30 12, 2009

A feeling of power achieved by surrender

December 30th, 2009|beliefs, dealing with life, Self, transformation, wholeness|1 Comment

I think everyone’s life can be summed up by a few sentences.

This may seem limiting. A label. Not to me. It’s like saying that every life is a poem. The words aren’t always a prison, but instead are a beacon, a lighthouse, a cry that lets others know what the rallying call is. It’s like an archetype that brings in the numinous. It’s both a lesson and an energy source to the deepest soul. It’s like the recognizable “hook” in a song or a symphony. Beethoven’s Fifth has thousands upon thousands of notes and progressions, but we all know it by just four notes. Those four notes conjure up an entire world of emotions and ideas when we hear them, even out of context. To me, a life’s phrase can be like that.

One of my inner rallying calls is, “Power is achieved by surrender.”

At first this sounds trite. It’s a common spiritual aphorism. It’s simple and may even be simplistic. But that’s also what archetypes are — through the simple we can access the numinous. It is easy to take words as limiting rather than accessing the preternormal. I first heard this concept that power is achieved by the deepest surrender before I was ten years old. I heard it without thinking about it at all. I saw more of the energy behind it when I watched the movie Gandhi in my teens. Something ineffable touched me in the moment when I saw how powerful that man was. He invited others to show the violence in themselves upon his own body, surrendering to their physical power but in the process bringing forth something exponentially more.

Gandhi had shown me a different side of Power, but at this time it was limited to an intellectual concept. It lacked any sense of the sacred, that access to thaumaturgic change that touching something transcendent can bring. This took time to access for me, through my childhood into my adult life.

In my childhood I was surrounded by family members who seemed overly powerful — at least to a child. My mother was a very aggressive person who didn’t respect boundaries at all, and even took them to mean a personal attack. “I’m your mother!” she would yell, as if that meant she had rights over every aspect of me. Every aspect of me: my body, my space, my mind, and my emotions. I was her life.

Acting powerful in an outward sense did not help. Screams or a stubborn “NO!” made it worse, even to the point of threats of being kicked out to the streets at a young age. So I became a bit of a martyr; I gave in before conflict could arise. I split myself; a part of me would be the mother-pleaser, The Explainer, who would present me to the outside world in a logical, sensible fashion with no rough edges. The appeaser. The rest of me could be screaming, hurt, or could be feeling any other emotion including joyful ones. I was still there, but unconscious. I was filled with a kaleidoscope of exploding emotions, but through The Explainer’s voice those emotions came out as reasonable and confident, and explained things so they wouldn’t trigger much in the people around me. There were times when the glass walls around The Explainer wouldn’t hold, but largely they did. I survived.

This was the beginning of my focus on Power. This was an intensely disempowering state. I walled away much of myself — and thus my power — in order to be safe.

After I left home, the sense of imbalance related to Power was palpable almost all the time, like a steady drop of acid within my stomach. I accumulated skills through universities and I learned more about social interactions and transactions of status. I studied the times when I felt powerful and when others felt more powerful than I. I wasn’t interested in being upwardly mobile or accumulating money — I simply wanted to experience what it felt like to feel powerful, irrespective of what others did and irrespective of what importance they accorded me. This was what made me notice the difference in a few spiritual teachers, such as Krishnamurthi and Ramana Maharishi, whose ashram I stayed in for a while in India.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

– Walt Whitman

One of the barriers I felt was simply in how little I connected to myself. I explored my splits, the cuts I made in myself. These were the subpersonalities in me, or even sometimes what Jung would call a complex. These are far, far more common than we think. Who is truly whole within themselves, in all their selves? For me, The Explainer excelled in mathematics and computing, the dry emotionless presence that could be as close to a computer as a humans can be. I grew up in an autistic household — it seemed natural to me. Other parts of me also wanted to feel powerful, so my inner protector emerged that could ward off others by planting bombs that scared them away.

But other parts of me also wanted to come out and play. I studied acting to give expression to many other emotions and the selves connected to them. I studied monologues that helped bring these aspects out. The abandoned child raging for a connection. The schizophrenic looking for something solid to hold onto. A man stepping off his heavy-trodden life and starting anew, boarding the nearest ship that would hire him.

Surrender in an Indian dance

My teachers never taught it as such, but I would say now that great acting is all about surrender. It takes great surrender in order to let a very real but different self to come through. This was why I was never a great actor then — only a good one. I wanted to drill holes in my psyche to access myself, tight steel lustrous pipelines that would erupt emotion on command, like a geyser. Others were supposed to feel that it was real, and feel awe. But something made of steel is always built around control. To surrender would have been to turn the world upside town, to bring the underworld into unbounded air, not to send emotions through a rigid pipeline. Surrender would have meant not treating the director as God, but treating being real as God. Truth is God, whatever it may be in that moment.

You can see the idea of surrender appear here in my life. Surrender is connected to acting for me because this is where I was first taught it on an experiential level. My best example was through a clowning teacher. I saw many spiritual teachers, read many books, and got involved with many groups such as Gurdjieff and the Michael Teachings, but surrender goes beyond any teaching. It’s like diving off an airplane.

My idea of surrender has changed through time. It ranged from the physical, to the emotional, to the conceptual. That is, it held the ideals of ultimate relaxation, peace, and seeing all sides and beauty in everything. But these were ideals, and so The Explainer clung to them and protected the inner selves in the only way it knew how. Words can be a defense when they protect you. They don’t have to be at all, as I’m learning.

Now I’m going to another level of surrender: the surrender to myself. To allow the different selves in me, that label of subpersonality, to dissolve those glass walls and roam free. And it is scary, like all freedom is. Going to London Drugs in the post-Christmas rush, did I really know if I would bring someone out from inside me who panics under that Group-Think rush to buy? I looked down and noticed my arms protecting the shell of my chest, but I didn’t feel like screaming.

Part of me resists: “I am a teacher. I can channel great wisdom. I can help others. I can see others clearly. The labels I put on what is underneath imply that I am screwed up for the rest of my life, and I refuse to be that.” We think teachers should conform to a definite image.

So now, if I feel like a drowning man within my ocean of emotions, I let myself feel it and cry desperately to be saved even if another part of me knows it is already perfect as it is. It is All That Is. It’s about the experience, not desperately clinging to the part of me that truly does know. I already am the teaching I seek — but there’s more wisdom in letting go to the unknowingness.

This is how my life has shaped around that phrase, “Power is achieved by surrender.” Saying that to myself has as much power as the mantra “I AM”. Or for the gnostic Christians, “I AM THAT I AM“.

What are some of your life phrases?

3 05, 2008

The flame of blame

May 3rd, 2008|buddhism, emotions, Intimacy, love, pain, relationships, transformation, wholeness|4 Comments

I don’t know about the rest of you, but past months have had some wild emotional swings to it, and some days I’ve felt as depressed and dark as I have felt in my life. It doesn’t help that my mobility is very limited by this illness which continues, of course!

One big issue of being online a good deal is the blame game. You know the story: you don’t see the other person face to face to see their inflections, so you can easily interpret words in a way very different than the other intended. Then this triggers emotions, and of course this means that the other person must have issues – or at least should have said things differently. It’s them, not me! This is not just online; it is reproduced all through our culture at all levels, as demonstrated by one of my own thoughts not so long ago:

“Why am I feeling so awful, like I’m being hit by something again and again? Let me look at what’s happened to me recently. It must be because of one of those things. Well, my best guess is you, so I’ll go with that.”


One definition of the word blame is simply “to hold responsible“. The more standard usage of the word is more “to assign fault” – but I like the responsibility aspect more. I’ll get into that later.

Now, what’s wrong with that thought I had? Aha – there is nothing wrong, for that would be blaming in itself! But if you look deeply at my mental processes, there was an assumption that there was a cause, a singular factor that produced my state, and that changing this one ingredient in the broth would change everything.

It’s all very well to say “do not blame” as an unspoken commandment of maturity. But if you look deeply at this urging, there’s a blaming aspect in that too. So what if you do blame? That makes you ‘wrong’. And thus you start blaming yourself for blaming.

Some of the online discussions that I’ve seen lately have quoted “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone” as a way to shut up and hold responsibility to someone who brought an issue to the public eye with a little bit of blaming. But of course, directing blame to those with some blame doesn’t help move out of it. In fact, the use of that quote for such a purpose is quite ironic, is it not?


Rather than continue to focus on the word “blame”, I prefer to use “responsibility”. Blame is a loaded term; you hear it and you think “bad! evil! I can’t have that!”. But if you think in terms of holding someone responsible, perhaps you can look at it differently. So let’s look at one basic thought here:

“You are responsible for these feelings in me.”

This is one of the most common thoughts in relationship fights. It’s happened in talks with my own mother countless times, which probably makes me rather normal. It’s happened with friends and strangers, on both sides. Yet beyond the pervasiveness of it, I hope you can see that it is never true. How can someone else have responsibility for my emotions? They may have an effect on me, but so does the weather, the day at work, back pain, getting interrupted by telemarketers, and so on. There is no way to isolate another person’s effect on you, and there is certainly no way another can avoid triggering me at all times. In Buddhism, this falls largely under the thought of dependent origination; there are so many factors involved that it is impossible to truly isolate a cause. And yet we do this because we seem to need to. Assigning responsibility is just another form of the blame game.

Some people see this, see the futility of blaming others, and then go the other direction. “I am always the one responsible for my experience.” While this sounds empowering, what happens if you have one of the darker days of your life? What if someone yells at you and you feel awful? What if you get let go from a job for economic reasons? Are you responsible for this, in the sense that we’ve talked about? This is a heavy burden to take on, if you think this way. While appearing noble and mature, it is in fact a way to blame yourself. Culturally, this may get you pats on the back, the image of maturity, and sympathy from friends, but it is absolutely unnecessary.

Letting go of it all

It is impossible to not blame when you have any thought of assigning responsibility to anyone or anything.

Let us repeat that: By assigning responsibility to anyone or anything for a given result, you are assigning blame. It is the need to look for a cause for an experience that is the major factor in blame. So if you want to let go of the blaming process, you must let go of a need to assign responsibility.

You may be thinking now, “But what is life like without this? Isn’t our culture based on people being responsible for their actions? Wouldn’t the world go to hell if there wasn’t responsibility placed for everything?”

In a word, no. Keep in mind that we’re talking about mental processes here. Much in the same way there’s a difference between the physical sensation of main and the experience of suffering, there is a major difference between the natural consequences of one’s actions and assigned responsibility. Consequences are how we learn and grow. There is no way that these can stop. However, the mental “it’s because of him” thought process can stop.

Eckhart Tolle, who’s been very friendly with Oprah recently, bases his entire teaching on being completely present in the Now. In other words, it is by surrendering to the experiences of living with such utter completeness that you can work on letting go of the ego-mind and the pain-body. This applies especially to the times when you are immersed in pain, anger, and the attribution of this to something.

So how does this relate to what I’ve been saying? It is simply that the root of the need to assign responsibility and blame is the desire to avoid whatever experience you are going through. If you have peace and equanimity about what was brought up, you would simply let them be there, and they will move on as all experiences do. But when there is a desire to avoid the experience, then you must find a reason for it so as to control future experiences to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Again, any time there is blame, there is always a lack of surrender to an experience. It is this resistance that creates the labels of ‘bad’ which turn into the desire to control events and hold someone accountable. When a feeling is seen as just a feeling – no matter how uncomfortable it is – then it enables you to move away from the perception of blame into a more expansive perception. Ironically, this expanded perception also enables you to make more conscious choices in your life about what experiences you wish to attract. In other words, it is by letting go of control that you can choose your life more consciously.

The wrap up

Working on the blaming tendency is not a simple “oh, just stop doing it.”? It is a lifelong process.? It is also connected with so many things; the journey to balance the centers, mentioned in the last article, is very connected with it.? But let us end with something simple.

So the next time you are in a situation where you want to blame, ask yourself these questions:

  • What experience do I want to avoid at this moment?
  • What, exactly, am I labeling as “bad” here?
  • What would happen if I simply allowed that experience and what is “bad” to be present to the ultimate degree?
  • What would happen if there were no labels at all?

There is no magical solution to blame; all such attempts will naturally have blame in them, because they will be based in the labeling of blame as ‘bad’. It is the allowing of Self and others, simply as they are, that is the different path to blame.

5 03, 2008

I ‘should’ heal and grow.

March 5th, 2008|channeling, love, Self, transformation, wholeness|16 Comments

I’m in my own process now, getting physically sicker, and wondering why there’s no shifting in this. This led to the following channeled question which I think is rather universal, so I’m posting it here.

Question: I am really frustrated at my progress towards inner peace and balance. Why is this not ‘working’? What am I not doing or doing to sabotage myself? It’s all very well hearing and writing about my own wholeness, but it seems that no matter what I do, I feel more disconnection with my self and others, more pain, more isolation. What good is inner work and channeling if it doesn’t actually produce positive change? Please feel free to tell me ‘as it is’, without walking around anything that I might be afraid to look at. I want to know.

16 01, 2008

What is enlightenment?

January 16th, 2008|buddhism, channeling, love, non duality, Self, spirituality, wholeness|16 Comments

The following was a question received from Mary which is wonderful and brings a lot of common ideas out into the open:

Question: I’ve come across the topic of enlightenment so often lately that I’d like a clear perspective on it. I find the idea confusing because it seems to be a worthy aim for the spiritually focused, yet it is said that those who say they are enlightened are not, and others say that it is better to work for personal maturity rather than enlightenment. Others say that it’s no fun being enlightened, while others say it’s pure bliss. So what is it really? How to get there, what does an enlightened life look like in our here and now life?

The concept of enlightenment, I find with some humor, is one which is filled with much non-enlightened thought: that is, thought based in separation and ‘ego’. Firstly, the concept is a label for an experience decidedly without labels. It is an experience of utter freedom â???? but whatever thought you have of what enlightenment is will always be accumulated from others. It is again, something someone else tells you is a better way. (more…)

8 01, 2008

Letting go

January 8th, 2008|buddhism, love, non duality, Self, spirituality, wholeness|Comments Off on Letting go

You may have noticed that amidst the bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget the turning of the seasons. Beyond gift giving and family, we have a fundamental connection as living being to this earth, and its movements move us. The wintry season with long nights, hibernation and repose, offer us time to reflect, re-evaluate, and release. Without dark nights, we would not awaken to a day that is new and transformed from those in the past. Letting go is emphasized by nature in this season, and listening to the nourisher of life on this planet provides deep nourishment in itself.