I just remembered — my friend Denis wanted me to talk more, instead of my usual less, about spiritual metaphysics. He asked me that weeks ago.
My brother and I met Denis at a Steve Pavlina seminar in Las Vegas, Nevada. I don’t really have to specify Nevada, probably? No one ever meets anyone in Las Vegas, New Mexico. This was probably like eleven years ago.
Anyway, a bunch of us went out to eat at a vegan restaurant and Denis was sitting close to us. Ideal restaurant-table-neighbor. First off, I like being with my brother, if we’re going out to eat in a group, because I can be more passive. Socially, I’m like a beta dog that basically has the same skill set as the alpha, but feels uncomfortable in their expression, and relieved in handing that responsibility back over. My brother is very skilled in evoking people’s opinions and participation, in this warm and genuine way, even when they’re total strangers — he’s a group MVP for sure, with a lion ascendant — and then I have more trouble with my energy. People find me most accessible when I’m being a bit performative, rather than sitting like a bump on a log, but I like sitting like a bump on a log. I try not to actually suck life from the room, but sometimes I probably do.
TL, DR: I’d rather be a sidekick, socially, preferably with my own transportation.
Anyway, Denis was easy to talk with and get to know, in naturally genuine ways, and so I really liked that. He doesn’t lean too far forward or too far back, with his energy.
I wonder if the whole reason this occurred to me was because, last night, I felt uncomfortably dominated by someone’s energy? It made me frazzled. Nick thought I was mad at him when we got back to the tent but I wasn’t, I was just mad. Probably my mind is helpfully suggesting a therapeutic memory.
Also, social gatherings often happen over food, and for a vegan it’s an especial treat when those gatherings can occur at a vegan restaurant, because it’s an enormous thing to have in common with people, to whatever degree it’s in common. Most meat eaters won’t even consider eating at a vegan restaurant — I suppose it feels to them like when straight people are invited to a gay bar. I’m straight, and I’ve had a lot of fun at gay bars, so I feel authorized to make this comparison.
Steve Pavlina, by the way, is this interesting blogger and self-help guy who essentially runs experiments on himself and then shares his results. He started out as a programmer, with a private hobby of self-help, and he just couldn’t stop noticing parallels between the two. Each of us is hardware, essentially, upon which we can — we usually don’t, but we can — run a variety of different software programs and operating systems. Like, we can consciously choose them and…figure it out. We can then encounter their limitations and “bugs” and deo-bug, or just change up. Steve Pavlina is vegan, which is an experimental operating system he decided to “run”, for instance, with predictably great results. My brother is a vegan programmer with a raging spiritual self-help side hobby, so his interest was easily piqued, and eventually we ended up at this seminar, which was great.
My brother and I went on to dive more deeply, in the years since, into waters of deeper woo-woo, in regards to spiritual self-help, and likely Denis has too, although I’ve been characteristically shitty about keeping in touch. But those waters of deeper woo-woo aren’t much different than this hardware/software analogy, frankly. Belief systems are these things we can — we usually don’t, but we can — manipulate to our advantage. I mean, just think of someone you know who has a belief system that clearly doesn’t serve them well — like a woman who keeps getting into abusive relationships, or a man who is totally convinced he has bad luck and never gets a break, or anyone trying to walk around and live their life but their strict religious upbringing makes them feel guilty when they’re happy, and virtuous when they’re sad — and you’ll kind of get what I mean. Be careful what you believe because, for you, that will be true.
I’m usually light on the SSH (spiritual self help) questions, in my blogs, because I kind of assume no one gets that or is interested in it. It’s been my experience that we’re all willing to enjoy a Coors Lite version of those concepts relative to our positive emotions, and then very few of us are willing to navigate our heavier emotions and problems via that approach, and I’ve often failed in this myself. When things go wrong, the world seems to snap back into its most limiting, hopeless, cause=effect version.
This is actually a pretty good epiphany in its own right, and a good reason to steer clear of those heavy emotional waters as much as possible. It feels better to feel better, and it feels worse to feel worse — but then why, and how, do our negative emotions exert this addictive pull on us? Like, when I’m waxing shitty and pessimistic, I don’t want to feel better. I don’t want that to not be someone’s fault. I don’t want that to be all in my head. I want the world to be wrong, and I want to be its victim. Which is weird because of course I don’t want, or consciously subscribe to, any of that.
I think the average person associates spiritual self-help practice, if they think about it at all, as this airy-fairy social group where it’s all namaste and yoga pants, but that’s like associating the people at an alcoholics anonymous meeting with churches and free coffee. AA people are there because they’re trying to fucking survive, and spiritual self helpers are too, largely. I’ve been grappling with my own shockingly volatile nature for as long as I can remember. And frankly, I’m not sure I’m any better at it. Also, if I was, I’m not sure by what yardstick I would even measure that. I mean kind of the whole point is that you get pretty picky about yardsticks, generally; when and what kind.
Anyway, Denis wanted me to talk more, not less, about spiritual self help, so here I go.
I’ll make an obvious but important statement: fields of human interest/inquiry are mostly comprised of all the stuff we’re already thinking about and talking about, but just organized into a folder using that specific search term. Again with the computer hardware analogy. I mean, there’s probably nothing I’m gonna say about this that isn’t already a part of your experience, but I’m just putting a certain emphasis on it.
Spirituality in the digital age is kind of cool because you don’t have to stop being a regular person. You don’t have to give away everything you own and quit your job and climb a mountain to talk to a guru or meditate in a cave for three years. You can, you just don’t have to. Lots of gurus are an internet connection away, in fact. The same thing that’s happened with self-publishing in literature and music has happened here, where it’s less like walking into Faberge — a bunch of really polished stuff you can’t afford (I was briefly a student in a master’s level online seminary program and, as someone accustomed to a lot of bang for my buck, I was like “ain’t nobody got time for this”) — and more like walking into Goodwill, where it’s all in your price range but you gotta do some hunting.
But why? People already have jobs, families, pets, responsibilities, problems, congregations, coaches, diets, workouts, and tons of books to read about tons of things. Why “spiritual” self help; what’s the point? I had the same question, at that Steve Pavlina seminar, actually. He said, “Spirituality is the invisible box that holds all the other stuff.” It doesn’t replace anything or let you off the hook; spirituality is to your life what the atmosphere is to the earth. It’s the easiest thing in the world (literally) to ignore, while at the same time being the context in which everything occurs. Spirituality represents a way for you to get out of your own damn skin, in some important ways, and also a way for you to be a better steward of your temporary physical resources. I guess you could say it’s like planning for retirement. Like, how stupid would it be if we taught people, “When you retire, you’ll either go to heaven or hell!” No; when you retire (not that that’s a thing anymore), you’ll just keep being you, with the benefit of whatever resources and wisdom you managed to accrue by then, which might feel like heaven or hell, but will only be the inevitable outcome of the way you spent your energies and organized your focus, in an aggregate sense. Using the same analogy, expecting someone (or yourself) to “act spiritual” all the time, just because they’re looking into that, is like expecting someone to act retired all the time, just because they’re saving. It’s, like, a whole complicated thing, and it’s a thing that’s worth doing but it’s no quick fix, that’s for sure.
You can never crack a spiritual self help book in your life [lives] and all this will still unfold naturally and in accordance with your own highest good, so again: why. Probably there are as many different reasons as there are asses in yoga pants, but my reason is, once again: ain’t nobody got time for this. I’m not in a rush, per se, but people do remark that I walk fast, and operate fast. I don’t get it — why would anyone walk slow? Even when I’m walking for walking’s sake, I walk fast. I see people wallowing around in the bath tub of their same ole problems for years, decades, and I just get vicariously impatient. I have this rule: I will hear myself complain about the same thing no more than three times, and after that it’s go time. Even this is pretty lax, I think, but life is full of hearing yourself complain about one-off problems and sometimes it takes 3x to realize it’s a pattern, and guess who’s always at the center of a pattern: me.
And then, you know, just because I’ve acknowledged that I’m at the center of a negative pattern and I’m going to stop complaining about it as if I’m not the one holding the keys, that still doesn’t mean I figure out the fix. It still takes years sometimes, and then of course you just graduate yourself up the video game into higher level problems, and really that’s the only goal worth mentioning — trying to have a better set of problems. Spiritual growth means becoming a person for whom problems evaporate, or even better, can’t get a foothold to begin with. One of my guru-world faves, Dhiravamsa, said — and I paraphrase because I don’t have that book with me — “we don’t solve problems, we understand them; and when we fully understand them, they resolve themselves.” Abraham Hicks says, and I also paraphrase, “every problem contains its own solution”. Just add water. The water, in this case, is you, figuring out how to be malleable and flow around it. Teal Swan, maybe — probably? — my all-time fave, says that authenticity is the new enlightenment. I think we’re all tired of hearing about people seeking enlightenment — just sounds tedious, right? Like, you can either seek enlightenment OR grab a shovel and help, but not both at the same time. Authenticity is a better concept, I agree, because it’s not about something you put on, like enlightenment; it’s about something you take off, like a mask. The real, complex, evolving, spiritually tangible you is the only you worth advancing.
So this brings up an interesting point. Why not behave as if we’re all shards in the great God mosaic? I mean, what does it hurt? We won’t find out til we die and by then it will be too late to be the best shard you could have been, had you found reason to believe in the beauty of both the shard and the mosaic. Treating yourself and everyone else as an amnesiac but valued ambassador of Source consciousness certainly doesn’t, you know, cost money, or ruffle feathers, or get you on the CIA’s no-fly list. It’s totally harmless, at worst, and quietly transformative at best.
We all enjoy action movies where gritty protagonists prevail against impossible odds, but we don’t care to think about those impossible odds being us, loving people, or at least thinking well of them, or at least refusing to think poorly of them. Like Abraham Hicks says (paraphrase): it’s not that they deserve your good thoughts about them; it’s that YOU deserve your good thoughts about them. We fall into that same old trap of identifying villains and opposing them by disliking them, withholding our love. I fall into it too, so no finger pointing here, just real talk. Joseph, one of my favorite channeled intelligences (look for books by Michael Reccia) recommends the following meditation: climb up the steps of beautiful lighthouse on the coast, see that big flashing beacon, now become that big flashing beacon, and imagine all the people of earth — all the happy people, all the sad people, all the good people, all the evil people, all the leaders, all the followers, all the children, all the poor people, all the rich people — imagine them all turning to face you, to face the beacon of your love. Now shine that beacon at them, generously — fucking turn that shit up to eleven — shine your love at them, see their hearts fill up with love. Just love! You don’t even know them, you don’t have to approve of them; just shine your love, to everyone, all around the world, with your lighthouse heart. See them suffused with that love, that light, and now turning back to their affairs, happier and more content. They don’t even know why they’re happier and more content; they just are.
Do you see how this is so much more interesting than spraying your hate, your disapproval, your disdain, your disgust, all over everyone? You don’t have to approve of them. I mean if you can, even better, but think of the person who triggers you the most. Likely it’s President Trump. Shine your lighthouse beacon to him. Fill his heart. If you think he’s doing a good job, then he needs it. If you think he’s doing a bad job, then he needs it even more. We all need it. You can prevail against odds so impossible no action movie has the budget to convey them, simply by shining your beacon, in the privacy of your own mind; simply by remembering that you can do that. Doesn’t that feel better?
Orin, another favorite, channeled by Sanaya Roman, says that an enormous wave of light is moving through our time-space reality, has been for years, and it’s culminating like a big wave that we’re either in a position to surf or to be destroyed by, individually and collectively. Teal Swan mentions the same thing. Joseph spends a lot of time explaining exactly what this is and why it’s happening. Abraham Hicks advises people to use their conscious focus and alignment to, essentially, get off the side of the bus that’s teetering over the cliff and put their weight on the side that’s still got its wheels on the ground.
You don’t surf big waves by stressing about what’s happening to the people in the water around you. You hope the best for them but you start paddling away and get ready to hop onto your board and balance. This isn’t small shit that’s happening right now. You don’t control any of this except your own balance. This is the time to get right with your god and start serving humanity by loving them, and letting them be.
One of my favorite quotes about writing — damn, can’t find it, I used to subject my writing students to it, though — someone smart, who said (paraphrase) “all writing is a tributary, and all tributaries eventually flow to the ocean”. Spiritual growth works the same way. Add your little light to the tributaries around you and don’t worry — they’ll all flow into the ocean, and we need to make that ocean as big and full of love as possible, right now. Get up out of the minutiae and see yourself as a beacon, an anonymous donor, let’s say, of love. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. And then grab your shovel and help with whatever project suits your fancy.
So that’s what I think about spiritual self help and spiritual metaphysics, which is really nothing more than an emphasized heading, re-organizing all the stuff we’re already thinking and already doing along more overt lines.
I appreciate you, Denis, and thanks for asking the question 🙂