Our human nature is, in essence, shamanic.

Our human nature is, in essence, shamanic.

When we are separate from this deep relationship with life, we tend to suffer in some way.

We all have and always have had the innate ability to feel into multiple dimensions of our experience in any moment. But what happened is that we, at some point when we were younger, became separate from this sensitivity. We stopped listening deeply when we were looking for stability in our lives, and got drawn into using our highly conditioned minds as the interface between our experiences, rather than our highly intuitive nervous system. Basically, we think about feelings more than we feel feelings. We also often believe what we are thinking is totally true. And to add to this, our ego-structure has tremendous resistance to accepting the fact that there are numerous dimensions that is beyond it’s comprehension – so we deny the possibilities when we are merged with the ego, subtle as ego may be.

If we use our mind as the sole interface, at best, we’ll catch a glimpse of the experience. At worst, we miss the more profound totality of the teachings that are arising. It would be like trying to paint a wall with a hammer – it’s just not the right tool for the job.

Because it hurts like hell or can trigger deep fears, it can be super intense to face ourselves deeply in these uncomfortable places. But the reality is that pain is not so much an issue as “thinking” that pain is an issue. Pain is, of course, part of life – when we deny it we are denying some of the most essential teachings on how to become integrated and balanced. When we ignore pain we rob ourselves of the ability to heal. The real work is learning how receive the blessings that are born from processing these intensities.

Being raw was not safe for most of us as children, so we learned to shut down our sensitivities and vulnerabilities when in actuality it’s different now – because as adults we can learn to set boundaries, speak our truths skillfully, choose friends and battles more wisely, and say “no” or “yes” from a place that is honoring ourselves more powerfully. We can have a self-agency that was not supported in the times when we were developing our brains.

By feeling the place in our physical bodes where we hold emotional energy – where we feel the felt sensation of it, we open the door to letting our nature process the medicine we are being given, rather than our mind. We gotta feel it. And getting support with this kind of thing can make a universe of difference. When we focus on breathing into these feelings (and learn to continually shoe away the thought-flies that come buzzing around our heads) we become more healed, wise, sensitive, compassionate, peaceful, and over time, far happier – which are all attributes of our nature that preceded our conditioning.

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Working out the gnarliest knots by trusting them more

When we can experience the entire emotional spectrum of a situation we have more perspective on how to work with it – obviously, but… most of us have become so avoidant of vulnerability that we have become limited in our capacity to embrace all of what our relationships are giving us in the moment (which equates to a rather limited response). And we’ve become avoidant rightfully so, as for most of us in childhood, being vulnerable generally equated to shame, pain or instability – or the fear of these things in a time when we did not have the support and perspective to handle such relationships and situations any other way. This is why the journey of learning how to fully love ourselves leads us to speaking our honest truths, acting independently of what others may think of us, setting healthy boundaries, etc – we have something powerful to stand on. This is where we truly learn how to love with gentleness and vigilance, unconditionality, patience, and spaciousness. And this is where we become deeply resourced to the point of being able to make space to understand others more deeply, especially in conflict. It’s where we become more and more open to life and the holy spectrum that exists in any relationship and situation.

And this is why no matter what direction issues and conflicts may take us, and no matter how important it seems to keep hashing out details and figuring out solutions, if we want to be fully aligned with our capacity to be empowered in relationships we must bring our attention to what is happening in the heart (ours and other’s) – no matter how uncomfortable the truth of it may feel, and no matter how fruitless or useless connecting to such vulnerable feelings may seem to our mind in that moment. Getting to the heart of the matter will always help untie the gnarliest of knots because the process of feeling feelings penetrates the layers of the conditioned thought process that we are looping in, and by doing so it reaches the very source of those deep reactions and perceptions that reside on the edge of our awareness.

From this place we can embody an understanding that is more vast, loving and integrated, which in turn expands the sense of ourselves that we identify with, rippling through every aspect of the relationship.

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About tomorrow…

Here I am sitting in the full waiting room of my oncologist’s office, having just done the bloodwork in the lab. Once a year I come here to do a check up. While it’s been 13 years since I’ve had cancer, the kind that I had makes them want to continue yearly checks for a long time. Personally, I have no concerns at all of cancer returning – my guess is that it won’t return as I am fully healed. But these are at best my musings, my guesses. I’m open to whatever life wants to show me. In actuality, tomorrow is a mystery. And I accept that one. Most of me even loves that. Cut the cord and fly.
And I have come to appreciate the yearly visit as ritual, a profound touchstone – not so much about cancer, but about being humble and receptive to all the unknowns that life is made of. It’s yet another practice of embracing the unknown with such deep trust, keeping hot the coals of humility and surrender to life. I’m so grateful and happy to be here. And I’m happy that you are here, too.

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How our learning process can limit understanding

There are many ways to learn. Some ways teach us through ours minds, and others through our hearts. And how we learn is how we relate to life – so it’s importance is beyond simply gathering information. When we learn through our hearts, we learn not only more deeply, but we learn with a connection to something far greater. For this more expansive learning and the profound understanding if offers, we need to unwind and decondition ourselves from the kinds of learning we are taught in our culture, and in schools – as the universal intelligence does not operate in the concepts of achievement or success that we are programmed to revolve around: there is no non-acceptance, no pass/fail, no A, B, C, D or F, and there is no emphasis on what other’s fear-based or ignorant projections and judgments of us are. While conditioned people may judge us, life does not – rather it patiently tries to help us wake up out of our illusions.

Because it’s been so normalized, it’s hard to see this conditioning in our learning, in the way we interface with our realities. It reminds me of that quote that goes something like, “The three greatest mysteries in life are air to a bird, water to fish and man unto himself.” And therefore the price we must pay / the offering we must give is that of our righteousness in ALL it’s forms – from the most firm to the most subtle that ingeniously lurks in intricate ways in our blind spots. Because only then can we embrace the humility that acts as the doorway to such understanding and wisdom.

And it requires vigilance, as even in a moment of deep spiritual insight, conditioning will try to usurp that teaching and bend it to it’s process. Conditioning begs our attention as it’s part of the old Operating System we created long ago to feel a sense of control, safety and stability in our lives – and this is an operating system which is outdated, filled with bugs and can’t run more powerful applications.

That said, without any need to type an answer to this question here (but please do so if you’d like), what are you learning right now that touches your heart? What conditioning are you seeing through that is creating more depth in your life? If we ask this of ourselves every single day, and share this with others, **especially children**, we can help them learn how to learn in a way that is more aligned with the teachings of life. I’m fairly certain that there are not many gifts greater than this.

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About that partially-burnt birthday candle on my altar….

On my altar, for the last 15 years or so, I have kept a partially-burned birthday candle – one from the birthday of that year. On my birthday I burn it, then replace it with one from the new year… and eventually… there will be a candle remaining on my altar that I won’t get to burn.

Hopefully it’s not the one on that is on there now, but I certainly know that it very well could be.

It’s a reminder of how incredibly sacred the opportunity to be here is, and to fully embrace my life with every. single. thing. that I got… because I don’t know how long I’ll have it.
It is a reflection of my vulnerability, and so it helps me stay humble. And it helps me remain grateful – grateful that I’m here, regardless of how hard things can get. Grateful that I’m still here. And simply here – in the first place.
The act of lighting the candle once a year is filled with this gratitude, and it stands as an offering of myself – that I may serve as purely and deeply as I can in this time. To fucking GO FOR IT – to do the work, sit in the fire, and show up fully while I can. It is a reminder to honor and remember how fragile all of us are -in or longings to be safe, loved, supported and empowered. It asks of me if I am living life in a good way, if I’m honoring my heart full. It asks me if I can be more impeccable and integrous will my all of my relationships. It is yet another reminder for me to keep the fires of radical ownership and self-responsibility going strong, so that I may continue to whittle away at any remaining barriers to receptivity, curiosity, patience and love.

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Trying out, “I don’t know anything and I need help all of the time.”

I find that the 95% I believe that I know about something has less of an impact on my life than the 5% I don’t know. That 5% kicks my ass over and over, humbling me to yield my ego to the Unknown – and so a few years ago I started saying to myself, “I don’t know anything, and I need help all the time.” It helps, especially if the righteous part of myself want’s to grab the wheel – which is usually brought on my some kind of fear anyway.
I’m now not sure that I do know anything – it just might be that I’m aware of my beliefs or ideas, and that’s it. My interpretation of you, for example, will get in the way of me making an attempt to connect to you and who you are in the moment. Understanding is easier found when I’m humble enough to be empty of my seemingly insightful analysis and deconstructions.
And those moments that I am not open to receiving help can be easily justified – I may not actually require help. But if I listen more deeply, while I may not require the help, I can pick up on very subtle forms of resistance to needing help in the first place, and resistance for me is usually born from some old fear about being weak or not having it all together and figured out.
Understanding is so seductive because understanding is one of the main tools we tend to use to feel safe and secure in all of our relationships. To let go of this strategy is to be in free-fall, with only deeper awareness and the intelligence of the heart to keep us in the flow. It’s a total letting go of control (or the illusion of control that I like to create). That’s why, for me it’s actually said more like this: “I don’t know ANYTHING and I need help ALL the time.” Cut the cord and fly.

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Stopping for a moment is only half of the equation

So much of our healing, and so much of creating a life that is enjoyable revolves around stopping, and then following that act of stopping with very deep listening – listening to our feelings, to our bodies, and to the experiences we are having in our relationships.

So many of the personal struggles that each of us get stuck in stem from not having actually learned at a younger age how to develop an intimately humble student-teacher relationship with our momentary experiences. We get into the habit of avoiding intensity, and so we pass up the teachings associated with that kind of bitter medicine, and even justify not being receptive to the gritty content that life is presenting us. Rather than stopping what we are doing and then listening deeply to these reflections, in various forms of resistance we instead drive harder with what we are doing in the hopes it will get us to the places we believe are best – even though we are making up most of these beliefs as we go. In this habit of basically ignoring the moment, we instead perpetuate these outdated patterns from childhood that revolve around strategies to keep ourselves stable, or to quickly get past any discomfort (as if it has no value).
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Our bodies, hearts and relationships contain ALL the information we need – the information that we are longing for – to untie the gordian knots of old patterns, beliefs and traumas. But without stopping… and without following that stopping with a new and deeper kind of listening, auto-pilot will drive us away from the exquisite and loving insight that might even be a mere few breaths away.

What are you learning right now about yourself? What are you realizing lately about your relationship to life and your place in the world? What illusions have you been burning through that are helping you to see things more clearly? What are you feeling? What are you resisting? What’s happening to you right now? And if you have children, what are you modeling that will help them develop a solid relationship to life that centers around learning from life?

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What the floods on Boulder offer us.

I trust life fully. Fully fully. In the destruction of my office there is no obvious spiritual lesson here for me to learn that wasn’t learned years ago when I had cancer – that NONE of this stuff really matters. We may think it matters. But I don’t think it does, nor do i believe it never has. There were countless times when i thought certain things impermanent mattered, for sure, and off i went in clinging to my attachments and creating suffering. That said, my heart goes out to all who struggle with loss, and to all who will, for days, weeks and months, be managing the details secondary to such losses.

… And that said, if there is a lesson here that begs to be taught, it just might be that we can commit to caring about certain things and not about others, and that have a choice where we focus our energy. I care about trusting what life presents and learning from that. I care about being alive and honoring this most holy and most sacred gift of life (Oh my God, we’re ALIVE!!!). I care about what I need and feel and what others need and feel. I care that we wake up more and more to the realization that we are in this together and need to take care of each other better than we tend to. Outside of that, not much really matters to me. With all honesty, I have been pretty light-hearted about the state of my office since i heard about it, feeling concern and compassion for others struggles, while feeling reverence, humility and awe at the power of the planet to teach us how to get our priorities straight.

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The mechanism of desperation in relationships

We need love and safety like we need air – and if we take the air out of the room for any single person on the planet, they will get desperate. When those we love or those we barely know act in ways that are closed, harsh, righteous, negative, controlling, etc, it is a sign that, on some level, they are experiencing a kind of desperation that fuels such fear-based reactivity. This is them fighting for safety or love – Or this is you or me fighting for safety or love.

When I notice that I’m beginning to contract (or that I’m in the midst of such contraction, even subtly – and wow can it be subtle) I need to find my way back to air – to the awareness that I’m simply tripping out in some delusion that hooked my mind into some drama.

This is partly why taking something personally is part of the same delusion – as if in order to be OK in the depth of our being we need another to act a certain way. That belief muddies our ability to see clearly where we need to love and accept ourselves much more deeply.

The division created by our old, usually fortified and often righteous perceptions and beliefs, ironically, was developed in times when we felt we needed to protect ourselves, usually as children.

The layers of resistance are so subtle that I need to reboot my own operating system many times a year, and be open to rebooting it in any moment.

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Sanity is a spectrum.

Sanity is a spectrum.  And the degree to which I am insane is the degree to which I forget how utterly conditioned and entirely made up my beliefs and perceptions are in any moment, allowing me to slip into believing my ego-based thoughts as some insightful truth or ultimate reality.  Whoopsy.  When I’m sane, or at least more sane, I’m more awake to a radical sense of humility and the essential need to create deep understanding about anything only through the superior intelligence of my heart.

So it’s all funny, sad, ignorant and dangerous to think of ourselves as sane just because we don’t see ourselves as bat-shit crazy.

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