awakening moment is a very real thing. It can be extremely useful in understanding our growth and building our unique life story in in that it orients our present selves to a past experience of self via memory. It’s something that we can tell people about to express our individuality and validate out life experience. This can be useful only in that we see how far we’ve come, and we can help others to work through similar situations that we’ve been through ourselves. This is the true value of experience-based mentoring.

My experience has been one of gradual awakening. I’ve had some incredible energetic moments through yoga, music, sex, and other consciousness expanding experiences, but I choose to view them as punctuation in my awakening story, not the story itself.

In truth, the past experience of self doesn’t really exist; only the memory exists. You cannot show me evidence that the past exists! You can show me a recording, or a photograph, but that only proves that the past once existed, as a now moment. This does not prove that the past exists now, and it is an important distinction to make. Memories can be so emotionally powerful that many people mistake a memory of who they were for who they are today. What is really happening is that who they are today (and their true potential) is drowned out by the emotional echo of a memory. You may say “Can’t it be both?”. Kind of…you can keep certain qualities that you like, and take on new qualities as well. This will get us into a debate about identity and how we define identity, which is another blog post entirely!

But be careful! It’s a trap!

Have you figured it out yet?   I hope to give you a koan to chew on that may spark further growth experiences, if you want it. 

An awakening moment is only useful if we use it to acknowledge how far we’ve come, or if we use it to help others in a similar situation. The trap lies in too often orienting your present self with the awakening moment in the past. If your attachment to your story of awakening overshadows growth opportunities in the present, then you’ve missed the point!

All this is coming from the perspective of my own love for growth and development. If you value, say, approval and comfort over growth and development, then by all means, cling to your story. Tell it to yourself over and over again, and maybe you’ll be able to drown out the valid parts of yourself that are now asking for your attention to take you on further journeys of growth and development. It’s ok if this isn’t for you. The conscious life is a hard road to travel! Many people just find it more preferable to go on lying to themselves. But as always, what you tell yourself about your reality – what you want believe – plays a big part in the reality you find yourself in (or, create!).

To awaken to anything implies that, before the awakening moment, we were asleep. I like to use the term “Unconscious”. Consciousness can see unconsciousness, but unconsciousness by definition cannot possibly see consciousness.

But we can see what is directly in front of us. We can experience how we feel, even if it’s a feeling of numbness. Let’s tune into the present moment now and let it tell us where we are, and, based on what we want to create in our lives, how to get to our next destination!

Maybe unconsciousness and consciousness can experience each other energetically in cosmically sexual growth situations. Maybe real learning is just a process of our unconscious patterns and beliefs coming to the bedroom to make love with our conscious selves. For someone like me who appreciates this growth process, it’s an orgasmic experience!

Scarcity in Marketing: Why it’s Not Cool!

Lately my facebook feed as been inundated with facebook ads targeting entrepreneurs and small business owners with catchy titles like “How I grew my engagement by 600% – with no startup fees!”. I’m all for growth and development, and this includes entrepreneurial efforts as well. But I stopped clicking on them, and I really wish they would just go away! Why? Because I know what a sales funnel looks like, and I’m just not interested in spending my time going through one. I have better things to do, like write blog posts!

I’ve spent years growing my network, and facebook is an easy way to keep up with and interact with my network. I’ve written recently about identity and how it changes as we grow, and so I’m now confronted with the task of broadcasting a changing image of myself. But that’s another post for another time! For the past several years I’ve been following personal development gurus and have often slid down their marketing funnels. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…but it usually leaves me wanting more. What’s with this feeling of wanting more? If I invest in an information product that’s meant to grow me, I want to feel nourished, satisfied, and a sense of completion. But I kept feeling like something was missing. I would go through the material of low and high tier programs from gurus such as Brendon Burchard, Max Simon, and Russell Brunson, and come out on the other side still feeling like I was being mislead.

When something doesn’t feel right, then I have to ask myself – “Ok, is there a limiting belief here?”. Often times there is. Sometimes it will be readily apparent, and sometimes it will take a while – even years – for the limiting belief to emerge. That’s ok – I needed that time to grow into the man who can handle dealing with that limiting belief in the first place.

I want to talk about scarcity. Scarcity by definition is “not having enough”. In marketing, scarcity can be real, or manufactured. Either way, the way that human beings react to scarcity is predictable. If there isn’t enough of something that we want or need, then we rush to get it. It’s perceived value increases. Often times, scarcity becomes an integral part of the business model.

Scarcity makes sense from a marketing perspective, but agitating it just doesn’t feel right to me. So, as is my process, I’m asking myself if I have any limiting beliefs around this, and the answer is yes!

Here’s my limiting belief around this issue: that perpetuating scarcity is wrong. 

Good! I do believe it is wrong, and even that it is a conscious belief, I will choose to perpetuate this “limiting” belief. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s that limiting. Here’s why:

I prefer abundance to scarcity. Abundance means there is enough, and sometimes more than enough! I would rather have abundant resources than not enough. As someone who grew up in a house eating ramen wearing hand-me-down clothes, I’ve lived through a scarcity of resources. That was the only reality that I knew – it was my world.

Now, I am able to see it for what it was, and I am able to make a different choice. I am choosing to see the world as abundant. I am choosing to first seek out resources, and secondly attract these resources to me. It usually works this way: in changing our limiting beliefs, actions break old habits the quickest.

So, for example, in my marketing I am choosing to create value first. My favorite way to do this is through blogposts!
I love the immediacy of it. I love the finality of being able to publish something that an hour ago didn’t exist.

Spending my time doing something that I love that creates value for others is such a gift. I am extremely grateful that with this blogpost I can help people. I am extremely grateful that with my voice – my typing personality – I can positively inspire others to share their voice and their gifts.

I believe that we live in a world of abundant resources. As technology allows for greater and greater transparency, we as a species may evolve to the point where we share resources freely. This may be a long way off, or it could be right around the corner. The more transparent we become, the easier it will be for us to detect that which feels off collectively. By checking into our universal heart – our shared experience of mutual love and compassion for each other – we can unite, share resources, and experience abundance greater than our wildest dreams.

This starts in you. Start broadcasting an abundance vibe by learning in what ways you can create value. Do this, and watch your world change. Of course, do this intelligently, or you’ll end up on the streets! Perhaps this is another blog post here 🙂 I love how ideas seem to bubble and flow when I get creative! This blogpost already gave me two additional blogpost ideas! What a fun way to create value. Until next time, Peace.

© Tim Stanek 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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