Mundane Grace

Photo by Ina Vikøren

I want to share a little snippet of my day the other day with you. Although it’s from a specific instance, this story describes what happens quite frequently. Maybe you can relate.

Picture me walking the dog... Moments earlier, I got an email. You know, one of those emails. I was pissed. It had to do with work and money and lack and stress and pressure and disappointment and all of it. I won’t belabor you with the details, but you may have been there a time or two.

The best I can signify my feeling state in that moment is with a red-face-of-anger emoji 😡. Actually, more fitting would be the purple-horned-devil one 👿.

Because in that moment, I was straight up Satanic. 
Possessed.

So there I was, walking along my beautifully quiet street on a Sunday morning murmuring in tongues of anger and insecurity. I started tying it back to my late father (because who doesn’t love dad issues) and how I’m going down the same path of disappointment, blah, blah, blah.

This was the narrative. 
I was inundated. 
Flooded with emotion.

The thing was, as someone who’s in this work of spiritual development, I knew it. I fully called myself on it in the moment.

That still small voice knew better. (Always does.)
It whispered, wait
I could hear it.

But it didn’t help. This feeling was still alive. The mood was upon me like a lead blanket. I felt justified this time.

After my walk, I walked up to my apartment and went on about my day. I got distracted. I did some chores around the house. Played with Rory. Chatted with Alex. Had some food.

Soon, I noticed the clouds had parted. 
Like they do every time.

This is mundane grace.

God didn’t appear in the sky with a scroll. Butterflies and birds didn’t flock to me as a choir rang out Oh, Happy Day.

Mundane grace shows up when we get out of our heads just long enough for something new to appear in mind.

The thing about this phenomena is that it’s 100% reliable, but 98% unpredictable. We have no idea when God shows up, we just know she does.

God doesn’t live in the head. She speaks a different language. She speaks the language of the heart. When that rambling voice(s) in our heads can quiet down, then we find communion. We find grace.

When we drop out of our heads into our hearts, grace appears.

When I brought my attention back to the situation, I saw it from a much calmer, more centered place. Did I still want to do something about it? Sure.

But what I decided to do under grace was far more effective than the ‘solution’ that had shown up just a few hours earlier.

Meditation

I know that divine grace is present in every moment. It’s mundane, not epic. It’s infinite in nature and can never be wasted.

Even when I’m caught up in my story, I know that as soon as my personal thinking dies down, it will tire itself out and get replaced with something new when I step aside and allow it to.

I know that, as a human, I will write narratives of my own. Narratives of dragons and evil spirits and devious schemes from others. Without those things, it’s hard to be a hero.

But there’s always a greater narrative than my ego’s own epic tale. One that doesn’t seem so exciting for the ego, but always provides a higher view. One that understands the hero and loves it into submission.

Finding myself in the middle of my own narrative isn’t a bad thing. I’m human. I feel my thinking moment to moment. Nothing is wrong with me when I find myself in the eye of a thought storm that I’ve written. The emotions I experience are only an indicator that I’ve gotten so caught up in it that I’ve drifted away from home. That I’ve loaded up my headspace with too much fear, doubt, and worry.

The next time, I’ll know that I loaded up on these thoughts because I thought they’d protect me. But I see clearly now that they’re only drowning me.

As soon as I surrender them, I can float.

Ahhhhhhh…. Mundane grace is an inextinguishable blessing that never leaves.

And so it is.

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The subtleness of insight

I used to think that insights come as giant-sized, earth shattering, life-altering events.

I thought that, after reaching a certain ‘tipping point’ of spiritual attainment, my entire world would suddenly come into full color, answers would appear brightly before my eyes, and God would emerge from the sky with a golden tablet that provided all of my life’s answers.

But I now see that insight doesn’t work that way…

In the words of Michael Neill, most insight is more of a ‘Homer Simpson insight’ than an epic insight.

Most insight is more, “Duh…” than, “Woah!!”

In my experience of working with people to facilitate insight of their own, when it does show up, it shows up as the overlooked obvious. Like, oh, duh, right?!

This is my favorite part of what I do. When something shows up in the conversation from nowhere, becomes spoken, and there’s a loooong silence… A silence that’s not blank, but full. Like the sound of a gear after it’s solidly clicked into place.

Seconds — sometimes minutes — later, the other person comes back with something like…

“Wow… How did I not see this before?”

This is the Homer Simpson insight. The duh (or ‘doh’, if you’re like Homer) insight.

Insight is almost always subtle.

Meditation

As I settle into the knowingness of spirit, I see that insight is subtle, not epic.

There’s no such thing as a difficult problem for God. If I find myself striving for answers and wrestling over issues, I know that I’ve permitted my ego to run the show.

The only thing that my ego can do is get in the way. The job on my end is ego management. If I can keep my ego in the back seat, I can let my soul do the work. When my soul takes an active role, I become ripe for this insight to happen. When it does, I’ll have the clear vision to accept it.

When I’m in tune with the divine, solutions show up as obvious. I know that it’s not up to me when they show up and that all I can do is remain open to them.

If I can do this, I can catch them.
When I catch them, they can transform me.
If I let them.

And so it is.

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What if you never noticed?

Photo by Mohamed Lammah

I just have one quick insight for you today…

Wouldn’t it be a shame to have a fantastic life and not notice it?

I’ll leave that right there. Have a fantastic rest of your weekend. Maybe it’ll show up a bit differently for you now 😉.

Meditation

As I stop and reflect, I see how precious this life — this very moment — is. I see how much time I spend thrashing about the illusory past and future and how little time I spend being… here.

All that’s before me is now. Everything else is a blatant fabrication of reality.

I see how wrong my doomsdayish predictions have been. I also see how wrong my ‘dream-come-true’ scenarios have been. I recognize at how bad I am at dealing with the past and future and I surrender the inclination to even try.

Because all that’s here is the ripe, fertile present moment. 
And it’s all I’ll ever need.

Life is wonderful. 
I plan on noticing it while it’s here.

And so it is.

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Mental quiet is not silent

Photo by Grant Ritchie

It’s often perceived that meditation is supposed to help us ‘quiet the mind’, right? I mean, that’s often the draw.

I have a noisy mind. So I’m gonna meditate.

And we do.
And it feels cool. 
And sometimes it gets quieter.

But there’s always something going on up there.

Ugh…

It can be frustrating banging our head against a wall trying to get our thinking to quiet down because those voices and images and imagined dragons (no, not the band) just keep… Coming.

But I want to offer you a different way of looking at it. Maybe you’ll be able to let go of this possibly impossible goal of entirely quieting the mind.

What if mental quiet wasn’t supposed to be silent?

Here’s what I gather…

The quiet is the space within which we hear the noise.

Try seeing ‘quiet’ as not being the absence of noise, but as the backdrop to the noise. Rest in that open space that’s aware of the noise. That watches it with a soft, loving gaze knowing that it’s just… noise. It’s just thought. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Meditation

As I enter my meditative state, I surrender the urge to find complete silence of mind. I know that, by doing this, all I do is add noise to the noise. I see now that quiet is the open, loving backdrop to the noise. When I rest in this space, noise comes and goes. I’m serenely settled amidst the most agitating of noises because without me, this noise wouldn’t exist. The noise is just a shimmer on the surface of the water of the mind. Nothing to be afraid of.

I am the quiet behind it all. 
I am. 
And so it is. 
Amen.

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Stirring the water doesn’t help it settle

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger

But this is what the self-help industry at large is up to. It’s up to giving us ‘strategies’ and ‘methods’ to ‘fix’ our mental/spiritual state so that we get into a more ‘positive’ place (a lot of air quotes there, intentionally).

If you’re reading this post, you’re likely into personal development. If I were to ask you what you’re seeking in your journey, you might say something like…

A sense of security.
To feel at home in myself.
A deeper sense of calm.
Greater presence.
To become more connected to myself and the world. 
Freedom of movement, in a sense.
An insight rich state of being.

And I’d have to agree with you. It’s why my bookshelf at home has one main section: self-help/spirituality. Because I once believed I needed them to get me to an inner state that resembled the qualities above (and still sometimes do).

But I started seeing, more and more, that these qualities showed up when the last thing on my mind was ‘improving myself’.

That deep sense of well-being that I was seeking would arise when I least expected it. While I was present in my life, not caught up in my head.

I saw that the problem wasn’t in getting somewhere I’d never been before, but in getting back to a naturally settled state that was at the core of my being.

I saw the human lot, not as original sin, but original grace. That my well-being is part of my design, not something I had to gain access to through some 7-step process.

In life, we unknowingly teach ourselves to drift away (or run away) from this space. And when we start trying to ‘improve’ ourselves, what we do is fill it with good ideas, activities, etc. thinking they’ll bring us the thing we already have.

But the more we do, the worse it gets.

The metaphor of the pond works perfectly here. For some reason, we metaphorically stir the waters of the mind harder the more we try to get it to clear up. After all, it feels productive, right? The ego feels like it’s doing something.

But at some point, we have to stop. And when our arm gets tired of stirring, we might lie back on our jacket at the side of the pond and take a nap. We might look up at the sky and notice the divinely intelligent pattern that the birds fly in. Or ponder that thing we forgot at the store. Again.

And when we sit back up to stir some more, we’ll see that the water is clear. It’s the damndest thing, isn’t it?

Meditation

I now recognize my stirring. I see that the work I’ve been doing to get out of some contrived broken state is a futile exercise. Because at my core, underneath the swirling waters, lies a calm so deep and serene that nothing can agitate it. That said, I also see that stirring the waters is my human nature. So beating myself up over it doesn’t help. And if it makes me feel productive to stir, than stir I will. But nothing beats putting the stick down and realizing the transformative self-corrective pattern of the universe that I’m a small, yet infinite, part of. And so it is.

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Inside and out: it all happens here

Photo by David Norman

I’ve been pondering this a lot since the move to Chicago (and with some writing I’m doing under the topic of hygge). As you may know, my family just concluded a move of epic proportions across the country. My wife and I lived in Chicago years ago, we fell in love here, and since moving back west closer to family, we’ve wanted to move back.

Chicago is just so… comfortable to us. Especially this neighborhood we moved to just north of downtown. It feels like we were meant to be here. I feel totally at home in a way I haven’t experienced since we left.

In short, it brings me a sense of hygge (I won’t belabor you with definitions here). But all this hygge talk seems to run contradictory to the spiritual principles I posit. I’m big on the inside-out way of experiencing the world.

So why should it matter where I live? Whether I live in Waco or Chicago, it should all be the same, right? Inner bliss no matter where I go. Am I a hypocrite? A walking contradiction? I shouldn’t have any preferences when it comes to ‘outside locations’, right?

But here’s the epiphany that just hit me…

There is no real ‘outside location’. All of it exists in consciousness.

As I look out my third floor window onto the tree lined street below (I swear this place resembles Sesame Street — it’s so great), Chicago is happening on the screen of my awareness.

So, yes, I’m going to have preferences. I’m human just like you. We’re going to have two totally different (or at least slightly different) stories about any one place.

This carries over to the concept of hygge. I sometimes wonder, if I’m such a internally driven guy, why should it matter how my dwellings are arranged? I should feel totally blissful whether I’m in front of a fire or laying in a gutter, right?

But, no… It’s all happening in consciousness. Yes, this inside experience will evolve over time. Yes, it’s entirely thought-created. Yes, it changes, grows and evolves. But it’s all here. In mind.

That table over there is not outside. It’s on my screen of awareness. Right now, I’m imagining my coffee table when I was a kid. That’s happening on the same screen.

To take this a level deeper, we say it’s ‘inside’, but is it really? Doctors have opened us up in many different ways and haven’t located anything that resembles consciousness or a soul anywhere in there.

It seems more like this awareness is enveloping us. If you look through your eyes, your awareness is limited to the room you’re in — and if you have a nice view, maybe your town. But when you close your eyes, your awareness is infinite and not tied to what’s happening now.

All of it is in consciousness.

So just let me enjoy Chicago while I’m all fresh and starry-eyed again, okay? 😜

Meditation

As I sit here in this space — this room, car, train, yard, or wherever it is — I see that it’s all happening in consciousness. My favorite coffee mug has nothing to do with the mug itself, it has to do with the meaning I’ve placed on it. And that meaning is my reality. There’s nothing at all wrong with it. But it is true. Which means that home is a place in me. Hygge is a place in me. I am at home wherever I want to be. And I’m astray wherever I decide. Right now, I feel at home. Even though a night under the stars might be nice. And so it is.

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The three principles of the human experience (and why I’m renaming them)

Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer

A big concept behind the coaching I do is based on what’s called ‘the three principles of the human experience’. Essentially, my job is to point people towards three particular truths about the way we humans move through the world.

Turns out, most of us misunderstand this. Many of us believe that our experience is created from circumstance. Therefore, the way we feel about the world is fixed. It’s just the way it is.

This is an outside-in model of the world that traps us in our minds and leaves us no options. Until the world out there changes, we’re stuck. And we find that, no matter how many changes are made to that world out there, our inner state never quite improves.

I’m here to say that it’s wrong. Here’s an example…

Let’s say that you and I were drinking an Orange Julius. If this outside-in model of the world was true, we’d be thinking and feeling the same way about it. But we both know this isn’t true. I’d probably be loving it and you’d be wondering why we didn’t go to the organic juice bar down the street. Or maybe you’d be thinking about the game tonight and I’d be taken back to when my grandma used to take me to the mall and we’d drink our Orange Julius’s together.

We humans create our experience of the world from the inside-out.

Our thought in the moment is brought through our conscious awareness, animated through our senses, and made ‘real’.

It’s also true that there’s a creative force behind all of this. There’s a formless energy that underlies our personal thinking that’s restorative, healing, intelligent, and loving. We know this is true because, when we’re ‘out of our heads’, we feel amazing. When we surrender our personal thinking, we’re susceptible to insight — even epiphany.

(Problem is, most people look at this in an outside-in way and believe they have to ‘do’ something in order to have this experience, whether it’s jumping out of a plane, ski off a cliff, do AcroYoga, or more self-harming substances/activities; but really, it’s a function we all have access to at any time).

So far, I’ve given you a suuuuper short snippet of how these three principles work together. Classically, here are the names of the three principles (in no particular order):

  1. The principle of thought: We all think (as you and I are drinking our Orange Julius’s, you’re thinking one thing and I’m thinking another).
  2. The principle of consciousness: We all have the ability to experience that thought as it’s animated through the five senses via conscious awareness (when you’re drinking your Orange Julius wishing we were at the hipster juice place down the street, your anger and resentment is making your heart beat faster and you find it impossible to smile at my elation in the moment).
  3. The principle of mind: This all-intelligent, loving, epiphany-producing God-force that underlies all thought (If we’d both lay our narratives down, we’d experience oneness right there on the sidewalk out in front of the Orange Julius).

But there’s a slight problem that I want to attempt to solve right now in this little Medium post: I believe they could have been named in a way that’s more clear. I know this because, when I explain them to clients, they get even more confused. Which doesn’t help.

It’s true… This simple concept is the most powerful spiritual understanding I know of. It underlies the most profound truths of many world religions and philosophies.

But the naming is not so great. When Syd Banks had his epiphany (Google him; he’s the Scottish welder who this understanding emerged from), it came as a flood of insight. He parsed the principles out for mental health professionals to be able to utilize. He’s since passed, but hopefully he wouldn’t mind if I respectfully worked on the wording a bit.

So, I’m going to take the liberty at this moment to attempt to rename the three principles of the human experience so that people can hopefully see them more clearly and start realizing the effects of that understanding in their lives.

✅ The principle of ‘Thought’, we can keep the same
This one actually makes sense. The principle of thought points to our individual thoughts. We’re free-thinking beings. You and I can think totally different ways about the same thing. As much of a blessing as this is, it’s also a curse because we can potentially get ourselves in all sorts of trouble when we drift off too far into our heads and lose our connection with pure Source (principle #3, below). But when we’re tuned in, we know our thoughts are in alignment with Source when our feeling state is healthy. This is our innate mental/spiritual health and we find our way back to it through recognizing the nature of thought and being able to release it when our feelings take us in the other direction.

✅ The principle of ‘Consciousness’ should be called ‘Awareness’
When people hear ‘consciousness’, they think of principle #1 (thought). Which is close, but consciousness isn’t our individual thoughts. It’s the vast blank canvas of awareness that our thoughts are painted on. Consciousness is the mechanism that brings those thoughts in the moment to life through our senses. Without the canvas, no painting happens.

✅ The principle of ‘Mind’ should be called ‘Source’
When people hear ‘mind’ they think ‘thoughts’ or stuff of the brain. No, no, no. This isn’t what this principle points to, so why the hell did they call it this? What we’re describing here is infinite source energy — life itself — that animates and moves this entire thing. It’s the spontaneous, creative intelligence behind this whole design and our entire human experience. It’s the self-healing nature of life. It IS Life (capital ‘L’ intentional). All else springs forth from it. Problem is, when we hang on to old personal thinking, new thought can’t emerge.

Starry Night was beneath Van Gogh’s personal thinking at all times. Unfortunately, he thought he had to consume mass amounts of absinthe to uncover it. But it didn’t come from the absinthe. The absinthe just quieted his thinking enough for him to see it.

Meditation

Through these three principles, I now see that the way I experience my world is totally from the inside-out, not the outside-in. These principles point the way to a creative state of being. I know that I create a better experience and make my mark on the world in a more lucid, impactful way when I live in a place of clear thinking and spontaneity. I know that beneath my personal thinking lies a source so loving, so intelligent, and so powerful that, if I truly understood its nature, I’d never be afraid. Through these three spiritual principles, I can experience the Grace of God amongst any circumstances. I can heal and be healed in any moment. And I can create anew. And so it is.

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The fertile void of beingness

Photo by Julie Marsh

I don’t know if they intended this when they named us ‘human beings’, but it’s a profound description of us in the spiritual sense.

Especially that second word: ‘being’. It’s the perfect word to describe the formless energy that is us. Beneath our man-made personal thinking is a state of beingness that’s spontaneously creative and healing. Our beingness is not created by us. It’s what creates us and our experience.

When all personal thinking falls away, we just… are. Fully here. Totally present.

It’s terrifying to consider what might happen without our personal thinking. May we lose our identity? Forget the names of our kids? Not understand the difference between a red and green light?

These are the fears that keep the ego in the driver’s seat.

If we allow ourselves to release our grasp on our personal thinking, we see that a fresh world of new thought, feeling, and overall experience is there waiting to emerge from the fertile underbrush.

When our inner gardener clears away the weeds of personal thinking, beneath the shrubbery we find the fertile void of beingness. We allow ourselves to tune into infinite intelligence when the ego surrenders to the depth of the present moment.

All it takes is an understanding of how it works. Not an intellectual one, but an experiential one. As we realize our inner being, our personal thinking naturally winds down, our head clears, and we become more open to life. We begin to feel more at ease and connected to the world around us. We get more comfortable with whatever we’re experiencing and our quality of thinking improves.

Our beingness has nothing to do with our past, our biochemistry, our personality, the people around us, our circumstances, or the content of our thoughts. It’s what is there — and what was there — long before all these other things came around.

Every moment of our experience emerges from within. We can trick ourselves into believing it doesn’t. And we can create all sorts of defense mechanisms to guard against the world ‘out there’. But it’s still coming from within. From our personal thinking.

But there’s a level deeper. If we could just let this personal thinking fall away, we’d give ourselves free, 24/7 access to this fertile void within. Who knows what would happen then. We can only find out if we give it a chance.

Meditation

I see that my experience is made, not from my circumstances, but from thought about circumstance (or whatever else is flying through my head) in the moment. I have the unique human ability to rehash these personal thoughts. Like a track on iTunes, I can put them on repeat and let them continually play throughout the soundtrack of my life. But I also know I have another option. I can see those tracks of personal thinking as man-made forms and I can surrender them. As terrifying as this can be, when I do this, I make room for new thought that emerges fresh from the Source of the fertile void that underlies my beingness. When I surrender to this indwelling presence, my world changes without anything ‘out there’ having to change at all. And then I can dance. I can paint an entirely new experience across the screen of my existence.

I revel in this understanding knowing it can save me at any moment. Over and over again. And so it is.

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How to make people smarter

Photo by rawpixel.com

It’s true. This is possible. I’ve seen it happen. You can actually make people smarter by doing one simple thing during any given conversation.

It has to do with listening…

When we’re listening to the other person talk, there’s a couple ways we typically do it.

For one, we listen to affirm. We force the ‘good listener’ role. We lean forward, gaze deep into their eyes, constantly nod, and throw in verbal affirmations that we hear them, we understand them, we love them, and we agree. But like I said, it’s a forced way of listening. And, as positive as it seems, we typically have an agenda behind it. We want them to see how good of a listener we are. And we want them to approve of us. (Or maybe even do something for us.)

Then there’s the second way we typically listen to people. This is the ‘listening to negate’ method of listening where we can’t wait until they’re done talking so we can come back at them with some brilliant argument. As they’re speaking, we fold our arms, squint our eyes, and smirk. We can’t wait until they’re done talking so we can unleash our reckoning on them. Or at least a passive-aggressive retort.

And then, there’s the third way of listening (as I say, there’s always a third way).

This is where we… just listen. Michael Neill calls it listening like a rock with ears. Or listening like a video camera. It’s where we listen from a place of neutral presence. We haven’t taken a hard side. We’re open to new information coming from them and insight coming through that quiet space within us. We’re just fully there in the moment with them.

Listening from a place of neutral presence (without trying to negate or affirm) makes the person who’s talking smarter.

Try it on for size. Then next time you’re chatting with a friend, be neutral. Be present. Just listen. Not with an agenda to either negate (I can’t wait until they’re done talking so I can come back at them with…) or affirm (I need to show them I’m listening so they’re nice to me and maybe even do something awesome for me…).

Either way makes people feel weird and insecure. And we humans are stupid when we feel weird and insecure.

But when we’re in that still place, we give them room to relax into their innate well-being. And when they can do that, they can’t help but be smarter in your presence.

Benediction

May the words of others land on fully present but neutral ears. May you sit in front of them with no forced intention to negate them or affirm them, but instead, just… listen. May you be centered and open to the words coming from each other’s mouths and also the source of all life that lies beneath them knowing that good conversation emerges from that space. And as they speak to this space, may they see in your eyes the infinite intelligence that lies in them.

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Allow yourself all the feels

Editor’s Note: I’m going to try a new format here. I’ll start with a commentary and then close with a benediction. Might be fun..

Commentary

I’m coming out of this phase of my spiritual journey that’s based on thinking/feeling/doing the ‘right’ things. I’m noticing how much of a polarized and dualistic way of seeing the world this is.

This might be a necessary part of the path, but I’m seeing now that there’s so much more beyond that.

What’s interesting about the nature of consciousness is that it just does its thing. It takes thought in the moment and animates it through the senses, thus making said thought(s) seem very real. And concrete. And lovely. And sometimes terrifying.

When you understand what the thing — consciousness — is doing, you become… okay with it. You can easily catch yourself there in the movie theatre of your mind in your current human experience and say, oh, I’m totally getting caught up in this flick and making this way of seeing it seem real.

So, when I used to get down, I’d get frustrated and anxious for feeling that way. I’d see it as inherently ‘wrong’ and I made up the narrative that I had to be a good American and make it better.

Understanding the nature of consciousness allows you to enjoy the movie playing on the screen of your consciousness without beating yourself up over what appears on the screen.

We’re humans. This is our jam right now. It’s how our experience works — all of us.

Try this on for size... The next time you find yourself getting swept away by emotion, don’t resist. Allow yourself to feel those feels. Know that it’s not a fixed reality, but a thought-image coming from your thought in the moment and appearing on the screen of your consciousness as real. It’s an inside job. (Start with ‘negative’ emotions and then when you’re a Jedi, work your way into the ‘positive’ ones.)

Scary, sad, and anger-inducing movies are enjoyable as long as a part of you — if even a small part — understands that it’s just a movie. Without that small bit of awareness, it’s a harrowing experience.

Enjoy the movie, Jedi warrior. And pass the Junior Mints when you get a chance.

Meditation

May you know and celebrate your human experience knowing that it’s all okay. You’re okay. Know there will be dragons. Big, scary ones as well as valiant, kind ones. But may you also know that, amidst the drama and epicness of it all, the real you is merely sitting in a padded, climate controlled chair munching on popcorn and drinking an Izzy. No matter how terrifying the scene on the screen, there’s always an inner space that’s safe, warm, secure, and enlivening waiting for you to trust-fall back into. May you know there are dragons, but may you keep watching anyways. And may you know — really know — that this scene will end.

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The allness of having nothing on your mind

Photo by Tim Marshall

I was at the local pool the other day with Rory when I had an epiphany (because isn’t that fitting?)…

It was later in the evening on a Saturday. This is significant because Saturdays are usually stress-inducing for me. It’s my wife’s busiest day of the week with students, so it usually means it’s just Rory and I all day long.

Yes, I know you think I’m an evil father, but hanging out with a threenager all day solo is no short task. There’s at least two tantrums and at least one medical incident. My ego would much rather sit here and write to you. If it wasn’t for those special moments of connection and love, it’d most definitely be so.

But, I’ve been trying to drink some of my own medicine and sink into that meditative space where God lives (you know the one I’m talking about, right?) more often than not.

In short, I’m trying to have as little on my mind as possible. Which is really hard for the mind to do. It’s like trying to not think of a purple slipper. But what better way to practice than with my little spiritual guru, Rory.

Anyhow, so I’m doing that in the kiddie play pool as Rory splashes around (yep, I’m the weird dad contemplating my state of mind while wading in 2ft of water and dodging rainbow colored balls the kids are chucking at each other’s faces).

So I’m there finding this internal place and I remember looking up. Right then, it hit me like a damn freight train…

When you have nothing on our mind, it’s all there in front of you. Absence of thought leads to presence of mind.

It’s impossible to have nothing on your mind. It’s a mind. It’s aware and conscious. We’re thought-creating beings. As long as we’re alive in human form, this will be the case. It never goes blank. But by being in the place of having nothing much on it, we open ourselves to the depth and richness of what’s there.

Things came into hypercolor. Rory and I had a blast. We weren’t hurried. And time flew by extremely fast, but I felt like every moment was deeper than usual.

[embed]https://upscri.be/90caa9/[/embed]

Go ahead and judge

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

You and I are judging creatures. It’s what we do. Our brains judge as a way of separating information so as to make sense of the world.

The problem is: when we mindlessly invest our attention on those judgements, we tend to make a mess of things.

I judge all the time. I fully admit it.

If you and I were to meet up for coffee, I’d most definitely judge you. But here’s an important distinction between what I do now and what I used to do…

I still have judgements, I’ve just been able to deem them irrelevant more often.

Because most of them are. They’re just thought forms from a flawed (but perhaps sometimes useful) ego-based perspective.

So we musn’t freak out when we find ourselves judging others. We’re hard wired for judgement. Beating ourselves up over doing this is futile.

However, we can choose how much weight we put on those judgements. This is the power of discretion.

So judge away.
Just know that most of the time, we’re full of shit:)

[embed]https://upscri.be/90caa9/[/embed]

The effects of home

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus

Do you remember the last time you felt truly at home in yourself?

That sounds really condescending. But I mean it sincerely. Because I know you can recall at least once (if even in very distant memory) when you felt that sense of being comfortably at home in your own skin that being tuned into source can bring.

Maybe you felt free…
Alive…
Unimpeded…
Blissful…
Powerful in your defenselessness…
Sexy…

Go ahead and extend this list as long as you’d like on your own. It’s all great stuff. But there’s one thing to realize about these qualities.

Positive qualities and feeling states are the effects of being at home in yourself, not the cause of it.

It won’t help to go out and try to find aliveness, bliss, freedom, etc. because these are all results, not the causes, of this state we fall into when our personal thinking quiets down and we fall into the thing that can’t be described: the infinite space within where source energy takes over.

Chasing after these positive qualities and feelings would be like trying to go out and find the flames of a fire when you have a lighter in your back pocket. It’s impossible and it’s unnecessary.

This is a falling-into, not a seek-and-destroy mission.

When we’re home in ourselves, all we know is that… we’re there.

And there’s no place we’d rather be.

There’s no place like home. 
There’s no place like home.


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The exploration towards a place we’ve never left

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

We humans want a lot of things. In fact, our list is a couple notches away from infinite.

Especially since the dawn of big scale advertising. We’re always just one purchase away from utter happiness and an amazing life. Funny how the carrot never gets any closer when we view life through that lens.

But I digress…

I want to share a quote from T.S. Eliot.

Do yourself a favor and pour some coffee. I’d love for you to allow yourself to sit with this one for awhile. Because in this one little sentence, he speaks volumes of eternal truth about the human condition.

Got that coffee?
Okay…

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. 
 — T.S. Eliot

Go ahead and read that one again. 
Maybe even a few times. 
No rush, I’ll wait…

Eliot sums up the spiritual journey perfectly.

We were born at home, have never left, and yet we’re still searching for it. The ego part of ourselves take front stage and is hell bent on the search. On finding the answers.

But a bigger part of ourselves stands back with a puzzled (but loving) look on its face. It knows that no answers are necessary. Because there is no test.

You and I are at home in ourselves at every moment. No matter how far away from it we think we are.

When our frantic thoughts fall away — for even a moment — we feel that warm inner fire that beats our hearts. And we see that as much as our ego has been playing massive games of make believe in the back yard, we’ve never left our mother’s gaze.

So, welcome home?

Sure feels like it, right?


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The cork floats perfectly on its own

Photo by Oscar Söderlund

I recently realized, this is my job as a person who works with others to get out of their own way. As a coach, I’m a professional cork floater.

The next insight was, coincidentally, that’s the job we all hold for ourselves. So that’s why I’m sharing this metaphor with you here…

Okay… What does this whole cork floating thing mean, right?

Well, when you throw a cork in the water, it does one thing… It floats. Naturally. Without our help.

The problem comes when we think we need to do things to improve the floating capabilities of said cork.

Because it really shouldn’t be that simple (note: far different than ‘easy’). But it is. And it pisses us off.

I mean, we do all this work to make it float better. We shame it. We walk it over hot coals. We take substances and change zip codes, partners, hair styles, meditation poses, diets, and careers to make this thing float better.

All instead of just stopping and allowing ourselves to bask in the miracle that this thing floats perfectly all on its own.

Wow.

Now, those zip codes, diets, partners, careers, etc. become… Fun. They lose their urgency. But we’re human. And we like to do stuff. This is the position we’ve found ourselves in as spiritual beings living a human experience.

Our innate well-being is like a cork in that all we must do for it to float better is get out of its way and let it do its thing.

Everything we add to this process only adds another level of anxiety and friction. It interrupts the mechanism that’s already built in.

Maybe you’ve proverbially tried to build a bridge-like structure across the pond to rest the cork on so it floats .00876" higher above the surface. Maybe you’ve hired a truck to come out and dump a load of sand in the pond so that it raises it a little higher.

But none of this changes the floating capabilities of the cork. And at a certain point, it’s not really floating anymore.

This is what the ego does when we give it sole control over the one mechanism that innately serves as our saving grace. Our ever-present innate mind — our source.

Send the dump truck back and take a seat next to me by the pond. Looks kinda cool floating in the moonlight, doesn’t it?


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The freedom to feel anything

Photo by Daria Tumanova

The thing about a lot of popular self-help stuff today is that it’s all about feeling management…

It’s about good feelings vs bad feelings. God forbid we ever have a ‘bad’ feeling. We’d then have to pull out our crystals to try to eradicate that wretched thing. Or our journal. Or our Kundalini video. Or… Worse.

At this moment, I invite you to consider the dualistic thinking behind this notion and, instead, to step into the non-duality of something new.

What if you could be okay feeling really shitty? 
Or really great?
Or even just… Meh?

What if you could fully know that you’re totally okay throughout the whole spectrum of thought?

What if you could see that it’s honestly just a thought? A cloud-like transient blip of energy crossing the screen of your mind.

I understand, if you’re looking at it from the perspective of your ego, you’re likely consumed by it. That thought storm is raining down on you.

But if you could see things from the perspective of your conscious awareness, you’d rise above the clouds. This is where who-you-really-are truly lives.

As awareness, we encompass all of it. Both the thought storm and the sun that constantly shines behind it.

See how transient that thought storm is? Do you automatically have to get pissed off during a rain storm?

When you see things from the non-dual perspective of your awareness, any feelings can be accepted, embodied, processed, and released. (In short, blessed.)

When you allow yourself to be okay amidst all of it, you give yourself permission to get through the highs with gusto and the lows with grace.

It’s really coming down now. This is awesome, isn’t it?


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Question the control game

Photo by Mikhail Elfimov

How many self-help books do you have on your shelf (yes, you have to count the digital ones too)?

If you’re like me, you might have a library of them.

We humans are really good at playing the control game. It makes the lizard brain feel safe when we can control our entire existence.

But have you ever noticed how flawed the premise of the control game is? Ever considered that it may be a fool’s errand?

I mean, really… Out of all the striving for control you’ve done, how much of your life is actually under your conscious control?

Your job?
Your spouse?
Your kid(s)?
Your health?
Your bank account?
Your future?
Your government?
Your past?

How much of it is really under your control?

See, here are the two problems with control…

  1. Nobody can truly do it.
    Yes, you can get away with a little control for a little while. But it takes a lot of work. The investment of attention vs. the return on control is one that no decent wealth manager would recommend to her clients.
  2. Nobody really wants it.
    Because if you do fall into the illusion that you have 100% complete control (which you actually don’t), you’re stuck there. Once all those plates are spinning, there’s no other option than to let them fall (and hopefully catch them before they crash into the ground).

Here’s the solution…

Abandon the control game for the freedom game.

When you focus more on freedom than control, the grip of your mind loosens, opens, and expands to make room for the new.

When you see that beneath your personal past thinking is an infinite storehouse of untapped potential and fresh thinking, you’d be crazy to go back to the control game.

Whattdya say you put that stick and plate down. If it crashes, I guarantee it won’t be as bad as you think.

You’ll probably wish you would have done it sooner.


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Why it’s impossible to ‘let it go’

Photo by Alex Gorham on Unsplash

It’s impossible for the mind to consciously let anything go. It’s like trying not to think of a turquoise zebra. Impossible.

I’m no neuroscientist, but it seems to me that the mind needs something to chew on. It can only do things. It can’t undo them.

Consciousness is.
It can never ‘not be’.

So this is why…

The only way to release something or let it go is to accept it.

I know they used to tell me in meditation class to see the thoughts in your head and let them go. Well, I was fine with the first part of that instruction, but always got stuck on the second. The harder I’d try to let that thought go, the more it hung around. Which lead to frustration. Which lead to an intensity of that thought.

It was a train wreck. Every time. 
But maybe that’s just me.

Anyhow, what I eventually learned is to not try to ‘let a thought go’.

But embrace it. 
See it. 
And accept it.

Look at it. 
Love it. 
Be with it.

Envelop the thought in the warm embrace of your awareness. Remember, there’s nothing too big for awareness. Awareness can handle anything. So look at it. No matter how uncomfortable it might be — the more your awareness graces it without adding any additional personal thought to it — the more it melts away.

Sit comfortably in the cosmic conundrum that you can be comfortable in your discomfort.

As soon as the mind accepts it, it will move on. 
Gone. 
Vanished.

I still can’t get that turquoise zebra out of my head, though. Damn it.


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Meditation is a state, not a thing we do

Photo by Rob Bates on Unsplash

In modern culture, meditation has been sold as a thing we do. A ritualistic step-by-step process that leads from inner point A to an inner point B waiting just beyond said ritual.

I’ve tried this so many times. I once thought that, being a ‘spiritual person’ of course, and in affirming my ego’s label, I HAD to meditate. It was a prerequisite.

I tried zen meditation, Japa meditation, breathing meditation, moving meditation, and guided meditations of all shapes and sizes.

As excited as I was to talk about them to people at the time (spiritually humble bragging, of course), I have to say, authentically, I felt meh about them — at best.

I realize now that when I was going about it before, I was trying to meditate from a loud mind. A mind that said things like…

Jonas, dude, you have to meditate.

Hey Jonas, what kind of meditation is best for you?

Hey Jonas, check out this new guru’s way of meditating!

What’s up, you can’t find 10 minutes to do this — seriously?!

Until I started learning a different perspective on meditation.

Meditation isn’t something you have to do — it’s an innate state that we can fall back into at any time throughout our day (and often do without realizing it).

Meditation is where God lives. 
Meditation is where insight lives.
Meditation is where epiphany lives.
Meditation is where hygge lives. 
Meditation is where love lives.
Meditation is where innate wellness lives.

Instead of doing meditation, I like to think rather of living meditatively.

When the mind is quiet, meditation… is.

It’s my belief that the structured rituals of meditation are the results of a meditative moment. When our mind shows even an inkling of quiet, meditative rituals create the space for us to bask and deepen into the silence that’s already there.

If you’re like me and you put that kind of pressure on yourself to meditate, take a step back. Try living meditatively instead of scurrying to block off that twelve minutes before work to meditate.

Don’t see meditation as something that has to live separately from ‘regular’ life. Meditation is life (if you allow it to be).

Do you see how this could be so?

Whether you’re washing the dishes, playing catch, writing that fourteenth draft, or running for your life from evil invaders, meditation is a place you’re infinitely welcome to.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

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You’re never more than one thought away from epiphany

Photo by ANDRIK ↟ LANGFIELD ↟ PETRIDES on Unsplash

I currently use this as a tagline on my website because I love the concept. I find it amusing (because I’m sick and twisted like that) when people ask, “So, what is it? What’s the thought I need to think to get that epiphany you’re talking about.”

And it’s exactly what I wondered when I saw it put this way for the first time (no, I didn’t make this up, unfortunately).

Here’s the thing…
I can’t tell you.

I mean, I can tell you, but it doesn’t count. 
That’s not how epiphanies work.

Epiphanies come from new thought.

New thought that originates from a shift in understanding. 
Your understanding.

Not mine. 
Not from some book you picked up. 
But from you.

Which means the thought that will lead to this epiphany is currently not on the menu.

Try heading back into the quiet kitchen of your mind and see what’s fresh.


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